Overall Rating: Excellent
|Destination:||Caribbean - Western|
|Departed From:||Tampa FL|
|# of Nights:||11-14 Nights|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
Holland America m/s Ryndam back to back cruises, 13 days total
First Cruise Dec 26, 2011 to Jan 02, 2012: Tampa, FL - Key West, FL - Sea Day - Falmouth, Jamaica - George Town, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico - Sea Day - Tampa, FL
Second Cruise Jan 02, 2012 to Jan 08, 2012: Tampa, FL - Key West, FL - Sea Day -
Belize City, Belize - Cozumel, Mexico - Sea Day - Tampa, FL
We choose a back to back cruise for New Year because we did not find a 10 to 11 day cruise to our liking. We've driven to Tampa before and we love the port. We had not been on a Holland America ship since the Zaandam in 2004 from Port Canaveral. The Ryndam seemed almost perfect for us except the cruise started on Dec 26. That meant we had to travel Christmas Day. We always spend Christmas Eve with all the grand kids and immediate family. On Christmas Day we usually hold an open house for friends, neighbors, and all family members. We know some were probably a little disappointed when the found out about our travel plans. Oh well!
Anyway our journey to the port of Tampa began at 3:30 am Christmas Day. It was a little foggy but other than that the weather was great. We did look for Santa Claus in the darken skies but apparently there was too much fog to see him. We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express on Rocky Point Road in Tampa about 5:30 pm our time. We had booked the cruise parking package which entitled us to leave our auto for up to 15 days and they would shuttle us to and from port. It was a nice deal for us as the total for the Hotel was $110.00 plus a $5 tip each way for the shuttle. Thirteen days at the pier would cost $195.00. We've always felt better about leaving our auto at a hotel. The hotel was very nice and included a semi-decent breakfast the next morning.
December 26, 2011. Our cruise day at last! We were booked on the noon shuttle and after checking out of the hotel we sat outside on a comfortable bench in 70 degree weather awaiting our shuttle. It arrived early to pick up us and 2 other couples and a teenager who were all on the Carnival Legion. Believe it or not, they were all Hoosiers who lived about 75 miles east of us. The drive to port was about 20 minutes and after dropping off the Carnival passengers we were taken to the Ryndam. It sure looked familiar to us as it is a clone to 3 other dam shipped we've cruise, the Veendam, Maasdam, and Statendam.
After going thru the short security line we were directed to a desk with comfortable chairs for us to sit while being checked in. This perk is only for Mariners. (past HAL cruisers) The very nice lady who waited on us also took our security photos while we sat. Five minutes later, after our embarkation photo from the ship's photographer, we were aboard ship and opening the door to our cabin, inside stateroom 342 category J on the Lower Promenade deck. This was to be our stateroom for both weeks of our cruise. It was just a short walk to the door to be outside on the wrap around deck. We will book this category again! We usually book an outside stateroom, however Rita does not like the curtains opened as she is afraid the view on the ocean might make her seasick. Also, she does not want the fish to see her naked! For those reasons we decided on the inside, which also has a curtain, so it seemed the same! Our cabin steward had our beds together just as we ordered. Having a coach and coffee table is nice for our room service orders. Speaking of our steward he came by and introduced himself. He ended up to be as good as any steward we've had. He left us a new towel animal every night and he made some we've never seen before. We left him an extra tip for the outstanding job he did for us.
In our room was a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries from our TA. Also there was a nice letter from the Hotel Manager welcoming us aboard our collector cruise with a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, which normally charges $25 per person. We had a choice of first or last night aboard for this cruise or the next. We choose the last night aboard on our second cruise which was my (Keith's) birthday.
After dropping off our carryon stuff we headed to the Rotterdam main dining room for lunch. This is another Mariners perk that we think is great! After traveling we would rather have a nice sit down lunch instead of fighting the crowd in the Lido Buffet Restaurant. We also choose this perk for our second week aboard. This is a good time to talk about the food on the Ryndam, it was all pretty good. We've had better and we've had worse. We were pleased. We were on anytime dining in the Rotterdam lower level and sometimes we sat with others and sometimes they seated us at a table for two. The service was always good. We mainly had the open seating breakfast there, as well as an occasional lunch. On our last sea day on the second cruise we attended the Mariner luncheon which was very nice. They served us champagne or wine with our meal. We also received another set of tiles to add to our collection. They make very good coaster.
The Lido buffet was typical and the food was about average. We never dined in the Canaletto Italian dining area of the Lido. My birthday dinner in the Pinnacle was outstanding! The service and the food was top notch!
