We are pretty experienced travelers and cruisers, preferring to travel independently. HAL is our favorite cruise line because we prefer the small ships and the traditional feel. We picked this cruise because we had not sailed the Western itinerary and the pricing was right. We usually take longer cruises--this was our first seven day. We flew into Tampa four days early and spent those days on Anna Maria Island--about 45 min south of Tampa. We were blessed with wonderful weather and drove up to Tampa on embarkation day relaxed and rested. The ship had been delayed getting into port and when we arrived at about 1pm there were long lines for every part of the embarkation process. Long lines to give luggage to the porters, long lines to get into the door to get into a long line to get a number so that you could get into line to check -in. The actual check-in was easy, our star status was on our cards and we were welcomed back to HAL.
By the time we got on board (2pm) the cabin were ready. While a long and somewhat disorganized embarkation can be off putting for the beginning of a cruise--in this case the moment we set foot on the ship we felt at home. Our cabin was spotless and our room steward came right away to introduce himself, several pieces of luggage were already in the room. I had requested that the room be super cleaned to remove any smoke smell (on our last cruise the room smelled very strong of smoke) and housekeeping came by to see if we were happy. The cabin was nice with plenty of storage, the balcony has a lounge chair and regular chair and looked like it had recently been painted. There is a flat screen TV and DVD player plus a fridge. There was also a full size sofa in the room. All in all this is a very nice size cabin.
We were assigned traditional late seating and had a table for four to ourselves with some of the best servers that we have had in over ten cruises. The food was also better than the usual cruise line fare, everything tasted fresh and was prepared as ordered. I had a wine card and the wines were fine with dinner. We found that without exception the crew on this cruise was outstanding. You can tell that the Captain has a good working relationship with his crew because the ship seemed to run very well, without undo drama in spite of the fact that there was a fire in the engine room (first time we heard the alarm on a cruise) and the ship was heading into dry dock as soon as we got off. We like small ships and like the traditional feel of HAL.
The Ryndam checks all the boxes for us--the only exception is that we wish that smoking was not allowed in cabins or on balconies. After having sailed several HAL ships of different sizes the Ryndam is now our favorite.