I am writing to report my experience in booking with Holland America Line.
I haven't taken the cruise yet but just discovered that a hold of $60 per day and per person will be placed on our credit card accounts "for our convenience" during the cruise. Nobody told us anything about this at the time of the booking, and apparently we had no other choices but to authorize this in order to get our boarding documents ("the Express Docs"). Either this or we would have to prepay cash in advance. Granted, Holland America claims that it is only a "hold" and that our balance would be settled at the end (unspent monies returned to us) but to me this sounds like very bad business practices.
I will certainly look at the other cruise lines in the future...
I will try to describe different aspects of the cruise in categories. This was our 19th cruise. Most have been to the Caribbean, with sailing once before to Hawaii, and doing a partial panama canal trip. We have been on Royal Caribbean 13 times, Princess once, NCL once, Carnival three times, and HAL twice now. DH is 52 and I am 49. I hope you enjoy my review.
We flew into San Diego 2 days early to enjoy some warmer weather, being from NE Ohio. It was chilly and rained some. We walked around downtown area and the gaslamp district. Walked over to the port and saw Celetrity Mercury, and HAL Oosterdam. We stayed at the Holiday Inn downtown location next to the I5 freeway. I had gotten this on Priceline for the 2 night stay for $155.00 total. The location was fine, and the king room was nice. They had a free shuttle from the airport and again to the port. We left for the port about noon.
Once we arrived at the San Diego port, it was very easy. Gave our luggage to a porter, then went to checkin. There was a small line. It moved very efficiently. We were on the ship by 12:30, but couldn't go to our cabins until 1:00. We had booked an inside guarantee, and been upgraded to an oceanview, category E. Our cabin was located on deck 4, starboard side, right in the middle. The room had plenty of storage, 2 sets of drawers in the dresser area, and the closet was very adequate (4 doors). The safe is located in the closet, and you must use a card swipe. We brought an old gas card. We went for lunch in the Lido. After lunch, we went back to the room, and our luggage had arrived, so we unpacked, and went to the sailaway party in the Crows Nest.
Weather The first 2 days were chilly outside, but clear. The seas were relativly smooth. By day 3, it was nice and warm and we spent time soaking up the sunshine. Once we arrived in Hawaii, the weather was in the 70's and beautiful. I was concerned about the weather this time of year with it being the rainy season for both Hawaii and Tahiti, but we had very good weather. On our last sea day before the French Polynesian Islands, it was cloudy, some rain and no sunshine. Our first day in Raiatea, it started out raining for about an hour, then cleared up. We had a little rain in the upper mountain area in Tahiti. Upon our arrival in Nuku Hiva, it again greeted us with rain for about an hour, then cleared up. Our first 4 sea days on the return trip to San Diego were sunshine in the mornings, cloudy in the afternoons. By sea day 5 and 6, it was again chilly and somewhat cloudy, so no more sunshine.
Ports of Call In Hawaii, this was our 2nd visit there, so we didn't do too much. In Hilo, we rented a car, and drove to Akaka falls, then to Walmart to pick up incidentals for the cruise. Kona, we used the free trolley to go down to the Kahuluu beach area and see all the turtles. In Lahaina, we did a 2 hr whale watch through Pacific Whale Foundation. We didn't book this until we arrived, as we were concerned about the weather. We saw lots of whales. Very interesting tour. Price was very reasonable, we paid $68. for the 2 of us. On Oahu, we just took the bus down to Waikiki beach and spent time at the beach and did some shopping. I would recommend renting a car, and driving to the North Shore, very beautiful there. In Kauai, we rented a car, and drove to Waimea Canyon, and over to the Fern Grotto, took the boat ride, then stopped to see some of the waterfalls.
Our favorite island was Bora Bora. On our first day, we did the tour with Patrick. The 5 hour snorkeling and motu picnic. His outrigger canoes are all decorated and he plays his ukelele and sings along the way. The food was very good. We ended up having 24 people go all together. One of our CC had gotten in touch with him, and made the reservations, and we had 30 from our rollcall signed up before we left, and added 4 more from the ship. Some of us in his boat had been talking about going to Bloody Mary's when we got back, so he just dropped us off at their dock, rather than back in town, so we didn't have to pay for the taxi ride. On our 2nd day, we used Patrick again for his 4X4 tour. He is very knowledgable about his island, and very personable. We went to 3 different lookout areas to overlook the lagoons, and they were beautiful.
On Raiatea, we did the tour with Bruno. Bruno required a $20. pp deposit ahead of time, and he can take 12 persons. He had actually booked 14 persons from our ship but everyone fit in the boat without a problem. He has broken English. His tour goes around Tahaa, with a drift snorkeling (if you are not experienced snorkelers and GOOD swimmers, I would skip this part, or you will get all cut up from the coral, happened to lots of the passengers on our cruise), then tour a vanilla farm, pearl farm and have a motu picnic lunch. The day was very nice.
On Moorea, we rented a car and drove the island. We stopped at the Intercontinental Hotel for a while, and they have very good shopping at their little table inside their reception area if you would like some trinkets of black pearls. They had some that were only $6.00, the best price I saw on the island, and I didn't get any and was mad I didn't. Then we went over to the Soffitel hotel and had a couple drinks there. Walked the beach. Also took a tour of their over water bungolows.
On the island of Tahiti, we booked a 4X4 tour with Patrick Coridier: We did the full day, and it was way too long. Patrick is very knowledgable, but was a little too much like a professor and his information sessions seemed more like a lecture, with questions at the end. The island of Tahiti wasn't what I had imagined it would be, very commercialized, heavy traffic, dirty city, lots of people. We didn't see many pretty beaches. If I would go back, I would rent a car, and just drive on our own here.
For Nuku Hiva, the ship doesn't offer any type of tours. We usually don't book with the ship. I had gotten info from 2 different tours: firstname.lastname@example.org the tour we had done. It was a 7 hr. tour in AC SUV's. There were 30 people total, and we had 8 vehicles, locals driving, and only 3 of them spoke English. We would get out at various places for overlooks and pictures, and the English guides would tell us about the island. We stopped at 2 archeological sites, a beach area, and had lunch on the other side of the island, very good. It was a very good day to see the island and how laid back they are. The other tour guide is Jocelyn: email@example.com We didn't use her, but she has several tours available, some only a 1/2 day. If you don't book anything before you get there, take the first tender over, and there will be a couple tours available, and a couple cars to rent. Not much, so you must be first ones there to get something.
Shopping The best shopping in Hawaii is the International Marketplace. I purchased a hawaiian dress, a beach coverup, and a 24" surfboard with a hawaiian painting on. Everything is very reasonable here. For the French Polynesian islands, everything is very expensive. There are little shops in Viatape, Bora Bora that are very reasonable, lots of little places at the boat dock in Moorea (they will bargain there), but things are very expensive. Not sure what you would be looking for.
The Cruise As for the cruise itself, we took too many clothes. Too many for chilly weather. On Formal nights, there were lots of tuxedos, and many gowns. We had 6 formal nights. They have the self service laundromat. The cost is $2. wash, $1. dry. The dryers took forever. There were many older passengers, (avg. age was 75). DH is 52, and I am 49, but there were others in our age range. The ship offered "Happy Hour" each day from 4:30 to 5:30, 2 for 1 house brand drinks. We also spent most of our afternoons here meeting many new friends.
