Our trip began from our home near Mobile, AL as we loaded the luggage in the car and began the approximate 8 hour drive to Tampa at 8 AM on Saturday 4/10/2010. We arrived at our hotel at 4:30 PM local time and checked in. We booked this hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, through Hotwire at a very good rate and pleasantly, we were upgraded to a full suite. The property is located in a secluded area in the Brandon area. There were no noise issues and we would highly recommend this hotel.
Sunday morning we proceeded to the pier, about a 15 minute drive, arriving at 10:15 AM. Surprisingly, the porters were already accepting luggage from departing guests, so we dropped off our checked luggage and proceeded to the parking garage across the street. The parking fee was $14 per day up front, cash or credit card. We were in line to check in by 10:40 AM.
After boarding, I observed right away that the ship's interior has changed a lot since my last sailing on the Ryndam in 1999. Carpet has replaced the polished marble floors in many areas; the addition of the Canaletto and the Mix, as well as enhancements to the Library, are just a few of those changes. The Vermeer Lounge is now the Showroom at Sea with many new features.
We were in stateroom B 197 on the Veranda Deck which was quite roomy as cruise ship staterooms go; plenty of storage and a nice sized balcony (9' x 7'). We heard no noise from the deck above until the last evening of the cruise. As we were packing, around 8:30 PM, we heard loud scraping and banging from above. After going up to Navigation Deck to investigate, I observed a couple of deck hands slinging chairs across the deck, with an officer in charge observing, and quite obviously amused. I was not so amused, and had this continued for much longer I would have issued a formal complaint. It did cease soon afterward, however. We also felt very little vibration except when the ship was maneuvering into, or out of port. We had only one day when seas were pretty rough; this was right after leaving Costa Maya. Many folks were complaining, but after a few Margaritas, I went right to sleep, lol.
We had no plumbing issues, nor did we hear of any complaints from others.
Neither did we have any air conditioning issues. We did hear some complaints about public areas being too cold, but the temperature suited me just fine.
The one area that we observed with maintenance issues was the area in or near the Seaview pool. I assume that this area is low priority because it is due for major renovation next year. On this particular cruise, the Seaview pool was filled with salt water; although, the Lido pool was fresh water.
Ship's time was reset one hour back at 2 AM Tuesday, and was reset to one hour forward at 2 AM Saturday morning.
We all thought that the Rotterdam Dining room food was good to excellent, but service was very slow. On one evening, our waiter apologized for the slow service, noting that it was primarily associated with "anytime dining", because it was impossible to determine how many would be dining at any given time. He explained that often, the food was not prepared until after the kitchen received an order, much like a restaurant ashore. We missed a couple of shows in the Showroom at Sea because of the extended dining times. The Master Chef's Dinner was held Saturday night and, unlike some, I found the entire event quite entertaining. The wait staff seemed to be having a great time during the whole presentation.
The Pinnacle was incredible, and well worth the $20 per person. We were so stuffed that no one could eat desert.
And then there was the Canaletto. The service was somewhat lacking, but granted, this has to be a learning experience for the wait staff here. After only a few short weeks, they are still working out the kinks. I have to say that the food was very good, except for the bread, which was stale. I like my garlic bread warm and toasted; this was cold, although there was evidence that it had been toasted at one time.
Entertainment was excellent. The singers and dancers were top notch. I did observe that our CD was no where to be found during the majority of our cruise. At least, he was always somewhere that I wasn't. Certainly he, nor anyone else on the staff, showed up at our Meet & Greet on the first sea day. There were about 25 who attended and all seemed to have a great time. Kudos to Sue (wdw1972) who organized the whole thing.
It was difficult not to notice that the ship's photographers were missing in action on this cruise. Personally, I found it refreshing that we were not constantly being asked to pose for pictures. Embarkation, and once in the Rotterdam Dining room, were the only two occasions on which we encountered the photographers.
Embarkation and debarkation were very efficient and timely events. We arrived at the pier at 10:30 AM and boarded at 11:35. On debarkation, we were off the ship at 8 AM, in our car and on the road by 8:30.
Being traditional cruisers, we did miss some of the HAL traditions that were noticeably missing on this cruise, e.g. the guy with the xylophone announcing dinner; and the ushers that accompanied passengers to their cabins. Most notably however we missed getting to know our wait staff in traditional dining. In the future, we will make a special effort to avoid the anytime dining option. We simply prefer the traditional dining concept.
We also confess to being news junkies and, as such, we found that the only news sources were the "NY Times Digest" and CNN. In our minds, this left a lot to be desired. We would urge HAL to consider making available some alternative news sources.
In summary, we had a very relaxing and enjoyable experience on the Ryndam during our 7 days aboard her, and we hope to once again sail aboard this beautiful lady in the future.