After lunch we took our tour of the ship. The biggest change over the Ryndam's sister ships we've cruised is the "Mix", which is a combination champagne, martinis, sports and piano bar. We only visited this once on our thirteen day cruise. We listened to some piano music for about 15 minutes one evening. Our "hangout" became the Ocean Bar with a three piece band named the Neptunes who played dance music from 6:30 to 11:30 every evening. It only took a couple nights for them to know what kind of dance music we liked and they accommodated us for the remainder of the cruise. They were great! Our second and last week aboard was also their last. They would have a two month vacation and then move on to the m/s Rotterdam. They were so good we would book a future cruise with what ever ship they would be playing.
Also, the servers in the Ocean Bar were top notch, Joseph, Michael, and Mark at the bar. We gave them all a cash tip on our last night aboard. We became friends with them and the band members. The Ocean Bar was the highlight of our cruise.
During our back to back cruise we attended a couple production shows in the Showroom at Sea and they were okay. We also attended the Chris Michael's show which was different. He plays eight different instruments from banjos to turkey basters. Also, Dave Naturman and his R-rated comedy show was pretty funny, as well as the female comedian, Julie Barr who performed the second week of our cruise. The New Year Eve party in the Showroom was very nice. We were able to dance the New Year in on the stage. Also, the officers of the ship joined in on the dancing. All guest were provided with party favors and champagne.
We did spend a lot of time during the day listening to Caren and the HALcats at the Lido pool. We even did a little dancing there. Over all the entertainment and night life aboard ship was very good. We mainly skipped the casino. We spent maybe a half-hour one evening playing quarter slots. We also skipped the DJ and his occasional theme nights in the Crow's Nest. The few times we went up there to investigate they were playing rap music for the younger crowds. The theme nights were not well attended.
We spent a couple sea days at the Aft outdoor pool, which has always been our favorite place to lounge on other dam ships. Every morning after breakfast we would take our walk around the ship on our stateroom deck, the lower promenade. Fours laps equaled a mile.
As far as the ports go we enjoyed Key West on our first week. We were to stop there again for week two, however due to high winds the Captain choose not to attempt docking. We ended up in the Crow's Nest that afternoon learning how to dance the merengue. Towards the end of the lesson it was getting increasingly hard to stand in one spot let alone dance due to the rocking motion of the ship. The Crow's Nest is located forward at the top of the ship. Rita was getting dizzy so we returned to our cabin. She was afraid she was going to get sick. Later on in the early evening I went up to Lido to get her crackers, a green apple, and ginger ale. It was almost abandoned up there. The seas had become even rougher and the Lido pool looked like a wave pool. They had the sea sick bags out at the elevators. I stopped at the Ocean Bar to get her ginger ale and they told me the dining rooms were half empty. On my return to our stateroom I ordered room service which was running about an hour and a half behind because so many guests were ordering the sea sick meal. The next morning every thing was back to normal, including Rita.
The new port for us was Falmouth, Jamaica. The dock area was all new. We did some shopping there, however we stayed in the secured area. Grand Cayman, a tender only port, was next and we shopped there, as well. We did not book any excursion as we've already been to Stingray City and Hell. Our last stop for both cruises was Cozumel. It docked at two different places and both times we just got off and did our own thing. We did buy five of those flat telescopic fruit bowls. One for us, and for our three daughters as well as Rita's sister, who was dog sitting for us. On our second week we also tendered into Belize City. We had a drink there at the Wet Lizard and we found three dresses for the 2 year old granddaughter. Our other eleven grand kids have received gifts form us over the years from our sea cruises, but not our youngest. It was now her turn! It was our first time in the city as the previous time we took a small boat from our ship out to Shark Ray Alley.
Embarkation was fast and easy. We shuttled back to our hotel and were on the road by 8:30 our time. We drove to Dalton, GA and got a hotel. I was able to watch the second half of the NFL playoff game in which Denver Tebowed Pittsburgh. We made it back home the next day around noon. The weather for our return trip was great as we did not run into any ice or snow!
This review turned out a little longer than I hoped. Maybe because our thirteen days was our longest cruise. Oh, I forgot to mention turn around day. We stayed on the ship until all disembarked and then us and the eleven others on this collector cruise met up at the Showroom and were escorted off the ship and thru customs. We had to wait about 30 minutes to get back on as they mopped the gangway and we had to wait for it to dry.
All and all this was maybe our best cruise to date. We would highly recommend the Ryndam as a cruise ship not to be missed. If you like the big ships this one is not. One thing for sure it never seemed crowded. The entire staff was top notch and very friendly.
Passengers also help to make a cruise special and for both legs of our cruise journeys we met some of the nicest folks from all over the US, Canada, and the UK. :thumbup: