Our longest and best cruise - 34 days of pleasure: Ryndam Cruise Review by Steph'n'Dave

Ryndam 5
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Our longest and best cruise - 34 days of pleasure

Sail Date: March 2013
Destination: Transatlantic
Embarkation: Tampa
We booked this cruise because we had fallen in love with the ship and the crew on our fall trans-Atlantic cruise on this ship. We wanted to come back to the Ryndam and whoever said 'you can't go back' was very wrong. This cruise was even better than the first time.
To start our holiday we flew with WestJet from Moncton to Tampa - a good flight. Comfortable seats and excellent in flight staff.
We were booked into the Riverwalk Sheraton and found the hotel comfortable and its restaurant to have good food as we ate there for the two days we stayed. We had a room with a balcony overlooking the river and spent time watching the activity on the river.
The downside of the hotel occurred after we had left on our cruise. We had been warned here on cruise critic about crooks who used equipment to scan charge cards and passports that have embedded technology. Before we left home we purchased covers to protect our charge cards and passports. When we More arrived at the hotel to check-in (our room was already paid) we were asked for a charge card to cover incidentals - which is normal procedure. When my husband's card was scanned he was told 'it was not working'. He then pulled out a back up card which is never used but after he pulled it out he was told his original cards was now fine and working. This was the only time and place this backup card was brought out. Internet is never good in the middle of the Atlantic and we did not bother to try checking our bank information until about two weeks after sailing - because we were not using our cards. It was a shock to see that almost $1000 had been run up on my husband's back up charge card - after we had left the hotel and embarked on the ship! These charges were in Tampa and other locations in Florida. My husband immediately contacted his charge company and that card was cancelled and the charges reversed. I hope the businesses that lost money track down the thief or thieves and charge them.
We took a taxi to the ship around 11:00 a.m. and our luggage was promptly taken and we were only waiting a short time before having our photo taken and our cabin keycard issued. We went to our cabin - dropped off our carry on cases, put our money and passports in our safe and headed off to the Rotterdam dining room for the 'welcome back luncheon'. We went back to our cabin after lunch and the first of our suitcases was already there and by the time we had it unpacked, the other cases had arrived. Absolutely excellent service.
We were delighted to find we had the same Captain, Werner Timmers, and the same Hotel Director, Simon de Boer on this cruise. The captain has a great sense of humour and is very personable and visible to the passengers. Simon has become a friend of myself and my husband - who appreciate both his kindness and his teasing. He is the heart and soul of the ship.
We were delighted to find a lot of the crew we had met in the fall were still on board and very pleased that they remembered us too.
The Ryndam is a small ship (approximately 1200 passengers and 500 crew members). It is also an older ship that has recently had a refit and new carpets were visible in many locations. It is extremely well maintained. We found the ship very clean - and the first three days after each embarkation (we were on for 3 back to back cruises) the cleaning was constant and repeated over and over again to ensure that embarking passengers were not bringing illness aboard. There were middle of the night checks (while passengers were sleeping) by crew to test for any bacteria. These were the healthiest cruises we have ever been on as a result of the hard work of the crew.
I saw an earlier review that stated otherwise. As far as I am concerned (and others in our ship roll-call who saw the review agree)it was a pack of lies by someone hiding behind a handle who was not willing to sign their name to their review. I am more that willing to state my name and give an honest review of our cruises. When one is in a port of call - the ship is open to the elements - flies or birds can come on board temporarily on Lido deck - but these do not remain there. I never saw the Lido deck other than clean.
The food on the Ryndam is excellent whether one is in the Rotterdam dining room or the Lido cafeteria. There is terrific variety in the menus and in 34 days we were never bored with the food and could eat something different every dinner - never repeating ourselves unless we wanted to do so. The quality and freshness were excellent, we were especially delighted with the wide variety of sugar-free desserts available to my diabetic husband. We have never found this variety on any other ship or cruise line. We were amazed by the number of specialty regional meals, deck barbeques, chocolate evenings and other offerings in addition to all the regular dining choices. Even more impressive was the sizing of the meals and variety of healthy options so that one could enjoy all the wonderful meals without gaining a lot of weight.
The first two days after embarkations - the Lido was not self-serve - to prevent any health issues. It means more work for the crew but certainly paid off in having a healthy ship with healthy passengers and crew.
I owe a special thank you to Avinash - one of the excellent chefs on board - for sharing recipes of some of our favourite dishes.
