The cruise started in Barcelona and we flew in a day early to have a chance to see some of the city. From the Barcelona airport, we took the Aerobus (5.30 Euros) per person to our hotel near the Placa de Catalunya. The hotel was in an excellent location and we walked around the Gothic quarter and down Las Ramblas to the Columbus statue. Barcelona has good public transit and is an easy city for walking. On the day of the cruise, we took a cab to the pier (about 13 Euros including all the surcharges tacked on to cab fares in Barcelona). Embarkation was a breeze - no lines and we were ready to board the ship minutes after we arrived at the pier. One of the many nice things about Holland America ships is that rooms are ready when you board so you don't have to drag your carry on bags to lunch with you.
We had open seating dining and ate all our dinners in the main dining room. We never had a problem getting a table for 2 and the food was always well prepared. We ate a few breakfasts and lunches in the main dining room as well and as opposed to our experience on some other Holland America ships, service on the Ryndam was always prompt. Overall, service provided in the dining room and by our room stewards was excellent.
The Lido buffet offered a good selection of food, however, it seemed that some of the food was not held at a high enough temperature, and resulted in cool rather than hot entrees and sides.
In terms of entertainment, the ship had a contingent of 5 singers and 2 dancers who put on good shows for a ship of this size. In addition, one night there was a British comedian who was very good. On another night there was a pianist, who was not very memorable. The show that was the biggest disaster was Duo Des Iles, who did a fair job with their quick change routine and acrobatic dance, but tried to do a comedy skit that probably was the worst excuse for entertainment that I have seen in my many years of cruising.
The cruise director and his staff did a nice job in providing activities on board. The captain even participated in one of the cooking demonstrations and seemed very comfortable cooking. Captain Rowden was probably the most visible captain that I have seen on any cruise ship. He also did a great job of keeping the passengers informed about the ports we would be visiting and of a change in our itinerary. He and his staff kept an eye on weather forecasts and noticed that we could have problems trying to get into Marseille. So, a few days before our scheduled stop there, he mentioned that he was changing the itinerary and we would stop in Villefranche rather than Marseille. This was an excellent decision on his part as other ships were not able to dock at Marseille and we had no problems in Villefranche, which is a picturesque port from which either Monaco or Nice can be visited easily.
The ports for this cruise were Messina (we took a tour to Mount Etna), Argostoli, Brindisi, Kotor (a beautiful old city with an excellent hike to the fortress above the city), Civitavecchia (we took the bus to Tarquinia to visit the Etruscan necropolis), Livorno (we took a train to Pisa), and Villefranche (we took the train to Monaco). Kotor and Villefranche were tender ports, but the tendering operation went smoothly and we experienced no delays in getting ashore.
The Ryndam does not have the glitz of the newer ships and some of the furniture in a few of the lounges needs replacement, but I enjoy a ship of this size. Finding a place to sit was never a problem. The Ryndam even has happy hours in many of its lounges with the first drink at regular prices and the second for $1.
Since we packed light, we used express disembarkation and were off the ship shortly after it arrived back in Barcelona. Even with a delayed arrival because of bad weather, we were off the ship before 9 a.m. The biggest bottleneck was getting a cab after the cruise because the Ryndam passengers shared a taxi queue with passengers from a large NCL ship.
Overall this was a very enjoyable cruise and Holland America provided a cruise experience that met our expectations.
Adequate space with a bathtub in the bathroom. Although the room's window overlooked the promenade, there was no noticeable noise from the outside. However, the room must be partially below the kitchen for the main dining room and at times there was noise from above, but it never seemed to last too long.
This is a very scenic port and a UNESCO world heritage site. It's fun to explore the narrow streets of the old city. We were ambitious and hiked the city walls up to the fortress overlooking Kotor. The views were great and for impressive views, you don't even have to climb to the top.
From the port of Civitavecchia we had already been to Rome, so instead we went to visit the Etruscan necropolis (a UNESCO world heritage site) in Tarquinia. From Civitavecchia, Tarquinia is a 2 Euro per person bus ride that takes about 30 minutes. The bus stops near the museum in Tarquinia. A combination ticket for the museum and the necropolis is 8 Euros (in 2011). A local bus (0.60 Euros per person) runs from the bus station to the main entrance to the Etruscan necropolis. In the necropolis are a large number of Etruscan tombs with paintings on the walls and ceiling. We walked from the necropolis back to the museum through Tarquinia, which is a picturesque town with a city wall, old churches, and nice views of the countryside. The museum had a very good display of Etruscan artifacts.
Villefranche is a scenic waterfront town with easy access to either Nice or Monaco. We took the train to Monaco (3.70 Euros per person round trip), which took about 15 minutes. The train station in Monaco is high above the waterfront so you can either walk down or use the elevators and tunnel systems that are available from the train station. The waterfront is impressive with lots of yachts in the harbor and great views of the mountains above Monaco. However, if you want to see the palace and the oceanographic museum, you need to head back up the hill using the well landscaped walkways. The trains between Villefranche and Monaco run frequently (about every 30 minutes).