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Holland America Line: Ryndam

Fodorite Reviews

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Jul 7, 2015

Iceland and Norway

Unmitigated Disaster - followed by food poisoning and escalating Noro Virus that eventually ended our trip early, resulted in cancelled ports and on island destinations/tours. It gets worse - the ship allegedly had issues with Noro Virus for at least 6 weeks (according to the on-board staff) prior to our cruise departing but it wasn't until we reached the actual embarkation point that they offered to refund our cruise - had they been customer

centric - and at least lived up to their corporate motto, they would have have made a refund offer long before we left on our flight to Heathrow. However, they choose to wait until everyone was already to get on-board before a cancellation offer was made. HAL's corporate behaviour was nothing short of appalling! Room was clean and well looked after - especially after being sanitized with disinfectant each time we went. The outbreak prevented many activities and kept getting worse to the point where our cruise and on island tours ended early or were cancelled! It was such a disaster that there is not enough room here to tell all the things that went wrong.

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Oct 11, 2013

Greek Isles

HAL Ryndam: an excellent cruise. This is a too lengthy review of only a short (seven-day) cruise, but it reflects our enjoyment and satisfaction from it. It was a cruise in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, roundtrip Piraeus, the seaport of Athens, Greece. ACCOMODATION We boarded the ship at 11:00 a.m. and the cabin was already ready. Ryndam belongs to the Statendam-class of ships, noted for its exceptionally well-designed cabins.

Our outside cabin, actually more a hotel room than a cabin, was indeed one of the most spacious, airy and bright that we have ever been in and its bay-window one of the widest ones. Storage space was ample, with many drawers, and the closets had folding shelves for even more storing capacity. The beds had adequate space under them to store a medium size luggage. The mattress was out of this world and accordingly we had a heavenly sleep (I remember they used to sell it -"Mariner's Dream"- for $900 plus transportation costs, but I don't know if they continue). The sofa in the sitting area was not the more common 140cm, but a full 200cm, and so was the vanity, with a large mirror. The stateroom was perfectly outfitted with flat TV with DVD player, magnifying mirror and of course the usual safe. Bathrobes were also provided. The spacious bathroom was equipped with a full bathtub (almost every outside cabin on the ship has one). The "Elemis" toiletries here surpassed those of more expensive cruise companies: "Refreshing" came spontaneously to mind whenever I made use of them. Although the cabin was near the staircase and elevators, it was very quiet. It was quite soundproof, too. Our stewards, Mingki and Ali, whose kindness and efficiency we can only praise, held the cabin in immaculate condition. FOOD We like traditional seating in the Main Dining Room, but this time we chose "As You Wish Dining" for a change (you can come to the restaurant and dine whenever you wish and with your preferred company). We were not disappointed. Contrary to what we had heard about long queues, we were able to enjoy every night a table for two (so difficult to obtain in other companies) as soon as we entered the restaurant; only once we had to wait ten minutes before one could be found. Perhaps this was because we prefer to dine late. The variety in the Main Dining Room was one of the amplest we have encountered and the presentation and taste were excellent. Actually the taste had improved than on our last HAL cruise, a few years ago. Portions were similar (or larger) to more expensive companies. Service was as we remembered it, friendly and efficient. We were so happy with food and service there, that we did not eat at any alternative restaurant, although many fellow passengers spoke enthusiastically about Pinnacle Grill. We had both breakfast and lunch in the Lido Restaurant, satisfied again by the variety and taste. Of special notice were the Asian food and the desserts. The tables were cleaned quickly for the next passenger to sit. Pizza also and Mexican food in the Terrace Grill were very satisfying when coming back late from the ports. We ordered room service once, a full lunch with appetizer, soup and dessert, and it was delivered without delay. Room service is free 24 hours a day (unlike some other cruise companies) and offers a wide variety of choice. A nice treat was also the Indonesian Tea held in the Main dining room. SERVICE Kindness, friendliness and effectiveness characterized the crew everywhere. I have heard that Holland America has a training school in Indonesia, and this could be true, as they were certainly well trained. It was a welcome surprise to be called unexpectedly by name or have your preferences remembered. I think it is well noting that the Ryndam was honoured with the 2013 5-stars Diamond Award of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. PUBLIC SPACES Being of a medium-size (56,000 tons) and currying just 1,260 people the ship had an air of intimacy and never felt crowded. She was built in the 1990s, so perhaps a bit old now, but it was impressive how well-maintained and clean she was; we have been in newer ships that looked older than her. Being especially sensitive of the visual environment, I was suspicious of what to expect, but the interiors of Holland America is a rare instance where photography does not do justice. They were especially atmospheric during the night due to the right lighting, used frequently mix-and-match and good-quality textiles, and had evident attention to detail. According to Dutch tradition flowers were everywhere with impressive floral syntheses here and there. What was admirable were the numerous works of art, from the 3-deck high sculpture in the Atrium to 17th century paintings or 18th century consoles. We were told that works of art aboard a Holland America ship could reach a $2,000,000 total value. It was a pity that the dress code was not more formal (something like Cunard's for example) to complement such elegance. Of special notice was the Explorations, a spacious combination of a nice library and internet cafe, ideal to sit and handle your business in the PC or relax with a book. The theatre also was designed partly as a night club, which added to its atmosphere. ENTERTAINMENT Usually we do not watch many shows in the theatre in other companies, as we prefer late seating and after it we are not in the appropriate mood, preferring the bars or dancing. However, "As you wish dining" enabled us to watch fairly many shows earlier in the theatre, all well-taken care of, and we were particularly impressed by the talented singers and dancers. Ryndam is one of the relatively few ships offering separate theatre and cinema, and my DP was impressed with the popcorn provided in the latter. ITINERARY Congratulations go to the employee who designed the itinerary, as he/she managed to incorporate much of the essence of Greece in a short package ("Homeric Quest" was the name of the cruise). As far as I have noticed, itineraries are a strong point of Holland America. Our previous cruise on ms Rotterdam involved a detailed circle of Western Europe, including famous capitals, historic sites, beautiful sceneries and shopping opportunities, absolutely the best itinerary we have ever had in any cruise. Now we felt we savoured a carefully designed taste of cosmopolitan Greece - ancient and modern. Corfu and Rhodes do not need any recommendation. Both have been extensively held under European occupation, Corfu mainly under British, Rhodes under Italian domination, and this has arguably helped them to become well known to international tourism. Strolling in the old towns of these ports is a must and shopping opportunities abound, prices being even more attractive due to the current financial situation. Kusadasi (the "island of the bird") owes its importance to nearby Ephesus. Interestingly, Efesus is presented as a Roman city, based on its ruins from this period, but ask any student of Ancient History in an American or a British University and they will tell you that Ephesus was built by Greeks and was already flourishing centuries before the might of Rome entered the historical stage here; it scorned the Latin language and retained thoroughly its Greek character. So its inclusion in this particular quintessentially Greek cruise itinerary ("Homeric Quest") was perfectly justified. Of special interest also is the house where, according to the Catholic religion, Virgin Mary lived and died. Contrary to the other ports, bargaining in Kusadasi was absolutely required when shopping. An officer of the ship jokingly forewarned us in a friendly talk: when a local asks $10, you must counter-propose him $1, and the bargain starts from this point! Katakolon is the port to ancient Olympia, a must-see as the birthplace of the Olympic Games, more than seven centuries before Jesus was born. Katakolon itself is a surprisingly picturesque little port, where you can have a meal or a drink two or three feet from the sea - at low prices. However, the highlight of the cruise for us was Santorini, acclaimed the most beautiful island in the world by "Travel+Leisure". Here history meets a unique landscape in a dramatic way. Birthplace of the Cycladic civilization, the first European one along with the Minoan in Crete, the island was torn to pieces by the eruption of its volcano 1,650 years B.C.. The result is that, after climbing to the top of the steep coast by means of a cable car or a donkey, you can have lunch or drink enjoying a tremendous panoramic view of the sea-flooded caldera. Back in Piraeus, a smooth disembarkation ended a great cruise. CONCLUSION Overall, from all aspects it was an excellent cruise and a great value for money. Accommodation, food, service, entertainment, itinerary, all were exemplary. Holland America is one of the rare instances in the market where we found a motto coming true: "A signature of Excellence" indeed. We would fully recommend them and we are looking forward to return.

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Apr 3, 2012

West Caribbean

Holland America's culinary focus has made a believer of me. I also like all of the little, but right touches a real brewed coffee in every venue, newspaper, fresh fruit in cabin without asking, plush bathrobes, real hairdryer, etc., etc. We also like the mid-sized ships. We WILL cruise with HAL again! Soon! In addition to the two-tier Main Dining Room, there are two extra restaurants, the Pinnacle Grill (extra charge) and the Canaletto Italian

(no charge). There are also the buffet and poolside grill. We utilized all of venues. The Main Dining Room (MDR) consistently surprised us. We were used to receiving each meal a couple of good courses along with mediocre or poor courses. This was our first cruise in many, many years where we enjoyed every course of every meal. Our meats and fish was never over cooked and the meals were delicious and attractive. One real treat was our Indian meal in the MDR. The 2nd Executive Chef previously offered for a specially prepared Indian meal for just my wife and me. The 2nd Executive Chef came to our table at the Canaletto Restaurant to discuss what he would prepare for us the next evening. Boy did he deliver! We had delicious chicken tandoori, pork curry, raita, papadam, naan and more. We couldn't help ourselves and were soon stuffed. We ate five dinners in the MDR, one in Canaletto and one in the Pinnacle Grill. We thoroughly enjoyed both the MDR and Canaletto. We didn't think that the Pinnacle Grill was worth the extra charge, which has been the case, in our opinion, of all of the extra charge restaurants on all cruise lines. We always try one extra charge restaurant on each cruise but have not yet found one that was worth the extra charge when compared with the MDR. We were wait-listed for early assigned dining but ended with Anytime Dining. We used reservations for every meal with Anytime Dining but were only able to get our preferred time on one occasion. We feel that Anytime Dining doesn't work very well on any cruise line where they try to simultaneously accommodate both fixed seating and Anytime Dining, and HAL is no exception. They need to pick one or the other and stop trying to do both. Renaissance Cruise lines had only Anytime Dining and it worked well. It is trying to do both that creates problems. Nonetheless, by reserving tables in advance it worked sufficiently well on this cruise only resulting in our eating earlier or later than desired. The buffet's food was, in our opinion better than that of recent Princess or Celebrity cruises. The buffet's orange juice is fresh squeezed in front of you. They have a machine with oranges in a hopper that squeezes the juice into a pitcher. The coffee is brewed in large machines from finely ground beans. A bit strong, but not quite as strong as Starbucks. We originally booked an obstructed view guarantee but one-week before the sail date we were assigned a nice unobstructed view cabin on deck 4, A757. It was quite roomy, with a king size bed arrangement, side tables, sofa, table, desk and chair, bathtub, flat-screen LCD television and DVD-player. There was no refrigerator, which was our only disappointment. Instead of the wall mounted, anemic hair dryer, there was a 1,000 Watt hand-held hair dryer in the drawer. The only Euro-style plug that it could be used in was at the desk. The closet and drawer space far exceed our needs with about half of it going unused. We stored our bags under the bed. With a passenger capacity of 1,266, the Ryndam is what we consider a perfect size. It has all of the amenities that we desire without so passengers as to overburden the amenities. The ship is well laid out with many, many nooks and crannies where you can enjoy privacy. It has a large swimming pool on the Lido deck that has a glass and steel cover sectioned dome that slides open and closed depending on the weather. We felt that this was a very nice feature. There are two hot tubs by this pool. There is another, smaller pool on the fantail. We took a spa tour and it has all of the normal amenities; sauna, etc., but we only used their gym for semi-daily workouts. The Ryndam has a real movie theater that doubles as the Culinary Theater. We used this facility four times, twice for Culinary Theater events, once for a future cruise talk and once to watch a movie (with popcorn). I hate to see other lines eliminating movie theaters, which Celebrity is doing with their Solsticizing efforts, expecting passengers to watch DVDs in their cabins, and Princess has done, to a degree, by showing movies on an outdoor pool screen, exposed to the elements. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed two Culinary Theater events which was much like being in a Food Channel audience. There events were well done and I applaud Holland America for providing this venue. One thing that continually amazed us was the ship's many antiques. Everywhere you look there are antiques from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. Most of the antiques are behind glass but sturdy ones, like the 1700s one-ponder bronze cannon in front of the Customer Service Desk, is open for inquisitive hands. We like the fact that HAL still publishes a daily mini-newspaper. Princess has eliminated their newspaper and Celebrity, as of two years ago, doesn't print enough copies nor do the reliably print every day (it may even be eliminated by now). The library is the largest that I have ever seen on a cruise ship. In Costa Maya, just walk off the pier and swim on the public beach right next to the pier. The chairs and umbrellas are free public provided. We WILL cruise with HAL again! Soon!

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Jan 6, 2012

Western Caribbean

This was my first time ever going on a cruise, and my family chose Holland America Line based on available dates. We had no idea what to expect. Although a little nervous at first, the cruise was AMAZING! The ms Ryndam was spotlessly clean, and staff constantly encouraged all passengers to use hand sanitizer. The food was definitely one of the best parts of the cruise. The Ryndam offered a variety of food choices each night. My family and

I chose to eat in the Rotterdam dining room every night for dinner (It is fancier and the service is great). The desserts are wonderful- there was even a "Dessert Extravaganza Night" on the Lido deck (filled with chocolate fountains and cakes and every dessert imaginable). The Lido Deck, another option for dining, is buffet style, and is also delicious. The staff is incredible. If you want something that is not on the menu they will find a way to make it for you! (My sisters and I ordered strawberries with whipped cream at every meal even though it was not on the menu). There is also an Italian restaurant on board called Canaletto's. The food is average with a limited menu. Also, reservations are required to eat there. There is another restaurant called the Pinnacle Grill... We never ate there because there is an upcharge of around $30 per person to eat there. Although the ship seems to be "all-inclusive," anything other than coffee, water, and tea require an upcharge. I haven't been on any other cruise besides the Ryndam, so I have no other stateroom to compare this one with. However, the room was nice, and the cleaning staff was awesome. I swear they cleaned our room at least four times a day. The beds are pretty tiny... and there is only one electrical plug per room (if you ask the staff they will give you a powerbar for free). The bathroom is also very small, and the shower is tight. Other than that the rooms were nice. I took a cake decorating class and I loved it. I also attended a cupcake tea, where the waiters came around to each table with trays filled with mini cupcakes! Because I was on the ship over new year's eve, I attended a dance party in the Crow's nest and I had a blast. They gave free champange and everyone was wild. All ages were on the dance floor and all the girls were in sparkly dresses! Fun! Each day passengers are given a schedule of planned events ranging from yoga in the mornings, to wine tastings at night. I also attended shows in the Showroom at Sea (which mainly was filled with an audience of people over age 60...) The shows were a bit cheesy, but I enjoyed them. Ok, my family decided to take a different approach to the excursions. Instead of booking excursions with the cruise line, we waited until we got off the boat to book excursions with the locals on the island. Let me tell you, this was definitely the right choice. We found that the cruise line puts an upcharge on the excursions that they sell to you. We saved a lot of money booking our excursions at the information desks when we got onto each island. For example, my sisters and I wanted to horseback ride on the beach in Jamaica... the boat was charging $100 per person to do this. When we got of the ship, we headed straight to the information desk, where we booked an excursion to horseback ride on the beach for only $70 per person. The experience was great. We swam with horses in the ocean and along the beach. It was a private beach too- we were the only ones there. It was paradise. The same happened with the StingRay City tour we booked when we got off the ship. We had a private boat take us out into the ocean where we swam with stingrays. Meanwhile, those who had booked their stingray excursion with the Ryndam were packed onto a tiny boat with a huge group of people. Also, we payed a cheaper amout of money than they did. Overall, I say wait to book your excursions until you get off the boat.. its way cheaper and a better experience. I was nervous about the cruise, having never been on one before. The experience was perfect. Other than the occasional rocking of the boat, I enjoyed everything. The MS Ryndam is WONDERFUL!

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Jan 16, 2011

Key West - Honduras - Guatemala - Mexico

Very disappointing. It feels we were stuck on the boat the whole time, going from one meal to the next, as the activities are very limited. The food is great but this means you must have enough self-control or you will gain weight! (they even tell you that on average you can plan on gaining 1 pound per day). There were not many physical fun activities, and it's mostly old people on the boat (think 70 is the average). On top of this, two out of

four ports of calls were cancelled (Key West and Mexico) due to the rough sea (although we learned that some other cruise line was able to dock in Mexico...). There was some kind of engine problem just before we were told we could not go to Mexico but I don't know if it's related... As a compensation, we were offered a "complimentary glass of champagne" and a 15% credit on our next cruise with Holland America. Ridiculous and outrageous! We felt we were ripped off. No attempt was made to stay longer in Guatemala or to go to some other ports instead. We just spent a lot more time at sea, eating and eating... Great food there as long as you don't go to the "Lido" buffet restaurant. Decent, and well serviced. Not great to say the least. Mostly catered to older people. You have to pay extra for a lot of things (bingo, casino, learning how to make martinis) and the activities which are free are not well organized (Mah-jong where 4 people were already playing but it didn't seem there was someone to accommodate new people). The drinks are extra too (only tap water and ice tea are free). One bingo game was cancelled early in the morning because not enough people showed up. The tennis court is *tiny* and the same as the volley ball court (also tiny). There was broken glass on the court and a condom the day after new year eve, and it took us 3 calls to get the condom removed. The glass was still there. Never used the pools (the indoor one is for children, crowded and loud). The outdoor one is small too, and often not usable due to the weather (either too cold before we get to the Caribbean or closed because the boat had too much roll). The seats in the movie theater are not very comfortable and unless you seat in the front row, someone's head will block your view of the screen. The evening shows are great for the most part. Which excursions??? Two out of four ports of call got cancelled! For Honduras / Guatemala, we had to wake up early (7:30am meeting time) and found the excursions were short, and we were back to the boat by lunch time. There is not much to "visit" where the boat docks... $11 /person /day is added to your bill automatically for the tips

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May 6, 2009

Mexican Riveria

This is not the first time we have sailed with Holland America, however, we felt that this was less than a stellar cruise. The weather was excellent, the ports of call were all interesting except for the Copper Canyon excursion which I will cover later. The service and staff was good, the food acceptable. Holland America offers an excursion to the Copper Canyon which was our main reason for taking this cruise. The morning of departure my wife

became ill with a gastro infection which was going through the ship. It became evident that she was not able to go, I promptly informed the ships travel office and all they were interested in was "we cannot reimburse you the cost of the ticket" - which I knew and at that stage I was not concerned about it. I took the excursion. Six hours of riding a bucking train, finally reached Copper Canyon where we were fed and treated to a local Indian show after the show we had 20 to 25 minutes to actually visit the Canyon. Obviously it was not enough time, then 6 hours return. The cost of this excursion was way way way over priced. Upon return to the ship, my wife had voluntarily quarantined herself which was in accordance with a letter we had received from the Ship's Master. I took the letter to the Medical office and requested a certificate or a letter from the medical staff to support a claim with my trip insurance. They refused my request and once again stated (several times) that they would not reimburse us. I acknowledged their concern but they still refused to help. We feel Holland America let us down and it will be a long time before we sail with them again. During the whole cruise, we felt that everything aboard the Ryndam was submersively high pressured and commercialized. Copper Canyon, way way way over priced.

