This was my second cruise on the Ryndam this year. Both were Western Caribbean cruises departing from Tampa but the onboard experience was unbelievably different.
My first cruise on the Ryndam, taken in February 2010, was the week before the ship went into dry-dock for extensive refurbishment. The ship had a tired, worn look and I thought the food was mediocre at best and service, while OK, was nothing exceptional. We loved the port of calls of Belize, Roatan, Costa Maya and Key West and the weather, so all the negatives on that sailing were easily forgiven.
On this cruise, the weather was extremely uncooperative in 3 of the 4 port of calls (rainy in Montego Bay and Grand Cayman and too windy to dock at all in Cozumel), but splendid in Key West and our 3 sea days. Despite the inclement weather on port days, the cruise was very enjoyable, mostly due to our onboard experience.
As the ship was sailing from Tampa, only 30 minutes from home and the price was so incredible, we decided it was worth it to try again. Because of the price point, we felt we had some extra money to splurge on some extras on the ship.
Embarkation-We drove to the port of Tampa, arriving shortly after 1PM. Parking is $100.00 for the week. Valet is $115.00 (plus tips). We didn't realize that valet parking was outdoors, not in the covered parking garage across the street; otherwise my husband probably would have dropped us off and drove across the street to the parking garage. Living in Florida, we know the hot sun is definitely not good for your car's paint finish! Check-in was a snap. We were on board in 20 minutes.
Cabins-My parents had a BA balcony cabin on the Veranda Deck in a modified handicap stateroom. My father uses a walker and a wheelchair for distances. The shower with the drop down seat was great for him (and probably why the cabin is identified as a modified handicap stateroom); however, there wasn't enough distance between the bed and the wall for him to move past in his walker to the couch area & balcony. Luckily our friend had an extra cane with him for my father to use. I thought a modified handicap stateroom would have had the clearance for a walker to get by.
Our cabin was category H, outside with port holes. The cabin was fine, the newly revamped bathroom was very nice, good closet space, but the cabin itself was cramped with the loveseat, oval coffee table and desk chair. It was even difficult to get around the love seat to get to my side of the bed. As we only had port holes, our room was also a bit dark. Next time, we will probably book at least an FF cabin.
The in-room TV service was not great. The music channels didn't work at all and the channels choices were meager. On the bright side, I didn't come on the cruise to watch TV so it wasn't problematic.
Ports-As I said earlier, the weather gods weren't with us on our port days. We did have stunning weather in Key West, which we used to visit the Truman White House. It's easy walking distance (and easy even pushing a wheelchair!) A little tourist trapping shopping, then back to the ship.
I didn't bother getting off the ship in Jamaica due to the weather. We did shop a bit in Grand Cayman for the usual tourist stuff, but the drizzly weather didn't make for inspiring shopping. We couldn't port in Cozumel due to the windy conditions. So the ports were pretty much a bust on this cruise. I'm glad I didn't pre-book anything!
Shipboard Experiences-The revamped bar areas which includes the updated Piano bar and "The Mix" had a hip, fun vibe. We enjoyed the built in computer games and graphics in the lounge tables. Even my 80 year old mother had fun with these! While the main showroom was updated, if you need to get a wheelchair AND want a decent seat, you had to arrive an hour ahead of show time. Impossible for Early Dining and an 8:00PM show. There are lots of seats (regardless of wheelchair accessibility) in the showroom that are just plain bad, especially on the upper level. The 10PM show just wasn't an option for my parents.
We loved guest chef Fabio Viviani's presentation at Culinary at Sea demonstrations. It's great to come away from a cruise with a couple of great recipes. Speaking of recipes, I wanted to purchase a Holland America cookbook, but there are more than one of them. I wanted to flip through them to determine which one to buy, but they are in locked window cases by the Explorations Cafe. When I ask the barista if I could look at them, she hovered over me and gave me the impression that asking to see them was quite cheeky. I wouldn't purchase a cookbook at a bookstore without flipping through it to make sure it had enough recipes that I would use so I certainly wasn't go to put out $30.00 for a cookbook onboard sight unseen. In the end, I was so uncomfortable with her hovering, I decided to forget it.
We paid $150.00 for unlimited entrance to the Thermal Suites for the week. While we did enjoy it immensely (the hot beds, mineral spa, steam rooms, eucalyptus rain showers) we found it annoying that a few of the guests felt the need for endless chatter when clearly the ambiance was meant to be quite, relaxing and meditative. The music was soft, new age that one hears in relaxing spas and yoga classes. I wish they would tell people that it is this type of facility when they are pitching it to you or at least put a sign on the entrance door "Quite Zone". We did mention (well, ok, complain) to the staff at the Lotus Spa and they sympathized appropriately, but really, what could they do? They aren't spa police?
The only real irritation was in Lido Dining. They do not have trays so I would end up back and forth several times get everything we needed. With me, I had to make 3-5 trips to get myself and my handicapped father served. In addition, it seems I always had to track down table settings. In the end we decided it was much easier (and less frustrating) to eat in the dining room. There were, however, days that the dining room was not open for lunch.
What did we love? We loved the whole relaxing ambiance of the ship. We love that there is not loud music blaring in the pool area. We love that there is enough treadmills and other equipment in the gym to support the number of guests that want to use the facility. We love the cold towels provided after your workout. We loved the comfortable deck chairs on the promenade for relaxing on sea days. We loved the excellent food in the dining room. We loved the top notch service.
WE SHALL RETURN!