As a frequent cruiser and very loyal Holland America customer I have to report a disappointing trip to the Western Caribbean on the Ryndam. The ship is one of the smallest HAL ships and also one of the oldest but it was refurbished earlier this year to the tune of several million dollars. The dollar doesn't go as far as it used to, at least not on this update. Some of the public areas looked like they had received attention but there was lots of room for improvement. Our balcony had rust everywhere and our furniture was in terrible shape. The leather couch had gouge marks all over it and our one chair was broken. More about that later. They have removed the clever round stools that were perfect for sitting in front of the mirror to apply makeup and also to store bathing suits and towels. The bedframe extended out into the very narrow walkway and caused several cuts and abrasions before we had our cabin steward adjust and move it. The flat screen TV appeared to have a decent picture but of course there is nothing to watch. It was Day Two or Three before we had music on the channels as advertised. We had no complaints about our cabin steward and assistant; they were as helpful and friendly as possible but with 30 cabins to service twice a day they were stretched thin. I saw one of them nearly in tears one morning as he frantically tried to fix his vacuum. He looked at me and said, "I will never be able to clean floors with broken vacuum". These are the same workers who were assigned less than half that number of cabins to clean just a few years ago. I bet their wages didn't double.
Food was predictable.........consistently average. The selections are better than what I have at home but I was paying for a vacation here. The beef and lamb selections are usually good but the seafood is spotty. One traveling companion became very ill after eating Black Cod in the Pinnacle. We usually book the Pinnacle Grill the first night of the cruise to avoid the confusion in the Main Dining Room. As You Wish dining is finally getting routine on HAL as long as you don't want to eat at 7 p.m. Later is better but remember on this ship everything is geared to the Early Bird Special group and you may miss the best entertainment and after dinner activities if you dine fashionably. Our service in all dining venues was fine, even very good in the main dining room most nights. Caneletto food was good but the evening was marred by some intoxicated teenagers wearing baseball hats on backwards. The staff seated that group in a small room away from the rest of the guests but they paraded back and forth our entire mealtime.
Entertainment was fine and we like the small showroom. There were plenty of seats except for the first night when there was only one show. The vaudeville style of comic, fewer dancers, more singers and a show with only male performers was a nice change. The Piano Bar performer sounded wonderful but we were never able to get a seat in that area. There was a guitarist who sang in the Mix area but he was so bad that you were embarrassed for him. Casino was smoky and small. Wish HAL would go ahead and have a NO SMOKING policy.
The bar staff ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. We were ignored, challenged and insulted in some bars and in the Crow's Nest which was largely empty every night we were greeted by name and made to feel most welcome.
The front desk staff was a sore spot for us. When I reported the broken and potentially dangerous chair in our cabin, the male behind the counter grabbed his key ring and said, "Show Me". So he left his position and followed me back to the cabin. He said, "Oh, it really is broken". I have no idea what he expected but he certainly implied that I was not telling the truth. The chair was picked up but not replaced until Day Three of the trip and only then by my trusty cabin steward who appropriated another chain somewhere.
Holland America continues to cut service to their clients and ask more from their employees. We will continue to travel with them but we won't book anything but a suite so we can have turning around room. Holland America has good value but I wish they would remember their loyal guests expect a certain level of service and allow their staff to deliver that service.