Ryndam Cruise Review by Mary Lee: Ryndam - Mexican Riviera
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Ryndam - Mexican Riviera
After a 10 hour day with 2 Delta flights all incoming air passengers going on the Ryndam's Mexican Riviera cruise were held at the San Diego airport until early afternoon because the Ryndam was very late arriving . Food, chairs, AC, and facilities were readily available in the airport so holding everyone there was a very good idea. The luggage was tagged and taken to the pier as each plane arrived so passengers only had to handle their carry ons. Once the ship docked all passengers were quickly taken to the pier. The huge influx at one time caused a back up with the embarkation. It took about 45 mins. to finally board the Ryndam but when we did our luggage was in our cabin and food was available on the Lido deck. We assembled for the obligatory fire drill in the late afternoon. It lasted 25 minutes! People were still boarding the ship because of the embarkation problems. Those of us who were at the fire drill had to stand for 25 mins. until finally everyone was onboard and at the More
designated fire drill location. We were packed against the back wall and other passengers so tightly we couldn't turn or move because our big bulky life vests were touching something or someone in all directions. It was a long and uncomfortable experience. I was bent backwards over the folded up deck chairs for almost the entire 25 mins. The Ryndam left the port in a timely manner. After asking several crew members we discovered that the Ryndam had been "up north" and had come to San Diego through a storm with at least one stabilizer not in working condition. It was a rough voyage and the crew was understandably a little "shaken up." The stabilizer was finally repaired in Mazatlan a few days later. There was some pitching and rolling the first 24 hours or so but we were not bothered with any motion difficulties although some people were. The ship was clean the entire voyage . Repairs of various kinds were ongoing throughout the trip as well. The cabin was spotless . Our steward was the best we've ever had in years of cruising. We ate on the Lido deck three times a day for the entire voyage. The food was excellent, hot, and ready at the advertised time. The service was also excellent. At dinner time the trays were carried to the table, coffee was brought to the table, the wine steward came around, and the entree was brought to the table after it was prepared . The only reason anyone had to move around was to get dessert. We did not try the "As You Like It" having heard some negatives from others prior to this cruise. We did hear from some on board who signed up for this method of dining and the comments were mixed. Some liked it. Others who were not able to get to eat at a time they liked were unhappy particularly since they could not change back to the standard style seating. Some opted to join us in the Lido. The reviews of the service was equally mixed. We were very happy to eat on the Lido deck and have nary a complaint.
This was the first Mexican Riviera cruise of the season for the Ryndam. That was only obvious in the evening shows with the full cast of singers and dancers. They had a lot of energy and were obviously putting themselves into the shows but they just didn't quite "gel." In another cruise or two that will hopefully take care of itself. They came onboard in San Diego and for some this was their first "gig." The costumes were gorgeous. It was surprising to find that the theater never had a full audience. One could come right at show time and still find a good seat on either deck 7 or 8. The music performed well but was a bit old and trite for my tastes. Even the pieces the piano player performed in the Vermeer theater were predictable. The harpist however was absolutely outstanding as were most of the smaller groups performing in the various lounges. The dance floor was full. The line dancing was well attended. The activities onboard were varied and offered something for everyone. There was a tour of the kitchen with so many interested passengers that the group was divided into two tours. The cooking demos were well attended. The hymn singing was also well attended. The various fun events for earning "dam dollars" had many participants too. The movies in the theater covered a lot of "eras." No one would want to see every film but there was a lot of variety both in the theater and on the satellite tv stations in the cabins. The library was well stocked with books, DVDs, magazines, board games, and paper games such as crossword puzzles. The daily newspaper overview was delivered to every cabin daily. The pools and whirlpools were kept clean and were available for use all day. The pool side grill was excellent. The various pizzas that were offered were delicious. The shore excursions were a big disappointment. The "Copper Canyon" excursion was the drawing card for this cruise....and the only reason we chose this cruise. That was the main reason most of the passengers were on the Ryndam. Only 400 passengers were able to go on this excursion and it was sold out months before the cruise. This was a day trip that was 18 hours long costing $399 / person. The pre-trip stills and video of the trip shown onboard showed a deep canyon a la