Year Started: 1873
Ships in Fleet: 15
Summary: A high quality upper mainstream cruise line with smaller ships and value prices. A cruise line for people who want to step up from mainstream at great value prices.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Transpacific, West Coast, Erope
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Eastern Seaboard, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Eastern Seaboard, South America
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Africa, Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Scandinavia, The Orient
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Eastern Seaboard, Hawaii, Mexico, South America
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Oceania, The Orient, West Coast
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Central America, Hawaii, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Alaska, Central America, Hawaii, Mexico, South America, West Coast
Good for: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern, Caribbean Western, Central America, West Coast
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
3 Sept. 2008 to 10 Sept. 2008
Roundtrip cruise Vancouver -- Alaska via inside passage.
We had been looking forward to an Alaska cruise, this year on the Ryndam. We had a good time on a Mexican Riviera cruise on the Vista Class Oosterdam last year, and we chose the older, smaller (but refurbished in 2004) Ryndam.
We have cruised Alaska seven times in the past six years on the Zaandam, Summit, Mercury, Sapphire Princess, Coral Princess and the Island Princess. We live in North Vancouver BC, across the water from the Canada Place cruise terminal, where we can watch the various cruise ships sailing in and out of the harbour, beginning in late April. This whets our appetite to cruise Alaska once more!
We prefer to take our Alaska cruise in May, which some of the time has put us as the first ship to arrive in various Alaskan Ports. May also brings a warmer Alaska.
In February of this year we cruised to Antarctica on the Azamara Journey for 18 days, which ate a large amount of our yearly cruise budget. We decided to wait until the end of the Alaskaseason in September when prices drop fifty to sixty per cent. The trade-off is that it will be a colder Alaska in September, and we will bring our parkas, which we never have to do in May.
After four months of watching Alaska-bound ships coming and going, we were very happy to board the Ryndam. The other huge plus for us was not having to fly in either direction on this round trip cruise.
The round trip Vancouver cruise doesn't go as far north as the seven-day one-way cruises that end in Seward or Whittier. You still see a lot of Alaska, including Glacier Bay, on the round trip inside passage cruises.
Vancouver The Alaska cruise gives cruisers an opportunity to check out one of the world's most beautiful cities. The Seabus and Sky Train stations share a waterfront building next to the Canada Place cruise terminal. The Seabus is a scenic 12-minute ride across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver.
The Sky Train crosses the city of Vancouver and gives you a chance to see the city above the traffic. There is excellent bus service, and a one day transit pass will allow you to use all three and save some money.
Boarding Boarding was very easy. We arrived 2 hours after boarding time began, and there were no lines anywhere. We had pre-registered our credit card and immigration info using the internet and printed our boarding pass. It took about five minutes to clear immigration, complete the check-in process, and board the ship.
Cruise Value The good news was that the price was right for this window cabin. We have been cruising in balcony cabins almost exclusively and wanted to see if we could enjoy our cruise as much without the balcony. We did save a considerable amount versus the price of a balcony cabin and we had a good time, but the fact is we are going to cruise in the future only in balcony cabins. The reason for this is that we miss the fresh air, and the expansive feeling of large glass doors opening on to the world.
Wine, Coffee & Soda Cards HAL offers discounted cards for wine, coffee, soda and cocktails. We opted for the wine card, which is $36.00 for ten glasses of house wine; the soda/soft drink card, which costs $18.00 for twenty drinks of bar soda and is good in the dining room too; and the designer coffee card at $26.00, which gives you 10 designer coffee drinks in grande size with an extra shot included if you wish it, as well as shots of flavored syrup if you desire. There are no free specialty coffees in the Rotterdam dining room any more.
These cards are an excellent value based on the prices of single orders of house wine, coffee or soda. There is a 15% tip added to the basic cost of each of these cards.
Sailaway from Vancouver It was a balmy, sun-warmed afternoon as we backed out of our berth at Canada Place and turned toward Lion's Gate Bridge. We headed across Burrard Inlet toward the harbor entrance, giving us a stunning view of downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park and the tree-covered North Shore.
We slipped under the bridge and headed for the inside passage. We sailed at 5PM, and an hour later we were having our dinner in the dining room. As we dined we felt the ship begin to make a slow turn away from the direction of the inside passage. Captain Smit made an announcement that we were returning to Canada Place; two passengers needed to go to a hospital immediately.
Cruise ships usually do not sail under Lion's Gate Bridge into Vancouver in the afternoon; the beauty of the bridge and the city in the warm afternoon sun was remarkable in a bittersweet sort of a way. We're keeping our hopes up for the two would-be cruisers.
Cabin This Ryndam outside cabin was poorly laid out. The head of the bed was directly under the window, making it impossible to stand anywhere near the window or sit near it without getting up on the bed and sitting crosslegged. There was a monster couch eating up the rest of the cabin space, and we felt very cramped. It turns out that this cabin was a triple, and the big couch was a sofa bed.
We spoke to guest relations, and they arranged for the bed to be moved to where we wished it and for the sofa that ate up cabin space to disappear, to be replaced by an extra chair and another small table.
These changes made the cabin much more comfortable for us. Many thanks to Guest Relations Supervisor Caroline, the Assistant Housekeeper, the Cabin Inspector and Oman our cabin steward for making this happen on the first evening, while we were dining. Oman was one of the best stewards we have ever had. He quickly sensed our daily routine, and the cabin was always done when we returned to it. A gold star for Oman.
The lighting in this cabin wasn't upgraded either when they refurbished the Ryndam in 2004. It was hard to read even if you sat directly under the overhead lights. The bedside lighting was a neon tube light that was hard-mounted and not adjustable in any way. We spoke to management and requested a floor or desk lamp for reading, but they were unable to provide one. We will bring a booklight or a small folding reading lamp next time we travel on a fifteen year old ship.
