Damn the Ryndam
We waited over two months to write this post after the end of the cruise; we wanted to be as fair as possible and reflect on it after digesting what had really gone on. The cruise started September 18, 2011 and ended in Barcelona on October 9, 2011. My girlfriend and I had an Ocean view cabin with a window, not porthole in the aft part of the ship around the fourth level. We think that a cruise experience breaks down in importance something like this for us. About 40% of the cruise is about the ports of call. About 40% is about the food and dining experiences and about 20% is about the ship, your stateroom and ship board activities and entertainment. So let's give the credit where it is due. The stateroom and the service that went along with our cabin was a 8-9 out of 9 point scale (the ship's rating scale), the higher the number the better. The Indonesian and Philippine cabin stewards were timely, immaculate, and very nice. So, let's give the Ryndam a 8.5-9 for this part of the experience.
The entertainment was fairly boring, unimaginative and ho hum. If one word as to sum it up it would be "corny". The films they showed each night in the theater were fine and they repeated them on the stateroom TV's the next day. The shore excursions are typical for all cruise lines, lots of choices for every port and very expensive. Ranging from around $75.00 just for transportation to the majority of day touring with bus and guide for well over $150.00 and up. You can duplicate, with research ahead of time their shore excursions by local buses or trains for 1/8 to 1/10th of the cost they charge. If you share a taxi to some of the sites with 4-6 other passengers, usually by mutual agreement it would run around 1/3 per person they charge, and no bus load of people to get on and off every stop; but this is your choice. The tour people were not real helpful and in fact gave outright erroneous information about local travel when you asked the few questions, like where is the bus to the train etc. Not really interested in helping you if you had not booked their shore excursions.
The captain was very informative about entering and leaving ports, was often on hand to wish you goodbye at many ports and affable. Well the marks for the ports are 5-9; as ports varied and some with great, some were not so interesting, some stops were just too short to do more and some were longer than needed. The captain would make announcements on the loud speaker system but you could barely hear him or understand him because the antiquated intercom systems were in the hallway and loud and muffled. Only safety announcemnts were piped into your state room for the "comfort of the guests".
Now for the 40% the dining and hence the title of my subject, "Damn the Ryndam". The food in general at the Lido (the caffeteria-buffet style restaruant) , the Rotterdam (the main sit down dining room) for usually breakfast and I believe the name was the Canaletto, for their Italian dining room; was totally all inedible. We really could barely find food that we prepared properly, not overly cooked or totally raw! The breads and rolls were either soggy or totally tasteless. The eggs were either raw, or runny. The bacon was always undercooked, the fruits were hard and had no taste. The cheerios and the flakes were what they were. We would ask for the French toast or Waffles to be thoroughly cooked after being served them at both the Lido or the Rotterdam being consistently undercooked and doughy. The French toast and Hamburgers were pulled out of drawers pre-cooked and then reheated as you stood there and watched; waffels were doughy. Both the Lido and the Rotterdam had a superb range of choices, we tried them all and they were all INEDIBLE! WHY?? We believed that a tremendous amount of the food was pre-prepared, of low quality, and the table waiters just totally disregarded anything you asked of them. We also believe that the foods had not thawed out properly before being served. Comments like, "Please make sure the rack of lamb in just medium please"--it came totally RAW; sent them back, and they came back like leather. This was not a single occurrence, but almost every single meal, day after day. Simply speaking, I did not have a single meat course, steaks, roasts, racks of lamb or any other meat dish over the 21 days that was edible and I am not claiming to be a GREAT GOURMET, so don't think I am overly fussy. Other guests agreed, some liked the food, others just kept sending it back. The ship's food management is an abomination, let the captain eat in the Lido or the Main dining room with the guests and he might agree, he did visibly once or more times, I believe. Possibly, it is just the Indonesian style of cooking European style food; they haven't a clue, even the noodles which they must know about snapped back like rubber bands and stuck together; the rice was just bland but not cooked properly. The few Asian dishes they served were horrible. Most of the guests were American, British, Aussies, New Zealanders, Dutch etc. One thing for sure was that the waiters seemed to be concerned how you wanted it prepared, but they delivered the food it was consistently the opposite. When told that this was not what the way your ordered it, they apologized, took it back and brought it back wrong again. It never occurred to them to look at what they were just going to serve. In summary, of the three restaurants mentioned above, only a few dishes stood out as being very good. They had a very nice shrimp cocktail if you ordered it with cocktail sauce and a decent (thank God) small dinner Caesar salad. The Crab legs served a few times were good, but in general, the steaks, prime rib and all other meats were tough or raw and cooked improperly. The wide range of deserts looked very pretty until you tried to eat them, they fell apart were overly sweet and had almost NO TASTE but sugar. The cookies were a salvation, not good, but better than the rest. The Ice cream bar with several flavors and toppings was really just lower than mediocre in quality. Always soft and melting, you couldn't get it cold if you tried. The head on board chef and subordinate chefs and the Dining room managers who are responsible for the dining experiences, need to go back to school and learn how to prepare food!
Bottom line, we have never really heard of a cruise ship which has a high rating this one had, having terrible inedible food. We were shocked, disappointed and quite frankly it really ruined what could have been a very nice cruise. The second leg of this two leg journey had slightly better food than the first, we don't know why. It is possible that Carnival, who owns the Holland America Line and several other good lines is imposing lower food budgets and hiring really inexperience help. Possibly, this was a rouge cruise on a rouge voyage, we don't really know, but we needed to get this off our chest and pass on our experiences to other people as a warning. We don't think we were solo complainers, even British people at our tables agreed--and everyone knows the British are trained to take it and keep up a stiff upper lip.
What really ticked us off the most next to the bad food was the constant need for self aggrandizement. They consistently treated us like children (the average age was between 60-80) and they kept asking for clapping, making a big deal over their "baked Alaska", tried to constantly ask for pats on the back for their wonderful service and "large quantities of free great food." Surprisingly, a number of the guests went for it hook line and sinker.