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Jul 23, 2006

Alaska

Boarding the ship on Sunday to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary, we expected a quiet cruise to Vancouver. We had four suites rented for the family P-001,003,008 and 010. Beginning around 11:30 pm on Sunday night our suite began smelling of raw sewage gas. The same problem occurred in suite 008 and 010. We contacted the desk and they sent an engineer to see about the problem. The sewage stench was coming through the air and heat ventilation

system of the suites and not from the bathroom. The crew apologized but could not fix the problem and gave us two ozone generators to help relieve the stench. We could not open the veranah doors on the P001 suite because the stench just poured into the living room. The smell was so bad it made my wife and daughter ill and they continued to choke and cough. The situation continued in the P001 suite until Thursday morning. We had to live and sleep in sewage stench for four days, there were no other cabins offered. The captain and everyone else on the crew apologized but nothing was done to solve the problem. The horrible odor continued in suite 008 and 010 throughout the cruise. Our daughter in suite 010 suffers from asthma and had to sleep with her cabin doors open to allow a draft to blow through the cabin. The suites smelled like we were living in a septic tank the whole week. I have written the cruise line a complaint letter and to date they have not responded to our travel agent or to us. They seem to want to forget that this happened. The coast guard inspected the ship in the past two weeks and were told that this problem was due to an "experiment with the waste plant" that went wrong and was stopped. We have since found articles in USA Today dating back over a year where the same problem occurred on this ship. Hence they have known about the problem for over ONE year and have done nothing to resolve the problem of a below deck air vent discharging too near to a fresh air intake resulting with fumes being pumped into these suites. Until this problem is solved no passenger should be subjected to these sewage and engine room fumes. While on board the ship I contacted the Holland main office on Wednesday and they seemed to have solved the problem by Thursday am in suite 001, but not in the other suites. They know how to stop the problem but refuse to permanently fix the air system. I recommend that anyone now booked or plan to book these suites reconsider their plans on this particular ship. Smelling raw sewage all day while on board the ship and trying sleep in that stench does not make for a pleasant cruise. The ship also had a sickness outbreak at the beginning of summer and with poorly designed air ventilation systems it doesn't surprise us. If anyone has questions please contact us via the e-mail.   

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Jul 9, 2006

Alaska

We recently returned from our Alaska cruise on the Ryndam from Seward to Vancouver. My wife and I both thought it compared very well with our Crystal Serenity Mediterranean cruise last October. Though she’ll still give the nod to Serenity, we had a wonderful time and were very impressed by the Ryndam and her staff. We are cruise travel agents in our 40’s and have been on many cruises but, for a variety of reasons, this was our first

Holland America Line cruise. We enjoyed the smaller ship size and smaller crowds, but the ship still had plenty of room and large ship amenities. A spacious ocean view cabin, friendly helpful service, mostly excellent food, wonderful ship facilities, very good entertainment and an outstanding Club HAL experience for our 6 year old son all contributed to a great cruise experience. And, of course, the landscape and wildlife of Alaska also played major roles in our enjoyment. I would like to touch on several of the details that HAL got right and added so positively to the mix. The Indonesian and Filipino staff, especially our wait team of Chandra and Herry, were always looking to please. Our dining room experience was really good. There were many outstanding dishes during the week. The breakfast and lunch buffets had a wide variety of fresh and tasty foods. I especially enjoyed the fresh squeezed orange juice in the Lido buffet. We even were able to order it from room service a couple of mornings as well as asking for hot items not listed on the room service menu. The excellent Lido pool was usually covered except for a couple of very nice days and contained fresh water heated to a very pleasant 80 degrees. My son and I used it quite often. We saw several shows in the Vermeer Lounge and two of them were excellent. “Club Nevada” was maybe the best revue we’ve seen on a ship. The cast was outstanding, with singers equal to the best we’ve seen in Broadway shows, Vegas, you name it. They were great! Jim Curry and his wife performed a John Denver tribute show and that was great fun too. People of all ages knew the words and could sing along! As reported by many, Explorations Café is a wonderful spot to relax, read, play a game, do a puzzle, search the Web or listen to music. It would be an even bigger asset on longer cruises. We were able to get really close to glaciers in College Fjord and Glacier Bay and saw some nice calving. Thanks captain. Both these spots are much better than Tracy Arm and trying to see Sawyer Glacier from miles away. Debarkation was our best ever as we chose the “Leave early with all your luggage” option. We literally walked off and through customs and on into a waiting taxi, arriving at YVR at 8:45am in plenty of time for our 11am flight. We did some wonderful excursions booked on our own. The train from Anchorage to Seward was very scenic but long, and requires a 5:45am check-in. Kenai Fjords Tours National Park boat tour was great. We saw Aialik Glacier up close as well as wildlife sightings of a black bear on a nearby beach that we watched for several minutes. Then we saw humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, puffins and a fantastic encounter with several Dall’s porpoises. Black and white like orcas but the size of dolphins, they came right next to our boat to explore and ride the bow wave. It was very exciting. We also did a Coastal Helicopters glacier landing in Juneau and a Seawind Aviation floatplane to Misty Fjords in Ketchikan. Both were outstanding experiences. Yes, they’re pricey but if people don’t do some of these excursions they’re really missing out on amazing Alaska scenic adventures and wildlife. On our floatplane we spotted 5 black bears on several mountain tops as well as landing next to a spot where the salmon were literally jumping out of the water. In sleepy Haines we rented a car and drove around to see eagles and Chilkoot Lake. The bears and salmon were hiding. The bears come out in the late afternoon/evening and I thought sure the salmon would be running by the middle of July. They weren’t. But on our last evening at sea, inside Vancouver Island we spotted several groups of orca making their way north. We didn’t want this cruise to end. Our only major criticism concerned the way the Lido buffet was organized. It had two main lines that you had to stand in endlessly no matter what you wanted. It was old fashioned, inefficient and frustrating. Who wants to stand in line for 20 minutes for lunch? Most cruise lines have gone to stations where you just grab what you want and move on or they have several larger stations with separate, shorter lines. This buffet was more crowded than ships with 3000 passengers. A final compliment to HAL. On the last day we were mysteriously invited to a Q&A where the Hotel Director, Cruise Director, Excursion Director, etc. asked for our opinions about the cruise. There were 8-10 of us and some were TAs and some were regular passengers. We talked and they mostly listened and even took notes. I’ve always thought the cruise lines should listen to us TAs more because we cruise many lines and can readily compare lines and ships better than most industry execs. Finally somebody listened! Thanks HAL. We’ll be back.   

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Jun 25, 2006

Alaska

I had read many reviews concerning HAL and the MS. Ryndam and would like to report that this was one of the best crises (Alaska departing Seward, AK to Vancouver, Canada 7 days) my wife and I have taken. The ship was mostly spotless (Purell stations in all locations) and the crew couldn't have been friendlier. The food was excellent and the service superb. Our cabin steward (Joe for short) knew us by name and kept our room immaculate.

The shows in the show room were first class with the exception of the magician, who was a little vulgar for ourt taste, but other than that I would have to rate this cruise a 10 on the a scale of 1-10. The boarding and leaving of the ship was flawless and very orderly. I would recommend this ship for the mature traveler who does not like loud party atmosphere. The only negative point was that the off-shore activities were too pricey. The scenery was beautifully and the price of the cruise was incredible. We would definitely cruise with HAL again.     

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Jun 25, 2006

Alaska to Canada

Before sailing on the Ryndam, please read all reviews. There are some that say this is a good cruise ship. There are MANY more that have gotten sick on the Ryndam recently, including me. The staff was friendly, although it would take two/three hours to get someone to come unstop the toilet. Then it would overflow again! The food was O.K. The beds were great! (Best sleep ever on a cruise!) The nurse that came to our cabin was very nice

and professional. My problem, and the problem of many others was the toilets overflowing, and the shower/bath water smelling like feces. Yes, there were Purell hand cleaning stations EVERYWHERE! Wonder why??? After getting sick, we were quarantined (the last night of the cruise). The next morning, long before the other passengers were to disembark, we were 'escorted' off the boat....my husband, myself, and about 30 other people!!!! We were rushed into separate cabs (not the shuttle) and taken to the airport. Give the devil his due, the staff did try to contain this illness. BUT, people still were getting sick!!!! Purell hand cleaner and quarantining the sick wasn't working! This ship needs a true, unbiased inspection of its water system.     

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May 14, 2006

Alaska

Warning. We just disembarked the Ryndam and there is a serious health threat due to Norwalk disease. Many passengers were ill. Almost all amenities were closed after day 1 for the duration of the voyage: thermal suite, children's play areas, library, and saunas. There were toilet floods on our floor which may have caused the outbreak. We were reminded constantly to wash our hands and were given Purell hand cleaner before every meal. Many

of the crew wore gloves and face masks continually. I would caution anyone to think twice before boarding this ship at this time. An interesting note - the casino remained opened and there were no hand sanitization stands anywhere near the vicinity.     

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Dec 27, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This was our fifth cruise with HAL and, as usual, we were not disappointed. Check-in was well staffed and organized and baggage was efficient. The itinerary included Manzanillo which was new to us and a welcome addition to the usual Mexican Riviera list of ports. The ship is gracious and elegant, as has been our experience with all HAL ships. Food was excellent and the entertainment, while not spectacular, was certainly above average.

In particular, the lounge ensembles were very good. Sadly, there was almost no poolside entertainment. The ship went to great lengths to enhance our New Year’s Eve experience with exception views of Acapulco fire works and open deck entertainment. Internet access was S L O W and expensive ($.75/minute). HAL needs to recognize that many other cruise lines now have free internet access. The staff was very good and accommodating but overall service levels were a bit below what we have experienced in past cruises. We had the distinct opinion the crew ( Wait staff, Room stewards, etc) had larger spans of responsibility and as a result, were somewhat stressed. As an example, our waiter served six tables, our past experience was about four. Service still was very good, just not that exceptional level we have long identified with HAL. The cruise director was at best functional albeit not very entertaining. His staff, however, was very good, energetic, and charming. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise as a good value in a low key, relaxation oriented event. This is NOT a party cruise !  

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May 15, 2005

Seattle to Seward, Seward to Seattle

This is our 2nd and 3rd time to Alaska as we did a 2 week "back to back" leaving out of Seattle to Seward then returning on the same ship to Seattle one week later. Although the itinery was almost the same up and back, the times were different and the weather was different each way. This is the 2nd time we have chosen HAL, our first review was posted here for the Amsterdam for 2003. In 2004 we went to Mexico on Royal Caribbean Vision

of the Seas and that is also posted here on cruisereviews.com. The Ryndam has had an extensive refitting and it is stunning! Each cruise we take on HAL reaffirms our love of this cruise line. From the stateroom to the dining room, the spa to the library, everything is unbelievably clean and quality everywhere. We can highly recommend this cruise line and this cruise ship for most people. The average age of HAL cliental is jokingly referred to as "dead"!! It is almost true. We were the among the youngest at 50 and 60 respectfully and that is just fine for us. We both work in "people" businesses and want peace and quiet and NOT to meet new folks and HAL makes this possible. On the good points: 1. The cabin (oceanview, main deck, center) was wonderful. Plenty of room inside and a nice view outside. We have had inside cabins before and while the outside is nice to have the view we wouldn't mind going back into an interior to save money. We plan on taking a minimum of one cruise a year if not 2 from now on and money is an issue with us. If it is your dream vacation and the only time you will be in Alaska, spring for the balcony rooms. They are definately worth the money. We live in the Pacific NW and plan on Alaska every couple of years so we tend to not care to see the outside while we are in the cabin. 2. The food is great in the dining room and the Lido. We don't do the Pinnacle Grill because of the price cost along with the menu having no Alaskan Crab Legs. This is my only complaint with HAL..we are in Alaska, why not have Alaskan King Crab Legs at least in the Pinnacle Grill for dinner?? There is only the two places other than hot dogs/tacos/pizza stand and room service to get food during the day and night but since they seem to feed you every 2 hours you will not go hungry!! We tended to go to the Lido for dinner more and more as the wait and formality for dinner grows old for us after a while. The Lido food for dinner was superb each and every night and extremely fast. 3. The Exploration Cafe was the place we hung out most of the time...an extensive library/ game room/ computer room, we found ourselves there almost daily to play scrabble, cribbage, dominoes or hearts. We don't use the internet on board finding that we can use it with some research in the ports of calls libraries if we absolutely have to. We never absolutely have to. 4. The spa is wonderful. The facial was on special on the way up and back and I only took advantage of this on the way back on the last day at sea which was a shame. At $25.00 it was a heavenly time and I shalt make that mistake again. next cruise at least twice!! The massages and deep tissue massage is fantastic and not to be missed. 5. The shows are just awful. There is nothing at all good to say about them other than the crew show is decent. The magician is terrible and since he hung out with the young staff on board the Lido deck every afternoon loudly (drunkenly?) we grew tired of him on deck and walked out of his show with many others behind us the night we tried to sit and enjoy ourselves. This is a major problem with HAL and it doesnt seem like they wish to fix it. Its a shame really. WE did see some excellent movies on our flat screen tv in our room (part of the renovation) and in the theatre daily. There are 4 movies a day on TV and they are the same as what is newly available at your local video store. Since my spouse is a tax accountant and we dont see movies from Jan. to April 15th, this gave us a chance to catch what we had missed during tax season. There are many other reviews telling you the good and bad things about all the ports. I dont intend to bore you with what we did every 10 seconds in every city. If you like and can walk, then walk about Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Skagway, ignoring the endless and boring Diamond International and other jewelry shops that overwhelm each and every port. We took the "blue bus" to Mendenhall Glacier ( $5.00 each way, leaving every 30 minutes from the cruise dock and the glacier back) instead of the official excursion...we walked and sat and marveled at the glacier on our time not theirs. We walked and watched the eagles in Sitka while strolling to the Totem walk next to the Historical Museum. For the best eagle watching, be early as they feed everywhere along the harbor front in the morning. The only excursion we went on was in Seward from MARINE TOURS and I cannot say enough about the quality of the ship, the people running it and the amount of wildlife that we saw. Everyone thinks that you will see just an abundance of wildlife in Alaska from your ship and this is just not so. If you are lucky and looking in the right direction at the right time you might see one or more whales. A small smear on the shore may or may not be a bear or wolf or elk or goat. This is not like the National Geographic shows where things are poping out of the water in front of you every 2 minutes. For this reason we took a "wildlife" (note, not whale) sightseeing tour out of Seward for half a day at a cost of $55.00 (early in the season in may)...we saw amazing animals up close and very very personal. We saw goats so close I could count the whiskers, eagles, sea otters so many we couldn't count them, puffins the same, sea lions on a rock and in the ocean, whales breaching all around us for almost 10 minutes, birds everywhere. It was a sunny day and the ultimate highlight of our 14 days at sea. I cannot say enuff about this trip. HAL is our favorite line for the quality of the staff, the quality of the room, the quality of the food and the quietness they let us have. We never feel rushed or one of a herd of people on a HAL cruise. We dont go for the casino which is unbelievable small and tight, the shows which are indeed just awful or the late night partying. We go to feel pampered and to relax and recharge our batteries in sumptuous surroundings and with an incredible staff to serve us. This is definately not a Carnival FUN ship, it is elegant and slow, no rock climbing walls, then again no rock climbing drunks falling down either. Very few children (as in almost none in May) which is what we want. If our idea of quiet sophistication is your idea of an ideal cruise then HAL will never disappoint you no matter where you go or what ship you take. The Ryndam is superb.  