We will be travelling on smaller ships (which are older ships) more often because we are turned off by the "cruise ship as a theme park" feeling that we get on the megaships of three or four thousand passengers. We are glad the cruise lines are attracting many new families to cruising with these megaships but for us smaller is better.
There was another opportunity for comfort and privacy ignored in the refurbishing: at the point where the bed ends and the sitting area begins, the opposing walls of the cabin are dressed with curtain "legs" that extend into the room just about 18". If these legs were full-fledged curtains that could be drawn all the way across the cabin, then one member of the party could sleep while others could sit up and read or watch TV.
The other negative for us was the location of the TV. The TV was a nice LG hi-def flat screen which was hard-mounted on the shelf that previously held a boxy older model TV. The overhang on the shelf should have been cut to match the size of the flatscreen when the Ryndam was refurbished, because when you are in bed the shelf extends out and blocks the TV's remote sensor. When in bed you are well below the shelf and have to sit up as high as you can and crane your neck to see the screen. You also have to raise the remote as high as possible into the air to clear the shelf overhang and connect to the remote sensor. The inputs on the flat screen were not accessible, because the TV's position could not be altered; we couldn't use our Nintendo Wii (a preferred exercise for us) and couldn't adjust the angle of the TV toward the bed or the chairs. On HAL's Oosterdam, which we cruised last year, the flat screen TV was on a simple and inexpensive swing arm which made it easy to watch TV from anywhere in the room. The modern cruiser wants access to the inputs on these flat screens for viewing video footage or playing a video game.
Announcements While resting in one's cabin it is nice not to be subjected without consent to the announcements of the captain and the cruise director (the anouncements are uniformly too loud; only the elevator's programmed announcements of the various decks were at a comfortable level -- and still clearly audible). But what would have been even nicer is to have the choice! The announcements were not played on any of the ship's channels that we were able to find.
The announcements made in the casino were easy on the ears. Casino staff who called cruisers to various games spoke in a more conversational manner, properly relying on the microphone to project their voices rather than summoning up excitement in order to reach their audience.
Elevators It may not be customary to mention the elevators in a review, but the elevators on the Ryndam had another attractive quality besides the moderate volume of the announcements inside the car: each day the carpet was changed, always naming the day of the week. It sure is nice to be taken care of so thoroughly that you do not even have to remember what day it is when you step in the elevator. The announcements in the elevators of megaships we've sailed on are ear splittingly loud.
Bathroom The bathroom was the best part of the cabin, nicely modernized with a newer, spacious, one piece sink/countertop and a one-handled faucet of good design. There was also a metal shelf over the sink with a high enough lip to keep your grooming items from falling off. The newer shower/tub was deeper than we've ever seen on a ship, with a grab bar to hold when climbing in or out. There was a high quality shower wand with an adjustable head and a hose, so you could remove it from its base and spray your whole body.
Life Boat Drill Very organized and well run. Crew members took attendance, called the names of the missing, and sent other crew members to get them. We were carefully placed, with women and children lined up in front of the men. Crew members checked everyone's life jacket to make sure they were worn properly. This was the most organized and careful drill we have seen. We appreciate the Ryndam's approach to safety at sea. The one negative was the volume of the announcement portion of the drill. The captain's voice boomed over the high-volume outdoor loudspeaker system -- very shrill.
Hand Sanitizer It's available everywhere on the Ryndam, not just near the dining areas. You have it available boarding and leaving the ship, near the theaters, outside the dining venues, the cocktail lounges, the gym and the spa. We've been carrying hand sanitizer for years, and it's good to see it everywhere on this ship. The hand sanitizer dispensers are automatic too. Just place your hand under the sensor and a predetermined amount drops into your hand.
Rotterdam Dining Room HAL has altered their usual dining room color scheme in this refurbished version -- greens, blues and gold with just a hint of HAL's old signature orange dining room theme. Very pleasant.
The dinners, under the direction of Chef Andreas Bruenett, are of high quality and very imaginative in this dining room. The meals are beautifully presented here, and the service is friendly and organized. We heartily thank our waiter Suharyanto and his assistant Adhi. We also extend our thanks to Asst. Dining Room Managers Arinto and Marijn. This room excels in the service area.
The Beef Wellington was delicious -- a quality cut of filet mignon with a delicious pastry crust that was still crisp surrounding the layer of pate wrapped around the filet.
Other food highlights were an eggplant parmesan in the form of a cannelloni. There were wafer-thin slices of the eggplant wrapped around the ricotta cheese filling, with a simple pomodoro sauce. The soups were innovative and uniformly good; the Cobb salad with slices of grilled chicken breast was good. We could go on and on. Suffice it to say that the food in the Rotterdam dining room on this ship is at a high level, comparable to the Azamara line, which has much higher cruise fares. The only negative was the breakfast in this dining room. The omelets and egg dishes were much better in the Lido buffet, where you can walk right up and have an omelet or eggs cooked to order by the omelet chef.
Coffee This was very weak and devoid of coffee taste and smell. The Rotterdam dining room, the Lido buffet, and room service had uniformly mediocre coffee. The only good coffee was the coffee we had to pay for at the Explorations cafe or Pinnacle Grill. The last time we sailed on Royal Caribbean, the coffee was "Seattle's Best" brand, available everywhere for free all over the ship.
High Tea This was served most days with live music and a groaning board of pastries and finger sandwiches.
Lido Restaurant (Buffet) This was well laid out. You may choose a station and not have to stand in a long slow line that snakes past all the food offerings. There is a carving station, various entrees, omelets, pastas, deli and salad bar. The ice cream is free on the Ryndam all afternoon, unlike ships which are now charging for ice cream.
There are trays to use, and tables are always cleared and cleaned quickly by the buffet staff. In the evening the buffet is open for table service for those who don't wish to dress a bit for dinner.