The ship will have entertainers from the local islands come on and do shows. They were VERY GOOD. Be sure NOT TO MISS them. The "children of Raiatea" performed and it was so good watching the little children dance. The show in Tahiti was also excellent. The entertainment on the ship was also very good. The exception was the singer from the HAL band, Jenny. She wasn't very good. There was music for a couple sailaway parties from Hawaii (Kauai, our last stop, and Moorea, our last island).
The ship offered lectures by a stargazer and a couple others about the islands but we didn't have time to go to them. We enjoyed many sea days lounging by the pool. On port days, we spent most of the time on shore.
The ship photographers were not very good. We have so many photos from previous cruises, we didn't get that many taken. The price was very high, $14.95 per sheet. I took over 1,000 photos myself and will choose from those.
The food was quite good. We had open seating for dinner. Most nights, we went between 6:30 and 7:00, and never had a wait. We did sit with other passengers. Several times, we would meet our new friends at the dining room, and go in together and be seated at the same table. The one place HAL is lacking is their desserts. They look very good, but are missing the great taste. For breakfast, we ate in the Lido. Lunch was either in the Lido or the Terrace Grill. They had very tasty burgers, and great nacho chips. We did go to the Pinnacle Grille for lunch (I won this from the Blue Ball dance from HAL) The food was just ok, as our steaks were dry (DH ordered med. rare, and mine med). We didn't complain, as we weren't paying anyway. HAL did have a chocolate extravaganza towards the end of the cruise. It was really nice to look at, but we only got a couple choco. covered strawberries. That was enough. There was a large variety to choose from, and we never tired of the food, as we tried not to overindulge since we had so many days to try many different types of food.
We did do a couple behind the scenes tours. There was a kitchen galley tour, not very long though. Behind the scenes of the stage for the production show where we saw the dressing rooms in the back of the stage area. We also took a tour of the storage area on deck 3. We saw the freezers, coolers and storage for the dry foods. They have a coffin room that will hold 4 bodies, but we didn't get to see it.
There was a medical emergency the evening we left Moorea. Someone had heart problems, so about 10:00PM, the ship headed back to Tahiti to drop off the person, and we were on our way again just after midnight. Not sure who they were or what the outcome was. There were a few passengers that got off in Tahiti for medical reasons. We had heard several had pneamonia, and with the long trip at sea back, the ship doctor felt their health was not well enough for all the sea dsys.
We did not get the College Bowl games, so DH was not happy about missing Ohio State play on our fist sea day. We did however get to watch the Superbowl. It was live, but we were not able to see the commercials, and that is what I like to watch. They had a Superbowl party for the afternoon, with wings, hamburgers, hotdogs, and sides. It was very nice, and they used a big screen in the Vermeer Lounge for this.
Overall, this has been our best cruise to date. We met many new friends, and had a very relaxing cruise. We would like to see HAL reverse the itinerary, and go to the French Polynesian Islands first, then to Hawaii. We would definitely consider this cruise again. I don't think I can go on just a 7 night cruise anymore. Yes, I am now very spoiled by this cruise!
Our very first cruise and because of reputation, we decided to do a seven day inside passage cruise to Alaska.
Without any hesitation, we can say that it was the best vacation of our lives. The room (verandah), the food, the entertainment, the staff, everything was absolutely perfect.
Every single crew member was totally devoted to making sure that our vacation was perfect and their attitude was absolutely outstanding.
We understand that these cruise lines have been doing this for a long time and should be well organized......but experiencing it first hand was such a treat.
Thank you Holland America -- you gave us the vacation of a lifetime and we really appreciate it.
Don't know if we can afford to do it again next year, but we are sure going to try.
We know that there are bigger, newer ships doing this cruise, but if you are looking to be totally pampered, the Holland America Ryndam inside passage cruise is for you!
We sailed with the Ryndam to Mexico on a seven-day cruise over Christmas 2007. The cruise departed from San Diego. We are first-time cruisers, and we are a gay couple in our 40s. Overall, we had a very pleasant experience.
The ship exceeded our expectations; it was clean and well maintained. Our verandah stateroom on deck 9 turned out to be much nicer than the room we stayed in while in San Diego at the Westin. We were very impressed.
The white-glove style service aboard was impeccable, and both crew and staff were friendly and attentive. The cruise director, Michelle, was high energy and charming, and made an effort to remember your name.
The food in the Lido cafeteria was good, but tasted and smelled like cafeteria food. I disliked the self-service aspect of the cafeteria, as many people chose not to sanitize their hands prior to handling the serving-ware. The taco bar next to the pool was a bit odd -- who puts chopped dill pickles on a taco?
The food in the main dining room was varied and of exceptional quality. About halfway through the cruise, we decided to eat all lunchesand dinners in the main dining room because the quality of the food seemed so much better, and because the ambience of the main dining room was so much more pleasant than the Lido.
We chose the open dining option, and dined with others most nights. We found open dining to be pleasant overall, even though the thought of dining with a different set of strangers each night was initially uninviting. We had an exceptional dining companion the last night, and meeting and talking with her turned out to be a highlight of our cruise.
David Deebles, a juggler and comedian, was the highlight of the professional entertainment aboard our cruise. He was funny, and his show was the most consistent on board. Bruce Block, magician and comedian, was amusing, although some of his act was a bit uninspired. His rabbit is hilarious and very funny. Janine Gardner gave a brief and awkward comedy show the first night and never reappeared. Although a few members of the cast seemed to have some talent, overall, the cast of the Ryndam was awful -- their material was cheesy and they performed much of it off-key and with a lack of grace. The "Club Nevada" show was a collection of random songs crammed together in a medley -- a Barbra Streisand lookalike rendition of "People" only made me wish they would ban that song. The four-person Filipino band in the Ocean Bar was excellent as long as only one singer sang. When they sang harmony, though, it was anything but harmonious. Their renditions of Willie Nelson songs were amazing, as they get even the accent perfect. They were the best band onboard. The Indonesian crew show was another highlight. It included a very well-done traditional costumed dance, and some fun group performances by the male crew. The group performances were not professional caliber, but were very enjoyable all the same because of how much fun the crew seemed to be having. The MC of the show was hilarious! Highly recommended and appreciated.
Having little experience of Mexico, our first port of call (Puerto Vallarta) was a shock. When I opened the verandah door as we docked, I was greeted by a very thick smog of car fumes and wood smoke. While the Malecon was pleasant to walk along, the town itself felt decrepit, noisy, and dirty.
Mazatlan was the second port, and proved a little more interesting. Although it was equally dirty and decrepit, we walked from the port to the historic center through the neighborhoods without any problem, something most passengers avoid. We toured the center, the market, and the cathedral pretty quickly as that is about all there is of interest, and then we fled to the Zona Dorada in a taxi. The Zona Dorada was as nice as many older American beach resorts. We did wander inland a few blocks and toured through a middle-class neighborhood that was nice and pleasant, and distinctly Mexican.