In the past we have opted for open dining. This time we switched to traditional dining simply because our favourite wine steward was working in the traditional part of the dining room. Roy Nunga is an absolute gem. We arrived for dinner and the first thing he said was 'I have some of that Moscata wine you liked, Stephanie'. This was 6 months after we had last seen him but he remembered us and what we enjoy drinking. My husband loves red wines and Roy suggested different ones that Dave might like and he never disappointed. In all honesty - I probably drank more wine in that 34 days than I drank in the last year - simply because Roy was so adept at finding wines I would enjoy. Roy and our waiters Rudy and Yohannes definitely added to our dining pleasure - anticipating our wishes and just being nice friendly people.
In the bars - we found the staff to be always friendly and helpful - even if just looking for a glass of ice water rather than a cocktail.
We picked cabin 359 again as we had that cabin on our fall trans-Atlantic cruise.
This cabin is on deck 6 and is an inside cabin. We joke that we have the largest balcony on board as we just leave our cabin - walk a few steps and are out on the deck to stroll around the ship or sit in one of the many lounge chairs to read. We also picked that cabin because it is just a short walk to the atrium. The Sjoelen (Dutch shuffleboard) games are there and we both became quite addicted to them on the previous cruise. Our cabin was comfortable (beds and pillows are excellent, there is more storage area than we could actually fill. We had three suitcases with us as well as carry-on luggage and there was still free space when everything was unpacked. Our cabin stewards Johar and Ronald for the first 16 days and Ronald and Wayan for the second 16 days did a marvellous job of keeping the cabin neat and tidy and still found time to refill fruit bowls and make towel animals every evening. We are big people and found we had sufficient room in our cabin to be comfortable - even with the addition of a fridge (for Dave's insulin) and a fan (I have temperature problems) for me. The laundromat is just down the hall and the location of our cabin is quiet - who could ask for more?
We were definitely spoiled for choice on ship. The Cruise Directors (Eric for the T/A and Kieron for the European cruises)were both excellent and their staff was very hard working. There were port lectures and other lectures of interest. There were cooking demonstrations and entertaining tips and hints. There were our much enjoyed trivia contests and there were loads of games and activities. I don't think we have ever been as active on any cruise in the past as we were on this cruise. We played Baggo, and Golf putting and entered Sjoelen tournaments. There were dozens of active choices available. I don't know when some of the entertainment staff (of Location staff as they are now calling it) ever get to sleep as there were things to do from early in the morning until evening.
The library on board is excellent and we read more than a dozen books while on this cruise. There are a variety of games available at the library - really something for everyone. As well one could borrow Ipods and do a self guided tour of the ship and its artwork - something we have done in the past. There were computer courses available as well as computers and internet time for the folks who like to keep in touch with home and friends while cruising.
There was a variety of music around the ship ranging from a fabulous violinist and piano duo who entertained in the Explorer lounge, a guitarist/singer who entertained in the Mix, a dance group who played in the Ocean bar for those of us who love traditional and ballroom dancing, a group in the Crow's Nest who played for the younger crowd, a pianist/singer who entertained in the evenings and of course DJ music in the Crow's nest too.
There were some wonderful guest entertainers in the showroom, ranging from magicians, jugglers, impressionists, musicians and singers. Some of our favourites were Stringfever - 4 English guitarists; Al Brown -singer/entertainer; Zambara (a local cultural show that came on at Palma de Mallorca);Shirley Domingues - a harpist; and Penny Mathisen a singer with a gorgeous voice.
The production entertainers - the singers and dancers of the Ryndam - were fantastic. There are all new production shows on board and they are not to be missed. They are some of the most unique and outstanding shows I have ever seen - as good as anything on Broadway or the West End. The four singers all have lovely voices on their own but also harmonize beautifully. The shows are all new - adding video to the productions and absolutely fantastic costumes. I have never seen as many costume changes as in these shows and all of them have played to enthusiastic audiences. In the past I used to get bored with some production shows but these are new and innovative and exciting - do not miss them !
A big thumbs up to the Ryndam orchestra too. They did a great job - working with so many different guest performers - with a wide variety of music and had a great sound.
I have read a negative review of the service on board and I am here to say - it is not true. We had fabulous service everywhere on ship.
Our cabin stewards were wonderful and very accommodating and our cabin was always in excellent condition.
Our dining room waiter Rudy and his assistant Yohannes were terrific. They made sure there was always brown bread or rolls on our table (white is not good for diabetics) and they were efficient, accurate and more importantly - were fun. Holland America staff is well trained - but they are also people and we enjoy talking, teasing and having fun with them.
We talk to everyone and we were treated like guests - not just customers - and there is a big difference in that. We felt welcomed, wanted and we were definitely pampered.
I've mentioned Roy, our wine steward, before. He added to our pleasure at dinner time with the wines and the conversation. My white wine was always chilled and waiting for me and Dave's red wines were ready for him and Roy had suggestions for the next bottles as these ones emptied. He never disappointed because he provided wines that we enjoyed, in a price range we could afford.
