Review of Western Caribbean cruise on the Ryndam 11-8-09
No issues reaching the terminal as we flew down on Friday for the Sunday sailing. DW has family in the area so we visited with them and had a nice time. Arrived at the Tampa terminal a little early and waited in line for 15 minutes before they started processing incoming passengers at 10:30.
Processing was a breeze, we obtained our boarding cards and were assigned to the third numbered group, oddly enough, number "18." We had met a nice couple in line and sat with them. They are cruising to celebrate the husband's birthday. I did not ask his age, but he flew bombing missions over Germany in WW2, so that gives us a clue - he is not a youngster!
Boarding began at 11:30 and we were on board by 11:40. As a star mariner, we were looking forward to the dining room lunch, which our embarkation documents told us began at Noon. We walked around the ship to use the time until then and took a few photos. We went to the dining room and were met by someone who was "All apologies" that due to a fund raiser on board, they were not able to serve a mariner's welcome lunch today.
Our CC group was aware of this event (a noble cause to be sure) but had communicated with HAL HQ in Seattle and had been assured that the mariner's lunch would be served. I spoke to a dining room manager and was basically told they did not have sufficient staff to serve BOTH the 300 guests and the mariners. Regretfully, not a promising start to our cruise as I really dislike the craziness of the Lido.
We ended up eating at the Lido and it was okay. Grabbed some ice cream on our way out and went to look at the pools (we packed our swim gear in our carry on). Much to our surprise, the pools were empty. We later learned they were empty as the Ryndam had rough seas from Ida (see below) on Saturday and needed to empty the pools. They remained empty until Tuesday morning.
The 1:30 "Rooms are ready" announcement came and we found our room to leave our carry-on. We reviewed the program and went to meet some ship's personnel.
We cruised on the Amsterdam this summer to Alaska, and I learned a great deal at the digital workshop classes hosted by Rob. We had kept in touch, and I knew that Rob's fall assignment is the Ryndam. We visited Rob in the Digital Workshop room and met his family. If you cruise on HAL and have any interest in doing "More" and "Better" with your digital photos I strongly recommend the digital workshop. Rob is excited that all the Ryndam DW computers have Windows 7 and he said they have a new class on this new operating system.
Next we went looking for Ron the travel guide. After being unable to locate him (and having staff send us to various spots around the ship) we went to the front desk. We were assisted by a very helpful staff officer who escorted us to the Lido deck and found Ron for us. We wanted to speak to Ron as with Hurricane Ida chopping up the sea we knew our plans for snorkeling at Key West needed to be changed. Ron was very helpful and we also chatted about our other ports.
Back to our room at about 3:00 and found all our luggage was there. We began storing things and were 90% finished when the third lifeboat drill announcement came - off we went. Lifeboat drill was about normal but they never got to our room number during the roll call. Finished unloading and realized in this room (840 - a "FF" outside) we had no place to store the luggage. Called the front desk and they said they would have our steward pick up the luggage for storage. We put our dress shoes in the shoe basket for shining.
We went to the Lido for the sail away party, back to our room to change for dinner, and off to the Ocean bar for pre-dinner drinks and snacks. The band is good and we were able to do a number of dances. There was never more than 3 couples dancing at once so there was no crowding on the dance floor!
We went to dinner at 7:00 on open seating. We waited in line for about 10 minutes but were immediately seated with another couple and a single cruiser. We had an aft window table and watched the lights of the sunshine skyway bridge fade into the distance. Dinner was terrific! After dinner we checked out the shops and I bought a 50% off polo shirt. We closed out the evening by attending the introductory show and even though arriving 15 minutes prior to curtain ended up near the rear of the balcony. The show was okay at best. It was mostly games with some audience volunteers.
DW was not happy with the apparent cleanliness of the bed and bath. Called and someone came and changed out the bedding. Saw our room steward Wulan the next morning and told him what we were concerned about. Give him credit he really cleaned things up that morning and kept them spotless the rest of the cruise!
Hurricane Ida Sunday night and Monday
We knew we were in for some rough seas. About 3 AM there was a jolt. Talking to the cruise director the following afternoon we learned the Ryndam ploughed thru a rogue wave that reached the bridge! Yikes! Monday is my 29th day at sea, and the first time we both got seasick. I had it the worst. We tried to eat breakfast in the dining room but no good. I ended up spending most of the day in bed.
The seas began to calm down by mid-afternoon and our schedule was changed. No Key West port call today, but we are rather spending a full day in Cozumel tomorrow. Huge kudos to HAL for arranging a substitute port rather than an extra day in still somewhat rough seas.
At 3:05 we ordered room service hoping to get something in us before the meet and greet. The food was not delivered until sometime after 4:00.
We managed to struggle out of bed to attend the revised time cruise critic meet and greet at 4:00 PM. I had a ginger ale and that helped some. We met some wonderful people and made arrangements to go with 4 other cruise critic members to a national beach park with other CC members in Cozumel.
By now the seas were settling down and so were we. Hunger started to make an appearance. We went back to the cabin to find the still warm room service order there at 5:30. We ate a portion of it, showered, and dressed for the smart casual night.
We attended the 7:00 PM show and it was very good. We sat near the rear and left during the last number, headed for the dining room. No wait at all and dinner was excellent. We called it an early evening as we were still recovering from the seas and not up to drinks or dancing.