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May 15, 2005

Seattle to Seward, Seward to Seattle

This is our 2nd and 3rd time to Alaska as we did a 2 week "back to back" leaving out of Seattle to Seward then returning on the same ship to Seattle one week later. Although the itinery was almost the same up and back, the times were different and the weather was different each way. This is the 2nd time we have chosen HAL, our first review was posted here for the Amsterdam for 2003. In 2004 we went to Mexico on Royal Caribbean Vision

of the Seas and that is also posted here on cruisereviews.com. The Ryndam has had an extensive refitting and it is stunning! Each cruise we take on HAL reaffirms our love of this cruise line. From the stateroom to the dining room, the spa to the library, everything is unbelievably clean and quality everywhere. We can highly recommend this cruise line and this cruise ship for most people. The average age of HAL cliental is jokingly referred to as "dead"!! It is almost true. We were the among the youngest at 50 and 60 respectfully and that is just fine for us. We both work in "people" businesses and want peace and quiet and NOT to meet new folks and HAL makes this possible. On the good points: 1. The cabin (oceanview, main deck, center) was wonderful. Plenty of room inside and a nice view outside. We have had inside cabins before and while the outside is nice to have the view we wouldn't mind going back into an interior to save money. We plan on taking a minimum of one cruise a year if not 2 from now on and money is an issue with us. If it is your dream vacation and the only time you will be in Alaska, spring for the balcony rooms. They are definately worth the money. We live in the Pacific NW and plan on Alaska every couple of years so we tend to not care to see the outside while we are in the cabin. 2. The food is great in the dining room and the Lido. We don't do the Pinnacle Grill because of the price cost along with the menu having no Alaskan Crab Legs. This is my only complaint with HAL..we are in Alaska, why not have Alaskan King Crab Legs at least in the Pinnacle Grill for dinner?? There is only the two places other than hot dogs/tacos/pizza stand and room service to get food during the day and night but since they seem to feed you every 2 hours you will not go hungry!! We tended to go to the Lido for dinner more and more as the wait and formality for dinner grows old for us after a while. The Lido food for dinner was superb each and every night and extremely fast. 3. The Exploration Cafe was the place we hung out most of the time...an extensive library/ game room/ computer room, we found ourselves there almost daily to play scrabble, cribbage, dominoes or hearts. We don't use the internet on board finding that we can use it with some research in the ports of calls libraries if we absolutely have to. We never absolutely have to. 4. The spa is wonderful. The facial was on special on the way up and back and I only took advantage of this on the way back on the last day at sea which was a shame. At $25.00 it was a heavenly time and I shalt make that mistake again. next cruise at least twice!! The massages and deep tissue massage is fantastic and not to be missed. 5. The shows are just awful. There is nothing at all good to say about them other than the crew show is decent. The magician is terrible and since he hung out with the young staff on board the Lido deck every afternoon loudly (drunkenly?) we grew tired of him on deck and walked out of his show with many others behind us the night we tried to sit and enjoy ourselves. This is a major problem with HAL and it doesnt seem like they wish to fix it. Its a shame really. WE did see some excellent movies on our flat screen tv in our room (part of the renovation) and in the theatre daily. There are 4 movies a day on TV and they are the same as what is newly available at your local video store. Since my spouse is a tax accountant and we don't see movies from Jan. to April 15th, this gave us a chance to catch what we had missed during tax season. There are many other reviews telling you the good and bad things about all the ports. I dont intend to bore you with what we did every 10 seconds in every city. If you like and can walk, then walk about Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Skagway, ignoring the endless and boring Diamond International and other jewelry shops that overwhelm each and every port. We took the "blue bus" to Mendenhall Glacier ( $5.00 each way, leaving every 30 minutes from the cruise dock and the glacier back) instead of the official excursion...we walked and sat and marveled at the glacier on our time not theirs. We walked and watched the eagles in Sitka while strolling to the Totem walk next to the Historical Museum. For the best eagle watching, be early as they feed everywhere along the harbor front in the morning. The only excursion we went on was in Seward from MARINE TOURS and I cannot say enough about the quality of the ship, the people running it and the amount of wildlife that we saw. Everyone thinks that you will see just an abundance of wildlife in Alaska from your ship and this is just not so. If you are lucky and looking in the right direction at the right time you might see one or more whales. A small smear on the shore may or may not be a bear or wolf or elk or goat. This is not like the National Geographic shows where things are poking out of the water in front of you every 2 minutes. For this reason we took a "wildlife" (note, not whale) sightseeing tour out of Seward for half a day at a cost of $55.00 (early in the season in may)...we saw amazing animals up close and very very personal. We saw goats so close I could count the whiskers, eagles, sea otters so many we couldn't count them, puffins the same, sea lions on a rock and in the ocean, whales breaching all around us for almost 10 minutes, birds everywhere. It was a sunny day and the ultimate highlight of our 14 days at sea. I cannot say enough about this trip. HAL is our favorite line for the quality of the staff, the quality of the room, the quality of the food and the quietness they let us have. We never feel rushed or one of a herd of people on a HAL cruise. We don't go for the casino which is unbelievable small and tight, the shows which are indeed just awful or the late night partying. We go to feel pampered and to relax and recharge our batteries in sumptuous surroundings and with an incredible staff to serve us. This is definately not a Carnival FUN ship, it is elegant and slow, no rock climbing walls, then again no rock climbing drunks falling down either. Very few children (as in almost none in May) which is what we want. If our idea of quiet sophistication is your idea of an ideal cruise then HAL will never disappoint you no matter where you go or what ship you take. The Ryndam is superb.  

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May 15, 2005

Vancouver

By the end of the first evening my wife and I were very disappointed at the decline in everything we had experienced since boarding. We had decided we would probably try another cruise line in future. The probably became absolute certainty as you will soon understand. Virtually everything which once gave Holland America an edge over other cruise lines, has deteriorated to the extent that nothing is really special anymore. Ice sculptures

are limited to one in the Dining Room on formal evenings. It used to be one or two every night and at least two in the Lido cafeteria. The beautiful large floral displays at the elevators are no more. No Ice Sculpting or melon carving demonstrations, no Salmon Barbecue, juice etc. only at breakfast. The Chocolate Extravaganza was replaced by a Dessert Extravaganza, a very poor substitute and the list goes on. The standard of cleanliness has deteriorated to a disgusting extent and we always had to look around to find a reasonably clean chair to sit on in the Lido Cafeteria. Almost all of the seats had filthy stains all over them. The review by Dennis Daines for April 18th. 2001 outlines what once validated Holland America’s claim to excellence. Today such claims are, arguably, false advertising. Despite the above and what follows, the Captain always ended his announcements by referring to "the beautiful and elegant ship." What a crock that was. The first evening our toilet broke down and this was the forerunner for 12 days of continuing problems which usually took from a very poor best of 2 hours to over six hours for someone to arrive just to check that there really was a problem. On two occasions we had filthy brown feces laden water swilling around our bathroom floor. A third occurrence was avoided when I realized that the overflow problem was due to instructions received from a steward sent to check that the toilet really was not working. There was almost no vacuum so he demonstrated a "fix" by rapidly pumping the knob four or five times which, at that time and a couple of others, did work. However when it did not work the water kept filling the pan and eventually overflowed. Fortunately the third time, I held the seat partially up and discovered how this procedure was causing the overflow and stopped just in time.. It soon became obvious that the "plumbers" were totally incompetent when repairs lasted only a few hours. This carried on and our frustration kept mounting. After a few days we requested another stateroom but were told that nothing was available. I queried the competence of the "plumbers" and asked for an engineer. I might as well have talked to the wall. We both suffer from high blood pressure and my wife also has a heart problem. The stress was becoming too much for us so we asked to leave the ship at Sitka with Holland America to arrange and pay for our trip home. This was met with an immediate sharply spoken outright refusal. In desperation I decided to make two signs. One to hang on my chest and the other on my back then parade around the ship. I told the Guest Relations Manager of my intentions and that I would go ashore at Sitka to purchase the material, which I did. I also advised her that the signs would read :- HAVE YOU HAD, LIKE I HAD, BROWN FECES LADEN WATER FLOODING YOUR TOILET FLOOR? CONTACT CABIN C328. HAS YOUR TOILET, LIKE MINE, BROKEN DOWN AT LEAST ONCE EVERY DAY? CONTACT CABIN C328 Suddenly all the things which had been impossible were now possible. Another stateroom was available, two bona fide engineers plus "plumbers" miraculously appeared to fix the toilet. While working on the signs I was disturbed numerous times with engineers and/or "plumbers" who were in and out of the stateroom. The offer of another stateroom was turned down since I foolishly assumed that with engineers on the job our problems would soon be over so why go to the trouble of packing up and moving. That turned out to be a huge mistake. Within two hours of mentioning the stained chair seats, newly reupholstered seats were being installed in the Lido cafeteria chairs. An insulting offer of $250 each on board credit was made and rejected. Another offer was made to return our fare if we left the ship at Sitka and found and paid our own way home. Since we had no wish to be abandoned in a foreign country with no idea of the cost of transportation and accommodation this offer was also turned down. These miracles occurred before the signs were even finished. ..After leaving Sitka I walked around with the signs for about half an hour before being accosted by the Hotel Manager and another officer. The upshot of this was that we were offered the return of the full fare on condition that we left the ship at Juneau and paid our own way home. This was countered with us asking for a full refund of fare plus out of pocket expenses for travel to and from the ship. This would only be accepted by Holland America Line if we left the ship at Juneau and paid our own way home. If I did not accept that offer I would have to sign a letter stating that I would stop my disruptive actions blah, blah, blah and if I did not sign that we would be thrown off the ship in Juneau. I had not caused any trouble. Not one person was inconvenienced in any way. Nobody even had to step aside since I got out of everyone’s way and some people enjoyed taking photographs, so I refused to sign anything. I was then told that I must leave the ship. I had no intention of leaving the ship but when my wife heard about this she was terrified and started packing. At this stage, having previously refused to speak with the Captain, the Hotel Manager and "Corporate" in Seattle in a conference call, I was asked to meet with the Captain and the Guest Relations Manager and refused. After some consideration I thought it may be advisable to accede to the request so I told the Guest Relations Manager that I would meet with her and the Captain. As I expected the meeting was a complete waste of time and, when I got fed up being interrupted by the Captain, I said there was no point in continuing, the meeting was over. The threats were repeated and I told him that, although my wife was terrified and would leave voluntarily, I would have to be forcibly removed from the ship. There was an inference that I was a complete fool and I should think of our state of health and what would happen if I should have a heart attack. Since there was no effort to negotiate anything it became obvious that the meeting was merely a useless effort to bully, terrorize and intimidate me. I was really worried that my wife would have an episode of irregular heartbeats and, to calm her down I promised that I would not use the signs again. My intention was really to use the signs again on the last leg to Vancouver when the threats would be pointless. While speaking to a woman in the Lido cafeteria she told me there were numerous toilet problems on the Verandah Deck. She also told me about this website where I could reach the world instead of just 1200 passengers with the signs so I was able to keep the promise to my wife. There were also problems on the Lido Deck. The men’s toilet at the pool on the Lido deck was out of order every time I tried to use it and the shower to rinse off before entering the pools was also out of order. Why were the pools open when there was a notice posted that one of the rules for using the pools was to shower before entering? The women’s toilet was, usually out of order when my wife tried to use it. With both male and female toilets inoperative this made me wonder how many people would urinate in the pools rather than go searching for a toilet which worked and what the increase in the e coli bacteria count would be with no showering before entering the pools. Rather than take a huge gamble on the competence of the staff to keep the pools safe I decided to forego the pleasures of the pool and hot tubs. The toilet problems seemed to be all over. At various times my wife had problems with those outside the Vermeer Lounge and outside the Piano Bar. The escalators between decks 5 and 6 were never working properly. Occasionally I could use the down escalator but never once was I able to use the up side which is of course the most needed.. I think that all these problems are due to lack of scheduled maintenance. This is a dangerous policy which can cause a domino effect resulting in dangerous breakdowns and/or in a flood of breakdowns which can swamp even competent staff. I think this is the reason for six hour waits. The signs are obvious. A proper maintenance schedule requires attention to detail. This is obviously sadly lacking. A good example is the elevator indicator lights. Many of the external up/down indicator arrow lights were dead. Similarly many of the call button indicator lights were dead and you had to look around at the other doors to see if your call had registered and of course the filthy seats in the Lido cafeteria. With so many visible problems we worried about what we could not see. There is a serious lack in both quantity and quality of maintenance staff. The quantity is obviously lacking when it can take over six hours to have someone just look at a problem. The incompetence is obvious when, until the twelfth day, no repair lasted more than a few hours. Also see the review by J Higgins regarding a "punch list" of 300 items to be fixed throughout the ship on his voyage. I would love to know what the "punch list" was on our trip. Worst of all was disastrous advice given by unqualified staff which twice resulted in the filth on our bathroom floor. This is all somewhat reminiscent of my second cruise which was on the New Amsterdam. There were numerous problems with the elevators, fire doors which kept closing of their own volition, filthy black blobs of oil in the water and more. In a letter to the president I expressed the opinion that there appeared to be a dangerous policy of emergency maintenance only and the ship was, so to speak "being driven into the ground." This was vehemently denied but, funnily enough, the New Amsterdam was scrapped the next year. At least at that time the claim to excellence was totally valid in every other way which is why we took other cruises with HAL. The Ryndam is a much younger ship so what other explanation can there be for the deplorable state it is in except poor maintenance due to gross negligence and incompetence? One other possibility is poor design and if this is the case then the whole system should have been replaced long ago. Finally, the evidence that our toilet had recently been giving trouble was still there and, in my opinion, that cabin should not have been in use until the toilet was properly repaired. When you read through the other reviews it appears that our problems were much less than others who regularly had to suffer the stink of sewage throughout the ship and periods when absolutely no toilets were operational. I cannot understand why HAL allows this ship to sail at all with the health hazard it presents. Is it any wonder that there have been two outbreaks of Norwalk virus on this vessel. If you have not done so read the reviews by J Higgins, Harold Horne, Julie Ovens and David Allison then you too will wonder why HAL allows this ship to sail at all with stinking sewage problems since at least as far back as October 2004. In a letter I recently received from HAL corporate in Seattle they actually had the gall to claim and I quote "Holland America is a leader in the implementation of state-of-the-art sanitation programs. We have stringent procedures and standards in place to ensure the health and safety of our passengers and crew." What a crock of "sanitation material" that is and an outright insult to any one with an IQ over 1.  

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May 5, 2005

Coastal cruise

I went on the Ryndam on May 5, 2005, from San Diego to Vancouver. This was my 23rd cruise and 4th with Holland America. The Ryndam is a very nice ship and is in great shape for its age. The carpets are new everywhere including the cabins. I really like the Ryndam size. It's small, but doesn't feel that small. You have lots of places to stand and look out from the front to the back. It's perfect for Alaska for viewing the Scenery. I

loved how you could go on the bow of the ship. It's really fun to go out on the bow when the ship is at sea. I always find Holland America crew to be the nicest. The crew always has a smile and always seems eager to help you. Cabins We were up graded from an inside cabin to outside cabin. The cabins are very big compared to Princess cabins. You have a bath tub in your bathroom though, I would find it hard for older passengers to get in and out of it. The cabins were kept up very nice. One of the improvements that Holland America put in the cabins were new beds. They are very comfortable. I think it was the sleep therapy beds. Also, you now have new plasma TV's and DVD's in your cabin. You can check out movies from the library for a $3 charge. Or bring your own that's what I did. It was very nice having a dvd in the cabin. There was a safe in each room but I was not happy how it operated. Usually on a cruise I like to lock my wallet, credit cards, and all valuables in the safe. But to open and close this safe, you had to use a credit card. There was no charge to use the safe, but it read the code on your credit card to work. So it meant you had to carry a credit card around or leave it in your cabin. Food Food in the Lido restaurant: breakfast was regular cafeteria style. They had an Eggs to order service, omelet station, precooked waffles, french toast, and pancakes. The food basically was the same every day. Lunch in my opinion was just fair. They had a nice salad bar and you could get fresh stir fry or pasta. But the buffet line items were tasteless and they did not have much of anything. Not much variety. You did have a choice of turkey or ham sandwich that never changed. Holland America has really gone down hill for food. You use to be to have a ton of choices to make your own sandwich. You can get ice cream but they don't have the good waffle cones anymore and the scoops you get are small. The deserts use to be very big and the last time I was on the Ryndam they had different cakes that you could get. Its not like that anymore. The food was ok, they need more sections. One thing that I always ate at was the taco bar. You could make your own taco with what ever you wanted on it. You could get a hamburgers and hot dogs but was not that good. The hamburgers were already made and they just heated it up for a min. The taco bar is a must. In the dinning room I thought the service was great. The food is still pretty good, but they have made the portions a lot smaller since I was on it two years ago. Again, they need more things on the menu. You could eat dinner in the buffet, but it was only open to 7:30 pm and they had the same things what you would get in the main dinning room. They really need to kept this open to at least to 10pm and again need more items. Room Service was ok. It use to be a lot better. Though, it was still pretty good for a late night snack. At 11pm was the late night buffet. Again, they need more to choose from. The food was ok, its was a lot better two years ago. I think Princess food is better and has a lot more sections. Before Holland America changed, you were able to get free Espresso, Caffe Latte and Cappuccino with big cookies. Now at the Java Cafe you have to pay for it. It doesn't cost much but its the principle behind it. The passengers age is older. Mostly from 40-80. I did see a dozen passengers my age. I rather be on a ship with older people rather than young passengers like on Carnival and Royal Caribbean that just want to party and get drunk. I really liked how you could play basketball and tennis, shuffle board and a few other things. The only bad thing was they always took in the basket balls and tennis balls after 6pm. So if you did not got to the entertainment show, you did not have much to do after 6pm. Everything closes so early including food. The activities were very limited compared to other ships we have been on. The ship was completely dead at night. With this new change for Holland America, the only big improvement that I see is the TVs and dvds. The food I thought got worse along with the portions. You now have to pay for your Espresso, Caffe Latte. And you don't have people bringing you free drinks on the life boat deck that you use to see. Their is a lot of things that use to be free now you have to pay for. Holland America sure has change since last I sailed with them two years ago. We did have good service beside our cabin attendant not making are room until after 1pm, but now you have to tip $10 a day. Holland America is charging more for their cruises because for the new so called look, The good thing is the beds and TVs, the rest you now have to pay for. I enjoyed myself on this cruise, though I don't think I will take Holland America on a 7 day cruise. I rather go on Princess or celebrity. I really don't think Holland America is a premium line anymore. I really see a big change since the last time I was on Holland America like nicking and dimming. If only I could take Holland America ships with Princess food and Royal Caribbean entertainment. I was not impressed with the signature upgrades. I don't think its wroth paying so much more.   