The Terrace Grill This is located in the pool area and serves burgers, hot dogs, nachos, brats, pizza and tacos from 1130AM until 6PM. Nicely grilled snack food.
Late Night Snacks There is a themed (French, Mexican, Asian, etc.) light meal available in the Lido from 11PM to midnight replacing the midnight buffets of yore.
Explorations Cafe This is combined with the library. Not a cafe at all, just designer coffee drinks for sale here along with complementary pastry and snacks. The baked goods on the Ryndam were to put it gently, substandard. Not very "cruisey."
Library The large spacious rooms of the library surround the Explorations Cafe. The library is organized like a proper library, and has a knowledgeable library staff. There was a varied, quality selection of fiction and non fiction -- the best we have seen on a cruise ship. The room had plenty of comfy chairs and chaises facing big windows. DVD's were available to rent for a $3.00 charge.
Deck 8 The library, casino, Explorer's Lounge, casino bar, Ocean Bar, piano bar, shops and Explorations Cafe were all located on deck 8. The upper level of the Rotterdam dining room was aft, and the upper level of the Vermeer Lounge showroom was all the way forward. The delicious Pinnacle Grill was also on this deck.
It was easy to access these venues, and the pedestrian traffic flow was excellent. This deck was our home away from our cabin.
Cruising the Inside Passage There is always something to see on sea days. We sail close to land and there are seals and all kinds of birds (including eagles) along the way. We also saw some Orcas popping out of the water. Nature is everywhere on these Alaska cruises.
Juneau Juneau is the state capitol of Alaska, the only state capitol in North America you can't drive to. It's an island. Everything comes in by plane or ship as in Hawaii.
We docked right downtown, and we relaxed in our cabin while those passengers on the ship's excursions debarked first. A half an hour later there were no lines, and we strolled off the ship onto a large wooden deck.
One side of the dock area had a long row of booths, selling every kind of excursion at prices well under those offered by the cruise lines. We walked across the platform to the crosswalk, where a uniformed crossing guard held traffic for the arriving passengers.
Shopping in Alaska was fun, because there were many items on sale -- this being the end of the tourist season.
We walked 3 blocks to 113 Seward Street, the home of Rainy Day Books. We always go there when we dock in Juneau. We were informed they were going to change their name to Rainy Retreat Books soon, because the owner of the name requested they no longer use it. They have a wonderful selection of books well beyond the limitations of a chain book store, and their selection of used titles is very good.
Skagway We sailed up the Lynn canal and docked. There is a shuttle bus making regular stops in town, which is about a mile from the dock. Three dollars round trip and you can get off at any stop in town and then get on again at any stop for the trip back to the dock. The town resembles the Western Street on a movie studio lot -- lots of old false front buildings. The White Pass and Yukon train pulls right up next to the dock and picks up passengers for the scenic trip. You can also rent a car and follow the route of the train, stopping to take pictures when you wish.
The White Pass and Yukon train station has magnificent vistas with the ships berthed in the background.
Alternative Restaurant -- Pinnacle Grill The Maitre d' Matej sat us at a window table, and we relaxed with beverages and drank in the scenic beauty. We opened with corn bruschetta, replacing the traditional tomato, topped with a couple of jumbo prawns. We enjoyed five cheese-onion soup and a green salad for mid courses and finished with a blue cheese encrusted "Silver Steak". The dessert was a crisp gaufrette on a bed of sliced strawberries, topped with rasberry sorbet. Designer cappucino (included) completed this dinner, which cost $20.00 per person. This was a far superior Pinnacle Grill to the one we tried on the Oosterdam. We enjoyed a couple of tasty lunches ($10.00 per person) at the Pinnacle Grill, also.
Glacier Bay The ship picked up the Park Rangers at Bartlett Cove, and at 10AM we were sailing Glacier Bay. The Rangers gave talks, and we marveled at the beauty of this place. It was a perfectly clear day, and we could see everything -- there was no hanging fog. The scenic highlight of this Alaska cruise.
Ketchikan The next morning we docked in Ketchikan. We headed over to the nearby Salmon Plaza to use the Internet cafe. We were docked literally downtown, and it was an easy walk everywhere to all kinds of shopping. There were plenty of last minute excursions for sale in town.
Inside Passage Back to Vancouver We headed south back to Vancouver, enjoying the scenery of the forests and islands of British Columbia along the way. We'll be docking in Vancouver tomorrow.
Tipping There is a $10.00 per person charge added to your hotel bill. This money does not cover the level of service available on the Ryndam. We bring a hundred US one dollar bills and as we go along we reward those who serve us well. We add a dollar to the built-in 15% tip when we have soft drinks, and we give a couple of dollars to the room service waiters when they bring us a snack. This is a hard-working crew who made our voyage a pleasure. We also happily augmented the suggested tips for our cabin steward and our dining room staff and assistant maitre d'. We had a nice cruise on the Ryndam and we will be sailing HAL again.
Piano Bar There is some kind of metal-themed decor on the walls which plays hell with listening to the amplified piano and vocalist. The intimacy of a piano bar setting is destroyed by the poor acoustics.
Casino One of the best layouts we've seen on a cruise ship. Wider aisles and the occasional free drink. The slots are tight, but there are table games with better odds. The dealers and the floor men are knowledgeable and courteous.
Entertainment A "Hits of Broadway" revue with the costumes of award winning designer Bob Mackie; the silly songs of comedian Elliott Max, the classical piano wizardry of Garin Bader and a Motown musical salute were offered in the Vermeer Lounge Showroom/Movie Theatre.
There were recent movies such as "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" showing most days in the theatre.
The Ocean Bar and the Crow's Nest were places for live music and dancing at various times. The Crow's Nest, at the top of the ship, was a great place to relax and listen to the piano, but at 8PM, the piano player finishes and they crank up the volume to an earsplitting level with the DJ, Jason. We spoke to a knowledgeable staffer who confided to us that they were under orders to raise the volume based on the time of day.
