Just returned from the Ryndam South American cruise, part one to Valparaiso. It is our 5th Holland American cruise and our 36th cruise in total. The ship is wonderful; service incredible in all areas. We had a verandah room which was lovely. The only problem we have faced consistently on these cruises relates to the shore excursions. They are extremely expensive and most are not worth the price. Swimming with the sting rays in Costa Rica was great but the all day trip inGuayaquil to a hacienda and banana plantation was a waste of time. The staff at the hacienda could not handle the more than 400 people who were there; the food was terrible and very sparse and the bus drivers kept us waiting for twenty minutes while they disappeared. This was considered inexpensive too....$89 per person! In Salaverry we took the shuttle provided by the ship ( the only time though we were told there would be shuttles at every port) into Trujillo which is a charming little town with beautiful old mansions converted into banks. Callao, which is the port for Lima was a wonderful experience. Lima is beautiful and very active. We had booked with a private company for this one ( at no cost to us) and had the best tour on the entire trip. Our guide was so organized that she had a schedule that was virtually back wards in time in relation to the other tours so we avoided the crowds.
We ate at a magnificent restaurant on the ocean and toured the town. General San Martin, Peru we took the full day Tambo Colorado and Paracas Museum with Hacienda Lunch--7 1/2 hours at a cost of $129 per person. Don't waste your money...the hacienda lunch is not worth it in spite of the pisco sours , music and dancing. It is a long, hot day and for $99.00 we could have seen the sights without the lunch and that also would have been too expensive. We spent hours in the bus! In Arica, Chile we went into town on our ownand really enjoyed it. It is another charming town with very friendly people. There is a lovely walking street with side streets that are filled with vendors and their native handicrafts at a very low price. In Coquimbo, Chile, we took a cab for $20 for the taxi ( 4 people) for one hour and lucked out. We had a NY taxi cab driver who took us along the magnificent beach of La Serena. There are lovely hotels, a very deep beach, restaurants and anything you would want in a resort town. In town there were great markets all over the place as well as restaurants. We saw all the sights the people who took the 4 hour city tour took for $69.00 per person and it only cost us $l0 for the taxi to get back to the ship. In this town, as well as in others, there are Internet cafes where you can use the internet for $1.00- $3.00 per hour and make a phone call from there to Florida for approximately 35 cents!! Quite a bargain when you compare it to other prices.
The food on the ship was good, not great but kudos to the staff that decorate the dining room each night. It always looks magnificent; the waiters and bus boys are always dressed in lovely costumes and there is background music. Entertainment was good and bad...usual for a ship but there are always plenty of other things to do on a Holland American ship. Unlike other ships, food is available all day on the Lido Deck; ice cream ( free) at least four hours a day; coffee, tea and cookies (free) as well , and the usual assortment of athletic activities and social activities if one does not want to lie on the beautiful deck near the pools.
Going through the Panama Canal is a great experience; the second time for us and the ongoing commentary is always informative. We will continue using Holland American but avoid shore excursions whenever possible.
If something occurs , as did with us when my husband became ill in Costa Rica, we were not given a chance to get a refund and at $94.00 each, that was an expensive "non visit".