My husband and I have previously been on 9 cruises, mostly Princess, but also Holland America and Royal Caribbean.
I wanted to write this review because when I was trying to decide on whether or not to go on the Ryndam I was concerned with the number of bad reviews on the websites. So that being said - here it is!
My husband and I (ages 60 and 51, respectively) decided to go back to Alaska on a cruise. Our last cruise to Alaska was about 10 years ago on the old Star Princess. We decided to go on Holland America this time as we had such a wonderful cruise last year on the Holland America Veendam in the Carribean. The Ryndam is a sister ship to the Veendam so it seemed perfect.
We had a wonderful time! None of the awful things that I read in the reviews reflected my experience.
We arrived by train from Anchorage. The train station is quite a walk from the cruise terminal so we caught a cab. Check in was easy and seamless, no wait and we boarded. The ship is very attractive, clean and well maintained. It became clear immediately that the crew took the health and safety of the guests very seriously because of the problems with Norovirus on cruise ships and other places where lots of people congregate. I appreciated their insistence on using the antibacterial cleansers at all areas where people handle things or eat. I didn't find it scarey or threatening, just thoughtful.
The Ryndam and Veendam are not your megaship - because of this it seems to be a calmer environment where you get to know both guests and crew. The crew of the Ryndam were friendly and helpful. Our cabin steward was a gem!
We had an outside cabin on A deck (the lowest you can go) because I am sensitive to motion sickness. There were no bad smells nor was there a problem with toilets. The cabin was very nice and roomy with a tub in the bathroom.
One of the reasons I wanted to go on a smaller ship is that I like the set times for dining. I don't enjoy eating with different people every night - I think the feeling of family and kinship you get seeing the same waiters and tablemates every night. Our table was great, two other very nice couples and we all bonded.
The food on the Ryndam was very good. I can't really say if it is better than the Veendam or other ships. I tend to enjoy Princess better. This is because on Princess it is an Italian kitchen. Pasta is frequently made at the table and you can get a pasta course that is small (not entrée size). The Pinnacle Grill was just OK. On the Veendam it was better. I did enjoy going there just for the ambiance of the dining room and the change of scenery. For the cost it was fine, but I didn't think it was any better than the dining room. As this is a smaller ship, the Lido is also smaller, however, I found plenty to eat and the food was always very good. I enjoyed the ice cream bar and the desserts!
One thing that I really enjoyed about this cruise was that Holland America had a Naturalist on board the entire cruise. He gave several talks which I found very interesting. In addition, park rangers boarded in Glacier Bay - which was great.
I enjoyed all the excursions that I took. We went canoeing to the Steward Glacier in Haines; Rafting along the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau; and took at jet boat to the Misty Fiords National Monument. I did not feel that the cost for the excursions were high based on the service we got and the quality of the tours.
I thought the shows in the evening were pretty good. The Ryndam had some of the best shows I have seen in a long time - the singers were very good!
A few comments on areas for improvement - I didn't like the fact that there was no carafe of drinking water in the room. This resulted in endless trips to the lido so that we could constantly refill our bottles. Holland America tries to sell you bottled water and soda in the room - so no drinking water is available. . . I think it is important to have the basics first - like drinking water. I think that when you are paying for a cruise there should be little no extra charges. DVDs for the player in the cabins should be free, there shouldn't be massage chairs in the common areas that you have to pay to use (remove them). The hawking of specials at the stores was overwhelming. However, I may be the only one who was bothered by it.
Also, the majority of the folks on this cruise were older - 70 and above. Because of this activities were catering more to that age group. On the sea day there was not much happening for us younger old people.
One other thing that is very important, especially for those people who have less stamina or are physically challenged. Avoid the Vancouver Airport. The US customs is done in Vancouver and because of this the US makes you carry all your luggage around to different places for hours. First you stand in line with your luggage to check in and get tags. Then you get in another line that took about 1/1/2 hours around the airport until you reach customs. There you are sorted and have to load your own luggage on to conveyer belts - insane!
So in conclusion, we had a great time. Would we sail with Holland America again? Definitely. Would I choose Holland America over Princess - no, they both have pros and cons. Next year I will look for itinerary, size of ship and then either Holland America or Princess.
I hope this review helps you, if you have any questions, feel free to email me.