While it was only my second day onboard the MS Ryndam, I was
already being referred to by name by a number of the ship’s staff.
Without specifically requesting it, my cabin-service attendant knew
that I would want Tabasco sauce with my breakfast. Barely had I
stepped onto the pool deck before an attendant arrived with an
armful of plush towels for my chair. I think I could easily get
used to this kind of treatment.
In late 2003 Holland America Line began an ambitious enhancement
program. Expected to be available fleetwide by the end of 2006, the
Ryndam is the first ship to offer all of the improved amenities.
The enhancements focus on five areas: accommodations, dining,
service, activities and itineraries.
Although there were plenty of diversions available onboard, I
would have been completely content to spend much of my time at sea
in my cabin. With plush pillow-top mattresses, 250-thread-count
cotton sheets and plenty of pillows, it was difficult enough to
find a reason to get out of bed. The bathroom was filled with as
many fluffy, Egyptian-cotton towels as one could ever need.
The flat-screen television in each cabin offered an extensive
array of programming, including fairly recent hit movies. A DVD
player, doubling as a CD player, ensured that my in-cabin
entertainment needs would be met.
Much as I enjoyed the solitude of my cabin, I wanted to
experience for myself the culinary offerings of the Ryndam. My
first lunch was in the Pinnacle Grill. The reservations-only
restaurant offered a leisurely, elegant dining experience. The room
is intimate in size, and has plenty of staff on hand to make sure
that guests want for nothing. Crisp Frette linens, Bulgari china
and Riedel crystal stemware adorned the tables. The lovely dark
woods in the room were accented with a fine collection of art and
antiques. Servers had been well trained in their duties.
The food itself was as exquisite as its presentation. I feasted
on fresh greens with goat cheese, foie-gras with pears and
perfectly cooked Sterling Silver beef. An extensive wine list
boasted many fine wines. Make sure to tell your clients to reserve
a table early before they are fully booked.
Of course, the Rotterdam dining room offered fine meals as well
as good variety in menu selections. I also availed myself of the
Lido Restaurant and Terrace Grill, which served casual meals with a
wide array of choices.
I was a bit let down by one aspect of the “Signature”
enhancements, but it’s my own fault: I’m too old. Club HAL gives
kids of all age groups plenty to do. Three separate zones have been
created for specific age groups: 3-7, 8-12 and teens. Each of these
areas is fully supervised, so parents can relax with no concern for
their children’s safety.
Depending on the age group, Club HAL offers a playroom with art
tables, big-screen TV, board games, arcade games, air hockey,
foosball, karaoke, Internet access, Sony Playstations and DDR
(Dance Dance Revolution).
Teens are especially lucky. They are treated to The Oasis. The
entrance to this outdoor area at the top of the ship is clearly
marked with a sign declaring it to be an “adult-free zone.” The
focal point of this teen paradise is a huge, cascading waterfall
and splash pool. Swinging hammocks, games and music give teens no
reason to leave.
This is not to say that adults have been neglected in upgraded
entertainment options. The Ryndam’s Wajang Theater has been
outfitted as a culinary arts theater. Here guests can attend
cooking demonstrations, or sign up for a more intimate cooking
class for a nominal fee. While not much of a chef myself, the
demonstration I attended was still highly enjoyable. The theater
has a number of very large, flat-screen monitors that made it easy
to see, from multiple angles, everything the chef was doing.
While learning how to make a perfect mango-pistachio strudel was
enlightening, I decided to turn more of my attentions to the
Explorations Cafe, powered by The New York Times. The entrance to
the cafe houses an espresso and pastry bar, giving the area a
comfortable, coffeehouse-style atmosphere. Carrying one of the most
extensive libraries at sea, shelves are lined with more than 2,000
books selected by the editors of the Times. Music-listening
stations with comfortable lounge chairs that face out to the sea
provided lazy hours of pleasant relaxation. There are also Internet
stations to stay up to date on news and e-mail, including free
access to NYTimes.com. I was even able to access the Internet from
my personal laptop via AirPort. Satellite access was spotty,
however, resulting in a number of dropped connections.
Being a crossword puzzle addict, I especially loved the many
tables with Times Sunday puzzles underneath a glass top. Erasable
china markers are provided for your enjoyment (or frustration).