Holland America Line
by Hondu & Sharen Wiltshire
Ryndam 10 Day Southern Caribbean Cruise
This was our second cruise on Holland America and the Ryndam was as much a treat as the Veendam.
From the Ft. Lauderdale airport, we took a taxi to the ship and it cost $9.00 including the tip. In port were the Veendam, CostaRomantica and CostaVictoria, Mercury, Islandbreeze and the Grand Princess. We certainly were early, as there were only about 30 other people in the waiting area. Check-in began at 12:15 in an adjacent room and it took about 5 minutes before we were back in the waiting room.
We were in our cabin at 1:30 pm. We have been on six cruises over the past two and a half years. On the first three, we had outside cabins. Since then, we have opted for inside cabins, as we just don't spend that much time in the cabin and don't find any need to pay the extra for a window. At night, we leave the bathroom light on and the door is kept slightly ajar. During the day, a light is always left on by us or the cabin steward. We were in cabin K584 on the Main Deck. The bed was already pushed together and made up with queen-size sheets. There was a sofa and more than enough drawer and closet space for two people. The bathroom was spacious with a hair dryer, shampoo, soap, lotion, and shower caps. I am six feet tall and I can say that the shower was big enough. There was an assortment of canned drinks (Regular and Diet Coke and Sprite @ $1.65) and bottled water($3.25). The cabin steward was very good.
There was a letter from the captain in the cabin stating that there was an engine problem and as a result the ship's maximum speed would be 18 knots and not the usual 22 knots. Due to the problem, we would get to Antigua, our first port of call, at 2:30 pm instead of 9 am; we got to Antigua at 3:30 pm and left at 7 pm. Our original departure time was supposed to be 5 pm. The reason we were an additional hour late getting to Antigua was a frontal system causing a deviation (an additional 22 miles) from the original voyage plan as the Ryndam seeked some shelter behind the Bahama banks. Traveling at reduced speed caused us to miss Nassau, but Half Moon Cay was substituted. For this change in ports and shortened time in Antigua, we got a $50 per person onboard credit and a complimentary sail away party from St.Thomas.
We really like the ambiance of a Holland America cruise. The Statendam-class ships are our favorites. The cruise staffers we came in contact with were professional and friendly. In particular, Michele Chomos, the Guest Relations Supervisor, Adele from Ireland, Eva from Holland and Melanie (Front Desk) from Indonesia. Our cruise was also enhanced by meeting some friends from an Internet cruise board.
We ate dinner in the Rotterdam Dining Room nightly, and as a seafood lover, I had enough choices for appetizers and entrées. We had wine with dinner nightly, but this was a departure from the norm for us. Since we weren't going on any tours, it was okay to splurge on wine for a change. The food was excellent and well prepared. We don't understand why some people may feel that Holland America food is not seasoned enough; what we had was just right. My favorite appetizer was Calypso Prawns with spicy curry-mango chutney dressing and my favorite entrée was Two New England Cold Water Lobster tails with saffron rice and sugar snap peas.
Service in the dining room was good to excellent. The wine steward was excellent - very knowledgeable about wines and always smiling. The dining steward was very good and willing to honor any request. On Baked Alaska night, I told him that I do not eat ice cream and I wanted to select a dessert from the menu. No Problem. Also, on the first night, I told him that I wanted a copy of each night's menu to take home. No Problem. He said he would give them to me on the final night and he did. The assistant steward was good except that he was not quick enough in refilling water glasses. Everything else was fine as he even remembered to bring me decaffeinated coffee after dinner nightly.
As usual, we always ate breakfast and lunch in the Lido, and since we were actively participating in the "Passport to Fitness" program, it worked out better than trying to conform to the more rigid eating times in the dining room. The food here was good with good variety. One day, they had a seafood buffet for lunch. Needless to say, I ate a lot of huge shrimp and king crab legs. On this cruise, I gained only 1½. On all my previous cruises, I gained at least 4 pounds. I burned calories not only in Passport to Fitness and on the treadmill, but I also walked the stairs every time. I never saw the inside of an elevator on the Ryndam. We ordered room service once for lunch when we came back late from Megan's Bay in St. Thomas; service was quick and the food was good. Almost daily, we had exotic tea at noon and late in the afternoon in the Java Café.
Before leaving on this cruise, I read some new posts on the Internet where some people dislike Holland America's "no tipping required" policy. Some say HAL should change the policy and just copy the other lines. Others says they don't understand what "not required" means. From my standpoint, (1) why would anyone want a cruise line to dictate who and how much to tip? and (2) if you are served and it merits a tip, then go ahead and tip.
Regardless of which line I am sailing on, I always prepare the tips in advance before leaving home. I put them in the safe until the last night. At that time, I make any adjustments up or down based on the service. On this cruise, we tipped the usual staff (dining steward, his assistant and the cabin steward). We tipped the room service guy, also. What was different on this cruise was a tip for the wine steward (we usually don't buy wine) and the Head Dining Steward. On most cruises, the supervisor (Head Dining Steward) does nothing else but ask you how is everything and he shows up on the last night making himself most visible. However, this supervisor sometimes cleared the dishes, poured water, removed my lobster tails from the shell, and made the dessert flambé right there in the dining room. On the final night, I observed passengers, who were about to leave their tables, shaking hands with the service staff and passing them envelopes. As passengers, we did not get a hard sell reminder to tip in the daily activity sheet and no conspicuous envelopes were left in the cabin. Tipping "not required" means if you want to tip, then do so - if not, just don't.
Our main daily activities on the ship were in "Passport to Fitness." We met a lot of people and made friends participating in quoits, golf, dance class, aerobics, Ping Pong, etc. I collected 90 stamps on this cruise and I had 10 left over from the Veendam cruise. For 100 stamps, I selected a jogging suit which they said is valued at $79.99. I won five-hole golf in the Atrium with a score of 11, and got a disposable camera. The cruise staff asked me if I play golf, to which I said only at Putt Putt and we had a good laugh. Seriously, I don't play golf, period, but it is fun on the ship. I won men's quoits with a score of 40 (hitting the center circle with a hat trick of 3 tens) and got a HAL key ring. We were 2 of about 10 passengers who agreed to model Steiner's apparel one afternoon. We walked along the edge of the pool and the onlookers gave each of us a round of applause.
We did not attend any of the evening shows, because most nights we retired after late seating dinner. Part of the reason for this is that we were up early every morning to join the first "Passport to Fitness" activities: "Walk-A-Mile around the Promenade Deck." followed by "Aerobics." On two nights, we went to the Explorers Lounge and listened to string music while sipping exotic tea with chocolate-covered strawberries. As far as other nightly entertainment is concerned, we avoided the places like the casino and piano lounge because we are non-smokers.
In Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados and Guadeloupe, we just walked around the town. We went to Megan's Bay in St. Thomas and stayed on the ship at Half Moon Cay. We decided to skip Half Moon Cay for several reasons: (1) the water was choppy, (2) I hate tendering, (3) and since it was also windy and chilly (at least to me), I had no desire to swim or snorkel. As you can already tell, we went on this cruise for the ship and not the ports.
The repeaters party was at 11 am in the main lounge. There were 717 repeaters on a full ship of 1266 passengers. While everyone sat and enjoyed cocktails and appetizers, several people were awarded certificates and medallions for sailing a certain number of times or miles. Two people were recognized for sailing more than 250,000 miles.
We highly recommend the Ryndam.
Hondu and Sharen Wiltshire are regular SeaLetter readers and can be reached for questions or comment at:
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