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Apr 26, 2005

Mexico Baja

Wonderful Cruise. We had a cabin with a balcony. Food was good and entertainment was mostly good (some a little boring). Best prices in port seemed to be in Puerto Vallarta (you will find a Walmart by the port) and the vendors by the beach were pretty "hungry" to make a deal. We took the Copper Canyon trip which was interesting and long. It took from 4:00 am until about 1:00 am round trip. The train had to constantly slow down for "soft

spots" in the track. Loreto was a treat as we weren't expecting much of anything but it was very pretty with merchants that didn't chase after you saying "how much do you want to pay". The crew was good but not outstanding. The ship was nice and had a good flow to its design. As with most cruises you could pick at little things but over all it was one of the best we have been on and it was a great 10 days. We would recommend it as a great experience.     

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Apr 5, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This was our first Holland America cruise as our three prior were with Carnival. All were to Mexico. The immediate difference is the age of the passengers. We were among the older group in the Carnival cruise while on Holland American we were among the youngest. The average age was near 80. Numerous passengers had canes, walkers or were in wheelchairs. This has it's advantages since few of the passengers smoked or were involved in rowdy

behavior in the late evenings. In fact everyone was in bed by 11 p.m. The initial boarding process was timely and we were able to have lunch on board although the cabins were not available until 1:30p.m. The dining room dress included informal as well as casual and formal. Informal was new to me since the prior cruises only indicated casual or formal. I wore a sport coat to the informal dinners although some gentlemen wore ties also. The food was excellent as well as the service. Just a sideways glance would bring the waiters attention. By the second night the servers knew our drink preferences. Throughout the cruise the service was impeccable. I was able to have my shoes shined several times on very short notice (this is a complementary service). On the minus side the toilets did not function on two occasions. One time for several hours. In the mid "A" deck corridor a sewage smell was apparent at times. The off ship tours were informative and the guides seemed knowledgeable. I did not take the Copper Canyon tour since it did not seem to allow sufficient time. Most of the passengers who took the tour were extremely disappointed and upset. If you do not mind a mature crowd I highly recommend this ship and line.     

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Mar 16, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Sailing on the MS Ryndam would have to be compared with spending a week living inside a sewer pipe in a major city. The foul odor at times drove us from our stateroom (twice in the early morning hours), made passage inside the ship more than unpleasant, and made it near impossible to enjoy the evening show as we left Cabo San Lucas. As you walked down the halls the odor was as if someone’s toilet had experienced a major back flow of

sewage that had saturated the carpet. Even the staff had to step outside from time to time with a cloth over their face to seek fresh air. [They tried hard to cover up that they noticed the smell, but the smell was so bad you could read the pain on their faces.] The smell was so foul that we were left feeling nauseated. On the other side, the crew and staff were pleasant and I found the ports of call wonderful. The entertainment was better than usual, per my taste, and the meals interesting. My experience with Holland America (second cruise with them) is that they have no idea what Ice Tea is supposed to taste like and the concept of tea with a meal is beyond their comprehension. Still, dollar for dollar Holland America provides a decent value...just not on the Ryndam until they fix their sewer system.    

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Mar 16, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This is our first cruise with Holland America, and the smallest ship we have been on. The average age of the passengers we estimated to be 70. The activities were very limited compared to other ships we have been on. The ship was completely dead at night. The evening shows were poorly attended, and quite frankly were not very good. When we boarded the ship we noticed a very unpleasant odor, and it only got worse as the cruise continued.

The Captain even made an announcement regarding the odor, stating that it is a chemical they use in their waste system that often filters back through the air vents. It was bad! The toilets often did not flush in the staterooms. The Copper Canyon excursion was extremely disappointing. If you have seen one Canyon you have seen them all. We had to meet at 4:15am, however the ship did not dock until 5:30. Then all 340 people boarded 8 buses for a 2 hour ride. Then we got on the train, where only one side of the train had a view on the way up to the canyon, then on the way back you switched with the people on the other side of the train so they could see on the way back. So for 6+ hours you saw nothing! We had about 1 1/2 hours at the canyon and half of that time was lunch. The guides pointed to the viewpoint that you could walk to, or you could walk down to a cave. The steps up to the viewpoint are very uneven, and the stairs down to the cave are steep. Several elderly passengers were having great difficulty walking, or couldn't do it at all. There were many unhappy passengers that complained about this excursion. It is too much to fit in one day.     

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Jan 29, 2005

Ft. Lauderdale through Panama Canal to San Diego

Pros: Generally good evening shows; well appointed bars and dining room, although the dining room show some signs of wear; particularly good entertainment (Dan Bolton) in piano bar; first class library and computer room; well equipped gym and exercise facility; good quality food, although not up to the standard of Celebrity. Cons: Toilets often not flushing and a frequent smell of backed-up sewage/drainage permeating corridors and

some public area. This is an ongoing problem that HA seems unable to fix. Quite frankly I am amazed they can call this ship luxury for as long as this long term problem continues. Numerous reviews raise the same concerns. Staff attention to upkeep seem lax. windows are often opaque through salt build-up. They should be washed every time in Port. This type of problem is fairly widely apparent. Holland America is slipping and should do something about it.     

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Dec 18, 2004

Mexican Riveria

This cruise was our second cruise, the first being two years earlier to the Mexican Riveria and also on the Ryndam. Since our last cruise they added one additional port to the itinerary (Topolobampo) and made significant improvements to the ship as part of Holland America’s “Signature of Excellence” program. Since our 27th wedding anniversary fell during the cruise we also purchased their “Just for You” package of romantic amenities.

(We did the Renewal of Vows on the first cruise…just wonderful!) We were allowed to board the ship at 1100, although we were encouraged not to visit our cabins before 1:30 pm since the stewards were still making things up from the cruise that had arrived just a few hours earlier. The boarding process was quick and painless and pleasant. Those embarking are provided with the items they needed to board the ship as well as a schedule of what is available where to keep you occupied until your cabin is ready. We took advantage of that time to eat, tour the new Greenhouse Spa and make reservations for our shore excursions. We had a Veranda cabin on the starboard side of the Veranda Deck. The new linens, bathrobes and the flat panel TV (with DVD player) were obvious improvements from our prior cruise. Everything was tidy and ready for us to move in. Our bags arrived shortly after and we unpacked and slid the bags underneath the bed (plenty of room). We had also ordered formalwear and it was hanging in the closets when we arrived. Everything we ordered was there and in the proper sizes and our formal evenings were quite comfortable. Things that were great… The Greenhouse Spa is a wonderful experience. My wife and I both had massages and facials and took advantage of the Relaxation Room and the Thermal Suite. I was so relaxed during the massage that I almost could not roll over on the table. While the dress in the spa is little more than a robe, everyone that works there is very proper and thoughtful so you always feel at ease. I enjoyed the massage so much I had a second before the end of the cruise and I highly recommend the Greenhouse Spa. It was the epitome of pampering. The Rotterdam Dining Room is a magnificent two-deck dining room at the stern of the ship. The food is always above-average with plenty of variety. People eating there are expected to adhere to the dress code for the evening (Formal, Informal, Casual) but I saw many folks that never really dressed up. T-shirts and sandals will definitely not work in the Rotterdam on any night. For the less formal there is the Lido Restaurant which had a decent variety of foods, and I found the service there to be as attentive and friendly as in the Rotterdam. The Pinnacle Grill is the specialty restaurant on board, and I highly recommend making reservations as soon as you can after you board the ship. We had a table for two against the port side windows so we could watch the sunset while we ate. The food was beyond description and the service was impeccable. The filet mignon was the best I have ever tasted. Things that could have been different… The Just for You package did not turn out quite as advertised. We were supposed to have a dozen roses and a bottle of champagne in our cabin when we arrived. The champagne was there but the roses never made it. We let the Front Desk know but the roses were MIA for the entire cruise. We were also supposed to have a guaranteed table for two in the Rotterdam Dining Room for dinner. We did not get that either, although we ended up not missing the table for two. The two couples we shared dinner with were wonderful company and getting to know them made our cruise a whole lot better. The rest of the Just for You package was as advertised, and I would not hesitate to order it again. Even though we did not order the Renewal of Vows this trip the cruise line remembered our anniversary with a card from the Captain. Topolobampo; where is that? I was asked that question a lot before we left for the cruise and I am still not sure how to answer. This was the first time any cruise ship had visited Topolobampo. The ship left Mazatlan early to get to Topolobampo and support the long trip for those taking the Copper Canyon excursion. Unfortunately we did not sign up for that trip($350/person). They tried to have things to do for those of us that stayed on the ship. The bay tour was nice, and the town set up a small shopping bazaar on the pier as well as a dance floor with local entertainment. I think Topolobampo has a lot of potential, but for those of us that did not take the Copper Canyon tour it was a slow day that maybe did not justify leaving Mazatlan early or getting to Cabo San Lucas late. I enjoyed the entertainment in the Vermeer Lounge, but was disappointed that the Ryndam cast only performed twice during our 8 day cruise. During our last cruise of 7 days they performed 3 times. Although we only saw them twice the cast was quite good and myself carrying away some of the tunes in my head. I could write 10 more pages of details but can sum up our experience in a paragraph. We had a wonderful time, both on and off the ship. We hiked in the jungle where they filmed Predator, toured the city of Mazatlan and rode ATV’s in the desert north of Cabo San Lucas. We pampered ourselves and relaxed, never went hungry, and met some wonderful people. The service was friendly, attentive and courteous. The ship seemed to be in excellent material condition. The one plumbing problem we had in our stateroom was fixed shortly after we reported it. I also noticed that a light that was out in the passageway was replaced within hours after I first noticed it. We definitely look forward to our next cruise on Holland America. Darrell Griffin San Diego, CA  

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Oct 20, 2004

Mexican Riviera

Following is what we encountered, endured, and suffered through: 1. At some point during 7 of the 10 days, none of the toilets on the ship – both those in the cabin and in the public areas – would flush. Typically this would last from 1 to 5 hrs and, as you can imagine, made for some unpleasant odors throughout, and potentially some health issues as well. 2. The service was very inconsistent, and we weren’t sure if they were not

trained, or just poorly trained. For instance the restaurant staff was far from professional. They would occasionally take orders from the men first, and then even serve the men first, leaving the ladies to sit there and wait. During dinner, for the whole trip, we never got drink or bread refills without asking for them, often more than once. Then to compound it, the meals themselves were mediocre at best. 3. The staff throughout the ship would not yield as you approached if they were walking towards or past you, a big no-no from a professionalism standpoint. We would have to step back to let them pass. 4. For breakfast and lunch from the buffet, you were fortunate to get warm food, and hot was out of the question. This not only lowered the enjoyment of the meal, it makes one wonder about the health risk associated with food not maintained at the proper temperature. 5. The iced tea, coffee and ice machines did not work most of the trip. 6. By the pool they made a deal about getting food, specifically tacos, but the taco machine didn’t work until late in the trip, and then it too was never hot. 7. The air conditioning system was intermittent at best, and you never knew when you went to a show if you needed a coat or would be uncomfortably hot. Several people had trouble in their cabins with the temperature, but we were fortunate there. There were two days that the air conditioning did not work properly in the Crows Nest to where it was too hot to be in there. One of the servers in the Crows Nest told us that someone in Engineering had told him they still had a ‘punch list’ with 300 items on it that needed fixed throughout the ship. 8. There were always 1 or 2 elevators that did not work, then we heard that one of them had dropped two floors with someone on it. 9. The live shows were of such quality that people would leave during them. 10. We had an ocean view cabin, but the window was so dirty you could barely see out. 11. Service while sitting by the pool was virtually non-existent. They advertise that you will be ‘served lemonade while poolside’, which was a joke. You never saw a server, and we had lemonade once when I went inside and got it. 12. The phone system was intermittent in some cabins. It was 4 days into the trip before we could communicate by phone with our friends in another cabin. 13. There was an ugly occurrence while boarding a tender at one of the ports. The water was somewhat rough and the tender would move away from the ship and then stop abruptly when it reached the end of the tie-line, and then stop abruptly again when it would move back and hit the ship. We were being literally thrown around the boat, and a lady who boarded after us went over the back of one of seats and caught herself with an arm on the floor. I thought she had broken her arm because it was at a strange angle, and while I was trying to get myself stabilized enough to go help her, imagine my horror as she started to get up and her arm stayed on the floor!! She had an artificial arm and it had knocked her prosthesis off. The really troubling part of all this is that no one from the crew said while we were boarding, “be careful, hang on”, or offer assistance. Nor did anyone rush to help her get up. This is a serious safety issue that needs to be addressed by someone or some agency. 14. The ship had been in dry-dock and was obviously not ready for passengers yet. Yet throughout all this no one came on the intercom and publicly apologized, until the last night when the captain made some very quickly passing comment about the problems as he thanked us for coming. An apology needed to be forthcoming long before then.     

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May 12, 2004

Alaska

This is our third seven-day cruise to Alaska, in the past ten years, always out of Vancouver and always on Holland America, but a different ship each time (other ships were the ms Noordam and the ms Statendam). THE BUS RIDE TO THE SHIP AND CHECK-IN - We flew into Vancouver several days early to spend a couple of days, on Vancouver Island, to visiting Victoria and especially Butchart Gardens, before the cruise. On the day of the cruise,

we return to the mainland by ferry, drove to the Vancouver International Airport, returned the rental car, and with the help of the airport information personnel located the area where we met the friendly HAL representative. The bus ride to the ship was uncomfortable (hot and stuffy), as the air conditioner was not working; plus the driver failed to get any description of the numerous city sites that we passed. On the other two HAL Vancouver bus rides, the drivers were most informative. Once at the HAL check-in location, long lines of passengers greeted us; then I spotted a very short line for suite passengers. However, this line was bogged down as the single HAL representative was trying to help a non-suite passenger who had birth certificate problems. The other lines moved much quickly and it was a mistake to select this line. OUR CABIN - Once aboard we went directly to our outside stateroom - a deluxe verandah suite (category S) as we were offered by HAL to upgraded from verandah suite (A) if we would pay only half of the price difference. It was a good choice. The most oblivious difference was the stateroom size was doubled including the verandah. We had learned the advantage of having a verandah several years ago; HAL had upgraded and introduced us to a verandah suite (A or B) from a regular large stateroom (category C or D). Since we are early risers, we love to watch the ship pull into a harbor and watch all of the docking activities. Several of new advantages of having the suite was we were offered the free services of the Neptune Lounge which is located on the same deck as our stateroom (the Navigation Deck) and the Lounge is not a bar but instead provides a close location for early morning breakfast including hot coffee and tea and fruit juices, various snacks all day including High Tea, the services of the Front Desk and Shore Tour offices, etc. In addition, there was a special dining room for breakfast and lunch called the Queen's Room on the Upper Promenade Deck and a special cocktail meeting with the ship's captain, etc. Many years ago, we had learned to avoid staterooms on and below the Promenade Decks as the joggers could be heard overhead and the other passengers standing at the rail unintentionally blocked the views out our stateroom window. DINING - Overall the food was good and tasteful and the menu was varied. For breakfast, we ate several times in our room using the verandah, or in the Queen's Room if it was a day at sea. If we had an early morning shore tour, then we ate in the Lido restaurant. We never made it to the Rotterdam Room (the main dining room) for breakfast or lunch. The dinner service in the Rotterdam was good but the service in the Pinnacle Room was outstanding. This latter room is a new smaller dining room but the food and service again was outstanding; there is an extra small service charge. TIPPING - HAL has always stated a no tipping policy but we always felt that we should tip dependent upon the service. As usual the service was good and we tipped the stateroom attendant, the Neptune Lounge hostess, the dining room waiters, and the cocktail servers. In fact, I had to argue with the stateroom attendance to take the tip. HAL has recently changed their no tipping policy to add a ten-dollar charge per person per day to the stateroom statement and the ship then distributes this charge to all of their ship employees. SHORE TOURS - The shore tours were all interesting and good and different as this is our third cruise to the same Alaskan cities. This time we booked all of our shore tours months ahead of the sailing over the Internet and avoided the last minute rush to the shipboard Shore Tour office and its long lines, etc. The first day that we were aboard, we received all of our tour tickets. The ports that we visited were Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, and Haines (Skagway) with a sailing into Hubbart Glacier Bay to see the iceberg calving. In addition, we saw eagles, whales, sea otters, sea lions, etc., on this cruise. In addition, we had wonderful weather - no rain and comfortable daytime temperatures (50-to-60 degrees) and the time of the year was mid-May. SECURITY - HAL issues you a ship identification card which you must use whenever leaving the ship and upon returning to the ship, you must present this card along with your driver's license, passport, or some other form of government-issued ID. This latter procedure slows down getting back aboard the ship at each port. At several ports, we saw US Coast Guard ships sailing around our ship whenever we were entering of leaving a port. BUS RIDE TO THE AIRPORT AND THE AIRLINES - Our final port was Seward and the HAL-proved bus took us to the Anchorage airport. This driver was very informative. The airline was Alaska Airlines originally from Los Angeles to Vancouver (non-stop) and the return was two flights from Anchorage to Seattle and Seattle to Los Angeles.    