The only thing of interest in Los Cabos, our third port, was the beach. If you don't plan on going ashore to lay on the beach, you should book a shore excursion of some sort.
Ours was a Christmas cruise. There seemed to be lots of retirees with multiple cruises under their belts, lots of family groups (three generations) with small children, and lots of dutiful adult children taking their elderly parents on a cruise. The average age seemed very high.
If you're booked on the Ryndam and are in Cabin 348--CANCEL! I'd also strongly urge anyone booked in cabins 346 and 350 to cancel. Though it doesn't appear on HAL's deck plans, there is a large storage closet directly above cabin 348. It's used by the art auction people who don't work for HAL, so they ignore anything the Ryndam's staff tells them. My experience: the first night out, starting about 12:30 A.M. (after midnight), I was awakened by an extremely LOUD THUD. Then I heard the shuffling of feet. On HAL's deck plans, a wine tasting area is supposedly over cabin 348 so I thought that it being the first night, cases of wine were literally being dumped in that area and that it would be a one time deal. The work continued for almost an hour. The next morning starting at 5:30 A.M., the same loud THUDS started again. To make a long story short, I went to the Front Desk and one of the people there said that she'd look into the matter and get back to me. She did--and explained that those noises would continue throughoutthe cruise. She asked if I wanted to move to another cabin (the ship wasn't sold out) which I did. The cabin I was moved to had a very tricky thermostat--sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't.
I've sailed on HAL five times before this, so I was expecting a much nicer cruise experience. But, HAL is "transferring" the Ryndam to P&O cruises in November, so nothing much beyond vacuuming and dusting is being done. And this ship is desperately in need to a total renovation. That won't occur, at least not until after P&O takes over--if then.
I ate in the main dining room every night and though the food was tasty, the selections were extremely limited. Also, HAL has significantly cut back on the number of waiters and their assistants resulting in S-L-O-W service.
On the plus side, the entertainers in the bars and in the main show room were mostly enjoyable. The jazz trio--The Neptunes--that plays in the Ocean Bar is excellent. The cruise staff was very friendly and always had the time for a quick chat.
Based on my experience on the Ryndam, I canceled a three week cruise on the Oosterdam this coming November. It's too bad that HAL has let the Ryndam physically to become so outdated.
For the same money, you can find similar itineraries on other cruise lines. I no longer consider HAL to be an "upscale" cruise line.
We took the Ryndam on a 14 day cruise of the Baltic hitting St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Tallinn, Rostock, Copenhagen, and Aarhus, the typical ports. First let me briefly mention the ports. St. Petersburg was overwhelming. We took a two day tour as you can't go out on your own without a visa, which we didn't want to do. Good choice. I would never go out into St. Petersburg on my own, not because of safety but because it is so large and there is so much to see. We were exhausted after the two day tour but it was worth every penny. The other ports are fantastic and don't need any hype. We were surprised by Estonia as it was a delightful place and the historic area was a photographers delight. Let me add that we have been on almost 20 cruises and rank this overall as one of our best and favorite. It was nice not stopping in third world countries. In fact the quality of life is much higher in most of the countries we visited than it is in the United States, but the prices aremuch higher also. Bottom line, we bought very little to bring home. Overall though, you just can't beat these ports. As a seasoned cruiser I want to focus this review on the Ryndam. We loved the ship.
When we arrived at Dover I was surprised by how small the Ryndam was. Our last three cruises have been on ships that are in the 130,000 ton range and the Ryndam is less than half that size. That is what made it so great. We walked down one deck to our dining room. We walked down one deck to the balcony of the theatre. We walked up two decks to the buffet and the pool. Everything else was in that 3-4 deck span. With only about 1200 passengers we never felt crowded, anywhere. Even in the buffet at peak times we could always find a place to sit. The passengers on the ship were mostly Americans, Canadians, Brits, and Aussies. There are nationalities that I don't like cruising with because they are pushy and rude. This combination was great. If there were open seats at your table people would just join you, a very friendly group. Holland American caters to an older crowd. I'm 69 and felt I was below the mean age. Maybe that is why the passengers were so relaxed and friendly. Back to the ship.
The food was very good and we had a nice variety. The hamburgers were they best we have ever had. They take your order and give you a buzzer so you can get it when it is done. They are smashed on the griddle and are just fantastic. They don't sit in a pile in a pan for a couple hours. The dining room menu was quite good and it seemed the portions were a little smaller which is perfect for a bunch of seniors. You can always order an extra meal which I did when I had the lamb chops. The service was as good as it gets, ship wide. The Captain lives in the Seattle area and was highly visible. His explanations of what was happening were clear and understandable. In Stockholm we anchored in the harbor and during the afternoon there was a brief microburst type storm that started pushing the ship harder than the anchors and side thrusters could handle which required a tug boat. He clearly explained the situation and we moved to a dock about 1/4 mile from where we were anchored. He also shared that this was the first time he had sailed these waters so it was a new adventure. We shared that adventure and had 100% confidence in his ability.
There were two other couples at our dinner table and they both booked another cruise on the Ryndam with the on-ship salesperson. We were told the ship would be in service only one more season and then would be retired. Running the smaller ship with older technology was not cost effective. My wife and I are looking at where we can squeeze in another cruise on the Ryndam before she leaves service.
So, what are the negatives? Small ship, so the entertainment cast isn't large so don't expect extravagant major productions. However, the individual acts they brought on were very good and well appreciated. hey do three shows most nights so the shows are only 45 minutes long, but that was OK with everyone. That's about all I can say negative. I hope they don't let it get to worn out by the end of its run, but right now I would rank it in our top three favorite ships.
If you want a great cruise experience, take the Ryndam, anywhere it goes. Glitz? No. Excitement and energy? LOL. Lavish entertainment? No. Non-stop excitement? NO. It was just a relaxing, uncrowded cruise with a great staff. Try and sale this ship before she goes. This type of cruise experience is being lost to the mega ships. Experience it before it is gone.
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.
We boarded the ship at 11:00 a.m. and our cabin was already ready. Ryndam belongs to the Statendam-class of ships, noted for its exceptionally well-designed cabins. Our outside cabin (no.728), 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. Thestateroom 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.
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 touch was the fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning.
A nice treat was also the Indonesian Tea held in the Main dining room.
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.
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 flower displays 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.
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.
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 â€˜Travel Leisureâ€™. 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.
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: â€˜A signature of Excellenceâ€™ indeed. We would fully recommend them and we are looking forward to return.
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.
Since I am working from both my faulty memory and a journal you may notice both present and past tense being used. Please bear with me. This will be sort of long so I try to keep the parts separate. Hope you enjoy.
Saturday, January 5 -- IT NEVER RAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA? We drove from Scottsdale to San Diego in a one way Avis rental car. We made unbelieveably good time even though as soon as we crossed the San Bernardino Mountains we hit rain, wind and clouds. With the hour we gained, we hit downtown San Diego at 8:30am. Thank goodness we arranged for early check in.
We settled into our bayview room at 9:00am. The Oosterdam was in port and she looks huge and magnificient in the rain. We ducked across the street to Anthonys Restaurant during a lull in the rain. They serve a pesto butter there for the bread that is divine. The NE Clam Chowder is pretty darn good too.
