This was my 5th HAL cruise and 8th cruise overall. I have tried other lines, but in the end always wish I was back on board with HAL, so this is where I try to book. This was a very inexpensive cruise and it should be noted that the experience on a week long cruise is different than a longer cruise, both in your fellow passengers and the level of acquaintance you have with the crew. HAL strives to have service be their signature issue and the crew did not disappoint - they are always great, attentive, and have a smile and a joke for you. Food is also usually quite high in their efforts and I would say they met that expectation for the most part.
We left the port of Tampa and boarded to a Mariner's lunch in the main dining - a nice touch for those of us who don't want to be coraled with the masses in the Lido on day one! Great touch HAL. It was a little lengthy, but pleasant and our stateroom was ready by the time we were done. When I booked the trip, I knew it was going to be a week long and I was fine with an inside cabin for that time and this locale. My reservation specialist 'upgraded' me to a 'spa' cabin which sounded good. When we opened the door of our room, we were already in the middle of the bed. No couch, none of the amenities that the guy bragged about in a spa suite, and the tiny desk was so overloaded with the requisite drink supply there was no room for anything to be placed on it. This was unacceptable as the upgrade turned out to be a downgrade, in fact. I will be writing a letter to HAL about this.
The Ryndam is a small ship, but there are plenty of activities onboard and for the most part it was fine. If you looked too hard you could see her age though and her layout is more old school so if you've sailed more modern ships you will find yourself comparing to them. I think its fair to say that while I like 'open seating' for dinner, there really is no such thing on the Ryndam. The galley and area are just too small and so open seating means show up and we'll give you the buzzer for when we have a table ready. This was mostly fine excepting on one night when we waited 45 minutes for our table and then another 15 once seated. Finally my husband asked if we could get water and they realized they had messed up. This was not the crew's fault as they were turning tables over for the late seating and the section steward, who walked passed us several times, was directing them and didn't care that we had been sitting there. I put this on her shoulders as they were busy working and she was busy overseeing, but not really overseeing us in front of her! Oh well. The food was consistently good, but I wouldn't eat dinner in the Lido. The Pinnacle grill dinner we had was particularly delightful, if not humorous in how many times they messed up our reservation. We also ate at Cannaletto's which was fine, but (as was the case on the Eurodam) the tomato sauce in the dishes is starchy and not zesty which would have made the dishes really sing! A lovely change of pace nonetheless however.
The ports were the main reason we chose the sailing. We have been all over the Caribbean and its hard to find places we have not been before. Key West was beautiful and I agree - no need to spend more than 5 hours there. Day at sea was busy and wonderful as always -these are some of the most fun times on a ship believe it or not. Team Trivia, scavenger hunt, tea, movies - too many things to fit in really. Belize was after that and we had a great excursion; cave tubing. It is a very poor country though and clearly a storm has set them back a ways. GREAT SHOPPING for designer handbags however. Roatan was delightful and a well done cruise ship manufactured port. We did a catamaran sail (rained!) having to stay below made me a bit green at the gills because it was full of exhaust and the windows didn't open. Hubby did some of the best snorkeling of his life while I recovered and sunbathed. We got to bus back to the ship which allowed us to see some of the local beauty and culture. Definitely worth a trip back to Roatan and stay for a week. In ten years that will be a destination to behold, mark my words. Costa Maya was another lovely cruise ship contrived port in a pristine area of unspoiled beach. Though we were in Mexico, we did feel safe and this was a perfectly laid out shopping, beaching, pooling, drinking locale. We even got to see the Nieuw Amsterdam pull up beside us in her berth for the day and what a beauty she is - will be sailing with her on another journey to be certain!
A final bittersweet day at sea had me busy and the hubby a little under the weather (I kept telling him to wash his hands more often, but men just don't listen) He was fine by the afternoon and we had a final farewell dinner with a lovely couple and a couple I would have thrown overboard if given the chance (you know the type; obnoxious, talking loudly about others, hammering a boring conversation to death, just outright rude). If I had to do that dinner over again I think I would have waited for the two top and not eaten with others.
In the end, it was a great time. I will be sailing HAL loyally for the next 40 years or so, but never again on the Ryndam. Like the Westerdam before her - time to sell her off and build a new one! It was a fabulous vacation - just what we needed and I'll be looking forward to my next sail which I know fervently want to plan........