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Feb 7, 2004

Mexican RIveria

This cruise was a special celebration for my sister and myself to celebrate our birthdays. I have been on 15 cruises, primarily Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. This was my first Holland America Cruise. We were very happy with the ship and amenities the first two days of our trip. Then we received the notice that there was a Norwalk Virus outbreak on board. The notice was very vague, and no other information was forthcoming

for the remainder of the cruise. We found out later, that this ship had a previous outbreak of the Norwalk Virus. One would have thought that they would have a contingency plan in place to insure that passengers were not so inconvenienced. We heard from many of the other passengers who felt the same way we did. Other passengers had even more complaints of the service, staff and lack of information than we did. HOT TUB: On the first day, we were a little concerned that there was only one Hot Tub available, one was roped over and the other had a platform built atop it for the musicians, but we fully expected the other tubs would be open the next day. But instead, all of the hot tubs were closed for the remainder of the cruise. No explanation given. Since we were looking forward to using the Hot Tubs every day it was very disappointing. We assumed later, that it was somehow virus-related although the swimming pools remained open. LIDO DECK DINING: After the outbreak guests were not allowed to serve themselves at any station. Ropes barred the food line, salad bar and beverage stations. At the very long, very slow buffet line you had to point at an item and were served the smallest portion imaginable. If you wanted a roll, your were not given butter unless you specifically asked for the butter and then only one pat. The food was mostly passable except for the driest, hardest inedible pork chop I have ever tried to eat. We decided to go to the Dining room for lunch after the first miserable experience, but no lunch was served in the dining room for days, so we had no choice. The most irritating thing was to get salt or pepper for your food. Finding the sole staff member, who was supposed to walk around the deck with condiments, before your food got cold, was quite a trick. When I was lucky enough to finally find such a person, he over-salted my food rendering it inedible. Salt and pepper packets were so scarce, salt became a precious commodity. COFFEE STATION/SERVICE: After the virus outbreak an attendant poured the coffee which was understandable due to the circumstances. However, in light of the precautions that were instituted after the virus outbreak, it did not make sense that guests were allowed to bring their original cup to get a refill. The server would handle the used coffee cup, then serve new guests after handling a possibly infected cup handle. It was difficult to get an acceptable cup of coffee. When I requested cream in my coffee, I would get a cup of Very light coffee, usually undrinkable. I asked many times for an additional cup with cream so that I could put it in my own coffee but the attendant either did not understand or chose not to respond. In frustration I finally gave up asking On all other cruise ships there has been excellent coffee service. A service cart and server in attendance to provide warm-ups or coffee and tea. No such luck, on this ship, the coffee service was virtually non-existent. On this seven-day cruise I saw the coffee service one time only and could not act fast enough before it disappeared. HIGH TEA: We were told not to miss the one special High Tea that was served in the dining room. What a joke! We had a light breakfast and skipped lunch in anticipation of this special event. We lined up with all of the other passengers. The doors opened, and I was given a very small plate (size of a bread plate). I expected to be seated and served in courses as in my past experiences. The food was buffet style, very prettily laid out near the entrance. Guests had to point to an item they wanted and the server would put it on the plate. However, with the slow long line, and a little plate, and being hurried along, I received one tiny tea sandwich, cookies I didn’t want and one strawberry. I was rushed to a table to wait for the hot tea that was poured some time later. No one could return to the buffet because the line was so long. This was the worst tea I have ever experienced on any cruise. FOOD: Overall rating B-, Good food, some hits and some misses. We enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill but the food was very similar to what was being served in the dining room. The dessert at the Pinnacle was outstanding. SERVICE: Our Room Steward was wonderful and efficient, score A. The dining room wait staff was not as efficient but pleasant, score B-. General staff around the other dining areas, score C-. We assumed the service staff was not as pleasant or efficient as we expected because they may have had extra duty because of other staff being ill with the virus. Whatever the reasons it negatively impacted the enjoyment of our vacation. ENTERTAINMENT: B There were two “Broadway” type shows which were ok, a show with a solo guitarist whose was good and a comedian which we did not see. PORTS: Loreto was a lovely little town and we strolled through many little shops and enjoyed the music in the courtyard. Not much else to do in this port, but we enjoyed the day there. We did not leave the ship in LaPaz because we did not feel like taking a 40-minute roundtrip to the city and decided we would spend the day in Cabo San Lucas instead. Unfortunately, Cabo was closed to passengers after the Mexican authorities learned of the virus outbreak. Many passengers were very upset at not being let off the ship. SUMMARY: This was a very unpleasant first experience with Holland America. We are not alone in this assessment; many fellow passengers expressed the same feelings. We were not offered any compensation for the inconveniences. We believe much could have been avoided with appropriate planning and was within Holland America’s control. Earlier this year, a cruise I was on was redirected due to bad weather (hurricanes) and guests were given a cabin credit of $300 and 50% off the next cruise. This was done for something that was entirely out of their control and much appreciated.

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Apr 24, 2003

UNKNOWN

This was my very first cruise. Actually, it was a girls’ cruise; my best friend and I went together, leaving our husbands and children at home. If we had known about all the activities occurring on board on sail day, we would have gotten there earlier so we could have taken advantage of them. As it was, we arrived about 3:00 at the pier, and after filling out forms (including one concerning recent exposure to the SARS virus) and getting

our boarding passes, we were allowed to board. There was no steward to show us to our room, but we found it and proceeded to unpack. Never having been on a cruise ship before, we weren’t prepared for how narrow the rooms were. Still, we had more than enough room for everything we needed for all 12 days – and we packed heavy. Accommodations: I had heard stories about how the Holland America ships aren’t as good as they used to be. I can’t imagine that they could be much better. Everything was spotless, gleaming, polished and well-maintained. We explored the ship thoroughly and never found anything that wasn’t close to perfect. We were cautioned to bring air freshener with us because the bathrooms frequently had sewer odors; we found that problem only in the heavily-used public bathrooms near the dining room. We were glad we booked the verandah suite; we spent a LOT of time out on the verandah – reading during the afternoon, watching the sunrise, the sunset, the way the ship cleaved through the ocean in the dead of night, and the dolphins racing us in the Sea of Cortez. The one problem we had with our room was on the verandah. As we leaned over the rail, we got rust stains on our clothing – they never came out. Dining: We were seated at a table for 8 and our dining companions were responsible for much of our enjoyment of the trip. The food was quite good in the dining room with a wide variety of choices; we always found something to like on the menu. One night I couldn’t make up my mind between two entrees, so the waiter brought me both. There were other times when I couldn’t make up my mind and he would advise me which was the better choice. Most of us didn’t care for the “Mambo Number 5” dessert – a watermelon-flavored frozen thing, but we were fortunate to be celebrating a birthday that night so had the very excellent chocolate cake. We had lunch in the dining room one day, and both ordered the very famous bread pudding for dessert. It was served in individual ramekins accompanied by custard sauce. If we had known the size of each serving we would have shared! We had room service one morning for breakfast. The food was served promptly and was hot when we got it. All other breakfasts and most of our lunches were taken at the Lido Buffet. Although unimaginative, the food there was plentiful, well-cooked, and tasty. We also enjoyed having ice cream there most afternoons. I guess they used to make all their own, but now only make the vanilla – all the other flavors are brought on board. In addition to their traditional bread pudding, they occasionally also serve a chocolate version – try it if you can. We tried only one of the late night buffets – the Chocolate Extravaganza. I don’t think I have ever seen so many desserts in one place. It was truly mind-boggling. After seeing and smelling so many heavenly chocolate things, we were overwhelmed and only had two small items each. I must mention the Pinnacle Grill here. We booked a table one evening after meeting Chef Stefan, who promised us a wonderful experience. The food was among the best we have ever eaten (lamb chops for me and filet for Valerie). Our waiter was attentive but not intrusive. Dessert was incomparable (I had a chocolate soufflé-type dessert with Grand Marner whipped cream) and the meal was well worth the $20 each. We recommended it to our tablemates who then had to try it as well. We will definitely do that again. Shipboard Activities: There were so many, it was hard to choose. We both spent a lot of time (and money!) in the spa, being pampered in ways we would never do at home. We spent time out by the pool, participated in the ongoing trivia contest and the daily quiz. Valerie played bingo and sang and danced in the “Rocking Rolldies” show. We learned line dancing, toured the kitchens (twice) and spent some time and money in the casino. We met lots of interesting people and had a lot of fun. We attended daily mass several times and also went to the protestant services because we made friends with the minister and his wife. We went to “Prom Night” and “50’s and 60’s Night” in the Crows’ Nest Bar. Public Rooms: The thing that most impressed us was the fact that even fully booked the ship never felt or appeared crowded. HAL puts cozy and intimate seating areas throughout their ship. Only on the final morning when we all had to be in the public areas was it apparent how many people were on the ship – but there was ample room for everyone. I was so impressed with the art, especially the Asian furniture and porcelain ware. The Crows’ Nest became our favorite hangout and we gathered there with our tablemates every evening before dinner for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Frequently, we returned there later for music and dancing. Staff and crew: These people were so friendly and outgoing. There was one waiter at the Lido, Sunny, who knew everyone’s name by the third day. It was wonderful to be greeted by name every morning at breakfast. He was such a pleasant person; make sure you look him up when you are on the Ryndam. Our room steward was quiet and unobtrusive. One night we got no turn-down service and one day he came to make up our room when Valerie was getting in the shower after being at the pool. We asked him to come back in half an hour and he said that he was getting off in 20 minutes, but we could call housekeeping and they would send someone to make up our room. We told him that we could make our own beds as long as we got clean towels by the end of the day. The cruise director and his staff went out of their way to ensure that everyone had a great time. The waiters in the Crows’ Nest (Willy, Edsel, Sheila and Marvelous Marvin) remember your name, room number, and your favorite drink. They provided us with menus each evening so we knew what we were having for dinner. Ports: The shore excursions were fairly disappointing overall. They cancelled our catamaran excursion in Cabo San Lucas and our Shotover Jet Boat in Acapulco. We went snorkeling in Zihuatanejo and Loreto, and on bus tours in Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Of all the ports, we liked Acapulco the least and the small towns – Zihuatanejo, La Paz and Loreto – the most. All in all, this was the most enjoyable vacation either Valerie or I had ever had (at least as an adult). Expensive, yes, but not prohibitively so. As a matter of fact, we had so much fun and talked about it so much that we have already scheduled another cruise for next year – the 2nd Annual Girlfriends Cruise – and have invited all our female friends and relatives to go with us.

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Feb 22, 2002

South America

If Holland America wants to continue in business, they need to take a hard look at themselves. We picked this cruise for the itinerary, not the cruise line. We were advised that we'd be the babies on the ship (true). I will say, that we met many well-traveled, interesting people from around the world and all walks of life. I'm glad that we saw these ports, but we're not running back anytime soon. 18 days is long enough, but we should

have gone on a longer one, and seen Antarctica while we were down there. Rio, Buenos Aries, and Santiago were major, interesting cities with lots of urban sites to see. Falkland Islands..........what the heck were they fighting over anyway? Most of the other ports were small fishing type villages.....charming.

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Jul 13, 2001

Alaska

Holland America stands up to all they promise!! We just returned from a cruise up the inside passage from Vancouver to Seward. Scenery & Ports - We were very lucky in that we didn't have any rain the entire trip. It was overcast almost every day, but it didn't diminish the beautiful scenery or shopping. The best shopping and prices were in Ketchikan. Be sure to catch the talk given on shopping in the various ports and take advantage

of the coupons offered from various shops. You'll find shops that sell salmon products in every port, and these prices are about the same everywhere. If you want to see sea life, take the wild life excursion in Juneau. It's the only one where you can see Orcas. Also, be sure to send back the form you'll receive to book excursions in the different ports. If you want to go on more than one in a port, Holland America will be able to accommodate you better. At Valdez, don't count on doing any shopping other than at the stands on the dock. There isn't anything to see or do in the town. It's a good port to take an excursion, or just relax on board the ship. A camera or camcorder is a must on this trip. Everywhere you look are mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife. Hubbard Glacier was spectacular!! Captain Mercer guarantees to get the ship as close as is safely possible. He took us to within 1/4 mile of the glacier! They said it was the closest they had been able to get for 5 years! We talked to a couple on a Royal Caribbean ship that was following us, and they said their captain wouldn't go any closer than 4 miles away. Staff & Crew Members : Outstanding is all I can say. We had a 3 hour bus ride from the Seattle airport to the dock in Vancouver, but it went quickly with the running commentary by our bus driver. Holland America knows how to pick them. On the ship, we were treated like royalty! From the Cruise director to our cabin steward, they went out of their way to make us comfortable and meet our needs. Our table steward knew our preferences after the first evening and anticipated our requests and made suggestions every evening. I do believe that our cabin steward was living in our closet! We would return to our cabin, and he had always been there to replenish soft drinks, ice, fruit, whatever was needed. One evening he apologized for several minutes that it took him 10 mins to refill our ice bucket. You won't find service like this anywhere else. Entertainment : The shows were excellent. All very professionally done. The entertainment in the various lounges was excellent also. Everything from country and rock in the Crow's Nest to a quartet in the Ocean Bar. Cabin - Very adequate. Bathroom had a full tub with shower, and a built-in hair dryer. There were three closets for hanging clothes, a closet that had shelves containing life jackets and a safe, with a couple of shelves for storage. The dresser/desk had six large drawers, and two nightstands had two drawers each. We had so much storage room, that we didn't use all the drawers. There is ample space under the bed to store suitcases. All in all, we were most satisfied with every aspect of our cruise, and would definitely sail with Holland America again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Coastal Cruise

I went on the Ryndam on 9-28-01 to 10-1-01 from Vancouver to San Diego. This was my 12 cruise and my first on Holland America. I’m 22 years old that loves to cruise. The Ryndam was an awesome ship. There were many places to stand and hide from people. I loved how you could stand in the front of the ship as you left port and sometimes was open during the cruise. The ship had nice flowers all over the place. The ship was a nice size

not to big not to small. Cabins We were on the last floor outside cabin and seem to be a little bigger than Princess ships and Royal Caribbean. I loved the bathtub, that was a first for me on a ship. Though, your but gets stuck to it and its hard to get up from it because it's small. The room steward I saw once. He seems to be very nice. You did not see any room stewards anywhere. They seem to hide from you. Always the cabin was cleaned unlike other cruise lines. It was nice not to talked to the room steward because on other cruise lines they are always in the hallways and they are forced to say hi to you and you know they don't real want to say hi, but have too. On Holland America, the room steward never introduced themselves unlike on other cruise lines they are well know because they want their tips. Food Food on the Ryndam was the best I ever had. The food in the dining room was the best. All the meals were so big. I did not need to order two meals like I do on Princess and Royal Caribbean. They always cooked my meals perfect. The waiter and busboy were all nice and you could under stand them unlike on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. They did not party and were not loud like on other cruise lines. The desserts were awesome too. The cheese cake was like ones you get in a very nice restaurant. The desserts were so big and so tasteful unlike other cruise lines that have just a small cake with sauce or something on it. The dining room was very nice and was dark. It reminded me of old ocean liners. The dining room was in the back of the ship so you could feel more motion. I love the motion. The food in the Lido Deck the buffet was great that's what my brother said, but I didn't really care for it. You could not serve yourself. They had the cooks serving you. I don't like that because If you like a certain food you might just want one piece, or you might want a huge plate of something. You had no time to look. That is one bad thing about Holland America. I did not like the food in the buffet. Lots of meat and weird stuff. I like more pastas and bread. I thought Princess has a lot better lunch buffet. But, my brother and my dad like Holland America better they are more a meat eaters. Ice cream was always at the lunch buffet and at snack time from 11-4. The ice cream was the best all home made. You can put it in huge ice cream cones or in a bowl. They always had a new flavors. That was the highlight of the buffet. I must of had 35 scoops of ice cream. At least Holland America gave you ice cream. Most cruise lines don't have it or like Princess you have to pay for it. They also had a taco bar that was not too good. Also at the taco bar you could get a hot dog and hamburger that was ok. Princess was better for the Hamburgers. Room service was the best I ever had. Get the shrimp plate its great. The hamburger is the same as up at the buffet. But, get room service. Its not like on Royal Caribbean that you can only get sandwiches or salads. Midnight Buffets were just ok. They were like the other cruise lines, but most cruise lines stopped the midnight buffet so it was still cool to have it. After eating all day I did not feel that good to eat at the midnight buffet anyways. Dinner was to big and good. I did have a little bit of food. Extras They had free espresso, Caffe Latte and Cappuccino many times during the day. Also, they had the Internet that was free on the first day for 2 hrs. Very cool to E-mail your family. Entertainment The entertainment was not too good. I only went to one show. The one I went to as ok. Better than songs form the 40's like the other days. I thought the entertainment is the best on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The passengers age is old on this cruise line. Mostly from 40-80. I did see a dozen passengers my age. I rather be on a ship with older people rather than young passengers like on Carnival and Royal Caribbean that just want to party and get drunk. Holland America is more for real cruisers that just love to cruise not their for a party. I truly enjoyed myself on this cruise. I love Holland America and will go on them again. Though, I do like Princess just a little better just because of the food at the buffet. It is a very hard choice now to choose Princess or Holland America. The Ryndam is a great ship and is the cleanest ship I every been on. But, Princess is more for me. I still will go on Holland America. I’m going again on Holland America next year on the Statendam. Any questions my E-mail is [email protected]