Hotel Manager and Staff The customer relations staff is courteous and attentive. The Hotel Manager David Wood is out and about daily checking different areas of the ship. We like seeing the management process happening. This is a well run hotel with a propeller, kept very clean, not just picked up by Chief Housekeeper Soeparno and staff. Some ships at the end of the long Alaska cruise season are not kept clean enough but the Ryndam sparkled.
Cruise Director and Staff There were all kinds of staffed events from Bingo to the Not So Newlywed Game, etc., which were listed in the ship's paper, The Daily Program. Cruise Director Travis La Marche seems a bit too high energy and loud (especially on the Public Address System) to suit our taste on this Holland America cruise.
The Ryndam's newspaper The Daily Program was well laid out with the entertainment, food, music and shows listed and organized in an orderly manner, making it easy for the cruiser to plan for day and evening.
Tired Crew We feel badly for the non-sailing crew. We know they are making good money compared to the salaries available where they live in the world, but their fatigue is obvious, especially at the end of the long Alaska cruising season. The service and the attitude of this Ryndam crew is exemplary.
We would gladly make our bed one day on a seven-day cruise and even get our meals in the buffet, if the main dining room could be closed for the day, but we sense that's not going to happen. We hope someday they can figure out a way to give them at least one day off a MONTH. One would think that schedules could be arranged for that. The navigation/sailing crew doesn't have this problem, because they are protected by regulation.
Summing Up We had a wonderful time on the Ryndam, a lovely voyage through the inside passage to the Glaciers and towns of Alaska.
The food on the Ryndam is very good, comparable to Celebrity's Azamara line, which is a lot more expensive than Holland America. The service is excellent, and the ship is easy to get around because of its size. Holland America is maintaining a standard that's hard to beat at this price range.
We're heading back to Princess in keeping with our theme of "cruise value" in these harsh economic times. We found a very well-priced cruise in a balcony cabin on the Coral Princess for Dec. 9th, 2008. We'll depart from Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades and take a 14-day cruise through the Panama Canal, ending in Los Angeles on the 23rd of December.
Prior to embarkation: We were picked up by an unusually looooooong limo about 5:15 a.m. for our hour-long trip to the airport. We had made our own flight arrangements, so we had control over departure and layover times. Despite a light rain, our flight and the connecting flight in Atlanta took off on time. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at about 11:30, checked that our luggage went to the ship instead of the carousel, and jumped in a cab. Ten minutes later we were at the pier and had our first glimpse of the Maasdam.
Embarkation: We were in line about two minutes, got our boarding number (15) and went inside the terminal. While we waited we had a chance to talk to some other passengers and share some of our secrets. Steiner had a table set up with literature on their services, and we had time to talk to the reps and arrange appointments. Our number was called about 1:15 and we were escorted to our cabin, where we found half of our luggage had already been delivered. We grabbed the excursion list and headed to the Lido with our friendsfor the Embarkation Luncheon.
Cabin: Our outside deluxe cabin, category D-581, on the Main deck, amidships, was large and very comfortable. We had the two twin beds set up as a queen with a small nightstand on either side and window over the beds, and the sleeping area was set aside by a decorative curtain. The sofa, chair and adjustable coffee table made a nice sitting area, and the mirror, dressing table, closets and drawers were very generous. Although there was plenty of closet space, we stored the luggage under the beds. The bathroom was large enough for two :-) but we were very disappointed in the storage space. There was no cabinet or shelf under the sink; only one narrow shelf under the mirror which was not enough for the stuff two people need in the bathroom. The bathtub was also a shower with a shower wand that was adjustable in height to accommodate children or ladies who don't want to get their hair wet. Air conditioning was fully adjustable and we could hear nothing from the hall or adjacent cabins.
Ship facilities: The ship is very clean and well-maintained. All public rooms are easily accessible, and beautifully decorated with fine art and fresh flowers. The Lower Promenade offers a wraparound deck for you purists ;-)
Pools: Both pools were spacious and easy to access. The Lido pool and jacuzzis, having tables under roof, was more a place for lounging, eating and visiting, whereas the aft pool (Nav deck) was more for hard-core sunworshippers like me. The only games I saw were at the aft pool.
Spa: Steiner of London maintains the ultimate ocean spa for facial and body therapy. They offer hair and nail rituals, facials, massages, seaweed heat packs, shiatsu, reflexology, reiki healing, aromatherapy, full body exfoliating and my new favorite... Ionithermie anti-cellulite treatment. Fitness rituals include personal training sessions, body composition analysis and Yoga. Enjoy a view of the ocean at the fitness center (no charge for exercise machines, steam and sauna).
Movies: The Wajang Theater (popcorn and Cappuccino available next door at the Java Cafe) showed "Pay it Forward", "Lucky Numbers", "Meet the Parents", "The Sixth Day" and "Space Cowboys". Funny odor in there, though.
Dining Room : The Rotterdam Dining Room is a spacious and attractive bi-level room, offering a variety of seating arrangements. A variety of menus was available; the food was very good, and the main seating service in the non-smoking section was excellent.
Buffet: Lido Restaurant served meals cafeteria-style, which is not as elegant as your classic buffets, but the variety and quality of the food makes up for it. The line was broken up a bit into different sections for the traditional meal and the specialty entrees and desserts. There is so much food on the buffet, you'll certainly find something you like. Since they no longer provide a menu for this buffet, I walked ahead and peeked at the food (they even had prime ribs one day, which was excellent for a buffet item) before I started loading up.
Room Service: We didn't use it this time for either a meal or a snack. We always use the doorknob card you fill out at night that will get you coffee, juices, fruit, yogurt, pastries, eggs, meats or cereals any time from 6:30 to 10:30 the following morning. That gives you time to make yourself presentable for the "real" breakfast in the dining room or Lido.