the Grand Canyon and that was the type of vista we expected on the train ride. Unfortunately that wasn't an accurate depiction of the train ride. After an early breakfast at 3 a.m., an early departure from the ship around 4 a.m., a 2+ hour comfortable bus ride to the train, a 7 a.m. departure from the train station, a wonderful stop to buy some native made baskets, lunch around 1 p.m.followed by a poor dance presentation, we finally were driven in a school bus to the rim. We had about 40 minutes to "climb up on the rock, take a picture, and get down so others can see." Some hiked down to "cave dwellings" which turned out to be simply houses build on an outcropping. Some hiked up along the rim for about 500' to a second outlook. There wasn't time to at the rim. It would have been prudent to eat at that restaurant instead of down the road out of sight of the rim. At least them everyone would have had about 90 -120 mins. to enjoy the view. After our quick look it was back to the train, 5 hours back to the train depot at La Fuerte, and another 2 hour bus ride back to the ship at Topolobampo. Only one person that we talked to thought the brief glimpse was worth the long day and the cost and we talked to many many people. We had an excellent guide but even his informative running narrative could not overcome the fact that we rode on the train for over five hours to get to see the rim just south of Chihuahua City for just a few minutes. The view was spectacular but not worth the time or money . The book that was for sale on the train for $20 (video for $18) showed much more. Buy the book and skip the excursion. The ship had boxed "light meals" and snacks for us as well as water and they were done well. The lunch at the restaurant was a buffet style Mexican lunch and it was fine.
None of that however could overcome our disappointment about only having a few minutes to stand at the rim and take a quick pictures. Hopefully I'll see more once I download the pics onto my laptop. On a more positive note the ships crew cleaned the train from one end to the other before we boarded and kept doing so all day long and the train was very comfortable. We had a lot of room. The facilities were clean and in good working order. Overall we found the shore excursions to be disappointing. The write ups online, in the booklet, and given by the shore excursion office simply did not agree. The written literature for the canopy walk stated that there was 1 zip line and 1 tarzan swing in the canopy walk which turned out to be true. The head of the shore excursion office said "There are 14 zip lines." The head of the s.e. office said the 2 tank dive was to 95 feet which almost discouraged my roommate from going . The dive went to 45 feet. There were discrepancies such as these throughout the cruise. There was a good deal of grumbling among the passengers about the seeming lack of organization within the shore excursion office. Perhaps it can be chalked up to this being the first cruise of the season. Several people offered "suggestions" to the shore excursion office and were told their comments would be taken into consideration. In Puerta Vallarta two excursions were cancelled at the last minute. I had taken special waterproof clothing for my morning hiking in the Sierra Madre mountains excursion and that was one of the two that was cancelled. The "Pirate Ship" family type excursion was also cancelled although I did see it leave the dock later in the day. I don't know if the Ryndam passengers were able to go directly to the entrance and go out sans the Excursion Office trip as it was just a short walk from our gangway. I hope so. It truly looked like a lot of fun for the families with children who were onboard. The "clam bake and dance" presentation in Loretto was $66/ person and was supposed to be several hours long. An announcer said there was a fire pit down on the beach which no one could see from the tables although we did see the smoke once the fire was lighted. We were told that there were clams and fish in the sand pit. We were never given any directions about getting the food. It turned out to be a buffet but we had to figure that out for ourselves. We just followed what others did. The first line was a mixed greens salad and some other light foods. It was good but nothing outstanding. We had to ask for our drinks (diet soda) that came with the meal. The announcer said it would take about 40 mins. for the clams to bake and there would be dancing in the meantime. Within 5 mins. the clams were done and the 2nd buffet line was opened. The clams were indeed cooked and very tasty. The fish was not cooked. The chicken was heavily breaded and covered with so much chocolate colored barbecue sauce it was impossible to tell what "cut" of chicken one had on ones plate. I ended up with what looked like a chunk of chicken but which was actually the neck and back. I believe one could go back for more food although I did not. (I did go back to the ship mid-afternoon and get a sandwich and salad as I was still hungry.) The dancers were beautifully costumed and were very professional. The choreography for and background information about each set of dances was exceptional. There was a long period of time between dance presentations. The keyboard player played and sang off and on and was very