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

The choice of cruise lines imho is not very important as it once was. Newer, larger ships do not replace older ships. New ships are very glitzy, with great production shows, more dining choices, large full size discos, casinos that are professionally run, more fitness choices and the list goes on and on. The Ryndam is about ten years old and unable to compete on an even level with the larger ships. They have to do things differently. Attention

to detail, exciting bands, luxurious service and wonderful food is what HAL is known for and if any of the above is missing then the cruise experience is diminished. One should just choose Princess or Carnival. The Ryndam is missing that attention to detail that really made me want to come back again and again. this beautiful, fun town), Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta are described in many of the reviews and do not need to be repeated. I just want to say that I have done this six times and will do so again in the future. Food: B - B+ Just good food, but there is a definite decline from the solid B+ on my other HAL cruises. I do not know if this reduction is company wide or if this is just the Ryndam. Bands: Rosario Strings is the finest band on the high seas and can compare on the highest level to the best lounge/classical bands that I have ever heard. Wow! I would like to see them again on another cruise. The Crow’s Nest band is quite good. The Ocean’s Bar band is well…they try hard, but do not get the point and their singing is not up to professional level. Entertainment: The shows cannot compete with the larger ships. I gave up watching the shows on smaller ships 20 cruises ago. I can’t chuckle anymore when the comedians still do the same toilet jokes. Cruise lines that have depend on return cruisers should not allow comedians to do toilet jokes. Attention to detail: Poor. Give the Captain and Staff bad ratings. Yes, probably the worst on the high seas. The small things are maddening. Go play basketball – no rim. Ocean’s Bar – the speakers intermittently go on and off and crack. Lunch napkins are so stained they look used and dirty. Crow’s Nest floor is so bad that I heard many ladies complain about their heels getting caught in the grooves on the floor. I saw one gentlemen fall when he got a heel caught. The Java Café does not serve coffee or anything else. Anything else? Yes, poor, poor training of officers. The Guest Relations Manager is rude. Front office personnel should be highly empathetic. This was also the first cruise where I had to get my own coffee and refills on the Lido. There is just not enough crew on board. In our section we did not have a second waiter for dinner. It goes on and on. Nothing major, just maddening. Engineering: We had a power outage for twenty minutes. The boat was immediately stopped without letting people know, like the people in the pool. Imagine the wave action on stopping a 55,000 ton vessel. If you did not sit down immediately or grab onto something then you could have fallen. Does the intercom system not work when there is no power? When the power went on we were then told the power failed. The one other problem is when we were given a bad odor (sewerage?) coming from the ventilation and it was ship wide. The first day we received a ten minute smell. Later we got another one lasting a minute. Grumble, grumble – there were many. Service: The crew was up to my expectations despite the actions of the officers. There are many fine young people working hard and HAL does have many return crew. I applaud the fine job they did in spite of the poor management. The Service staff of Philippino and Indonesians do a cultural show exchanging places each week. We saw the Philippine show that was wonderful. I would like to see the Indonesian one sometimes. This was the Xmas cruise and the staff of the Ryndam had an evening show of caroling. Very nice. Casino: The reason that the casino is not used by many of the passengers is that it is not professionally run. The slots are very cold and will not let you play for long, unlike LV. The tables are few and not busy. Carnival has a bonus card system like those in LV. Carnival could use the same system company-wide. Well, let’s just say that the casino is not exciting and leave it at that. Hosts: none. Officers acting as hosts: none. Single women: plenty. Just more stupid stuff. Now after reading my review you should say that I was disappointed with the cruise. I had a wonderful time. I will not let the ship’s staff ruin my vacation! The ports are fun. The Rosario Strings band was awesome. My wife and I love to dance, but when the music and facilities disappoint I find something else. So what about the coffee – we learn to bring our own. HAL is a good line and the Ryndam below average. Will I travel the Ryndam again? Only if the Rosario Strings are playing in a destination that I am considering. Given a choice of cruise lines and ships plying the same routes you can indeed find one now that can come close to your ideal travel vacation. If the Ryndam is being considered by you imho think again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We are addicted to cruising. This is our 15th cruise in less than four years and we have the Grand princess booked for May 7th. With God's grace, we hope to make many more. This is a lengthy review. We tried to be as thorough as possible so that the reader would have a very good idea of what it would be like to cruise on the Ryndam. This was our second cruise on the Ryndam in the last year and a half and we came away with a new and heightened

respect for the Holland American Line. We now understand more than ever why they have such a loyal following. AN UNEXPECTED CRUISE: Our cruise agent called us on March 21st and told us that although he had us booked for a May 7th cruise aboard the Grand Princess, he had to call us about a special he had just received from HAL. It seems they needed to fill some cabins on the Ryndam for an April 1st cruise to the Western Caribbean and they called their top agencies with a very special discounted price. We had sailed on the Ryndam in October 98, and had a very enjoyable cruise. It didn't take Mary & I very long to decide it was to good an offer to turn down. We have just returned from that cruise and we will share our experience with you. As we have said in past reviews, we all look at things from a different perspective. When you read this review please remember it is only our opinion and you have to discern for yourself if our tastes are similar to yours. Mary & I will give you an honest, straight forward opinion of what we feel were the highlights and the negatives of our cruise. PACKING FOR CRUISE: It seems our society is becoming more casual each day. We now have the Wall Street financial district and other business areas having what they call, "Casual Fridays." It won't be long before they have, "Casual Thursdays," "Causal Wednesday," and etc. What goes around comes around. It wouldn't surprise us that after the novelty of wearing jeans and polo shirts to board meetings that the powers to be started having "Dress up Friday," "Dress Up Thursday," "Dress Up Wednesday," and etc. Well, we don't have to wait, Mary & I are already there. We enjoy getting dressed up. To us it's one of the nicest features of cruising and it is very appealing to us. When we are home, although we have restaurants that being dressed up is appropriate, it isn't unusual to see someone enter in jeans or cut offs. It might be that this happens because we live in Florida, but I kind of suspect it is happening in many other places. That is one of the reasons we look forward to the formal nights. There is something very elegant about being among a group of people who are all dressed for the occasion. It is not very often, if at all, that they will have a chance wear formal attire at any other time during the year. The ladies look especially attractive in evening gowns and party dresses. I think Mary might have wished to be born in an earlier era, those days when a women wouldn't think of traveling without a steamer trunk. But Mary isn't far behind those ladies. After our fourth cruise she made me buy the second val pack. We now have his and hers, mostly hers. We even dress up other than formal nights. We don't pay to much attention to the suggested attire of the day. We have enough casual dress when we are home. We enjoy the whole process of getting ready for the evening, it adds a bit of anticipation for  what the evening will bring. We hope that the casual trend doesn't become the norm for the cruise lines. If it does, cruising will have lost a lot of its appeal for Mary & I. EMBARKATION: We drove to the Fort Lauderdale Port from our home in New Smyrna Beach. The parking garage was directly across from the HAL terminal. We arrived at the terminal at 12:30. Very smooth, efficient check in process. They made a quick check of our cruise documents and told us we would board at 1:30. At 1:25 we boarded and we were escorted to our cabin. CABIN : We had an outside cabin #643, on the Main deck, deck #5. It was a good sized cabin, with a queen sized bed, full pull out sofa, with adequate closet and drawer space. Mary is a bath person and she loved having a tub. All of HAL's outside cabins have tubs. The shelf space in the bathroom was very limited. On the shelf they had a very nice assortment of creams, lotions and shampoo. It was more than adequate. There was a basket of fruit on the desk area, which was replenished each day. The Television channels were very limited. CCN, two Movie channels and the rest were various HAL related programs. Our cabin steward Rosman kept the cabin immaculate. He lived up to our judgement of what is a good steward. We rarely saw him but everything that needed to be done was taken care of. SAIL AWAY PARTY: We always feel a degree of excitement when we sail through the Ft. Lauderdale inlet. When we retired in 1973, for a short period of time we had a home in Ft. Lauderdale and we did a lot of boating in this area. We used the inlet on almost a daily basis. It brought back a lot of very pleasant memories. The sail away party was held on the aft pool deck. A steel band supplied the Caribbean rhythms and it wasn't long before everyone was in the party mood. We were very surprised at the age of the guests. They were much younger than the passengers on our last Ryndam cruise. They appeared to be between the age of 35 and 55. It wasn't very long before it became a real party atmosphere with a long conga line strung out and weaving side to side between the two decks. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It got the cruise off to a good start. CHECKING TABLE ARRANGEMENTS: We make a habit of checking our table arrangements as soon as it is possible and we suggest you do so. If it turns out they aren't what you requested, you have a better chance of getting them changed if you see the Maitre`di as soon as you can. Because of our late booking we weren't confirmed for the late seating. Even though our cruise agent sent a fax to the dining room manager requesting the second seating and a specific table arrangement, he couldn't get it verified. They said they would put us on a waiting list. I told him I wanted to speak to the dining room manager. He gave me the number and told me the dining room manger of the Ryndam was Kristin. When I called she wasn't at her desk but I got a recording telling me to leave voice mail. I took the opportunity to tell her that on our last cruise aboard the Ryndam we had a very bad situation concerning our table and we were very unhappy, but because of the professional and sensitive way the situation was resolved by the Maitre`di Jerry Spies, we had one of our better cruises. In fact, later on in the week, Jerry Spies extended an invitation for us to have dinner with the captain. It is hardly what we expected being the way the cruise started out. We accepted and had a wonderful evening. Mary was the captains dinner partner and he seemed as pleased as she was.. When we returned home I wrote a letter to the personnel director of HAL in their Seattle office, with a copy to Jerry Spies, and told them of the valued employee they had in Jerry Spies and how he helped resolve a very difficult situation and etc. & etc. I received a letter back from Donna Franchimon, the personnel director thanking me for being so thoughtful and for taking the time to write the letter and also stating if she could ever do anything for us to let her know. I told the dining room manager Kristin this story and it evidently meant something to her, because when we checked our table we were greeted by the Maitre`di in charge, Agus, with a big smile. He said he was told to give us preferential treatment and he was happy to tell us we had the second seating as we requested and he arranged to have us seated at the same table that they had moved us to on our first cruise. It was more than we had expected and we were delighted. I guess it is true, what goes around comes around. Through the years, whenever we have an exceptional service rendered or are extended a significant kindness, we make it a habit to write a letter to the department head, with a copy to the employee, complimenting that employee. It goes into their personal file and means great deal to them. Many times it means more than a tip. DINING ROOM: The Ryndam dining room is outstanding and is unique among the dining rooms we have seen on any of our cruises. We were seated at the rail of the balcony overlooking the lower level. The ceiling above the open area is certainly a work of art. It consists of 600 to 700 individual Venetian glass shades that look like inverted petunia blossoms. They are about 18 inches at the opening and are set at four different levels but all placed closely together. Instead of a light bulb in each one, they have a filament that is imbedded in the fluted glass approximately five inches from the base. The lighted ceiling is breath taking and is truly a work of Art. The dining room walls are mostly glass, giving the diner the ability to look out at the ocean when having breakfast and lunch. The openness to the sea gives the dining room a very bright, cheerful, pleasant atmosphere. We were sorry we didn't have breakfast and lunch there more often. Another very appealing feature of the dining room was a large sunken music area on the upper balcony level, where the Rosario String Quartet played during dinner. In most ships dining rooms you can barely hear the music and if you can it is mostly annoying. No so with the Rotterdam dining room. It was a distinct pleasure to be able to listen to The Rosario String Quartet play chamber music as we enjoyed our dinner. A decided plus. We were finishing our lunch in the main dining room when I noticed the waiters and assistants doing something very unusual with the table settings. I asked Augus what they were doing and he said they started doing this at the beginning of the Millennium. It is now their policy that on the second formal night of the cruise they reset the tables with off white damask table clothes and napkins and then they do something we have never seen done before. They completely covered the chairs with off white coverings, that were form fitting and hung to the floor. It gave a most unusual but very rich appearance. They hung wide bands of  black and white material across the ceiling of the open area and completely encased the two large columns in the center of the dining room with gold lamay from floor to ceiling. It created an elegant look that added immeasurably to the formal night atmosphere. It gave you the feeling you were going to experience something very special. And that is just what the evening was. It was, very special. FOOD, MAIN DINING ROOM: We were very pleased with the food. We noticed a decided improvement since our last cruise. What was especially impressive was the evening  We  were served Lobster Tails, Mary's favorite. They were of good size and broiled to perfection.. Each evening they gave us a choice of salad and either one was excellent. We found the desserts and pastries to be much better. They had a very good assortment and they were very tasty. Although the food was much better than we expected the service was even more so. We had a wonderful group of servers, starting with Putraham, our waiter, Indra the assistant waiter, Rocky the wine steward, and finally the assistant Maitre`di Augus. They couldn't do enough for us. They catered to us and pampered us as if we were the only guests in their dining area. I don't think we have ever seen a group of people that were as warm, friendly and sincere as our servers. There is something very appealing about the Indonesian and Filipino people. There is almost a naivete, an innocense about them. Angus, a very handsome young man, was an outstanding assistant Maitre`di. On many ships the Maitre`di comes around to each table each night to say a few words so you will remember to tip him on the last night, Not Augus. Augus poured water, Augus helped serve, Augus helped clean off tables, Augus helped serve dessert, Augus did everything. Mary told him if we were still in the restaurant business, we would steal him away from HAL. I think he was very pleased with Mary's comment. I know we will meet him again and I am sure he will be in an even higher position. He's a very special person. If you sail the Ryndam, say hello to Augus. THE OCEAN BAR WHERE THEY PLAYED OUR KIND OF MUSIC: The Ocean Bar is a delightful lounge where we had cocktails and danced before and after dinner. It is staffed by Mylene, Miraluz, Roderick and Adolpho. Just as I said about the dining room crew, the lounge servers went out of their way to take care of our every need. I can't think of any other ship that serves hot hors d`oeuvres while your waiting for your cocktail order. They do on the Ryndam. They did this every evening. And just before we would leave, Roderick would show us the dining room menu for that night so we could have an advanced look at what they were serving.. In the Ocean Bar, they feature a very accomplished trio that played the kind of music we like to dance to. That good old forties & fifties music. That romantic music of that period that makes you want to hold your spouse just a little closer and just little tighter. I can't think of a nicer way to start an evening than to have a table in a intimate lounge and to be served hors d`oeuvres and cocktails and have an occasional dance as you bide your time before dinner. We saw many of the same people in the lounge each evening and got to spend time with some of them. One couple we met, the Frahms, have cruised 26 times and have traveled extensively. We found we had a lot in common with them and intend to keep in touch through E-Mail. The piano player and leader of the group, was an exceptional piano player., He had a very small keyboard on top of the piano, with which he could create all the different sounds of an orchestra. He played one of a Jack Jones hit songs, ‘Here's That Rainy Day,' that was as good a rendition as we have ever heard. If you like to dance, or if you just like to listen to some good music, spend some time in the Ocean Bar. If you would like to hear something special, ask the group to play, ‘Here's That Rainy Day.' We never went to the Crows Nest, a disco lounge, at the top of the ship. We understand it was very nice but it's not our choice of music. We understand they also served hot and cold hors d`oeuvres. We really believe that if the younger generation was taught to dance the Fox Trot like we did in the forties and fifties there wouldn't be as much violence. By the time they danced a few numbers holding their sweethearts tightly in their arms, close to them, they would mellow out and become docile. Instead of being angry and wanting to fight, they'll want to make love. (Maybe that's far fetched, but we find the thought amusing.) PIANO BAR: There is also a piano bar on the upper promenade deck. Keith Kerslake keeps things lively by getting the group to sing along with him. We didn't participate but we passed the entrance two or three times a night and he always had a good crowd and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. If you sail the Ryndam, you will be impressed by the two magnificent huge bouquets of flowers on each side of the entrance. I took pictures of Mary with the floral arrangements as backdrops and they turned out great. This might be the time to tell you that we have never seen as many beautiful floral bouquets as we saw on the Ryndam. There is no way we can describe their beauty. We made it a point of taking pictures in front of each of them. EXPLORERS LOUNGE: The Explorers lounge has a very unusual setting. What normally would be a wall facing the deck area, is instead the back of the lounges that have very comfortable seating for two's and four's and sixes. It gives the lounge a very open feeling. On the right hand side is a slightly raised area, again with lounges but with higher backs which gives you the impression you are in a separate room. In this area is a small bandstand that is the home of the Rosario String Quartet. They play there every night and have a very loyal following. High tea is served in this lounge from 3:30 to 4:00. It is white glove service and done very well. They serve tea and an assortment of finger sandwiches, Petits Fours and pastries while the Rosario Quartet serenades you with selections of chamber music. A wonderful place to visit before taking an afternoon siesta. Once during the week they serve Dutch High Tea in the main dining room. JAVA CAFE: The Java Cafe is a place that serves Coffee, Cappuccino, Coffee Lotte, and chocolate chip cookies from 9:00 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon, ALL FOR FREE. It's right across from the Wajang Theater. The cute little girl that takes care of this venue is Evangeline. She is as sweet and fresh as the morning dew. When Mary & I cruise we usually have two cups of Cappuccino or Coffee Lotte each day, at a cost of $2.50 a cup or $10.00 dollars a day. Because of the recent wave of cruise lines charging extra for many items, it's even more impressive that HAL includes this in their ticket price, ALL FOR FREE! THE LIDO LUNCH AND ALTERNATE DINNING ROOM: The Lido lunch room is a very attractive site. It has a generally warm feeling about it. The food was very good. For breakfast they made eggs to order. At lunch time they had 4 or 5 hot meat dishes each day and a very good variety of lunch items. They also have a very nice salad bar. There is also an area where they display assorted pastry with an attendant standing by to serve you. Toward the later part of lunch they put the pastries and assorted sandwiches in a cylindrical refrigerated display case that rotates. When you decide what you want you wait till it comes around and when you open the door it stops rotating and you can take out your selection. If you would like to hear a little piano music while your having lunch, go to the port side of the Lido in the aft section, and you will find Frank Banes at a white baby grand piano. He plays all of the old standards and is very good. It makes for a very pleasant lunch.  Part of the Lido is used for alternate dinning. The tables are tastefully set and they have a limited menu. Its popular for families that have been ashore and don't feel like getting dressed up for dinner and for those who are looking for a more relaxed atmosphere. LIDO ICE CREAM BAR:  One of the most popular places on the ship is the Lido ice cream bar. You can get four different flavors of ice cream and they change every day. You can also get Yogurt in a waffle cone..After you get your ice cream they have an area that you can get all the fixings to make a sundae, fresh whipped cream, chocolate, butterscotch, raspberry syrup, every kind of nuts, shaved chocolate, sprinkles or just about anything else you can use with ice cream. IT'S ALL FOR FREE A day never went by that we didn't at least make one visit to the ice cream bar, and we have the weight to show for it. THE POOL AREAS: The Ryndam has a very nice pool area. The first thing that catches your eye is a bronze sculpture by the steps of the pool featuring five leaping dolphins. It's a very beautiful piece of art. The pool has a five foot area extending from the coping that is flooded with 6-8 inches of water. It's very enjoyable to lay down with your back against bench, surrounding the pool, and have the water slosh back and forth across your body, with the movement of the ship. There are two Jacuzzi's adjoining the pool. The pool has a sliding glass paneled roof enclosure that can be closed when it rains or partially closed to block out the wind for evening deck parties. At one end of the pool is the Pool bar with a charming seating area with tables & wicker chairs. On the opposite end of the pool is a Frank & Hamburger grill. Adjoining this area is a another cooking station where you can get various kinds of Thai food, in all different forms. Taco's, Burritos, etc. & etc. A chef stands by to assist you in making a choice. There is another very nice pool with abundant lounges on the lower deck at the aft end of the ship. Great views from this area Another very nice touch by Holland American is that at 11: 0'clock in the morning they serve lemonade to everyone on the open decks and at 3: 0'clock in the afternoon they serve ice tea to everyone on the open decks. ALL FOR FREE. ENTERTAINMENT: This is not a strong point with HAL. I think they cater to a clientele that doesn't consider entertainment that important. I think they concentrate on other amenities that are much more appealing to their loyal cruisers. The best that can be said for the production shows is that they were nice. We saw a magic act that was very good. The magician billed himself as The Brazilian Sicilian from Brooklyn. How's that for a handle. His illusions were really good but his dialogue was even better. We were also treated to special show put on by the Show Choir of Carmel Indiana. They were a group of over 100 high school students that have put on shows all over the world. They were fully costumed and had beautiful voices. They were a big hit. CAPTAINS PARTY:       Nicely done but we think they missed a great opportunity to add additional enjoyment to the occasion. They had the Ryndam show orchestra on stage. They played the great standards and everyone was tapping their feet to the rhythm but no one ever made a announcement inviting the guests onto the stage to dance, which is done on most ships..We all sat in our seats for 50 minutes until the Captain was introduced. For Holland American loyalists, at the repeaters party the captain announced that HAL is coming out with a new ship (63,00 tons) in May, another of the same class in the fall, 2 ships (84,000 tons ) in 2002, 1 ship (84,000 tons) in 2003 and 1 ship (84,000 Tons) in 2004. I think if we put a fine edge on our bargaining tools we could get some excellent pricing on fall cruising. CASINO: Quite small. Very little action. I think this is another example of Holland American knowing their clientele. They put their money and efforts into the areas they know their guests prefer. PORTS: HALF MOON CAY: We heard a number of people say if they had their druthers, they wouldn't mind if they staid at Half Moon Cay for the week. It is an absolutely beautiful Caribbean paradise. This pristine beach stretches for some two miles. The sand is soft and white without any of the rock formations you find on many islands and the water sparkled with every hue of green as the sun struck the water.. The Masdam was also at anchor and even with the additional people the beach never looked crowded. In the late 60's, we had a condo in Puerto Rico and made hydroplane trips to Magens Bay which is reputed to be one of the top ten beaches in the world. We have always loved it there. But after seeing and spending a day at Half Moon Cay, there is no comparison. It's like comparing apples and pears. We never expected it to be as nice as it is. GRAND CAYMAN: Went to the Beach Hotel resort next to the Hilton on seven mile beach. The beach is really nothing extra but from it's location you can walk down the beach to areas where you can wade and swim with no one within two to three hundred yards of you. It was delightful COZUMEL: Cozumel has become one of our favorite ports because of the store, Los Cinco Soles and the restaurant to the rear of that store, "Pancho's Backyard." Los Cinco Soles is our favorite store of the whole Caribbean. We go through all the shops and then make our purchases there. They have everything conceivable item plus a wonderful women's boutique. At Pancho's Backyard, they have a Marimba band playing for lunch and until 3 o'clock. Shopping at Los Cinco Soles, then having lunch at Pancho, makes for a very nice port stop. THIS IS THE END OF OUR NOVEL : We haven't previously kept notes on our previous cruises in preparation for writing a review.. We relied on our memory. But since we have our reviews posted on several web sites, we have received a huge amount of mail, even some from Europe, asking all kids of questions and asking for our suggestions on various aspects of cruising. We have learned that many of the readers rely heavily on reviews for making critical decisions about when and where and with what line they will make their next cruise. We feel a deepened responsibility to review readers and also to the Cruise lines, that the information that we convey is truthful and honest and as thorough and as unbiased as possible. Because of that realization, we kept a small notebook with us at all times during this cruise and jotted down the things we thought would be of interest. The results of which is this review. We would be happy answer any questions you might have. We particularly like to help first time cruisers. May your next cruise be your best, Happy Cruising,