The 'Maitre d's' welcomed us and other waiters and staff that were looking after other tables always spoke to us as well. The gentleman with the ginger and mints as we left the dining room knew what we liked and it was ready for us when he saw us coming. There might be 1200 guests on the ship - but we were always made to feel special.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido most of the time and the staff there was wonderful too. It is self serve but it was hard to do that there as someone would say - I'll get your tea or let me carry your plate for you. People were so helpful. We would have staff come to the table and say - can I get your coffee for you - and have to say No thanks - some one else is already doing that. We were well and truly spoiled.
The ladies and gentlemen in the serving lines got to know us and what we liked and I must admit I ate more turkey bacon than I would have at home as Trishna really spoiled me at breakfast.
Staff met us at entrances with sanitizing liquid - even though self serve machines were there - and we stayed healthy - as did the other guests on board. We saw other staff from housekeeping working hard keeping the ship clean and the public bathrooms spotless. I have never seen as much constant cleaning and polishing on a ship as on this ship - and it was beautiful.
The front desk was awesome. It was a delight to see staff I had met before on other cruises and I especially appreciated their patience with me as I must have de-magnetized my keycard about 8 times on this cruise. Between my magnetic bracelet and having the camera get close to my key card -- I must have been there at least once a week to get a replacement card. I owe a special thanks to Angelo who was there for the T/A part of our cruise. We started our cruise as two star mariners but would have enough to become 3 stars after the first week. Our agent had told us the star change would probably not happen until after the second cruise and the information on it said about 10 days after it ended -- but Angelo contacted the Mariner section of HAL and we were awarded our 3 stars after the first part of our cruises. Now we are working to get up to 4 stars. I really appreciated his efforts for us. As well, when we discovered the charges that had been run up on my husband's card - the staff at reception immediately called through to the charge company for him so he could get this situation corrected.
The photography department on ship was much appreciated. Because my husband and I have been on a lot of cruises in the last 7 and a half years -- we have dozens of photos. Both of us really do not want more until we slim down. No thank you was accepted politely without people pushing us to have photos. We have been on ships where staff was really pushy -- not here. They were very pleasant.
I only visited the Spa once. I had an excellent massage and later stopped by for a minute to purchase a spa product. Usually I visit more often but this trip we seemed to be always doing something and I was so totally relaxed on this cruise that I did not feel a need to de-stress in the spa.
Housekeeping was really efficient in more ways than one. One day I was doing laundry and one of the machines was not working. In less than a half hour -- people were checking on it and it was immediately repaired. I wish we had repair people like that at home -- where one can wait for a week for a service man to come and fix something. They really kept on top of things on the cruise -- any problem was quickly looked after.
I have said earlier that the ship was the destination and holiday for us -- the ports of call were just icing on the cake. We had 19 ports of call between Tampa and Dover. We visited some of them but not all of them as we had been to many of them quite a few times in the past. I will comment under that section about the ports we visited.
British immigration boarded the ship in A Coruna and processed all the passengers before we reached Dover. This was quick and efficient and better still -- saved long line ups and delays when we left the ship. Disembarkation was well organized. We opted to leave at the earliest possible time and said our good-byes and walked off to get our luggage and then board a bus. We had booked a tour with 'International Friends' which was a day long tour. We went first to Canterbury and spent several hours there and then continued on to lovely Leeds Castle for a three hour visit there. After that it was on to London where we were taken to our assorted hotels and to the airport for those flying home that evening. We were at our hotel by 6 in the evening and would highly recommend this tour as an excellent way to get from Dover to London.
This cruise was a holiday and a celebration for us. We had my birthday, Dave's birthday and our anniversary in a 9 day period in April. They were very special occasions -- because of Simon de Boer -- and gave us memories we will always treasure. We were certainly spoiled beyond anything we have experienced in the past and in all honesty, hated to leave the ship when we reached the end of our voyages. It was without doubt the best cruise we have ever experienced and I say that after nearly 400 nights on ships in the last 8 years. We have never had a bad cruise -- some better than others- but at the end of them we were ready to come back home. This time we would happily have stayed on for another 34 nights if it had been possible. I fully believe that the cruise was wonderful because of the Hotel Director Simon de Boer and his wonderful staff. Attitude comes down from the top. Simon's standards are passed down and the staff we met and the experiences we had on ship were all outstanding. We look forward to an opportunity to cruise with him again. The highest rating it is possible to award here is 5+ stars. If there was a higher rating -- I would be giving it.

