Our philosophy has always been that there is no such thing as a bad cruise...just better ones. Our cruise on Ryndam to the Sea of Cortez April 14-24, 2009 seriously tested that philosophy!!
A little about us....me retired, 61; wife 46, a Phd candidate in theological studies. We are experienced cruisers and were travelling on this cruise with friends. Our last cruise was 5 weeks that included cruising 1000 miles up the Amazon River on the Veendam.
First, we arrived the day before in San Diego and went to check into the Sheraton Marina. We knew the day before that there was a problem with our reservation but we had been unable to resolve it before we left home. Upon arrival the young man at the check-in desk confirmed that the problem still existed and he went off to find the Reservations Manager for some direction, but, she could not be found so he undertook the solution himself. The result was a bump up from what we had reserved to a deluxe penthouse suite on the 12th floor with a full length balcony facing the ship channel and a connecting room for the couple that was travelling with us! AND....we got the suite for free! That is what I call a motivated employee who understands that his primary job is to satisfy customers!
Embarkation was quick and simple. Checked in at 11:15 and was sitting on the Lido deck, drink in hand, by 11:45! Wife and travelling companions showed up at 2:00 after touring the USS Midway, (they all reported that this is a "must see" in San Diego....they thoroughly enjoyed it!).
The Cabin Stewards, Dodit and Dani, stopped by to introduce themselves and to make note of any special services we required. These two were the best Stewards we have had since we began cruising some years ago! Throughout the entire cruise they provided consistently top notch service and always with a laugh and a smile!
The entertainers in the lounge were good...at least the singers and dancers that put on the production shows. We had seen one before on the Veendam last November ,but the other two were good. We're not much into magicians and comedians so we did not attend those shows. The string quartet was also very good and we enjoyed them in the Explorations Lounge and one evening at dinner in the dining room.
Our shore excursions were all good, however, we booked all but one of them directly from vendors on-line. We can highly recommend Johann and Sandra, (they advertise on Cruise Critics on the Mexican Riviera boards),for providing us with top notch tours in Puerto Vallarta,(zip lining and a private tour with a driver/guide); a day at Stone Island in Mazatlan, although the tour operator cut it a little too close in getting us back to the ship on time; and, a private car and driver/guide for the day at the Cabo San Lucas stop. The Topolobampo stop had only ship excursions available so we booked a day trip to El Fuerte with a stop at an Indian village along the way. This was a terrific excursion and probably the best ship purchased excursion we have taken in quite some time. For Loreto and La Paz we took cabs and wandered around town shopping, taking photo ops at churches, museums and out into the dessert. And of course at all the stops we ate wonderful Mexican food...a lot of wonderful Mexican food....OK too much wonderful Mexican food!!
Unfortunately the Room Stewards, Entertainers, shore excursions and on-shore food were all that saved this cruise from being a very nasty experience!
First, we bought our friends a Bon Voyage package for their cabin just as a surprise and included a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. The strawberries showed up covered in grey 'fuzz'!!
Next, we had ordered canapes and champagne for sail away on our deck! The plate included pastry cups filled with shrimp....at room temperature....for how long we did not know but for at least three hours while they sat in our cabin!
On the second sea night we had reservations in The Pinnacle. My wife and her friend went to the Crow's Nest for cocktails before dinner and she ate crab cake appetizers...after dinner...three hours later she as in the cabin vomiting and did so for the rest of the night. She felt better in the morning but missed her zip-line tour.
And it just kept getting worse!
Sitting in the Lido having a casual dinner and all of a sudden it sounds like the roof is caving in! Two service crew next our table actually ducked the noise was so loud. I looked around and saw the Lido Manager, (although he may have been the assistant manager), standing at the dessert line as if nothing was happening.When he did nothing I went over to him and asked if he could kindly stop the basketball game being played on Deck 12 right over heads at least until we finished our meal. When he shrugged his shoulders and told me that there was nothing he could do because it was passengers playing basketball I had had enough of the pathetic, yet seriously incompetent Ryndam management, and I threw a temper tantrum in the middle of the Lido. This apparently got his attention because he scurried off to the house phone behind him and a short few minutes later the basketball game stopped!
The food in Lido was never more than barely warm...some items like french fries just cold. Breakfast was always the same...barely warm....always the same items for ten days. The only way to get hot food was to order fresh cooked eggs or omelets.
The Lido line cooks....surly most of the time...just plain rude the rest of the time!
Meals in the main dining room got sent back...a breaded pork cutlet soggy with grease and again, barely warm. Pot roast served with apple sauce of all things!
These problems do not come from the crew! They come from the senior management of the Ryndam...an incompetent hotel manager who has no idea of what is going on throughout the ship...an incompetent Executive Chef who let health threatening food out of his catering galley apparently with no idea that itwas happening. These guys should be fired because there is absolutely no acceptable excuse for such incompetence. Kids working at McDonalds know more about food safety than the Senior Managers on the Ryndam.
Like I said at the beginning....there are no bad cruises but this one came very close!
Will we sail again with Holland America? Perhaps, but for the foreseeable future we are looking at going back to Princess and maybe a river cruise in China or Europe. Holland America needs some time to clean up its act....and they can do it at someone elses expense!