Very recently returned from a 7 day cruise on the Ryndam to the Norwegian Fjords (29 Aug to 5th Sept)
Both my partner and I are seasoned cruisers previously with Thomsons, Royal Carribean, and P&O
Embarkation at Harwich was excellent, luggage was dealt with easily, very little queuing, everyone friendly and helpful, security very efficient without being intrusive, and we boarded the ship within half an hour of pulling into the cruise port.
The ship is 21 years old, and in places, looks it. But, everywhere was clean and the crew responsible for this should be commended.
Our Cabin, on deck six, was probably the most comfortable we have stayed in and as is the usual custom, the cabin staff were a joy to be around and taking care of our needs with smiling efficiency. Bad points though were, no tea making facilities and no fridge. This meant a treck to the Lido deck every morning (where inevitably there was a queue) and then back to our cabin to enjoy our first cuppa of the day.
The entertainment was varied and not all to my taste, but many guests enjoyed the performances that I didn't, so the old adage of "you can't please all the people, all the time" certainly rings true.
Personally, special mention should go to the pianist and the solo guitarist in the "mix" bar who, after the first evening, had built up a strong core following.
The ships entertainers in the "show lounge" were of a very high standard with singing and dancing to a degree that would not be out of place in the West End.
The ports of call (Bergen, Geiranger, Alesund, Eid fjord) were all excellent and we were blessed with really good weather. I will remember sailing through the Fjords to Geiranger for the rest of my life.
In trying to write a balanced review unfortunately all the good points have now been covered.
We dined in the Rotterdam dining room every evening with two other couples, (both of which, were terrific company, and both couples sampled the fare in the other two restaurants available, and both couples agreed with every other guest I engaged conversation with, that the food and service was grossly over priced and definitely did not offer value for money) and the first two evenings the service was slow and laboured. In fact the second evening we didn't receive our main course until over half an hour after the starter had been cleared, many people dining around us were tucking into their desert before our mains arrived. When at last they were served mine was barely at room temperature (it had obviously been sitting around somewhere for 30 minutes before being delivered to its lucky recipient). We, as a table unanimously complained and the head of the restaurant fully agreed that the service was not up to scratch and we were brought a complimentary bottle of champagne which none of us drank, it was very cheap plonk. It was not among the three bottles of champagne that were advertised on the wine list at over $100 dollars a bottle, but tasted like something bought at Poundland dished out to placate anyone who dared to complain.
When the head waiter saw that the 'champagne' was not going to cut it, we were then given complimentary liqueurs with our coffee, neither of which was very nice. I then had a long discussion with the water in which I conveyed to him that complimentary drinks were not what we wanted, all we desired was that for the rest of the cruise we received the same kind of service that was bestowed on our fellow diners. After this unfortunate incident I am happy to say that the service for us and everyone else in the dining room was greatly improved. I wish I could say the same about the food. The first formal night offered the same menu that was available in the Lido, although it was heralded as a Gala dining experience, and the menu for the rest of the week (save for the second formal gala evening, when we dined on brie in filo pastry and lobster tail, excellent.) didn't fare any better.
I should point out that none of this was in no way the fault of the waiting staff, who really did do their very best with the tools that were at their disposal. No, the fault lies with Holland America who's penny pinching did not allow there to be enough staff, either in the kitchens or in the dining room or quality ingredients with which to make the food for a dining experience I had expected.
We breakfasted once in the dining room, a mistake we didn't repeat, and, judging by the few passengers we saw in there at 9:30am, neither did many others.
Activities during the daytime and early evening (save for the quizzes run in the "Crows nest" and "Mix" bars) were geared around "how much can we fleece the guests today" with all sorts of demonstrations involving beers and spirits, wines, jewellery, clothes "Art" (none of which I would give house room) and special offers in the "on board shopping experience", and don't get me started on the never ending stream of over priced spa treatments you could enjoy if you wanted your final on board spending bill to be about double what you paid for the cruise initially.
The daylight robbery of the passengers continued with the shoe excursions, around 75% of them being cancelled due to lack of numbers. Wake up Holland America, its not rocket science to see that any passenger with the nasm of a mouse could organize exactly the same trip for a quarter of the price. Example. Kayaking in Eid Fjord to be done in couples $94 per person by Holland America. Walk off ship to tourist information office, hire two person Kayak for one hour, 200 krone, about £16-00.
One final thing, I read in another review that the reviewer was upset by the amount of brits refusing to pay the $11-50 per person per day gratuities. If all two thousand passengers were to pay this, Holland America would not have to dip into their gold lined pockets for three quarters of the staff wages bill. As it is, the 15% service charge on all drinks virtually pays the wages of the bar room staff.
Please, please Holland America, send a trusted employee on a P & O budget cruise and see how it should be done.