Tuesday we woke to see the shoreline of Cozumel from our window. Enjoyed breakfast in the dining room and meet our new friends (thanks VideoSteve1) to head to Chankanaab Marine Park. Had a terrific time beaching and snorkeling. They also gave us a "Free" dolphin show. Mid afternoon we returned to the ship. We enjoyed some ice cream and a hamburger from the Terrace grill. DW really liked the pizza. Got in a little hot tub time and went down to prepare for formal night.
Dressed in our finest, we visited the Ocean bar for drinks, munchies and dancing. Enjoyed this until 6:25 when we headed to the showroom for the 6:30 Captain's welcome toast followed by a comedian at 7:00. The comedian was boring (although others on the ship thought he was great) so we left at 7:15 and went to the dining room. We were seated immediately and dinner was very good. The desserts were excellent. After dinner we walked around a little and called it an early night as Belize is tomorrow and we need to get an early start.
Wednesday our port call is Belize. We are excited about our planned tour there and have instructions to get off on "One of the first tenders." We had coffee and tea delivered at 6:00 AM and then visited the Lido for breakfast. We were in the theater and were assigned to tender #1 at 7:20. Due to still somewhat rough seas, we were told they could only load tenders on one side of the ship so there was a delay. Well, all the ship's tours were (unknowingly to us) tendered off first. Somehow two others on our private tour were off on the first tender with the ship's tour group, but they ended up waiting for us for an hour on shore. In any case, we finally were shore-side and had the best shore event we've ever had with Jaguar Paw resort and cave tubing.
Wednesday dinner was very good again, and we enjoyed dancing and drinks in the Ocean Bar. Our server there, Arleen, is superb. We missed the show but were told it was excellent.
Thursday we docked in Guatemala. We knew exactly what tour we wanted to do but had not booked it in advance. Fortunately, "Flnewscenter" and "Cruisearella" had, and we were able to join them. Otherwise they would not have run the tour as they only had 5 people, but as they had confirmed to others they needed to run the tour. This ended up being the second best shore event we've ever done going to the Green Bay Resort and Los Escobas waterfalls. We helped stimulate the economy in the shops near the dock.
Thursday evening was another great dinner, dancing and drinks. Arleen knows us by name and life is good. There is a "Pool party" up on the lido and eventually we make our way up there - there is also a spread of desserts and snacks (the last thing we needed!). We find a table with VideoSteve1 and enjoy the atmosphere.
Friday we docked in Costa Maya. It's a long walk down the pier and through the commercial center to find transportation to town. We did not like the monopoly that the pier has on transfers into town, but jammed into a van for the 10 minute ride. We enjoyed the morning and early afternoon at Pez Quadro and the water is the nicest for swimming and enjoying that we have ever experienced. We each had two drinks and enjoyed 3 ½ hours on the beach at a total cost of $15 plus transfers.
A quick taxi ride back to the pier worked out well as we anticipated hanging out at the pool on the pier. We couldn't find a shady spot and as we were feeling a bit baked, we returned to the Ryndam. Enjoyed the lido pool and hot tub, a snack from the Terrace Grill (again, great hamburgers and pizza), and went back to our cabin to get ready for formal night and the captain's dinner.
Dinner was SUPERB. Everyone at our table had the surf and turf and this was not "Rubber lobster." The lobster tails were a fair size and delicious. After dinner we were back at the Ocean bar with Arleen. Pretty busy tonight but we get in a few dances and are joined by friends. Showtime on this formal night was a 5+, really super! Tonight is also the dessert extravaganza. We stayed up to take photos and indulge in a few more treats.
Saturday is a sea day. Since so many were ill on Monday this feels like the only real "Sea day." We are up late and make it to the dining room at 9:28 for breakfast. I attend one of Rob's Digital Workshop classes and work on my photos. Today is the Mariner luncheons. We are at the 12:30 lunch and it was very good. DW really liked the tile gift. There are over 800 Mariners out of the 1270 passengers on the ship.
Rob invited us to a "Windows 7 launch party" in the crow's nest. This was very nice. The ship provided champagne or wine to all attending. Rob kept it short but I told him this is becoming an expensive cruise as now I'll need to buy a new computer. We stayed for a Microsoft trivia challenge. At 4:30 we had a cruise critic farewell get together. More champagne!
Tonight is the Master Chef's dinner. We had decided early in the week to pass on this and made reservations at the Pinnacle. We enjoyed a very nice quiet dinner at a window front table for 2. The food was excellent but except that the filet was much thicker, I don't think it's significantly "Better" than what we've enjoyed all week in the Rotterdam dining room. What was nice about eating in the Pinnacle is that we began dinner later than the Master Chef crowd and were in the Ocean bar before the early seating was done.
We were served one last time by Arleen and had the dance floor to ourselves for the first couple of dances. A few others arrived as dinner let out but soon some were leaving for the late seating. We sat and talked with friends until 10:00 and regretted to say our farewells.
Sunday morning we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast in the dining room, walked the ship one last time, and had a hassle-free debarkation at 9:15. We arrived at the Tampa airport by 10:15 and had four hours to wait for our Southwest flight home.