Rembrandt Lounge Showroom: Seating is more than adequate, with a good view for everyone, even in the balcony. Here there are a few obstructed views, but nothing bad. Overall, the entertainment was quite varied and professional.
Shops: New on this ship was the Ten-Dollar Store, offering a variety of jewelry, writing instruments, sunglasses, watches and pashminas. There was also one for clothing and souvenirs, one for jewelry and perfumes/cosmetics and a duty-free shop offering liquor (they even had a tasting table). Daily specials such as rings, watches, gold and silver by the inch and leather goods were listed in the Daily Program. All were adequately stocked and offered good values.
Casino: This one is rather small by comparison to others on ships this size, but it was never crowded. The only crap table was not only uncrowded (they usually are) but one night it was even closed for lack of interest.
Excursions: In your cabin you will find a Planning/Order Form indicating the details of the available excursions. Warning 1: Some of these have very limited space and sell out very fast and are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. If there is a trip you absolutely must take, sign up now! You can order it right away by filling out this form and placing it in the drop box at the excursion desk. Warning 2: If you want to go with someone in another cabin, put the request for all tickets on one cabin's order. We split our order and only two of us got to do the Swimming with the Dolphins :-( You can take another form to be filled out later for other requests. A Shore Excursion video played continuously on the stateroom TV regarding available port activities. There were about 40 shore excursions on the list (not including the beach toys available at Half Moon Cay)... plenty from which to choose. American currency is welcome everywhere. Take small bills and change.
Nassau: This was a short stop from 7 a.m. to noon, and nine excursions were offered. We did stop at the straw market where even Jim bought a few things! I have the photo to prove it!
San Juan: This was the longest stop of the cruise, from 9 a.m. to Midnight. There were ten excursions offered, but we chose to visit El Morro on our own. This is a short cab ride from the dock, meandering through Old San Juan to the other side of the island. This is a gorgeous old fort with many levels offering breathtaking views. I was impressed with the series of aerial maps showing the development of the island over the last few hundred years.
St. John/St. Thomas: We stopped here from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is plenty of time to do one or two of the twenty excursions that were offered. We chose the helicopter tour (put the order on one ticket this time). We were in the air for about 20 minutes and had the absolute best views of some of the most beautiful beaches as well as areas that have yet to be rebuilt due to hurricane damage. We also went to the top of the Paradise Point Tramway ($12 each) which also afforded great views of the ships in the harbor and downtown Charlotte Amalie. You can stop and relax with a refreshing snack and watch the tropical bird show. We had been there before, but needed to buy a mate for our Wild Man (who turned out to be a Wild Woman, but that's another story...). Sure enough, in the same store, on the same shelf, was a whole family of Wild Ones.
Half Moon Cay: We tendered to this pristine island about 8 a.m. and stayed until they dragged me out of the ocean (kicking and screaming) at 3 p.m. Although there is a gift shop and small straw market , they're only a convenience. Don't expect what you saw in Nassau. Here you can enjoy a frozen tropical drink at one of the bars, have some refreshing ice cream or have your hair braided. The tram will take you up to the Island Picnic, which is served from 11:30 to 1:30 and is simple but delicious. On the beach, you can enjoy snorkeling, SCUBA, parasailing, banana boat rides, catamarans, sailboats, windsurfing, aqua cycles, glass bottom boat, golf chipping or kayaking. We simply rented floating mattresses and floated for a couple of hours. Paradise. Great tan. If you'd rather sit on the beach, lounge chairs are available and you can sip a cool one served by a beach steward. On the sports courts, you'll find shuffleboard and volleyball, and closer to the beach there are tents set up for private beachside massages. As you wander this little island there are misting stations you can step into for a refreshing shower.
Ship Activities: Each day we received a Daily Program listing all planned activities, meals, movies, etc. This is most helpful when there is so much to do! The Times Fax (from the pages of The New York Times) and CNN brought us up to date on the real world. Production shows, bingo (although pricey), horse racing, volleyball, ping-pong, water games, newlywed game, ice sculpting demos, golf or ping-pong tournaments, dance lessons, gambling, dancing, even daily AA meetings are available to fill your time.
Staff: We were fortunate to have Susan Wood as our Cruise Director. Susan began her career at sea as a dance instructor (which might explain her energy level). She now has the distinction of being the first female Cruise Director in the HAL fleet. She is energetic and very outgoing; knowledgeable, organized, personable and accessible. It seems she was everywhere (except on debarkation day, when I really needed a photo for this review). Susan will be moving to the m.s. Amsterdam in September, 2001.
Toto, our cabin steward, was very good. He brought us breakfast each morning, filled the ice bucket and kept our cabin neat and clean all day.
Hasan, our Rotterdam Dining Room waiter, and Agung, his assistant, were attentive and handled our special requests cheerfully. This is the first time a Dining Room Supervisor (Yusuf) was so attentive. His funny jokes made our dining experience special. Didiet, our wine steward was prompt and his suggestions most helpful.
Passengers: Average age looked to be about 45-50. If there were any children aboard, they were invisible.
Motion: We were lucky to have calm seas all week. The stabilizers made the entire trip smooth and comfortable. The slightly perceptible motion was just enough to rock you to sleep at night.
Disembarkation: Non-U.S. Citizens were required to report to Immigration very early, but we were able to have coffee and pastries in our cabin, then go to the lounge to check in at the airline. Delta and U.S. Air have representatives onboard to check your passports (all travelers in your group must be present) and issue you bar-coded luggage tags in a sealed envelope. We were in this line over an hour, and it was very frustrating. They should have had more airline reps for this to work smoothly. We were off the ship at about 9:00, found our luggage in the "warehouse" (the colored tag system moves passengers in shifts to avoid crowding), had a redcap cart them to the Delta truck where the bar-coded tags were attached to our bags, got in a cab and were at the airport in record time; two hours ahead of flight time. Note: when you debark and find your luggage, you can transfer most of your overnight stuff to your luggage so you won't have to carry so much.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you this was the best cruise ever. We will be HAL cruisers for many more years to come.