There are tons of people in the lobby and it turns out the Oosterdam had the norovirus on board and due to specialized cleaning won't allowany boarding until 4PM. With the rain pouring down that doesn't leave much for the folks who had to check out to do.
Those of our CC group who stayed at the same hotel had a preliminary meet and greet at the Elephant & Castle Pub located in the Holiday Inn. We were there, Cathy and Carol, Elizabeth & Terry, and Janice and Jo showed up. We had a few drinks and got to know each other a little bit. We ladies admired each other's shoes and a good time was had by all.
Sunday, January 6 -- ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM We awakened at 4:30AM and watched the Dawn Princess arrive at 6AM. The lovely Ryndam arrived at 6:45. It was still very nasty, rainy and windy. We watched from our window as two crewman climbed up over the Crows Nest area and removed the Christmas tree. Drinking hot drinks and feeling toasty in our room we felt sorry for those two guys out there in the wet and the cold.
Amazingly the weather broke about 10AM enabling us to pull our luggage across the street. We entered the terminal at 10:10 and were in the Lido at 11AM. They checked our luggage for us and we were off to meet old friends. Our rooms were ready by 1:30 and we had the obligatory fire drill at 4:15. Due to the weather there wasn't much of a sail away party going on. The ship was rocking and rolling and the "barf bags" made their first debut by the elevators.
I had early traditional early seating upper at 5:45 at table 303, a table for 10. I explained that I am not there every single night as I sometimes eat with my DH who always eats in the Lido. My tablemates were understanding and gracious.
Monday, January 7 -- LITTLE GREEN MEN Oh my, wonderfully rough, high seas. High winds, rain, cold and fog -- a great first night aboard! The casino here has started something new. The slot machines are open 24 hours a day. If you need assistance with your machine you just fill out a paper, drop it in the box and they deal with it when the cage opens at 9:00AM. It worked very well and gave us something to do at 5AM since it was too cold to go outside.
When we went up to the Lido for breakfast we noticed an awful lot of green people with sea sickness. Having never experienced that particular malady I feel sorry for them without understanding how it can happen.
Our CC meet and greet was a great success. The ship provided coffee, tea, cookies and someone to serve them. 25 of our roll call showed up although a few were down with the "greenies." Our guests from the staff were Carol Lagmay, purser; David Woods, culinary manager; and Michelle Worthley our CD.
We had a little Q&A and all got to know each other. Many of us have booked the same excursions both privately and through the ship. We agreed to hold another get together about half way through the cruise. Thanks to Joe (Clyde3) for the wonderful name tags he made for all of us.
The show was Club Nevada performed beautifully by the very talented cast of the Ryndam. The featured vocalists Christopher Zenner and Beth Purvis. The second leads Joshua Switzer and Jennifer Quail. They are very, very good. The dancers, Katie Wendleton, Calli Freyschlag-Parker, Tiffany Jones, Julianne Wessely, Omar Felix and Chip Nash. A well practiced team that provided excellent entertainment.
The first formal night dinner was excellent with many choices. I choose the surf and turf. Later in the evening I sat with friends on the staff and we were joined by the comedienne Janine Turner and singer Paul Emmannuel. We had a good evening and lots of laughs. They are both very talented people.
There are five sea days between San Diego and Hilo. We had some wonderful lectures by Donna Giesler (The Star Lady), Charlie Urbanowicz (Professor Emeritus in Anthropology at California State University), Dan Ostler (Biophysics University of Waterloo, and married to the lovely Star Lady).
For entertainment we had the funny and lovely Janine Turner, swing clarinetist Larry "Link" Linkin, the comedy and magic of Bruce Block and vocal stylings of Paul Emmanuel. I've seen the first two before and throughly enjoyed seeing all of them. I liked the timing of the shows 6:30 and 8:30 for the most part.
The band in the Ocean Bar Yu4 is wonderful and we have sailed with them before also. The pianist Donald in the Crows Nest was excellent and late at night he would sometimes make up the most hilarious lyrics to commonly known tunes. Darlene and the HalCats performed in various venues throughout the cruise.
Friday, January 11 -- HILO, HAWAII (WHERE IS THE SUN???) We arrived in Hilo and it was still raining. Since we had no tours planned in Hawaii at all we boarded the bus to Walmart with our friend Connie while her DH Rick went to see the volcano. We visited with a friend of ours Leona who owns Lins Lei Shop in the terminal. Later we took the bus to Hilo Hatties and purchased some island wear. One sort of has to you know.
Just as an aside this was our 8th trip to Hawaii and we didn't plan any excursions because we have already done so many and wanted to save it for French Polynesia so to speak. The weather in Hawaii way way too cold for us to go swimming while we were there.
It was Hawaiian night on board and everyone was sporting their island clothing. Very colorful night. It was also the night of the "VIP" party. We had received our invitation so after a very good dinner we attended the party. It was held in the Hudson Room, one of those rooms just past the Wajang Theater.
There were about 40 people there plus the officers. I had a couple of Lemon Drops and DH had some Sprite. We munched a few appetizers but having just had dinner weren't really hungry. There was a nice spread for those who hadn't dined yet. After the party I went up to the CN and hung out with some friends from the cast that I have sailed with before. We had a few cocktails and talked for awhile while Darlene and the HalCats performed.
The sail past Kilauea Volcano was a real bust. It was so cloudy and rainy you could barely make out a dull glow in the distance. It was a real shame for those that have never seen it really pouring out the lava in her full glory. It is a stunning sight when she shows her stuff.
Saturday, January 12 -- KONA, HAWAII (CHEAP IS STILL CHEAP) Today was a very sad day for us. We went to visit a friend of ours who resides in Kona as a working artist and discovered he had been overtaken by a swift and virulent cancer. We spoke on the phone with his widow and didn't stay very long in town at all.
I did go in and talk with the Beverage Manager about arranging some glasses and cheese and crackers or something for our CC get together on Jan 19. We appeared to have worked it all out when the Culinary Manager came into the office and advised me that they would be happy to accommodate me but they would send me a bill. Astounded I said "Excuse me, a bill? For what?" I was advised that they no longer provide food for free for private parties. We're talking 30 or so people, c'mon, some cheese and crackers would kill 'em?? I was not a happy camper when I left the office and am not certain how we will handle the get together now.
Sunday, January 13 -- LAHAINA, MAUI (ARE WE THERE YET??) We got up early and grabbed our snorkel gear. Connie and Rick rented a car and have invited us to join them for a day at the beach. We tendered into shore and soon the rental car agency van showed up. We got the rental car and headed out for a spot a friend of Rick's had told him about. We drove through some of the most beautiful scenery looking for Hanalua Bay. We took the highway until we ran out of road. Then we took the scenic route. We were on the side of a large hill, small mountain, whatever; and could see the shoreline below us. Eventually we found out where the place was. We arrived there and found the rain and wind were so bad that the only folks in the water were the surfers with wet suits. So, we went to Whalers Village where we did some shopping and had a nice lunch. Then we returned to the ship. Later that evening DH and I went back on shore to Bubba Gumps where we had some of the best food. Those HushPups are pretty darn good.