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska Inside Route with stops in Juneau, Skagway

Accommodations: Out stateroom was larger that we expected and had a balcony. There was a king sized bed that could be reconfigured into twins. On each side of the bed was a night stand.  There was a small light and a radio built into the headboard. One of the drawers in the night stand had a lock with a key. There was also a sofa, small coffee table and chair.  The room was equipped with a TV and VCR that sat on a unit with several

drawers and a lighted mirror. There was ample storage for our clothes. The bathroom was equipped with a whirlpool tub. Our cabin steward did an  excellent job.  Our stateroom was done every morning while we were having breakfast.  In the evening he would turn down our beds and place a chocolate mint and small card on each pillow. We ran into him a couple of time and found him to be a delightful chap. Meals:   It is physically impossible to starve to death on this ship. Food is available literally 24 hours a day without leaving your cabin.  There was a breakfast buffet in the Lido from 7 to 11 am. One could also have breakfast served in the Rotterdam dining room. We chose the breakfast buffet in the Lido. There were eggs, scrambled or fried; bacon; sausage (link or patty) hash brown potatoes; hot or cold cereal, pancakes, fresh fruit, all kinds of bread, rolls, and pastry; tea, coffee, regular or decaf and other items that I probably missed.  At noon, there was a buffet lunch in the Lido  There were also hot dogs, hamburgers, bratwurst, tacos, or pizza available out by the pool. We had dinner in the Rotterdam dining room every evening except one, when we opted for the buffet dinner in the Lido.  The food ranged from very good to excellent.  There were a variety of entrees. The food was tasty and well prepared.  Bear in mind that we are neither gourmands or connoisseurs. The dining room stewards were friendly, courteous and efficient. There was a dress code for each evening; two  formal, one informal and the rest casual. On formal night, the men were required to wear tuxedos or business suits and ties, the ladies, evening gowns. On semi-formal night,  the men were required to wear a jacket but a tie was optional. Friday was a formal gala night and the chairs all had slip covers, the dining room stewards all wore black Eton jacket and bow-ties Afterwards, there was a giant dessert buffet in the Lido. It was a nice touch. Activities: We were impressed by the Cruise Director.  He is an energetic, creative and enthusiastic young man we estimated to be in his early thirties.  He obviously loves his job. Activities were planned for each day of the cruise. There was even bingo in the afternoon.  There was live entertainment in the Vermeer lounge every evening.  It ranged from excellent to so-so.  I really enjoyed the magician/illusionist who also did a short performance in the Crow's Nest bar on Saturday afternoon to sell some of his magic products. My wife's favorite was the comedian/juggler, who engaged in some very physical, very funny antics. There was a banjo player, a female pop singer, a couple of ensemble performances by the the Ryndam cast, a group of 4 male and 6 female singers and dancers. We enjoyed their performances but it was apparent that this is where most of the big name performers started their careers. There were several musical groups on the ship; the six piece Ryndam Orchestra, the string quartet, the jazz trio in the Ocean bar and the group in the Crows Nest. The cruise director was also the emcee at each performance, introducing the performer for that show and also thanking everyone when it was over.    The ship: The ship was enormous. It was 720 feet in length, and over 100 feet wide. There were 12 decks. The common area of the ship was tastefully appointed. There were several works of art on display. There were two banks of 4 elevators and a flight of stairs at each end of the ship and a 3 story atrium in the center. There were several boutiques offering all kinds of merchandise, a beauty salon and spa, photo studio, exercise room and much more. There was a small casino inside of which was a small bar where one could watch sports on ESPN.  We were impressed with tha amount of communication from the staff to the passengers. There was a Daily Program distributed to each stateroom outlining the days events. Passengers were also kept informed by two closed circuit TV channels.  There were frequent announcements on the PA system from the bridge or from the cruise director informing the passengers of interesting sights in the water or on shore or of important events. Other items of interest: We were also impressed with Holland America's commitment to the environment. Passengers were asked to not waste water, to not throw anything overboard.  This cruise made three stops; Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. The length of time for each location was at least 8 hours, during which passengers could disembark for shopping, sightseeing or planned excursions. Except for Juneau, the weather was pretty good. Between Skagway and Ketchikan, we sailed into Glacier Bay National Park.  This, to us, was the high point of the cruise. The scenery was magnificent. The ship sailed up one of the inlets, where it stopped and almost everyone came out on deck to observe the glaciers and snow capped mountains. In conclusion: We had a marvelous time and really enjoyed this, our first cruise and hope to take others in the near future.  But there were some minor problems, too. There were a couple of short power outages one evening and the next morning we had no hot water so we were unable to shower.  No one takes a cruise to watch TV, but The only two satellite channels were CNN and TNT. TNT just carried old movies and reruns.  And CNN didn't always carry current news when we wanted to watch it and I was unable to get sports scores.  I feel that Headline News would have been a better choice.  We were also unable to use the VCR when we wanted to watch a video that we had purchased on the ship. We could not set the TV to the correct channel and found no instruction on how to do so.  It was probably somewhere in the large book of information.  I think a small folded placard with instructions on top of the TV would have been very helpful. We are non-smokers and the ship allowed smoking on deck and in selected areas including the bars and the casino, and the area around the swimming pools. But during dinner I could often smell cigarette smoke, which I found rather annoying. We found out that a small portion of the dining room is reserved for smokers. The ship docked in Vancouver on Sunday morning. We were still able to go to the Lido for a buffet breakfast. We disembarked with no problem, found our bags and headed back to our hotel to tour the city.  The next morning, we had breakfast and took a cab to the airport to return home from our adventure.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

This was an outstanding cruise. There was scenery every day, usually on both sides of the ship. The cruise into Glacier Bay is a must for any Alaska trip. Sitka is very scenic, but primarily a shopping stop. Your best bet for wildlife is to take the wildlife cruise excursion in Juneau. We say five whales on a glorious summer day swimming alongside our boat and breeching just for the fun of it. The airplane excursion over Misty Fjiords National

Monument was also dramatic. The ship was very nice. We looked forward to our meals, where we had uniformly good food and an excellent wine list (for a cruise ship). The dining room is very elegant, particularly while watching the sunset over the mountains during your meal as you cruise down the inside passage. Unlike some cruise ships, the Ryndam offers excellent vantage points for viewing scenery from both sides, as well as front and back. We particularly enjoyed standing right up at the bow of the ship as we sailed into or out of ports.

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Nov 30, -0001

Seafarer

After having cruised with Commodore, RCCL, Costa and NCL, we were looking to our first cruise with HAL. We sailed for 10 days on the Ryndam. Since we live in SW Florida, HAL provided a bus to Ft. Lauderdale. This was a good experience for us and the embarkation procedures in Ft. Lauderdale went very smoothly. We were shown to our cabin (outside on the Lower Promenade deck) which was spacious, had a real bathtub and the best shower we have ever

had on a ship. There was plenty of storage - so we unpacked and settled in for a wonderful time. It truly was great - the Lower Promenade deck goes all around the ship (4 laps is a mile) and there were deck chairs there for relaxing during the days at sea as well as leaving ports. The ship was truly lovely and the dining room the prettiest of any ship that we had ever sailed on. Everything was decorated for Christmas and looked wonderful! The service all over the ship was outstanding - we really felt the warmth - our cabin steward, Budi, was attentive - always replacing the fruit that we ate and seeing to our every need. Our Dining Room Steward and his assistant were exceptional (Gito and Donny) and our table for two overlooking the downstairs part of the dining room was great! The food was very good - some of the seafood entrees not up to par - but overall very good. My husband especially loved the deserts. There was a variety of coffee and lattes during the day at the Java Bar, we sampled the movies in the movie-theater, and the entertainment was very good. The Filipino crew did a crew show that was great! The Emcee - Erwin from the Crows nest lounge - was a natural. Their native song and dance was very much appreciated by the passengers. HAL does cater to an older group of people. There were 15 children aboard - we only saw them at the movies. The only announcements were for Bingo - once or twice a day - all other activities were listed in the daily program. The Lido restaurant was excellent - we had most of our breakfasts and lunches there - there were two pools - and the pool on the Lido deck had a roof that could be rolled back. If you have ever been up at dawn, coming into an island port, with a cup of hot coffee in your hand, you will know what I mean when I say this was heaven! We can recommend the Ryndam highly and would be glad to answer any questions. Please e-mail us.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

This was our third cruise on the HAL line, the first being the Westerdam in 1996 and the Statendam in 1997. We booked this cruise mainly for the different ports of call if offered, and the fact we'd had enjoyable experiences in the past with HAL. We were not disappointed this time. The ports of call were a little different for us - not as touristy and built up as some other Caribbean islands. Of course - there was the standard fare of St. Thomas,

but as an avid shopper, I never mind a stop there. We had several days at sea which I alway enjoy for the total relaxation they offer, a long with stops at St. Kitts, Dominca, Martinique, Trinidad and Half Moon Cay - the island owned by HAL near the Bahamas. Our cabin was spacious - and we were fortunate to be upgraded to a verandah at the last minute. This put us in a category that included a jacuzzi in our bathtub - what a nice extra to have. We thoroughly enjoyed our cabin steward - he did an outstanding job. The only thing I missed with having him 'create' something from my nightmare each evening. Some folks don't like this - but I find it entertaining. And speaking of entertaining - we went to every evening show and enjoyed all. It was the usual fare of comedians, a singer, the shows done by the ship performers - but all done very professionally. The food was very good - and the selections had something for everyone. We were at a table of 10, and never heard a complaint from anyone. The midnight buffets were small, less showy than some - but I have a sense that all cruiselines are beginning to cut back on this extravaganza that goes to waste so much of the time, because believe it or not, you CAN only eat so much. Our biggest delight was our stop on Half Moon Cay - it was like stepping back in time to a pure island paradise. Hammocks everywhere, plenty of room to spread out, and as little or as much activity as one wanted to participate in. We sailed and parasailed - and were beach bums the rest of the day. I could have easily spent all day there. Both embarkation and disembarkation were easy and uneventful. The only negative about this cruise was the captain. Very abrupt, standoffish and unfriendly. He went out of his way to avoid the passengers and I never saw him smile once. In spite of that, we had a great time and wouldn't hesitate to take this itinerary and ship again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska Northbound

First, an introduction of the travelers: Two able-bodied women, widowed, ages 56 and 60. We’ve both cruised before, Pam on Royal Caribbean and Carnival; me, Carnival only. I was "in charge" of selecting this cruise itinerary: HAL offered what I wanted – a tour that included several Alaskan ports, ventured into glacial fields and made the Denali add-on land tour available. Finally: Would I go to Alaska again? In a heartbeat! Would I recommend

