Thought you might like a review from someone who, until June 5, 2005, had not been on a ship for over 35 years. In 1969, I--along with a husband and a baby--crossed the Atlantic on the QE2 and then crossed back on the France in 1970. Those were the days of bunks in staterooms, different passenger classes, rampant seasickness, and bribes to the longshoremen upon disembarkation.
I was prepared to hate the ship but to enjoy the Alaskan scenery. I'm happy to report that I loved the ship as well as the scenery. My husband felt the same way. ("Baby" did not accompany us this time.)
First, the standard stateroom was like a hotel room with a very comfy queen-size bed, a sofa, a table and chair, plasma TV with DVD, and good closet space. The bathroom had a shower in a very high bathtub-one had to be nimble to get in. The room, in fact the whole ship, was spotless. Only complaint-there was nowhere to store our 5 pieces of luggage, so we had to keep them on the sofa.
Second, third, and fourth-there were no classes, no seasickness (I was amazed at the smoothness of the ship's motion), and no bribes.
We did not participate very much in the ship's culture, having bad memories of shuffleboard in the past. Instead, we spent most of the time in the Crow's Nest-a delightful public space with a panoramic view at the front of the ship. Because we had been assigned to a late seating and our stomachs were 3 hours ahead of Alaska time, we ate all of our meals in the Lido-a gourmet cafeteria with waiter service. Only complaint there was that they didn't serve enough seafood. I was looking forward to that in Alaska. In the Lido, we always tried to sit at the last table in the back of the restaurant, because it had wrap-around windows and the best view.
We also enjoyed the Explorer's Lounge, which is the library. Good selection of books and DVDs, plus Swedish-style lounge chairs. This is also the location of the expresso bar. HAL now charges for gourmet coffee-about half the price of Starbucks.
The Ryndam is said to be a smaller ship, but it seemed uncrowded. There was never a wait in the Lido. Embarkation and disembarkation were easy. At Sitka, we were tendered to shore, and that also went very quickly.
The staff, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, were very gracious and sweet.
My husband and I have had our minds changed about cruising and would take the same cruise all over again in a heartbeat. What a difference from the past!