I traveled with 8 family members last week to Alaska, including 2 grandchildren under age 5. We had an absolutely unforgettable week!
The crew was exceptional.
The "Name That Tune" competition at the piano bar was great fun (we won free drinks 3 nights in a row for the best "team name.")
The ports and excursions were wonderful; be sure to ride the Kawasaki Mules in Skagway.
My only disappointment was the food. There was quantity, but not quality. Even the cookies weren't as good as the Pillsbury slice off variety from your dairy case! We loved the ice cream every day.
Our king size bed was so wonderful I'm going to order one for my home (they tell you how to purchase their special "mariner's bed.")
There was something for everbody on this cruise; a quiet spot to read or a swimming pool for kid's fun.
I would also add the crowd was a bit "dowdy." The information on dress code provided by Holland America gave a description of "Smart Casual" and to some folks, that obviously meant a baseball T-shirt and jeans.
Holland America Line Zaandam by GARY TYLER Alaska June 8, 2008
The destination was great. The ports were great.
The ship had no pulse at all. The average age of the people had to have been 75 to 80. I'm 56 and I felt like a kid compared to these people!
The ship reflected the average age of the people sailing. It was so low key onboard that it was boring.
The crew had no pulse. The cabin steward was DOA and the dining staff couldn't care less.
I will never take another Holland America cruise again. I'm sticking with Princess!
Holland America Line Prinsendam by Jim Thornton Baltic Sea June 3, 2008
The MS Prinsendam is one of Holland America's smaller ships that carries 793 passengers and a crew of 443. It was built in 1988 as the Royal Viking Sun for the Royal Viking Line and in less than two years later it was sold to the Seabourn Cruise Line and renamed as the Seabourn Sun. Another two years later, it was sold again to the Holland America Line.
CABIN -- Balcony Our daughter's and our cabins were side-by-side. We had the cabin with a shower (no bath) and only one bedside nightstand, while our daughter had a bath and two bedside nightstands. Both cabins were the same size and had queen size beds, etc.
The cabin's bathrooms were nice and new while the non-bathroom areas showed signs of wear. Cabin attendant was also good.
Poor cabin TV service -- 19 channels but three out of the seven English language channels were out-of-service due to a "satellite problem" that never got fixed.
The on-shore HAL personnel placed my wife's photo both on her and my shipboard ID cards which also serves as thecabin key. The ship's personnel always scan the card to verify that the photo on the card matches the returning passenger from a tour. I was able to get a new ID with the proper photo from the ship's front desk.
FOOD Food was fair and service was slow. This was the poorest of all the eight HAL ships that we've been on.
ENTERTAINMENT The evening entertainment was poor -- it appeared to be at a high school level of experience. Always had wonderful evening entertainment on HAL ships before.
There were no daytime movies in the ship theater on the three Day-At-Sea days.
CROW'S NEST The Crow's Nest always smelled heavily of cigarette smoke. The same in the other shipboard bars. Never had this problem on any other HAL ship.
TOURS The ship cancelled one of the Ystad tours that we previously paid for due to too many requests for the tour. Actually, they moved the afternoon tours to the morning to add more tours in the afternoon. We had to manually swap our morning and afternoon tours ourselves. And later, we had to identify to the HAL tour management that they doubled-charged us.
Some of the sites to be seen on the land tours were skipped due to HAL tour management permitting handicapped passengers (in wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) on these HAL rated "Strenuous Activity" tours.
The overall quality of the tours were not as good as on the same cruise that we took on the Norwegian Dream eight years earlier.
The onboard tour personnel always place a small tour sticker on your clothing for identification on the tour. One sticker left its glue-like material on my jacket and both the ship's personnel and we were unable to remove it.
HEALTH Most of the passengers caught a cough and cold on the cruise and we never saw the HAL personnel ever sanitize the numerous stairway hand rails on the ship as we have seen on all other HAL ships we have been on.
OVERALL OPINION As a longtime Holland America passenger, I could not recommend this ship. This was our ninth Holland America Cruise and our 18th cruise in Asia, Europe, and North, Central, and South America.
My husband and I just returned from a twenty-day cruise aboard the Noordam (May 28-June 18, 2008). The cruise itinerary included a 10-day loop in both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. This was our seventh cruise and the first aboard Holland America. Our most recent cruise was January 2008 aboard Carnival Conquest, and we looked forward to a quieter and more elegant journey on the Noordam. Overall we had a pleasant trip, although we did not feel that the experience was a significant improvement over previous journeys on other cruise lines. I am in my late fifties and my husband is sixty-two, so we concluded that HAL would be a great choice. However, we do not plan to travel aboard a large HAL ship in the future.
We stayed in a superior veranda suite (8073). Spacious and well organized, we were very comfortable in the room and on the balcony. If the side chairs near the sofa are moved slightly, there is plenty of walking space and easy access to the balcony. The only change I noticed from previous cabins was the ceiling appeared lower on this ship. The décor in thecabin was pleasant, with warm colors and attractive artwork. This was is sharp contrast to the busy carpet and mismatched art in the hallways. Our floor had a very busy modern blue carpet, Polynesian wall panels in shiny blues and purple and floral wall art framed in bright red matting. The overall hallway décor was neither calming or attractive. My husband and I traveled with one large bag each and found that there was plenty of room under the bed for luggage storage. If you plan to travel with several large pieces of luggage you may find the closet space inadequate. The closets have adjustable shelves than will accommodate long and short hanging garments as well as folded items. Additional storage is located in bedside drawers, end tables and desks. We purchased the pricey suite amenities package ($636.00) because we wanted to have clothing washed and pressed each day (no self-laundry facilities on board and you may not iron in the stateroom). We didn't realize that we could purchase laundry facilities separately. The suite amenities package did include a variety of extras that we could have done without such as bar set-up, coffee cards, canapés etc. No one fully explained the amenities included; we asked the booking agent at HAL on two occasions prior to leaving. We were unsure of all the options available to us until we asked the staff at the front desk on day 11 of our trip.