talented in both areas. The lull after dessert seemed like the end of the outing. Again there were no directions. About 1/3 of the people stood up and left after the 2nd set of dances. The entire meal and first 2 dance sets had taken less than an hour. I finally asked if there was "more" and was told there was more dancing. The view of the beach and water was superb and if one was willing to sit there in the 20+ knot wind there was a total of four sets of dances. If the write up had more accurately described the meal as a buffet with intermittent folklorico dancing (and about 90 mins. in length) and had cost about 1/3 less we would not have felt the way we did. The printed hype let us to believe there was "more" than there was and that was true of several excursions. Each city had some sort of city tour. All were predictable....We went to the square and the cathedral and then wandered through the vendors. In Puerta Vallarta we went to the "tequila factory." Note that the "factories" in Mexico are along the order of a family run small business. Our guide spent almost 2 hours telling us about the process of making tequila. We also tasted 6 different varieties. The rest of our tour consisted of a discussion of the penal system as we passed the penitentiary and a short walk to the cathedral. We stopped at a woodworking & furniture factory. That was very interesting. On one excursion we visited a "local artisan" who made leather masks and leather mask pins and everyone thoroughly enjoyed visiting with him. We were fortunate to run across a few really unique items during the course of the 10 days. I did not buy any jewelry on any shore excursion. I had some questions in more than one store about the authenticity of some of the stones particularly the turquoise. After questioning one salesperson she finally said, "The turquoise is manmade not natural." In another town one woman bought a polished fire opal in one store and took it to another store only to have that store owner tell her it wasn't real fire opal. I know stones but opted to only buy jewelry onboard rather than on any excursion. The snorkeling at Los Isoldes in La Paz was a lot of fun and the ride out and back on the dive boat provided an extended time to see the geological (volcanic) nature of the area. The sea lion pups and crabs were laughable. The schools of fish flowed around the people in the water making it seem as though we were snorkeling in an aquarium. Although shop keepers in a few of the cities mentioned Aztec and Mayan ruins, petroglyphs, and cave paintings in their respective areas there were no such excursions offered. Perhaps the tour companies need to be nudged into adding some more interesting and different types of outings. Although the majority of the people on board were "seniors" that certainly didn't translate into "dottering." On the last leg back to San Diego the ship pitched and rolled more than it had the first evening. It was a little uncomfortable on deck 4 where we were and even more so on the upper decks. By breakfast time we were near the shore and the excess motion had stopped. We did notice quite a few people both onboard and at the airport who were obviously ill from the motion. The disembarkation was almost an hour late starting. Those of us with early flights were anxious. We finally were allowed to leave the ship for the transfer to the airport. The bus took a long time to load and made a detour to drop a tour guide at the Sheraton making us even later arriving at the airport. Although we had e -tickets from HAL we could not access them because we were so late arriving at the terminal. In the end we did get seats on our flights. Both of our flights were overbooked on the return trip and if we had been a few minutes later our seats would have been gone! HAL needs to either streamline the disembarkation process or schedule flights for later in the day. Overall the cruise was very good. Onboard it was basically quiet, restful, and laid back much of the time. There were no unruly unsupervised children. There were quite a few children from very young to teens onboard but they were well supervised and well behaved. They also had their own "special area" aboard. There were 3 formal nights and the rest were "smart casual" nights. We found that after long days ashore we did not have the energy for the formal nights although we did dress for the first one. If one did not disembark for any land trips the formal nights and other "fancy" gatherings were great fun. All ages were represented among the passengers and we met a lot of delightful people. The crew and staff were exceptional overall! The ship was clean and well maintained. When there was a problem with an elevator it was attended to immediately. The same is true for the other small problems that arose. The service everywhere was excellent as was the food on the Lido deck. The main negative is the overhyping & overpricing of the various excursions which is something that can be controlled aboard the ship. The lack of more interesting and varied excursions is something that needs to be addressed with the suppliers . There is more to the Mexican Riviera than the excursions would seem to indicate. Perhaps the day trips could best be described as "works in progress." Less
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