Stephanie Chazalon ( Steph'n'Dave) Less

Published 05/17/13

Cabin review: I359 Large Interior Stateroom

We have had this cabin for four cruises now - the fall trans-Atlantic, the spring trans-Atlantic, the round trip from Barcelona, and the Barcelona to Dover trip. We were offered an upgrade to ocean view for part of this last vacation but did not take it as we are very comfortable in this cabin. It is in an ideal location as far as we are concerned. It is a comfortable size and had loads of storage room. It is quiet and about midway between the atrium and the stern elevators. There is a laundry room just down the hall - but not close enough to be noisy and we only have to go a few steps to go out onto the promenade deck and walk around or sit on the lounge chairs. We have the advantage of a 'balcony' that covers both sides of the ship that way. We like being reasonably close to the atrium as we can play Sjoelen when we like as well as take advantage of one of the large desks there to either work on the computer or play cards.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Barcelona is an old and familiar friend after many visits here. This time we decided to re-visit some old favourites here. Normally we would take a shuttle through the port and then walk on foot - but Dave has had foot problems since leaving home. This time we took a taxi from the port to Santa Maria del Mar (the Cathedral of the Sea. This is a wonderful church - very simple and elegant - but also interesting because of how and by who it was built. The longshoremen of the 13th and 14th century had a hard and dangerous existence. There were not docks and equipment - men rowed in little boats our to ship and physically loaded it into the boats to row ashore. These men decided that they wanted a church of their own near the sea. The went to Montjuic and hauled the massive stones down from the mountain on their backs to build their cathedral. It is a testament to their faith and devotion as it was definitely a labour of love to build. In Barcelona - this is a cathedral well worth a visit - and it is easy to walk through the Gothic Quarter to get to it. After our visit there - we headed back towards the Gothic Cathedral - stopping on the way at a small cafe for a drink and a snack and to sit and rest and 'people watch'. When we reached the Gothic Cathedral we visited it again and then explored all the market stalls in the square by the cathedral. Certainly all sorts of items at a wide variety of prices for sale. We then headed off to the big market at the foot of Las Ramblas. We have purchased goodies there before and had thought of trying to find some sugar-free Catalan chocolate When we found that the price was $30 for a pound of it - we lost interest. I do love seeing all the beautiful fruits and vegetables there at that market. We strolled down the remainder of Las Ramblas to the Christopher Colon statue. For those who did not know - it is possible to take an elevator inside the statue and have a fabulous view over the city for just a euro or two. We headed back to the shuttle and returned to the ship - very content with our adventures.
Read 1749 Barcelona Reviews

Florence was another place we love to visit. Actually we had a private tour to Pisa and Florence arranged. We had a marvellous time -- first a visit to Pisa and an hour or so spent at the Field of Miracles -- seeing and exploring the Leaning Tower, the Baptistry and the Duomo there before heading to Florence. Our driver/guide Elizabeth was wonderful and took us first to Michelangelo Square where we had a terrific view of Florence and the Arno River. Then it was down to the city to see the Duomo built in three different colours of marble. Then we went to Piazza della Signoria to see the Palace/fortress of the Medici and the Uffizi next to it. We got lunch at a restaurant, sitting outside looking at the palace and afterwards walking around taking photos of the wonderful statues there. Then we walked down to and across the Ponte Vecchio where Elizabeth picked us up again and took us to Santa Croce to see the church with the magnificent memorials to Michelangelo and Galileo, and Marconi and dozens of other famous Italian architects and sculptors and authors. Amazingly the smallest and most insignificant plaque was in memory of the greatest of them all -- Leonardo da Vinci. We had a wonderful time in Florence and Pisa thanks to Elizabeth of Romeinlimo.

Another place we love to visit. It is so easy to walk around enjoying the sights and there are great shops with even nicer prices. Dave bought a new strap for his watch and I got two lovely Italian cotton skirts - one in brown and one in blue - at a shop where I had purchased a black one the last time we were here. At a hair under 10 pounds each(British currency here) they are a wonderful bargain. We love strolling the streets here - there is always a lot to see and we enjoy talking to local people as well. We were very lucky on this visit to see a parade at noon in honour of the Royal Engineers. Marvellous band and red uniforms and then the veterans of WWII marching along with them. That always brings a tear to my eyes. There are excellent liquor prices here in Gib too and my husband was pleased to be able to purchase a bottle of his favourite scotch at about half the price it would be at home. We have been here several times before - for the first timers I recommend visiting the war time tunnels and seeing the Barbary apes and just enjoying the atmosphere. There are loads of pubs and lots of restaurants offering great fish and chips and full English breakfasts and they will give you your first taste of England that way.

