My husband and I just returned from a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on the Ryndam. As a first-time cruiser, I was a bit skeptical about the experience at first, but ended up LOVING it. My husband had been on a few cruises as a kid (on Norwegian) and this one was his favorite.
Having read some of the more negative reviews on here, I wonder if we just lucked out?? We really didn't have any negative experiences- just a couple of mishaps (which I will detail later), but overall it was pretty amazing.
Why did we love it so much? Well...
FOOD: We are big foodies - we've eaten at many a Michelin-starred restaurant and love, love, love good food. As such, I did not have high expectations for cruise ship food. However, the Main Dining Room was amazing! 4 courses at lunch and 5 courses of dinner, plenty of choices, and so many creative combinations/ingredients! The service was also amazing - we had a different steward each time and all of them were incredibly friendly, talented, and efficient. We only had to wait a while for food twice during the entire week, (and once was the night of the Baked Alaska parade, so it doesn't really count).
The buffet (Lido) was standard fare, lots of options and manageable lines (at least the few times we went). I didn't understand why someone would go to the Lido very often when the Main Dining Room had much better food! We didn't splurge for Pinnacle Grill but heard great things from fellow cruisers.
MORE FOOD: In addition to regular meals, you could pay extra for a cooking lesson ($30 - a great deal), which I really enjoyed and for $80, you could eat with the head chef, who prepared you a 7-course gourmet meal which came with a wine pairing from the cellar master. Again, a great deal - would have cost at least twice as much on land!!
THE SHIP: We were very happy with the public areas of the ship - I was prepared for them to be all old and run-down since this is an older ship, but they were beautiful - we loved the Explorer's Lounge, where we often listened to the string quartet, the Explorations cafe/library, the Mix bar with cool computerized tables, the crows nest, and the outside areas on decks 10,11, and 12, where we sunbathed during the day and stargazed at night.
THE SERVICE: The vast majority of the staff was so incredibly open and friendly. We really enjoyed this aspect of the cruise. It was so much fun to talk to people from all over the world.
OUR CABIN: Again, I was prepared for it to be tiny and run down, but it was quite spacious for a cruise ship, and the furnishings were nice. Our bed was really comfortable!
FELLOW PASSENGERS: Younger than expected, probably since it was spring break. Still mostly 60+, but also lots of families, 30 and 40-something couples, and a few couples our age. Everyone was really nice and we made quite a few friends. The one downside of an older demographic was that the nightlife was v. quiet (see below).
ENTERTAINMENT: The shows weren't Broadway-quality or anything, but they were quite good. We enjoyed the ones we attended (a juggler, a comedian, a Broadway special, and a performance from the ship's band). We loved the string quartet and listened to them almost daily. We also enjoyed listening to the band play by the pool during the day.
ACTIVITIES: We did a lot of trivia, which was really fun and a great way to meet people. They could have done better prizes though!!! There were a couple of dance lessons that we went to. Overall, it was a full schedule each day, and even though we're not the target demographic for Holland America, we found plenty to keep us busy.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER:
- Nightlife: I don't know if anything can be done about this, but the main bar, Crow's Nest, was DEAD some evenings. Like the-DJ-packs-up-and-leaves dead. Even when people came, few of them danced. It was mostly older couples sitting around chatting or having a drink. We're not big partiers at all but would have been nice to have a livelier scene.
- On "At Sea" days, it was hard to get a seat on the deck. I should have probably figured this out and gone early to reserve one, but being a first-time cruiser I didn't realize there'd be such demand!
- Food service: We had open dining. Whenever we tried to make reservations there'd never be any available, and if you wanted to go during a peak time you had to wait for a while. However, they'd give you a buzzer that you could take anywhere on the ship so you could do something fun while you waited. One night they actually ran out of buzzers, so that was slightly annoying.
-Cleaning sheets/towels: we saw a couple of stains on our sheets and also on one set of beach towels we used.
- Pools - the intimate ship size was awesome in most aspects, but the pools were laughably tiny. I didn't swim in them because it wouldn't be fun - they're too small!