Meantime on the Lido deck they had the BarBQ and the local Hawaiian Dance Troup performing. I really think they should hold these kinds of shows in the main show lounge. Only the very few folks in the very front could see the show because everyone starting standing up to take pictures. We finally gave up on trying to see the show. They showed the movie "The Holiday" in the show lounge. Later in the evening the Indonesian Crew show was held. They are great and work so hard to bring us this entertainment after performing their regular duties all day.
Monday & Tuesday, January 14 & 15 -- HONOLULU, HAWAII (MALLS ARE THE SAME EVERYWHERE) We got the good dock at Aloha Towers. We waited until the crowds were off and then walked off to take a look around. Not much has changed since our last visit. We went over to the kiosk a friend of ours Trin owns and said hello. Then we just walked around through the mall and looked through the windows as not much was open yet.
There are a ton of wonderful things to do in Honolulu. We did none of them this time around. We did hop on the Bus and go to Ala Moana shopping center. DH wanted to go to Reyn's and get a good Aloha shirt. We wandered around there for awhile and then headed back to the ship. The entertainment Monday was the movie Blue Hawaii in the show lounge and the harmonica stylings of Bernie Fields. Not my cup of tea but many thought he was excellent.
Wednesday, January 16 -- NAWILIWILI, KAUAI HAWAII (THE PARTY IS ON! A CHEESE PLATE BY ANY OTHER NAME) After discussing it DH and I decided to just get our own stuff for the CC get together. We went up to Walmart and bought all kinds of good nuts, chips, dips, salsa and etc. We also picked up some invitations to send out. We took the shuttle to Hilo Hatties and got dropped off at Anchor Cove shopping center. We wandered around for a bit and then back to the ship.
We sat at the desks in the promanade deck area and filled out the invitations. We decided since HAL was being so chintzy on the cheese and cracker thing we would ask each cabin to bring a cheese plate from room service. There is more than one way to skin a cat! Then DH and I split up the floors and took off to deliver our invites. Since the management was being stuffy we decided we didn't want any stuffies at our party. So, we invited the entire cast, and some of the event staff that we liked. Our favorite waitress Katherine agreed to come in her spare time and pour, etc. We asked everyone to bring a dollar or two to tip her.
It stayed windy, rainy and chilly throughout our visit to the Hawaiian Islands. They are just as enticing and lovely as always, however this time as we sail away from Paradise, another, more beautiful Paradise is whispering our names. We are heading South, towards adventure, sea, sun and fun in TAHITI!
Up next, French Polynesia!!
FRENCH POLYNESIA -- IS THAT A WHALE? There are five sea days between Hawaii and the first port in French Polynesia. They were filled with many activities and games that I won't bore you with.
We did see a lot of sea life on this cruise. Lots of flying fish, a whale or two and dolphins playing hide and seek in the waves.
The ship is in very good shape. She is elegant, clean and well cared for. With simply tons of lovely antiques and classy decor she reeks of money well spent in her recent dry dock. One point and a personal opinion, I think money could have been spent on better places the the huge spa upgrades, the extension on the spa took a great deal away from the lovely views from the Crows Nest.
The crew abound with energy and graciousness. They are happy with their management on this particular ship and it shows. The service was quick, efficient and obtained with a smile. A genuine smile.
Their were two guest chefs on this cruise Chris Constatino and Lon Symensma. They did demonstations in the culinary arts room (Wajang Theater) and I enjoyed them. There were also demonstrations by the Excutive Chef Andreas Bruenett, and the Pinnacle Chef Ani. There was also a recipe contest for the guests. I covered that quite extensively in the thread "The Great Ryndam Recipe Contest."
Another particular joy on this cruise were the two florists they brought on board in Honolulu to stay on for the balance of the cruise. These two gentlemen were amazingly creative and talented. We took great pleasure in finding the beautiful and cunningly made arrangements throughout the ship. They did indeed greatly increase the pleasure we took in being on this ship.
During our sea days we were entertained by coffee chats with the officers and entertainers. The cast performed "Street Singin'" which was mostly hits of the 50's and 60's. Very well done and I enjoyed it very much.
Also to entertain us we had the vocal stylings of Annie Francis, the comedy of violinist Chris Pendleton, the musical artistry of pianist Paul Pappas, and opera singer John D. Smitherman.
The Master of the Ship was Captain Maurits Groothuis, Hotel Manager was Ceese Tesselaar, and the CD was Michelle Worthley. We travelled a total of 8,979 nautical miles on this cruise.
January 19 -- CROSSING THE EQUATOR (WHERE'S THE &$#&()_ !@ FISH!!!) The day dawned overcast with a moderate breeze. We knew the ship had planned a biggish ceremony to ask the permission of King Neptune for the Ryndam and all the souls upon her to cross into his domain. Early in the day they started setting up chairs around the aft pool on the Navigation deck. As this is where all the smokers go to sit there were a few logistical problems. We found ourselves seats early and held on for dear life. With about 15 minutes to go before the official start of the ceremony there is not a seat to be had. Everyone has moved the chairs that were so carefully placed earlier in the day. Those of us who were up front are no longer up front but somewhere in the back of the bar they set up. Oh well, at least the bar will keep others from moving their chairs there. The stairwells are full of people standing with their drinks in hand awaiting the ceremony.
Suddenly, there he is -- King Neptune in full costume -- escorted to his throne by several lovely mermaids. Now begins the dirge, Dum, dum, dum, dum de dum dum dum dum dum. . . Pirates in full regalia lead prisoners in chains to the caged area set aside for the poor, demented shellbacks. They (persons on the staff and crew who have never crossed the equator before) are led one by one to kneel before Neptune and beg for his mercy. Their first horrid punishment is to kiss the fish. But wait, where is the magnificent fish meant to be kissed and caressed on this momentuous occasion? Well, according to friends in the kitchen some poor nameless cook's helper forgot to purchase it in Honolulu. What to do?? They found the largest fish in the freezer, already beheaded and gutted and used that for the prisoners to kiss. Poor King Neptune, that is certainly why he was in a bad mood and had no mercy to spare for the prisoners. They were drenched with ice water and then doused all over with foul smelling liquids and noxious solid wastes from the bowels of the kitchens. One poor wretch was heard to scream out "Tell my mother I love her. . ." So sad.
Once everyone was punished properly they were allowed to jump into the aft pool and clean off somewhat. Someone did manage to accidently push the Cruise Director into the pool also, too bad.
Picture opportunities with the poor fish were also available.
In just three more days we arrive in Raiatea, Tahiti.
January 22 -- RAIATEA (L'EXCURSION BELUE) We arrived in Raiatea about 7:30am. There is an amazing phenonmenon in the islands called l'huere belue (pardon the atrocious spelling of the French). It is the hour before dawn and sunset where everything appears colored in shades of blue. The clouds lowering over the mountain tops, the mist in the air, the ocean all varigated shades of blue. It was so still, so beautiful, so perfect. Then as the sun begins to rise, there, off the port side, dolphins escorting our ship into the lovely harbor.
