As mentioned by another poster - this was the 17 day Transatlantic cruise with the Norovirus. I traveled with a friend on this cruise (my husband stayed home because he had work commitments). My friend and I spent 3 wonderful days in Barcelona before the cruise. I absolutely loved Barcelona and plan to return next year.
Boarding the ship was very low stress. Our baggage was taken from our taxi and immediately loaded onto the ship. I was very impressed at this point. However, my great first impression was not to last.
Holland America's policy is to have all meals served for the first 48 hours to guard against g.i. viruses. There was plenty of hand sanitizer at the restaurants and the crew was required to dish up your food and/or pour all drinks in the Lido. It was a little bothersome to have to communicate your food choices to the workers given the noise and language difficulties, but it was no big deal because it would only be for 48 hours...or so I thought.
Anyway, things went from bad to worse. By the 3rd day we still were unable to dish up our own meals in the Lido Buffet and the captain started making polite announcements letting us know the virus had spread and that we would still be unable to serve our own food, that we should use hand sanitizer (or preferably wash our hands frequently), cover your mouth when you cough and/or sneeze, etc.
End result was that this went on for the entire cruise. The virus was never gotten under control, in spite of the efforts of the staff. The poor staff was so overworked that as the cruise went on I began to see some of them almost sleeping standing up. They were required to work their regular shift (which is long enough) but then they were also required to stay up until mid-night, or later, sanitizing the ship. This went on for the entire length of the cruise. The sanitizing seemed to consist of spraying on some kind of chemical that was left on all the surfaces resulting in ugly, dirty, streaked looking surfaces everywhere - all the brass, the "clear" plexiglass windows in the entertainment venue, etc. The endless announcements by the captain (or cruise director) reminding us to cover our mouths, use hand sanitizer, etc. became irritating. You would be squirted with sanitizer when you walked in one door of a room and they'd be waiting to squirt you again when you walked out the other side! It got to be ridiculous. The crew also sprayed some kind of noxious chemical in the staterooms where someone had been sick. You could smell the chemical when you walked down the hallways and it actually gave me a headache.
All library books and games were locked up. You had to check out a book by looking through the grilled gate-like fence that covered them. Then you had to ask the librarian to hand them to you. If you looked at the book and decided not to check it out, it was immediately taken out of circulation. There were no art auctions, they closed the self-serve launderetts, the hot tubs were closed, drinking fountains were turned off, all food was handed to you (not even any bread baskets), taco bar, etc. at the pool was closed, no chocolate buffet, no samples at cooking classes, no galley tours, you had to ask a crew member for the newspaper if you weren't in the Lido Buffet when they were handed out, spa services that weren't offered, and on and on.
The food on the Ryndam was mediocre (I heard many other people express this same opinion). I actually lost weight on this cruise! I did not try the Pinnacle Grill so can't comment on it. I head good things from other people about it. The entertainment was, for the most part, so bland I would leave before it was over. There were a couple of exceptions (two opera singers, the ship band - I think they were called the Hellcats, or something like that, and a classical music trio, but basically it was not very good(compared to the other cruise I was on). The "lectures" were awful. I heard many people joking about them. The cooking demos were okay but would have been MUCH better if the "party planner" would not have talked through them with her useless comments and "tips". I enjoyed the walking track and logged about 3-4 miles a day. I enjoyed the "Hit the Deck for the Cure" walk on the last day at sea.
The internet connection is a total joke. .75 per minute with the slowest speed I've ever seen. You could buy a package to lower the price per minute a little bit, but it was still a total rip-off. My Droid phone would not work with their wi-fi but I was told by other passengers that I-Phones worked. The crew member with the thankless job of answering people's questions about the crappy wi-fi service tried to blame my Droid, but when I pointed out that I had used my phone in places with wi-fi in Barcelona and Amsterdam he had no more excuses to offer. The ship is very small with a very poor shopping area (plus, we had to wear little plastic gloves to touch anything). Everything in the ship looked dirty because of the sanitizer residue all over everything. Some days it was hard to find a place to sit and read or whatever. The ship seemed kind of crowded.
The ports were great. I personally didn't think the Canary Islands were that interesting, but that is just a personal observation. Barcelona, Cadiz and Malaga were all wonderful. Madiera was very pretty and interesting too.
We only had 1/2 day at Holland America's "private" island in the Bahamas (Half Moon Key). I thought it was totally lame. Too many people for such a small beach. Also, people from the Ryndam were not allowed to go in the shops. As a matter of fact, they closed the shops until the Ryndam pulled out of port, then they opened them for the people from the other ship(s). Talk about being made to feel like a leper. Ryndam people also had to get our food in a separate line from the people from the other ship(s). The food was, again, mediocre - nothing great. When I cruised on Celebrity we stayed at their private island for the whole day with excellent food and lots of activities. On this cruise you couldn't really do anything because it was only 1/2 day.
Bottom line - I would never sail on Holland America again based on my experience on the Ryndam. I previously sailed on Celebrity and thought it was far superior (the food, entertainment, activities, etc). I feel that I got about 1/2 of a cruise for a full cruise price. In spite of all the inconveniences, Holland America did not comp us ANYTHING, not even a bottle of water. We still had to pay for those. (The only water available was in little tiny glasses in the restaurants - which you had to stand in line to get). Shame on Holland America for not offering at least SOMETHING for all the inconveniences.
After returning home and doing some research it appears this is not the first time this ship has had novovirus problems. I wish I would have researched this before I booked my cruise.
I suppose if I cruised all the time this experience wouldn't be as big of a deal, but I don't. Cruising is a special treat for me and to have spent as much money as this cruise cost and gotten so little is disappointing to say the least.
I'll stick to Celebrity in the future.