Lisbon is another lovely city with a lot to offer. It is easy to get around both by walking and by the hop-on hop-off bus service. The city centre is a great area to explore but so also is the area along the Tagus River - starting from Belem, to the Maritime Museum, Jeronimos Monastery and the Henry the Navigator statue. There are lots of churches to visit, interesting streets to explore (especially in the Al Fama district) and lovely parks. Nice restaurants abound and I love going into a local bake shop and just pointing at something I want to try. This is a city where one can especially enjoy sailing up the river and back down again as always something interesting to see from the ship.
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Monaco is an easy port to visit as one just walks off the ship and starts exploring. We headed up the hill to visit the Palace area. We had a lovely time exploring down some little side streets and looking at different gardens. We finally managed to find the Monaco cathedral open (it was closed the other times we were there) and we visited it. The botanical gardens are lovely and we spent some time strolling through them, photographing statues and flowers. Having been here before we have seen the racetrack and the casino and opera house and did not re-visit them this time - although they are something for first time visitors to the area to enjoy.

Ponta Delgada is a great place to visit at the end of an Atlantic crossing. It was our first port of call. We have been here many times and thoroughly explored the city as well as toured around the countryside on past visits. This time we just wanted to get on land for a few hours and stroll around. There are several churches that are interesting to visit, we love the pretty patterned streets, and it was lovely to see flowers in bloom - having left winter behind at home. We stopped in a few shops and picked up some odds and ends, visited one of the churches and enjoyed our walk.

Seville is listed here as it is possible to visit there from our port of call - which was actually the lovely old city of Cadiz. For some unknown reason - Cadiz is not listed as a port of call. We have been here before and thoroughly enjoy the city. The first thing we did on leaving the ship was walk to the pick up site for the Hop On Hop Off bus. We have not used the HoHo before and this time we did. We went all around the full route and then back the second time and got off the bus at the Cathedral. There are great views of the city from the top of the Cathedral - as we discovered on our last visit here. This time though we decided to stroll down past the Cathedral and over to the mercado (market). Along the way there were a variety of little shops and also other sellers with stalls out on the street. Dave picked up a lovely mirrored compact for me and the seller engraved the back with my name while we watched her. A lovely souvenir of our visit there. At the market we strolled around looking at different stalls of fruit and vegetables and meat and fish and eventually found a stall selling Tapas and next to it a seller of wine and cheese. We purchased our lunch and sat on a bench in the sunshine enjoying our feast. What a lovely memory! After our lunch we strolled back to the Hoho bus stop near the Cathedral and boarded it to take us to the Botanical Gardens and alighted there to stroll in the Gardens for an hour or so. Back on the bus and to the main part of the city where we had boarded and we strolled around the different squares taking pictures all the way. When we had started on the HoHo bus we passed the port and could see "The World" docked there. That is the 'apartment ship' whose residents vote on where to travel to next and go where the action is. We have seen it before at Greenwich - it certainly gets around. Eventually we headed back to the ship. There are some lovely self-guided walks around Cadiz and it is well worth many visits - not bypassed as just a gateway to Seville.

La Goulette -- Tunis Another private tour here and thoroughly enjoyed by the six of us who experienced it. First we were taken to see the ancient ruins of Carthage. Our first stop at the ruins was in an underground room where the first born children were sacrificed to Baal. We saw the tiny sarcophagi that the ashes of the babies were put into. The Romans were here after the Phoenicians and we saw wonderful remains of the great aquaducts and cisterns that brought and kept water, and remains of great buildings. A former convent is now a museum with wonderful Roman artifacts. We learned a lot about modern Tunisia too -- it is not just another North African Muslim state but is very open and welcoming with Muslims, Christians and Jews living side by side in harmony. We visited the city of Sidi Abu Said and had a walking tour of this lovely spot. Beautiful homes and lovely beaches. We stopped for a mint tea and opposite was a man selling copper plates and beating names into them for purchasers. Some bought plates with their grand children's names but I wanted one with the city name -- as a souvenir. We headed then for Tunis and stopped at a restaurant there for a lovely lunch. Dave and I ordered salad and were not disappointed. We had enjoyed Moroccan salads in the past and this Tunisian one was every bit as delicious -- along with the local liquor which was similar to Ouzo and Raki. We had a short tour in Tunis and a walking tour through one of the Souks where Dave purchased a little camel with an elaborate jewelled saddle as a souvenir of our day there. Prices in Tunis are excellent and with the wonderful climate and such great prices -- it would be a lovely place to have a longer holiday sometime
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