When the sun rises one can see the amazing greeness of the islands. So bright and beautiful it hurts your eyes to look at it too long. Once it is daylight one can see the totally gorgeous shade of blue and green and white and turquoise in the water. There must be 200 shades between dark green and light blue and you can see every one of them here in the islands. I don't believe I have ever seen such sheer beauty as one can see here.
NO ONE SAID IT WAS A NUDE SNORKEL Along with several others in the CC group we prebooked a private tour with Bruno. We were dressed in our suits with our snorkel gear to the ready. We arrived at the boat just a little walk away from the dock at 9am. We all got situated under the awning on the dock to avoid the rain that was coming down quite heavily. Bruno informed us that due to the heavy seas we would be doing our tour in a different order than originally planned. There were 10 of us from the CC group and 4 others from hotels in the area. We met a very nice couple from the Czech republic. The wife spoke perfect English and we got along very well as they told us all about life in the Czech Republic. Apparently they have very few body taboos in their country although I must admit to being just the tiniest bit shocked when they stipped to the buff to put on their suits right there in their seats. I thought DH's eyes would fall right out of his head.
First we went to the pearl farm which was very interesting. We listened to a lengthy explaination of how they seed the oysters and then we were able to watch them do it. Pretty cool stuff. After that we went to the pearl store. The prices were prohibitive and I don't believe anyone bought anything there.
Next we went to a private motu (a motu is a small islet). There were fenced off areas around the shoreline. Inside one were black tipped reef sharks, turtles in another, and yet another filled with poisonous and dangerous fish. Bruno went into the water there and pulled up huge puffer fishes so we could take pix. He also pulled up some giant living conchs and other shellfish. They were beautiful.
The waves were so bad due to the weather that we were unable to swim in the surf and had to content ourselves with snorkeling in the protected cove. We did see a lot of colorful fish and tons of sea cucumbers. After about an hour and a half we were called in for lunch. It was wonderful. There were fresh cooked marlin fish fritters so delicious, poisson cru (the famous local dish), coconut bread, bar bq fish and chicken, rum punch and several types of wine. We had a marvelous time and everyone ate well.
After lunch we left in the boat and went to the drift snorkel in the coral gardens. We had looked forward to this part of the excursion the most. Unfortunately we didn't know that we would have to walk over half a mile against the current in the water. DH is disabled and found this to be too much for him to handle. So, we only walked part of the way and then drifted on back to the boat. It was very pretty there. We had a wonderful time and would highly recommend this excursion to anyone who likes to snorkel.
Later in the day at 4:45 the ship offered the Children of Raiatea, a local cultural show, pier side. I must say here that I wish they would limit the shows to the show lounge. By having this show portside we were unable to see any of it. The pax were lined so thickly along the promenade deck that one couldn't get close to the rails to see anything. The CN was too high to see anything from either. It was very disappointing.
All in all it was a wonderful day in Raiatea.
January 23 -- BORA BORA (AHHHHHH TAHA'A) Bora Bora is part of Taha'a in the Society Islands. As we pull into our anchoring position in the 'Rade de Viatape' we are greeted by such stunning, lucious beauty. The lush green volcanic peaks of Mt. Pahui and Mt Opanumu, and the crystal clear lagoon with sparkling coral peeking from the depths is a saturation of the senses. The sight of the mountains, the taste of the salt air, the sound of the waves breaking on the reef, the touch of a silken breeze caressing the skin, we are truly in paradise.
This is the first of two days we will be here in Bora Bora. We had made plans with our friends Rick and Connie to spend the day at the beach. We let all the tours get off the ship first and then we grabbed our gear and off we went. We took "Le Truck" (which has gone up from $3pp to $5pp one way) after checking with the driver that she could take us to the Bora Bora Beach Resort. We have been there before and it has a magnificent beach with a reef right there for snorkeling. The 'bus' took us to the Intercontinental Hotel and the driver refused to take us further. Needless to say we weren't very happy but there wasn't much we could do about it. So the four of us got off there and went to go through the hotel lobby to the beach. Rick went to find out about things and came back and advised us that they wanted $65 pp to use their beach. Of course, this included lunch and a glass of wine wheather we wanted it or not. Refusing to knuckle under to that ridiculous price we walked across the street to Matira Beach. It is a very nice beach. There is a large covered ramada although there are no tables there for a picnic. The beach is mostly shell and water shoes are a necessity. The water was clear and lovely and warm, however it is not deep. One can walk out at least half a mile and the water is only chest deep. If you do make the effort to walk out you may be rewarded with the sight of lovely sting rays dancing in the water. We were.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES There were a few people who tried to cut through private property instead of walking around to the entrance to the beach. One family had two dogs in their backyard who let it be known far and wide they were protecting what was theirs. One elderly man cut through and then started throwing rocks at the dogs for barking. When he finally got near to us I told him he should be ashamed of himself. He asked why and I told him he had no right to attack dogs on private property upon which he was trepassing. He asked me if I owned the property. I answered in the negative and he advised me it wasn't any of my business then, was it? Arrrggghh!!!
It had been threatening to rain all day so when it started we decided to head on back to the ship for lunch.
A PRIVATE DINNER OK, this is mostly hearsay and gossip, Isn't that fun?! The ship arranged an excursion for an exclusive private dinner with a local dance show at $199.00pp We decided not to take advantage of this but had friends who chose to go. Here is what they said. The dinner was on a table out in the open air. When it began to rain, which it did off and on all night, there was no cover of any kind. They did offer lobster and shrimp as advertised but had no sauce or butter to go with them. The food was cold and the entertainment was cut short due to the rain. All in all we were told it was a real dud for the price.
There was dancing under the stars in the Lido with the roof open late tonight. It didn't work very well with all the rain. They gave it a good try though. Jim Colson, a banjoist was the entertainment for the evening.
January 24 -- BORA BORA DAY II (CAN YOU SAY JACK SPARROW?) We have a very early snorkel excursion today with Moana Adventures. It is called Snorkel Safari and it was fantastic. We arrived at the boat with several of our CC buddies in tow. Once onboard we were introduced to our crew and the Captain Jack Sparrow. They had some instruments and played and sang native songs for us. We passed a beautiful motu and Jack said that Eddie Murphy had left the day before. Apparently he rented the entire island for two weeks for a wedding. That was no doubt pricey!
Our first snorkel spot was lovely indeed. Fairly shallow water so those who don't snorkel well can have a good time. There were tons of parrot fish, clown fish, angel fish and more. Wrasses and rays, sea cucumbers and more sea urchins than I've ever seen. We stayed in this spot for about an hour and a half.
IF YOU KNEW SUSHI LIKE I KNEW SUSHI. . . Our second spot of the day was like wow dude, totally amazing. We stopped in deep water and off we went into the water. Fish everywhere. The most interesting thing in this spot were the clams, thousands of them. Many of them were actually imbedded deep in the coral but the edges were visable and still alive. I never knew clams could come in so many distinctive colors. There was blue, lavender, turquoise, white, purple and even some red ones. I had no idea and was throughly intrigued. After swimming here for an hour or so we got out to take a breather. Several of the crew then jumped in the water and went clamming. They brought up a basketful of clams then opened and shared them. A little lemon juice and we are talking some really fresh sushi my friends. Some fresh pineapple made an appearance and we had a little feast before we returned to the ship. It was a great adventure and we would highly recommend it.