a cruise on HAL? You betcha! Pre- and Post-Cruise Transportation Flight Comments - We departed from Cleveland on a 7:00 AM Northwest flight and arrived in Seattle (via Minneapolis) around 11:30 AM PDT. Our return trip was from Anchorage to Cleveland via Salt Lake City and Cincinnati on Delta. The trips were without incident: no connections missed, no luggage lost, nothing. Shuttle to Canada Place - When we checked in at the HAL desk in Seattle for the 3-hour shuttle to Vancouver, we were provided with box lunches (adequate for the preoccupied traveler). As I recall, we were supposed to leave the terminal via Gray Line coach near 12:15; however, the time was closer to 1:00. A portion of the drive is scenic, but most is not. Our bus driver was new to the route and we watched him read route instructions as he navigated (mostly) stop-and-(less) go traffic through Vancouver over a three-lane route which merged to one lane due to road work. We became anxious as the departure time for the Ryndam grew nearer. We finally reached Canada Place at 4:45, 15 minutes before scheduled sailing time. The lifeboat drill had already been completed, and passengers sporting orange life vests lined the Promenade Deck rail. Boarding the ship was simple: no line, no waiting. Our bus had delivered the last of this week’s Ryndam passengers. (There is something to be said for arriving in the embarkation city a day early!) The Ship The décor was tasteful, understated. The glitz I’ve read about on the newest ships was absent. There was lots of orange/salmon and green with brass accents. I remember feeling comfortable, not overwhelmed by the visual impact of holiday-type neon lights and riotous colors. I also remember how quiet the ship was: no engine noise or vibration, no carrying of "people" noise from one public area to another. The ship was clean and it appeared that the crew was always working to maintain this shine. (One morning when I awoke and opened the curtain, I saw a long-handled brush scrubbing our window. No person, just the brush!) We’d come for an adventure and found it not only on land but also on the ship! It was not until the end of the week that we became familiar with the location of many public areas as well as the route to get to them. This is by no means a complaint, merely an observation. Navigating the ship was challenging and fun. Our Cabin - In our discussion with our travel agent, we agreed that since we planned to spend very little time in our cabin and since Pam needs darkness when she sleeps, an inside unit would be adequate. Also, an inside cabin is slightly less costly. Fortunately our booking was entered in such a way that we were actually assigned to an outside cabin. The window curtains were sufficient for darkening the cabin and it was pleasant to have daylight and a view whenever the curtain was open. Our cabin (#534) was on the Main Deck and adequate in size: twin beds, convertible sofa, chair, footstool/bench, mini refrigerator and two closets. The bathroom was larger than I’d expected and included a shower/bath, retractable line for hanging items to dry, a hairdryer and adequate counter space. Our steward apparently changed our towels after each of our visits to the cabin. Rarely did we use a hand towel more than once; bath towel, never. He was efficient yet unobtrusive. The Rotterdam Dining Room, in the stern of the ship, is two-tiered and has wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling windows on both levels. The pleasure of dining was increased since the ship was generally within only a few hundred yards of land and the view was always changing. One evening we watched dolphins (or were they porpoise?) cavort in the ship’s wake. We’d requested late dining to avoid rushing to dress for dinner after shore excursions. However, our dining assignment was for early seating and, unfortunately, at a table for two. We visited the Maitre ‘d to request seating at a larger table and at the later hour. Apparently many passengers were attending an on-board conference and, by necessity, were assigned the later seating; thus a change was not possible. As it turned out, we returned from our shore excursions long before dinner and were able to dress at a leisurely pace. And the table-for-two wasn’t the isolating experience we’d anticipated. We exchanged conversations with diners at tables around us, and yet were able to leave our table without disturbing or having to excuse ourselves to tablemates. Our waiter Ahdi was youthful and always smiling. He made every effort to serve us well. His assistant was polite, but aloof, perhaps because he enjoyed his job less or he was concentrating on his responsibilities. Our beverage server was shy but, like Ahdi, obviously eager to please. I mentioned that I always have the same before-dinner drink. Thereafter, it was waiting for me each evening when we were seated. The food was excellent and always served with thoughtful presentation and at the proper temperature. Menu choices were abundant and described in such a way that making a decision required thought. Because we were so pleased with our dining experiences, we had all dinners in the dining room. Twice we ate lunch in the Lido and enjoyed the food both times. In fact, we had to remind ourselves to "eat light" in order to have appetites for dinner. We avoided eating between meals although we did visit the special midnight dessert buffet. Supposedly we went to take pictures, but found ourselves sampling a few offerings since we were there …. On-Board Entertainment and Activities There was an abundance of daily shipboard activities, but our shore excursions and time spent on deck enjoying the scenery prevented our taking part in most of them. We did attend an ice sculpture demonstration and toured the kitchen where (if I recall correctly) 7,000 meals a day are prepared. We also attended an afternoon tea in the Crow’s Nest. One of only two complaints we had regards seating in the Vermeer Lounge. There are areas on both levels where the view of the stage is obstructed. In many areas, it is not possible to see over or past the person seated in front of you. In addition, the chairs are uncomfortable because the backs offer poor support. The two guest entertainers for the week were David Levisque, whose musical/comedy show missed the mark (thud), and Marty Brill, whose material was appropriate for the cruise audience and had the audience laughing throughout. The ship’s cast of singers and dancers was energetic and entertaining, and they presented quality shows. Unfortunately Pam and I were too tired to stay up to watch the popular Indonesian staff’s show, but heard many favorable comments from other passengers on the following day. Shore Excursions There are a variety of shore tours in an equal number of price ranges. The list includes guided tours of the villages, bus tours into the countryside, and boat trips to fish or look for whales, sea otters and other wildlife. Our second criticism of this cruise was of the sign-up procedure for excursions. Our first day was spent at sea, and most passengers got serious about selecting excursions following the Shore Excursion Talk. Thus, the line to sign up for these activities was l-o-n-g. We stood in line for 1-1/2 hours as those in front of us often queried the three-man registration staff about tour particulars. The most popular venues had several time slots available. Rarely was an activity sold out, and in those cases, a waiting list was available. Since excursion options were presented in a booklet which arrived with our cruise documents, the next time we cruise we will be prepared to sign up the day we sail. We chose the following excursions: In Ketchikan we toured Saxman Village where several authentic totem poles are displayed and Tlingit Indians performed ceremonial dances in native dress. In a workshed, totem poles were being carved to fill special orders. In Juneau Pam took the Wildlife and Mendenhall Glacier tour. Aboard a tour boat she saw sea otters, whales and bald eagles. Her group also spent time at Mendenhall Glacier. Before our cruise I had booked a helicopter tour (enabling me to save at least 20% over the shipboard price). The helicopter made two stops, and we were able to walk at the foot of a waterfall and on ice a mile deep in the Juneau ice field. As we returned to Juneau, we flew over Mendenhall Glacier. In Sitka I took a tour similar to Pam’s Juneau wildlife tour and Pam took the city tour. By the time we got to Valdez, we were "toured out" and stayed on the ship. However, a group of people who took a bus tour into the mountains outside Valdez said the scenery was some of the most beautiful they’d seen and they were glad they had gone. Glaciers I chose this cruise because I wanted to see as many glaciers as possible. Thus, besides Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, we cruised up Yakutat Bay and spent time at the face of Hubbard Glacier. We also cruised into College Fjord where there are sixteen smaller glaciers, although I think we saw only eight or nine of them. I read many glacier reviews prior to selecting our itinerary, and several people endeavored to rate one site compared to another. In my opinion each location is remarkable - either for the glacier’s size, the number of glaciers or how near the glacier the ship can approach. They’re all different. Weather Weather on the cruise was generally overcast to partly cloudy a portion of every day. We also had bright sun for a part of nearly every day. According to the on-board weather banner, temperatures held in the mid-50’s through the week. We found ourselves wearing unlined Ryndam nylon jackets (bon voyage gifts from our travel agent) as part of our daily apparel. Although we took gloves, we didn’t wear them. We didn’t wear the shorts we took either! Sturdy shoes for walking on deck, shopping or trekking are a necessity, however. Because this is a "popular" HAL topic, let me say that one way or another, in the United States those who are served reward the server for, well, good service! Newsgroup contributors and cruise line/ship/itinerary reviewers occasionally gripe about the "need" to carry money on HAL ships in order to tip lounge wait staff, etc. I wear clothes with pockets (or carry a small purse) into which I drop some quarters and a dollar bill or two in addition to a tissue and lipstick. No problem! And at the end of a cruise, ANY cruise, tips are given to those who have taken care of me. My favorite place on the Ryndam became the Crow’s Nest, a bar by night and library-quiet place to sit and look at the scenery during the day. On two evenings Pam and I went there for after-dinner drinks. Our waiter, Marvin, introduced himself and asked our names. After he brought us our order and I’d signed the chit and tipped him, he chatted with us and then made us flowers from our cocktail napkins before leaving to tend to other patrons. A few nights later we returned and Marvin was our attendant again. He greeted us by name and again, after bringing our order and settling up with us, made two more, even larger flowers from the napkins. And then he went off to take other orders. A group of women was sitting a few yards away, also enjoying the view. One of them commented to us, "We’ve been coming up here every evening all week and he hasn’t made us flowers." I suggested that they tip him the next time he delivered their drinks, to which she replied, "We don’t order anything." (!?!?) On one of the evenings toward the end of the cruise, we returned to our cabin and found envelopes addressed to each of us under the door. Each contained a Dutch girl hat (reminiscent of a dinner earlier in the week when we’d all worn Dutch hats at dinner). These two hats had been decorated and signed by the Crow’s Nest staff. I thought it was a nice touch. Denali We added a 3-day land tour at the end of the cruise. We were bused from Seward, our disembarkation point, to Anchorage where we boarded a plane for a 45-minute flight to Fairbanks. There we climbed on another bus which took us to Gold Dredge No. 8 for lunch, a tour and an opportunity to pan for gold. It was exciting to find those small bits of gold in the pan once the dirt was washed away! We also stopped at the Alaska Pipeline for a quick explanation of its design and capabilities. (NOTE: Gray Line buses are associated with many of HAL’s land tours. The drivers/guides were, without exception, knowledgeable and personable as they related information about sites as we passed them or stopped to visit.) Fairbanks is a town of around 60,000 people which has a small town "feel" to it. The hotel was quaint, with a portico reminiscent of the Southwest. Our room was large enough to live in and had the furnishings to make a long-term stay comfortable: a rocking chair, large writing surface, and a full-size refrigerator, stove and microwave. Having spent most of the day seated on a plane and buses, we took a short walk after dinner. There was very little traffic which surprised us. Then we realized that although the sun was still bright, it was 10 PM! And when I got up about 2:30 that night, the sun was sitting on the western horizon. The 4-hour train ride on the McKinley Explorer from Fairbanks to Denali was pleasant. The journey is a slow one to enable the passengers to enjoy the scenery and absorb the views. Each car is equipped with a dining room on the first level and coach seating above. The cars are clean, the food excellent and, again, the guides are personable and well informed. We arrived in Denali around noon and spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and gift shops. That evening (remember there are 24 hours of daylight…) we took a 4-hour bus tour and saw caribou and ptarmigan. At our turnaround point, we left the bus and our guide treated us to hot chocolate (drunk out of souvenir cups she provided for each of us) and a homemade snack. She also pointed out where Denali was although clouds prevented us from seeing the mountain. The next afternoon we reboarded the train for the 8-hour ride to Anchorage. This day, one of only three or four a month the guide told us, the mountain was completely visible – all 20,320 feet. Majestic. Exhilarating. Awesome! Summary Alaska can only be described in superlatives. It has an indescribable serenity juxtaposed against a majestic landscape. The only way to truly understand the emotion the views evoke is to experience a trip in person. Questions? Feel free to e-mail me! [email protected]  Kitty Park

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

The Cabin: We booked a mini-suite and were pleased with cabin B171 on the Verandah Deck.  It matched exactly (literally) the brochure and web-site photos of this category.  The cabin was, of course, spotless.  A problem with one of the lights was reported to the steward and was repaired that evening while we were out. The Ship herself: The Ryndam is beautiful.  Furnishings, trim, brightwork, and ship’s facilities were

in excellent condition and showed signs of steady maintenance.  Although now several years old, the Ryndam gave one the impression of a new ship. We also liked the layout of the ship and her scale.  She was easy to move about and relatively quiet; ambient noise in the corridors and common areas was noticeably lower in volume than other ships we’ve sailed. The artwork, too, was first rate and displayed in sometimes unusual (but pleasing) settings. The Food: We found the food excellent and varied.  Dining room service was absolutely flawless at every meal. Food served buffet style on the Lido was high quality and also varied; we particularly enjoyed the Indonesian/Philippine late night offering. On the downside, one evening Ryndam offered a cook-out dinner poolside and we were a bit disappointed.  Food was good but the ship had to keep experimenting with the retractable dome to remove smoke from the barbecues.  Perhaps this idea would have been more pleasing if the weather had cooperated; the wind played havoc with the smoke.  A note to any coffee drinkers: Holland America offers fresh coffee ‘round the clock in the Lido restaurant.  It’s free and it’s good. Pastries and sandwiches are offered alongside the coffee urn. The Personnel: It has been our experience that all cruise ships’ personnel are generally friendly but, without a doubt, Ryndam’s staff are it’s claim to fame.  Cabin steward, waiter, maitre’d, wine steward(ess), shop attendants… literally every single employee we met was wonderful. Their command of the English language was excellent in every circumstance; they even use slang. I was a bit surprised to find all British officers… there was only one Dutch officer aboard this Netherlands flagged ship… but they were a friendly lot too. Entertainment: My wife and I disagree on the entertainment; she found it superb, I found it a mixed bag.  Shows were good but never played to a full house.  The one man acts were also good and about on par with shore side clubs.  The Piano Bar was excellent and the String Quartet playing in the Explorer Lounge every night were absolutely superb.  They loved requests and it became a sport to try to find a song they didn’t know. Ports: Having been to the Caribbean several times, we know that virtually all ports are overcrowded, but Cozumel was absolutely terrible.  So bad, in fact, that I wrote a letter to Holland America complaining about the port… the only letter of complaint I have ever written.  We were one of seven ships at Cozumel that day and the crowds were so bad people were forced to venture into the street simply because there was no room on the sidewalks.  Unbelievable. Overall: My wife and I are in our early forties and were pleasantly surprised at how “young and cheerful” the Ryndam turned out to be.  Very few kids aboard, of course, but the passengers were an eclectic and happy group.  Nothing stuffy or snooty.  We enjoyed the cruise so much, we promptly booked an Alaska cruise with Holland America upon our return.  I highly recommend the Ryndam.

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Nov 30, -0001

Seward to Vancouver

As first time cruisers, we sailed aboard the Ryndam from Seward to Vancouver on 5/21/2000. The documentation we received early on stated that we had to check in for the cruise in Anchorage, but we later found out that we could have taken the train down and spent the day enjoying Seward. When we received our final documents, we saw that we could have provided our own transportation, but at that point it was too late for a refund of the $110 we paid

to ride down on the Holland America-provided bus. We checked in early in Anchorage, and were on the first bus headed for Seward just after 11 am. (The final documents said the first bus would leave at 1:45 pm). Nevertheless we wanted to get through the checkin formalities and enjoy what we could of Seward. We arrived at the pier shortly after 2pm and went through a very efficient checkin process which took only a few minutes. We then passed through security gate, much like one at an airport, and were stopped for the obligatory photographs before boarding the ship. As we boarded we found that we had to use our electronic passkeys each time we boarded and left the ship. This prevented further security checks and gave the ship's crew a good idea who was aboard at any time. We walked up the gangway and were met by live musicians and many other friendly HAL staff. Beautiful flowers were everywhere. We were escorted to our deck via escalator and shown our cabin where we met our housekeeper, Budi. He was extremely friendly and provided excellent service to us throughout the cruise, cleaning our cabin twice each day. I looked around the 200 sq. ft. cabin and noticed the price for a can of Coke was $1.70. As a veteran of visiting Alaska, I wanted to enjoy a bit of Seward before sailing which was scheduled for 8pm. We walked over to the boardwalk and had the usual excellent dinner at Ray's; their blackened salmon and view is the best there is. We did some shopping, including a 12 pack of Coke, and reboarded the ship about 5:30 pm. We had been assigned the early seating for dinner the first night only, so we went down around 6 for dinner. It was quite disappointing in that the service was spotty and the prune-stuffed pork loin was really dry. I was surprised, since I had heard so much good about the food and service on HAL. After dinner, the Captain announced that we would not be sailing until 10 pm since some passengers were late coming in from Anchorage. I've been to Seward at least 10 times and I've never seen a ship sail much before 10pm so this is a pretty common occurrence. When we finally did sail, I stayed out on deck until we were out of Resurrection Bay. I was just about the only one, as apparently people were relaxing, enjoying a show, or chomping down at the 11pm snack. I noticed that the seas got somewhat rougher as we left the bay, and the swimming pool near where I was standing started getting whitecaps. Determined to avoid taking Dramamine (which we had brought with us), I just enjoyed the view until it got dark. We passed one of the huge Princess ships on its way into Seward and that was the only sign of civilization that I could spot. The next two days we spent at sea. The first was spent cruising College Fjord, which had a number of glaciers named after, you guessed it, colleges. It was an overcast day, and I had seen glaciers from a day trip into the Kenai Fjords, so it was not as exciting to me as it might be to others. That afternoon we left the relative safety of the fjord and headed out into the Gulf of Alaska where the seas were quite a bit rougher. It was formal night for dinner, so I put on my suit and tie, and decided to take some dramamine-like drug supplied by the ship. Unfortunately, it seemed to be slow acting and I was somewhat warm in the suit, so I had about 8 bites of dinner (mainly an excellent filet mignon) and excused myself. After sleeping for a while I was fine, and enjoyed the remainder of the cruise without problems. Glacier Bay was quite nice, but again overcast. Naturalists boarded the ship to tell us about the national park. We left and headed for Sitka through the inside passage. We were having our usual excellent buffet breakfast in the Lido restaurant, and I noticed the Ryndam's lifeboats were afloat. At first I thought it was a drill or a test to make sure they operated properly. Howerever, since Sitka doesn't have a pier large enough for a cruise ship, they use the lifeboats as "tenders" (shuttlecraft). We boarded lifeboat #8 and headed over to Sitka and enjoyed a beautiful day there. We returned on lifeboat #9 which had engine problems and filled the cabin with blue smoke. I reported the problems when I returned to my cabin. We sailed about 6pm for Juneau. We enjoyed an excellent dinner (they seemed to get better every day). We also convinced our dining room waiter Djammal that we were serious about having iced tea. Every night the glasses were on the table with extra lemons, and our assistant waiter Nana made sure they stayed filled. We were very pleased with the dining room staff after the first night. After dinner we went to the 50's and 60's show they had in the lounge. It was a lot of fun. Somehow we found ourselves on stage doing the twist, but hopefully no photos exist of that. Juneau already had 2 cruise ships in port when we arrived, but the Ryndam is parallel parkable! Without a tug the Captain was able to dock us right between a couple of huge ships, one a Princess and the other a Crystal. We walked out of the ship and found a city tour to the Mendenhall Glacier. The guide was part native American and gave us an excellent narration. The glacier was nice, but I had seen them before. Juneau was a nice town, and we shopped and went up the Tram located next to the cruise dock. The Ryndam looked pretty small next to those other ships, but I think I'll stick to this class of ship. We sailed for Ketchican around 6, but didn't get there until about 11 am compared to the previous two ports where we arrived at 8am. A friend had highly recommended a shore excursion to the Misty Fjords, but it was sold out, so we shopped for a while and headed by bus to a lake outside of town. 24 of us rowed 2 canoes across the lake and enjoyed some local flora, including a carnivorous plant. The guides then directed us to a campsite where they served us excellent smoked salmon, clam chowder, and a variety of drinks. Afterwards we were treated to a nature walk through a rainforest which contained some beautiful plants, including some highly poisionous ones. We then rowed back to the dock and boarded the bus where we were told a bear had been sighted. We didn't see it, but nevertheless had a great time. We were glad we had the later seating for dinner, as we did not get back on the ship until 5:30 and it was another formal night. Dinner was wonderful and baked Alaska was served in a ceremony you just need to see for yourself. At 11pm they had the chocolate buffet for the late night snack and we decided to attend this one. I wish I had taken pictures, because the deserts were unbelieveable. They had worked two straight days to prepare this incredible spread. We spent the next day at sea on the way to Vancouver. We attended a "disembarkation" meeting where we learned we had to be out of our cabin by 8am the next morning. This did not make me happy. We played some bingo and watched part of a movie in the movie theater. I visited the casino and won a few bucks. We had goodbyes with our fellow dinner partners then had to pack since our bags needed to be left in the hall by 1am. This was definitely a downer. We arrived in Vancouver the next morning and had to eat an early breakfast before disembarking. Since we had to be out of our cabin, we roamed the ship watching luggage being unloaded and fresh food being loaded for the cruise later that night. We finally ended up in the Explorer's lounge for the last 90 minutes and left the ship around 10:15 am. The disembarkation was the only major disappointment of the cruise, and I hope HAL will consider giving their late-disembarking passengers the opportunity to use their cabin until their disembarkation number is called. All in all it was an excellent experience. I don't think I would take exactly the same cruise again, but I will cruise with HAL again. Their friendly staff, great food, and reasonable price, plus a ship that isn't overloaded is the way to go.

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