Issues and Areas in Need of Improvement Food quality aboard the ship was unexceptional at best. The only exceptions were the pastries served in the dining room and the lido café. We ate in the Pinnacle Grill three nights (additional fee). If you plan to do this, avoid any of the menu items beyond grilled meats as we were very disappointed with the seafood entrees. Be sure and ask the wine steward about prices for wine at the Pinnacle Grill. The most modest bottle was in the 50 dollar range and the prices varied dramatically from wine served in the main dining room.
Food service was often slow in the Vista dining room. (A 2.5 hour dining window was not uncommon and on one occasion we were awaiting dessert at the 3 hour mark). The second ten days of the cruise the ship appeared more crowded. We were told this might have been due to cabins that contained three or four travelers (more kids). Reservations were then encouraged in the open seating portion of the dining room, although this didn't eliminate waiting or being asked to return to the dining room at a later time. We enjoyed dining with a variety of travelers, however conversation was awkward at a table for ten. Tables for six seemed to provide the most comfortable dining environment. Some large cruise ships provide a variety of dining locations (with the same menu). This seems to eliminate waiting and the unfortunate crowding that occurred in the narrow hallway outside the Vista dining room.
Casual dining was provided on the Lido deck (9). There are food service stations and the lines could be quite lengthy. We noticed lines at occasional breakfasts and lunches that exceeded 30 persons for omelets, waffles, and sandwiches -- perhaps individual menu items should be minimized in order to more efficiently feed the larger number of passengers. Passenger bottlenecks also occurred at the juice, drinks (water, tea) and the pasta lines. The Lido café seems to have been designed for self-service, however the current process has staff members impeding the effectiveness of the layout. We concluded that this was less an issue with poor service than a confusion regarding the small ship service model and the systems required for larger numbers of travelers.
Port Visits and Excursions The security staff was always professional and efficient. The port lecturer (Ian) was helpful during his office hours in the library/internet area and anytime we debarked from a visit. There were two additional lecturers on the cruise. The first ten days the lecturer provided scholarly talks on the history of the Mediterranean. I attended a very enjoyable lecture on piracy. The second portion of the trip was less inspiring. The talk I attended was very simplistic (female lecturer), with a power point presentation full of spelling and grammar errors. I wondered how these folks were selected by HAL. Apparently no one reviewed this presentation.
The shore excursions were efficient and reasonably priced. We enjoyed the journeys to Ephesus, Pompeii, Olympia and the interiors of Santorini and Sicily. If you do not have difficulty with mobility, most of the other sites were easy to negotiate on foot or with a taxi/bus.
Our Suggestions: Do not miss the old town of Dubrovnik and take the walk around the city wall. Take the bus in Malta and visit the Mdina and Rabat, and visit the Souk and the American WWII Cemetery in Tunis.
Onboard Facilities The layout of this ship did not seem to be designed to accommodate nearly 2000 passengers. The Crows Nest was one of the few areas on the ship that provided a comfortable amount of space. It has wonderful recliners with an ocean view and helpful bar service staff. We enjoyed the early shows and thought the Noordam singers exceptionally good. A number of events were scheduled in the culinary arts center. This facility is not large enough for ship-wide events. The lectures and shows scheduled often felt crowded by the overflow seating.
The very tiny atrium area that would comfortably seat only twenty was seldom used. Passengers appeared to avoid the area, possibly due to the garish reflective wall tiles (with blinking lights embedded) and the awkward glass stairway that was often closed. As a consequence, passengers tended to congregate in the library and Explorations café. The library was extensive and the staff very helpful. The coffee bar in the café was understaffed and very busy. We each had a (approx. $30) coffee card good for ten drinks. The wait for service was so long that we only used half that number. It might be wiser to purchase coffee individually.
On deck you will find a variety of areas to relax on lounge chairs. Only in the pool area are the deck chairs crowded together. The aft pool was designated for adults, but the "adults only" rule was seldom followed. Several people did ask for reminders about children splashing and using inflatable toys, but the issue continued. In addition, although there were two small (4 person) hot tubs in the adult pool area, only one was functioning and open during our trip.
Unlike other ships, the steam room required an additional twenty-dollar a day charge per person. We did not take advantage of this, although using the steam room is something we enjoy. We were not interested in paying an additional charges on top of the suite package of 636 dollars. There was a small (three person) dry sauna available to all travelers, however it was often full.
We anticipated a gracious voyage on HAL based upon cruise line reviews and the relative cost difference. Had the service been commensurate with the basic and additional costs, we would have been pleased. Unfortunately, the food, service and amenities did not warrant the additional spending. We did enjoy the ports of call and plan to cruise in the Mediterranean again, but we will look to an alternative cruise line for our next trip.
Eastern Seaboard, out of Fort Lauderdale to Montréal Canada, early May, 2008.
This was my 15th Holland America cruise I imagine the weather in the fall is quite similar to that in May.
The Maasdam was built 1993 and is one of four in the Statendam class. It can accommodate roughly 1,266 passengers after refitting, and weighs about 55,451 tons. The Atrium consists of a very tasteful 3-story sculpture of cube-shaped glass, designed by Luciano Vistosi. The cabin I was in was 725 Starboard, forward, on the Main deck (A).; the couple I was with were on the Verandah deck (without a verandah!) in cabin 100, Port, as far forward as you can go. The Maasdam has, along with the other S Class ships, been refitted with new bedding, etc. The former Erasmus Library has been annexed to one of the rooms beside it, and another room which was used for the internet, to form a newer and better internet centre and library.