We stopped in "town" and I picked up the french perfume I didn't get last time. It sure smells nice. We did a little shopping and then back on the ship.
Tonight's entertainment is the comedy and magic of John Ekin. We choose to go out late with the Star Lady and find the Southern Cross. Her lectures are really interesting and DH was able to pick the cross out for himself the next night. The sailaway party was nice and Darlene and the Halcats play very well.
We will call it a night early as tomorrow we arrive in Papeete, Tahiti and it will be a busy day.
January 25 -- PAPEETE, TAHITI (WHERE'S THE BEACH?!?!) Perhaps the strangest thing about Papeete, the territorial capital of French Polynesia, is that there are no beaches there. Really. Truly lovely beachs can be found on the many motus (islets) that surround Papeete. Pape = water, Ete = bowl or bucket. The name was derived because the water from the surrounding mountains collects in the bowl created by the volcanoes.
THEY LOOK LIKE THEY'RE LAUGHING We docked in Papeete about 7:30 am. We were once again escorted by dolphins. They were so lovely playing tag amongst the waves. Wonderful isn't it, the way they always look as if they are laughing and having a good time? If there is such a thing a reincarnation wouldn't it be the ultimate cool to come back as a dolphin?
HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE? Our snorkel tour here is an early one and we are up and off the ship in quick time. We walked over to the dock where we picked up our tour boat for the "Tahiti Lagoon Discovery" tour. Once on the boat we looked around and discovered an old friend. Two years ago when we were here our best excursion was the Motu Picnic on Moorea, and the same man that runs that one, Terry, was also running this excusion in Papeete. Small world.
We informed Terry that we would be on his Motu Picnic and Ray Feeding tour in Moorea the next day also. It was pretty cool. They brought guitars and ukelele's and played music all the way out to our snorkel spot.
IF I JUST HAD A LITTLE MORE GAS. . . The first spot was magnificent. Truly it was so gorgeous there. Once in the water we heard a lady yell "there's an airplane down here!" Of course everyone swam over to that area and sure enough there was a small Cessna type plane down about 12-15 feet under the water. The fish had turned it into a home and were quite happily swimming in and out of the windows and doors. Did I mention that the airport was less than a quarter of a mile from our snorkel spot?
The sheer number and species of fish here are innumerable. There are tons of clams in the most unimaginable colors. Who knew? After an hour and a half or so we had to leave our lovely spot and head over to our second snorkel site in shallow water. This might have been a great spot with all the coral but as it was shallow, as soon as more than five people got in the water it was so churned up and cloudy you couldn't see anything. It didn't matter, the first place was so spectacular.
THIS IS ONE STOP SHOPPING! We got back to the ship and cleaned up and then headed out for Le Bon Marche'. The marketplace. It is huge. It covers one full city block and has two stories. I needed to find a particular pareo (sarong) for a friend and I found it right away. The bottom floor of the marketplace has the straw market, a wonderful florists area where one can buy beautiful arrangements for $15 to $25 USD. Huge bunches of fresh vanilla perfume the air here. The sibilant sound of French and patois drone in an undertone that is exciting. The fish, vegetables and meat are also on the ground floor. It is fascinating to watch the locals take a machete to a huge fish and just fillet it right in front of you. There was an entire table devoted to different types of bananas and yet another table for plaintains. There were fruits and vegetables I have never seen before and some I never did figure out what they were for. Amazing stuff.
Upstairs are the souveniers, the tatoo parlors, the clothes and the pearls. DH found a local selling handmade coconut and brown sugar candies. They were delicious and he bought a package. We also got some fragrant vanilla beans and a carved wooden Tiki god. It was a great afternoon.
We headed back to the ship for lunch. Tonight is a BBQ on deck followed by dancing under the stars on the Lido poolside. At 9pm was a local show "O Tahiti E," a wonderful performance by a local dance troupe. Tomorrow is another early day as we leave for Moorea at about 5am.
January 26 -- MOOREA (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOT IN THE WORLD) In my opinion (which matters a great deal to me) Moorea is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Mo'o = Yellow, Rea = Lizard. Named after a lizard god of the ancients. Moorea is an extinct vocano.
Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay mark the floor of the ancient crater. A reef encircles the island with a narrow and shallow lagoon. The largely impenetrable interior is covered in dense forests of mape, the gigantic chestnut trees of Polynesia. We dropped anchor about 7:30 am. Once again our snorkel tour is early in the morning.
When we tendered in we went right over to the dock to meet Terry and pick up our boat. This is a hugely popular excursion with close to 200 people on the motu. Apparently the cast and much of the crew were treated to a crew party and luncheon at the same time our tour was there. On the way out our boat lost one of its outboards and we sort of straggled into the motu way behind everyone else. We were very anxious to get to "our" motu. We have been dreaming about doing this again for two years.
ONE FISH TWO FISH, RED FISH BLUE FISH Oh yeah, it is as pristine and gorgeous as we remembered. We splashed off the boat and onto the motu with great anticipation for our upcoming day. We claimed a table in the picnic area, grabbed our snorkel gear and hit the drift area. One walks a block or two up the beach then out into the water. The gentle current sweeps you down over the coral and the fish and back to your starting point. Then you get out and do it all over again. The water here is amazing, body temperature, as is the air outside. The two best things I saw here this trip was a huge school of baby angel fish and a giant moray eel. The eel had his tail between two lumps of coral and his head was leering out, swinging back and forth. It was a scary looking animal. I hung around for awhile until he started coming completely out of his hole and then I booked. No sense taking chances. I fed the sting rays and they climbed up on my lap. It was wonderful.
Later in the afternoon lunch was served. BBQ fish and chicken, rolls, salad, fresh pineapple and coconut that they cut down in front of us, and poisson cru. They had sodas and beer for sale. After a delicious lunch we went back into the water for an hour or two. We talked to the boss about staying an extra hour to make up for arriving late. She called the ship and got permission and about 50 of us chose to stay the extra hour. I boarded the boat back with a broken nail, a sunburn and a few coral scrapes and as happy as I've ever been. It was truly a day in Paradise.
We arrived back at the ship about 4pm. Exhausted, dirty, sand in our hair and our, well you get the picture. The entertainment for the evening was comedian juggler Marcus Raymond. I must admit I walked out of the show totally unimpressed. Of course, I was very tired and that may have colored my judgement. We have two sea days coming up and then our last port (sob) Nuka Hiva!
During the two sea days we had the recipe contest (I covered that in another post), and played some slots.
The black and white ball was held in the show lounge. It was a wonderful dance but I had trouble staying up until 10:15. I stayed for a few dances then left early and went to bed. The officers looked wonderful in their dress whites and the ladies so lovely in their gowns. Our entertainers for the two sea days were Karen Joy Davis, pianist and the Ryndam cast in The Hits of Broadway -- The designs of Bob Mackie. They were both enjoyable.
