Embarkation/Disembarkation - Tampa on Sunday, 3/21/10. We had VIP designation but the process seemed to be very quick for everyone and the staff was very friendly.
Passenger Make-up - An unusually high percentage of seniors in the 70 year plus range made up the majority, many with restrictive mobility.
Stateroom - We had a deluxe verandah suite on Navigation Deck (10). A bar area and large faux leather sofa made a comfortable seating area. The room was perfectly sized with much storage (four hanging closets and numerous dressers and drawers), and a large deep verandah with two lounge chairs and a dining table for four. The dressing area had it's own sink and a vanity. Mirrors graced all the walls here so you managed to see yourself from every angle...let me just say a natural appetite supressant!!!!
There is always much debate about staterooms i.e. inside vs outside, balcony vs ocean view. We are from the school of thought that we many not take a lot of cruises but when we do we like to splurge. And we DO spend quality time in our room and on our balcony. We even had our friends join us one evening for dinner on our verandah as we cruised out of Key West. The sun was setting, the sky was pink, the ocean deep blue, and the four course meal (a bit cold) but delicious. It was incredible.
Dining Room Food - Our last trip on HAL to Alaska, the food was so disappointing it was almost enough to dissuade us from ever cruising with this line again. Luckily, the Ryndam rarely disappointed. We were impressed and delighted at the quality, presentation, taste, and adequate portion size.
Dining Room Service - Major thumbs down for the staff and the service. The as you wish dining that most lines are now introducing has its downfalls. For one, you rarely get the same wait staff twice so you don't develop any kind of relationship. This, of course, shouldn't make a difference in how you are treated, but it seemed to here. The wine sommelier was surly, the wait staff indifferent, even cold at times. The last night of the cruise, we wanted to order wine with dinner (the sommelier knew this) and never returned to take our order. I sat through my meal with the menu on my lap. I did go and complain to the Maitre D', but nothing was done.
Lido - Other reviewers have commented about the lack of trays and the presence of "stations" rather than a buffet line in the Lido. Frankly, I thought it worked well (rarely a wait) and was a definite deterrent to the "your eyes are bigger than your stomach mentality". This set-up makes more folks eat in courses, rather than just piling things on which is oh so too common on these cruises. I also think it makes less waste. The staff here was ok, some still had attitude issues, but the food was decent.
Dry Dock updates: We had not been on the Ryndam before the facelift so it is really tough to say whether the improvements really helped transform the ship. We did ask staff about their thoughts and none were too excited or positive about the changes. "They concentrated on the wrong things" was one of the comments. Our stateroom was excellent, however, our friends who were in the verandah room category had issues - some furniture broken, some things seemed old and worn and their refrigerator was not installed but sat under the desk with the cord literally coming forward and plugged into a wall socket. Definitely can't be up to code - dangerous and ugly.
Public rooms were pleasant - nice library/game area, lovely crow's nest lounge, decent spa, and adequate pool areas. All of the lounge chairs should have been replaced however, as they were passed their prime.
Communication - an F grade here. Too many to list but for example the ship info on the TV was limited and often wrong. We were in a different time zone for 4 days (ship time was changed central while the port time was non day light saving central) so it made many many folks confused. The TV only corrected it AFTER we already changed back to Eastern Time so it was wrong again. BAD. Other info like weather and sea conditions were always "not available".
Casino - Slots still outdated and old, but moved to a card system where you use your ship's card to debit your account. Could be VERY confusing, and I am sure some folks spent way more money then they thought. The staff was not very patient in explaining the new procedures so passengers did their best to teach others after they got the hang of it.
In the end, we enjoyed our cruise because we like to have fun no matter the circumstances. These "issues" were only an annoyance and not something that ruined our experience. We had many laughs, great cruising weather, and a special time with our special friends.