The cruise started in Barcelona and we flew in a day early to have a chance to see some of the city. From the Barcelona airport, we took the Aerobus (5.30 Euros) per person to our hotel near the Placa de Catalunya. The hotel was in an excellent location and we walked around the Gothic quarter and down Las Ramblas to the Columbus statue. Barcelona has good public transit and is an easy city for walking. On the day of the cruise, we took a cab to the pier (about 13 Euros including all the surcharges tacked on to cab fares in Barcelona). Embarkation was a breeze - no lines and we were ready to board the ship minutes after we arrived at the pier. One of the many nice things about Holland America ships is that rooms are ready when you board so you don't have to drag your carry on bags to lunch with you.
We had open seating dining and ate all our dinners in the main dining room. We never had a problem getting a table for 2 and the food was always well prepared. We ate a few breakfasts and lunches in the main dining room as well and as opposed to our experience on some other Holland America ships, service on the Ryndam was always prompt. Overall, service provided in the dining room and by our room stewards was excellent.
The Lido buffet offered a good selection of food, however, it seemed that some of the food was not held at a high enough temperature, and resulted in cool rather than hot entrees and sides.
In terms of entertainment, the ship had a contingent of 5 singers and 2 dancers who put on good shows for a ship of this size. In addition, one night there was a British comedian who was very good. On another night there was a pianist, who was not very memorable. The show that was the biggest disaster was Duo Des Iles, who did a fair job with their quick change routine and acrobatic dance, but tried to do a comedy skit that probably was the worst excuse for entertainment that I have seen in my many years of cruising.
The cruise director and his staff did a nice job in providing activities on board. The captain even participated in one of the cooking demonstrations and seemed very comfortable cooking. Captain Rowden was probably the most visible captain that I have seen on any cruise ship. He also did a great job of keeping the passengers informed about the ports we would be visiting and of a change in our itinerary. He and his staff kept an eye on weather forecasts and noticed that we could have problems trying to get into Marseille. So, a few days before our scheduled stop there, he mentioned that he was changing the itinerary and we would stop in Villefranche rather than Marseille. This was an excellent decision on his part as other ships were not able to dock at Marseille and we had no problems in Villefranche, which is a picturesque port from which either Monaco or Nice can be visited easily.
The ports for this cruise were Messina (we took a tour to Mount Etna), Argostoli, Brindisi, Kotor (a beautiful old city with an excellent hike to the fortress above the city), Civitavecchia (we took the bus to Tarquinia to visit the Etruscan necropolis), Livorno (we took a train to Pisa), and Villefranche (we took the train to Monaco). Kotor and Villefranche were tender ports, but the tendering operation went smoothly and we experienced no delays in getting ashore.
The Ryndam does not have the glitz of the newer ships and some of the furniture in a few of the lounges needs replacement, but I enjoy a ship of this size. Finding a place to sit was never a problem. The Ryndam even has happy hours in many of its lounges with the first drink at regular prices and the second for $1.
Since we packed light, we used express disembarkation and were off the ship shortly after it arrived back in Barcelona. Even with a delayed arrival because of bad weather, we were off the ship before 9 a.m. The biggest bottleneck was getting a cab after the cruise because the Ryndam passengers shared a taxi queue with passengers from a large NCL ship.
Overall this was a very enjoyable cruise and Holland America provided a cruise experience that met our expectations.