January 29 -- NUKA HIVA MARQUESAS (NUKA HIVA IS POLYNESIAN FOR "NOTHING HERE") Actually Nuka Hiva is the second largest of the Society Islands and the administrative and economic capital of the Marquesas. As I was still feeling a little off from too much fun in the sun we decided to stay on board in this port. An absolute first for us. And I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that we did.
IS IT CHOREAGRAPHED, DO YOU THINK?? We were just wandering around the promenade deck about 9 in the morning and looking over the sides when we were priveleged to see something so wonderous I still can't believe it.
OK, we're looking off the back of the ship and see something in the water, it comes closer, it is a giant manta ray. We oohed and ahhed and suddenly it is joined by another. They join together in a stately and lovely pas de deux. We admire them and there are four ... wait, no six ... at final count there were eight of them there. They formed a circle and began the most sensuous, graceful, intricate ballet I have ever seen, turning upside down in unison to flash a flirty white belly. They spun, they flipped, they pirouetted in such quiet and graceful beauty we were spellbound. It began to rain and blow but we didn't move. I felt one with nature and the world as I watched the amazing, astounding and lyrical dance of the manta rays.
A'DIEU TO THE ISLANDS OF FRENCH POLYNESIA Because of the rain the sail away party was held in the Crows Nest. It was well attended as everyone gathered to bid a fond farewell to the paradise we had come to love. Now we have 6 sea days back to San Diego. I love sea days.
I PRAY TO DIE AND FEAR I WON'T Well it wasn't the sun that got to me. I caught the nasty cold that has been going around. I wish people would stay in their cabins when they are sick; or at least carry a hankie to cough into. I went to the little gift shop and they were sold out of every remedy they had except aspirin. I spent most of the week in bed. I did drag myself out for the Mariners Brunch which was very nice. That was it. DH attended a dinner party on navigaton deck aft. All the regulars that sit outside every morning decided to have dinner together. After they raided the Lido a few times Antonio broke down and had the food delivered to them. They got tablecloths and candles. The wine flowed, the jokes got ribald. The wind and rain blew but no one cared. They were having too much fun. I know because DH told me all about it when he came back to my sickbed that evening. I hated to miss it but I couldn't be out in the wind and cold as sick as I was.
February 5 -- SAN DIEGO (ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END) We said our sad goodbyes this morning to friends new and old. Exchanged email address and sincere "I'll call you's." We are black two and were called immediately after the express debarkations. We were off the ship and on the freeway in our rental car by 9:30 am. It was truly the cruise of a lifetime and we cannot wait to do this again in September on the Statendam. I hope this little review encourages you to join us.
Okey dokey. Here it is for what it is worth.
Embarkation Was one of the easiest and quickest we've had in awhile. We have always like embarking in San Diego and true to form it was simple and easy. There were three ships in port on the 21st and I did not care for the way they handled the baggage. We had to take it to the space between the two ships and just leave it there. I was concerned it might end up on the wrong ship but no worries. We were through the line and the first ones on the ship in about 20 minutes. We arrived at the terminal about 10:30 am.
Overall Condition of the Ryndam She had just recently come out of drydock and she was freshly painted on the outside and looked beautiful in the San Diego sun. The interior had a few worn spots on furniture and carpet but overall she is still quite lovely. As usual the crew keep her spotlessly clean and shining.
The public rooms are more than comfortable and we were not bothered by smoke in any of thepublic lounges. There was a bit of a lingering smoke smell in the Crows Nest in the early am but nothing we couldn't deal with.
Staff and Crew As always the hotel staff and ships compliment are wonderul, efficient and highly motivated to provide the best of service and comfort for us.
Captain and Master of the Ship: Pieter Jan Van Maurik
Hotel Manager: Ceese Tesselaar
Cruise Director: Drew Murdock
I thank them all for providing a wonderful cruise for us.
Dining and Food OK, here is where it gets just a little bit sticky folks. We booked at the last minute and were given As You Wish Dining. To be perfectly honest it wasn't as bad as I had expected. Others have done a good job of explaining how it works so I won't go into that. Suffice it to say I never saw anyone waiting longer than 5 minutes for a table and those I spoke with were quite happy with the arrangements. For the solo traveler it may be different. My DH isn't normally fond of the main DR and chooses to eat most nights in the Lido. He was impressed that we were able to be seated, order and finish dining in about 45 minutes. However, when I went alone to the DR I was invariably seated with two other couples. They do ask if one wished to be seated with others and it worked out fine for me.
Now, the food. It was extremely disappointing. I don't care for the new menu format at all. It is set out in such a way that you have to read the entire menu. For example there may be two soups listed on page one, but another soup may be listed under the chef's recommendations and yet another listed in the always available section. I found it annoying and just not logical in its format.
The food was blah. It was not bad and not good. It was indifferent, which is worse. I had no trouble finding something I like to eat every night, believe me. It was just that there was rarely anything that jumped out and said Yum. There seem to be fewer appetizers available for the evenings. I used to sometimes make a meal of the appetizers and some soup. For some reason all the desserts tasted the same! It may be I am getting jaded and used to the food, however I was disappointed.
The service in the DR was wonderful as always and the lower DR Host Rachmat was absolutely the best.
The dining in the Lido was quite good and offered more of the same selections as in the main DR than on other cruises. It would seem they are trying to even out so that everything is available everywhere. On the last formal night surf and turf was available in the Lido. DH was very happy The Lido manager Antonio was accomadating and the service was efficient, pleasant and swift.
Entertainment I love the production shows. We had "On Broadway," "Club Nevada" and "Street Singin.' " The cast is a new one and although they haven't quite pulled it together yet, they were good. I do have to say that the production show "Street Singin' " reminded me a lot of the acts that they did in the passenger show called both "Golden Rolldies" and later the "Great Pretenders." Many of the songs and costumes appeared to be the same. Especially shining out was one of the lead male singers Christopher, and two very enthusiastic dancers Chip and Callie. I enjoyed them and look forward to seeing them again in Jan. I know they will be really great together by then.
We also had Bryson Long, comedy/juggler; Janine Gardner, late night comedy (she was a hoot); Jeff Peterson, comedy magician; and Donnie Abraham, Sinatra Martin type impersonator. They were all entertaining and I enjoyed them. The CD Drew put a lot into getting good entertainment and it shows. There were no lecturers or enlightment talks as there used to be. I did miss them. We did have lovely local dancers come aboard in Topolobampo and they were very good.
I am not covering any kind of ports or shore excursions. We have done this trip many times and therefore did not partake of any excursions. In some ports we barely got off the ship. I am pleased to say that there were only two "art" auctions in the ten days we were on and they were poorly attended.
The "night action" in the Crows Nest was great mostly due to Kelly who is an excellent DJ and one of the best activity staffers I have met.
The pianist in the Ocean bar, Alexsander Courtney, was excellent if a bit of a drama queen. The group Meryll and the Halcats left a lot to be desired. Meryll has a wonderful strong operatic voice, not at all suited to the type of music for lounge singing. She should be in the production shows. The regular band U-4 was great. We have sailed with them before and they keep getting better. The HAL orchestra led by Larry was wonderful.
This has gotten longer than I anticipated. We had a wonderful time and fully look forward to spending 30 days on her in January. If I can answer any questions please let me know.