Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Holland America
Sailing Date: May 15th, 2005
Itinerary: Seattle to Seward, Seward to Seattle
This is our 2nd and 3rd time to Alaska as we did a 2 week "back to back" leaving out of Seattle to Seward then returning on the same ship to Seattle one week later. Although the itinery was almost the same up and back, the times were different and the weather was different each way.
This is the 2nd time we have chosen HAL, our first review was posted here for the Amsterdam for 2003. In 2004 we went to Mexico on Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas and that is also posted here on cruisereviews.com.
The Ryndam has had an extensive refitting and it is stunning! Each cruise we take on HAL reaffirms our love of this cruise line. From the stateroom to the dining room, the spa to the library, everything is unbelievably clean and quality everywhere. We can highly recommend this cruise line and this cruise ship for most people.
The average age of HAL cliental is jokingly referred to as "dead"!! It is almost true. We were the among the youngest at 50 and 60 respectfully and that is just fine for us. We both work in "people" businesses and want peace and quiet and NOT to meet new folks and HAL makes this possible.
On the good points:
1. The cabin (oceanview, main deck, center) was wonderful. Plenty of room inside and a nice view outside. We have had inside cabins before and while the outside is nice to have the view we wouldn't mind going back into an interior to save money. We plan on taking a minimum of one cruise a year if not 2 from now on and money is an issue with us. If it is your dream vacation and the only time you will be in Alaska, spring for the balcony rooms. They are definately worth the money. We live in the Pacific NW and plan on Alaska every couple of years so we tend to not care to see the outside while we are in the cabin.
2. The food is great in the dining room and the Lido. We don't do the Pinnacle Grill because of the price cost along with the menu having no Alaskan Crab Legs. This is my only complaint with HAL..we are in Alaska, why not have Alaskan King Crab Legs at least in the Pinnacle Grill for dinner??
There is only the two places other than hot dogs/tacos/pizza stand and room service to get food during the day and night but since they seem to feed you every 2 hours you will not go hungry!! We tended to go to the Lido for dinner more and more as the wait and formality for dinner grows old for us after a while. The Lido food for dinner was superb each and every night and extremely fast.
3. The Exploration Cafe was the place we hung out most of the time...an extensive library/ game room/ computer room, we found ourselves there almost daily to play scrabble, cribbage, dominoes or hearts. We don't use the internet on board finding that we can use it with some research in the ports of calls libraries if we absolutely have to. We never absolutely have to.
4. The spa is wonderful. The facial was on special on the way up and back and I only took advantage of this on the way back on the last day at sea which was a shame. At $25.00 it was a heavenly time and I shalt make that mistake again. next cruise at least twice!! The massages and deep tissue massage is fantastic and not to be missed.
5. The shows are just awful. There is nothing at all good to say about them other than the crew show is decent. The magician is terrible and since he hung out with the young staff on board the Lido deck every afternoon loudly (drunkenly?) we grew tired of him on deck and walked out of his show with many others behind us the night we tried to sit and enjoy ourselves. This is a major problem with HAL and it doesnt seem like they wish to fix it. Its a shame really. WE did see some excellent movies on our flat screen tv in our room (part of the renovation) and in the theatre daily. There are 4 movies a day on TV and they are the same as what is newly available at your local video store. Since my spouse is a tax accountant and we don't see movies from Jan. to April 15th, this gave us a chance to catch what we had missed during tax season.
There are many other reviews telling you the good and bad things about all the ports. I dont intend to bore you with what we did every 10 seconds in every city. If you like and can walk, then walk about Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Skagway, ignoring the endless and boring Diamond International and other jewelry shops that overwhelm each and every port. We took the "blue bus" to Mendenhall Glacier ( $5.00 each way, leaving every 30 minutes from the cruise dock and the glacier back) instead of the official excursion...we walked and sat and marveled at the glacier on our time not theirs. We walked and watched the eagles in Sitka while strolling to the Totem walk next to the Historical Museum. For the best eagle watching, be early as they feed everywhere along the harbor front in the morning. The only excursion we went on was in Seward from MARINE TOURS and I cannot say enough about the quality of the ship, the people running it and the amount of wildlife that we saw. Everyone thinks that you will see just an abundance of wildlife in Alaska from your ship and this is just not so. If you are lucky and looking in the right direction at the right time you might see one or more whales. A small smear on the shore may or may not be a bear or wolf or elk or goat. This is not like the National Geographic shows where things are poking out of the water in front of you every 2 minutes. For this reason we took a "wildlife" (note, not whale) sightseeing tour out of Seward for half a day at a cost of $55.00 (early in the season in may)...we saw amazing animals up close and very very personal. We saw goats so close I could count the whiskers, eagles, sea otters so many we couldn't count them, puffins the same, sea lions on a rock and in the ocean, whales breaching all around us for almost 10 minutes, birds everywhere. It was a sunny day and the ultimate highlight of our 14 days at sea. I cannot say enough about this trip.
HAL is our favorite line for the quality of the staff, the quality of the room, the quality of the food and the quietness they let us have. We never feel rushed or one of a herd of people on a HAL cruise. We don't go for the casino which is unbelievable small and tight, the shows which are indeed just awful or the late night partying. We go to feel pampered and to relax and recharge our batteries in sumptuous surroundings and with an incredible staff to serve us. This is definately not a Carnival FUN ship, it is elegant and slow, no rock climbing walls, then again no rock climbing drunks falling down either. Very few children (as in almost none in May) which is what we want. If our idea of quiet sophistication is your idea of an ideal cruise then HAL will never disappoint you no matter where you go or what ship you take. The Ryndam is superb.