We flew down a day early, from Ottawa, Canada, to Detroit and then Fort Lauderdale, which was uneventful, and did not use the hotel to ship packages, taking a cabfrom Pier 66. Embarkation was the smoothest of all the cruises that I have been on, and only took 25 minutes. Part of this is that if you complete all of the on-line forms ahead of time (bringing printed duplicates to discard later in case of computer failure, etc.), there is no paperwork to fill out at embarkation except a short health questionnaire.
After a day at sea, the first port was Charleston, South Carolina, where we saw some of the old mansions on the Kingdom by the Sea tour. New London, Connecticut after another sea day, was where we took the Essex Steam Train tour, followed the next day by Cliff Walk & the Breakers tour in Newport, Rhode Island, which was slightly altered owing to weather. After a sea day, amid interesting North Atlantic seas, we hit Barr Harbor, Maine, and over the next three days, the ports of Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown Prince Edward Island. In each of these ports we went to eat lobster, for the last time on the Dalvey-by-the-Sea tour where it is served cold (which allows it to be snapped out of the shell easier), and where the guide showed everyone (spectacularly) how to properly break up a lobster to eat by hand, and, nearby a lobster fisherman explained his trade. After another day at sea, we passed the Saguenay Fjord in the St. Lawrence but were too late to enter it to see much of anything, and docked at Quebec where we wandered around the walled city; the next day we docked at Montréal. In Quebec preparations are under way for the 400th anniversary of Quebec.
This was a repositioning cruise, the first of the season. There are to be future ones in June, but from Boston to Montréal and vice-versa, before the Maasdam sails to Europe in July. Other versions of this cruise may take place in August out of Boston and HAL's latest ship, the Eurodam will be making trips to Quebec City from New York; the Maasdam will make one trip from Montréal to Ft. Lauderdale in the fall.
The couple I was with did not take a verandah because of the time of year. There were many passengers not suitably dressed for May in the North Atlantic. Cruising at this time of year is a little strange, since we are used to warmer Caribbean destinations. I went swimming from Fort Lauderdale until just after Charleston, when the outside temperature was too cool to use the outside aft lido pool. Except at Newport, the skies were clear, but temperatures started to drop, the coldest being in Sydney where it was about 4C I used long underwear twice on this cruise. There were some rough seas as well, for even though we were in the lee of the Gulf of Maine or the South Shore of Nova Scotia for part of the time, winds got to force 9+ on the Beaufort Scale; there were a lot of people sea-sick.
There was a new dinner arrangement on the Maasdam. There was the traditional late-seating arrangement on the upper level of the Rotterdam dining room, but on the lower level, there was a form of free-style seating for which you had to make some type of reservations (I never did figure it out, neither did some of the passengers used to completely free-style dining on some cruise lines). We chose the more traditional setting. Parts of the Lido are also open for dinner. Service was good, but there seem to be issues of timeliness which are not of the waiters' making. For example, when the staff is called off to do the Baked Alaska parade or the Chef's dinner which also involves staff doing other activities, there's a back-up. Our wine steward knew what she was doing and was quite helpful. The Maasdam, like all of the "Statendam" class ships, lacks access to the lower dining room from along the Promenade Deck (owing to the kitchen filling up the entire deck), which can be a minor inconvenience.
The Pinnacle restaurant is a later addition to all of the Statendam class of ships, being constructed by removing several of the public rooms and building it in. The Pinnacle is available for lunch as well as dinner, and the sirloin is as good as the Alberta A beef which used to be served on all the HAL ships. People with verandahs can eat breakfast free in the Pinnacle and there are some other perks relating to the restaurant.
The pools were well maintained. The Lido indoor pool (with the sliding roof) is chlorinated, while the aft outdoor pool has a slight salt content and less chlorine (which I prefer). This is new. The pools are not as warm as they used to be, but that is because of not wanting to help spread disease. The inside pool had to be completely drained for part of the cruise, as the seas were so rough.
In HAL's more recent ships, the Ocean bar is less of a focal point of the ship, but that is not the case with the four S class ones. Unfortunately the art auctioneers take up too much space when running the auctions. Many found the Crow's Nest awkward during rough seas because it so very high up.
There were two wine tastings -- one free which did take place -- and one which had a cost, but which had to be cancelled because of a lack of attendees.
Past Cruises: 1st-(Old) Noordam, 1998 (retired Nov. 2004); 2nd-Statendam, 1999; 3rd-Zaandam, 2000; 4th-Statendam, 2001; 5th/6th-Ryndam, 2002; 7th-Zuiderdam, 2003+ 8th-Veendam, 2003; 9th Volendam, 2004; 10th/11th-Westerdam, 2006-01; 12th-Amsterdam, 2006-11; 13th/14th-Zuiderdam, 2007; 15th Maasdam, 2008-05.
To let you know, I enjoyed the cruise (my first time with Holland America). However, I must complain about the food service, taste and presentation in the dining room.
The food (though basically the same Menu) at the Lido at night was soooo much better. The staff was much friendlier and the food looked good and tasted much fresher.
It was not a pleasure to dine in the dining room. After three times, I decided to eat the rest of my meals in Lido.
This was our 9th cruise. I love cruising, but this was the worst one yet!
From the unfriendly staff, to running out of certain foods often, it was very disappointing.
By far the food was only average at best. The cabin guys were good (did not know how to make the towel animals), but that was it.
Others told us they had been on the same cruise last year and it was much better. They were not enjoying this cruise either.
Having been on another Holland America ship doing a transatlantic, the difference was very noticeable!
I would not recommend this cruise to anyone!
We have sailed on numerous cruise lines, including Celebrity, Princess, Disney, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
We have ranked Holland America at the bottom of the list, along with Norwegian Cruise Line, due to poor service, dismal entertainment, and poor food quality.