|The Ryndam in the port of Cartagena, Spain. // All photos by Maureen Stone|
Our traveling blogger sails onboard Holland America's Ryndam on its final Europe to America voyage before it is scheduled to be refitted and transferred to P&O Line, and takes a look at the classic vessel. You can find part one of his story, on guest interaction with the crew and captain, here. Below is a look at activities available on the days the ship spent at sea.
The unique experience of repositioning cruising appeals to a devoted fan base well represented on the Ryndam “Farewell to Spain” voyage. Some have done six or more trans-Atlantic crossings. Contrary to the boredom some might expect from a string of nine sea days, the biggest challenge was selecting among dozens of activities, some at conflicting times, in the daily Holland America “Today on Location” newsletter.
A midweek sea day could start with a choice of two fitness classes in the panoramic deck 12 Fitness Center at 7 a.m. followed by a generous and hearty buffet breakfast in the Lido. Many ate at window tables around the Ocean Pool under a retractable roof that was open to the sky during the warm, mostly sunny days of the voyage. Daily news faxes from the New York Times, as well as England, Australia and Germany, were available each morning in the Lido buffet and at the front desk on deck 7. Guests could opt for a served breakfast in the Rotterdam dining room, or service in their cabins, before a 9 a.m. lecture on life in lighthouses by maritime lecturer Tim Calvert.
The choices competing at 10 a.m. might include an art auction, an intermediate bridge lecture or a ping-pong tournament on the pool deck. A 10:30 a.m. class on editing digital photos, followed by a second mid-afternoon class on a computer topic, was offered on sea days by the Ryndam’s “Techspert” Erika Fortin. Her classes were in the ship’s ”Digital Workshop,” located in the Queens Room adjacent to the Explorations Café and library. It was filled with desktop workstations thanks to a partnership between HAL and Microsoft Windows. Fortin’s free training classes and tech tips, such as how to navigate the latest Windows 8.1 operating system, delivered a first-rate continuing education during the cruise. Fortin, another valuable HAL asset worth following on future cruises, will teach this winter on a lengthy South American itinerary aboard the Prinsendam, which embarks from Fort Lauderdale in early January.
|Oktoberfest decorations on Lido Pool deck. // All photos by Maureen Stone|
Culinary Arts Demos
At 11 a.m. on most sea days Culinary Arts Center host Barbara Mills Schuchardt, known onboard simply as “Barbara,” drew a near-capacity audiences to the Wajang Theater on deck 7 for her cooking demonstrations. At mid-afternoon sessions, she hosted a second cooking demo of the day, and a series of laugh-filled competitions in which teams of chefs and officers engaged in mystery basket cooking challenges judged by passenger volunteers. Schuchardt, a former cooking school owner, caterer and local TV show host in Reno, NV, drew additional daily crowds to her 5 p.m. “Sip and Savor” wine servings in the Explorer lounge. Guests enjoyed selections from the Ryndam wine list paired with appetizers created earlier in the day at the Culinary Arts Center demonstrations.
Sumptuous theme buffet lunches were presented on the Lido pool deck decorated for each occasion, including a Spanish-themed spread, an Indonesian buffet, and a German Oktoberfest. Ryndam's hotel director, Darren Lewis, said the themed lunches are part of Holland America’s popular “On Location” program, launched two years ago, in which the ships present food events with ingredients from the destinations experienced on the itinerary. He noted that Greek dishes in the Greek Islands and Italian dishes along the Italian coast were been featured in the Lido buffet restaurant on Ryndam during Mediterranean cruises this summer.
At 1:30 one afternoon a team trivia contest, a Texas Hold ’em poker tournament in the casino, a lecture on Orca whales by lecturer Bernard Purrier, and a Windows 8 Digital Workshop class by Erika Fortin were all in progress at the same time as a charity 5K walk for cancer on the Promenade deck was underway and complementary skin care consultations were ongoing in the Ryndam’s Greenhouse Spa next to the Fitness Center.
Elsewhere on Ryndam were Dancing with The Stars lessons and competitions leading to a final in the Showroom at Sea theater on the last night of the cruise. A passengers’ afternoon game show was followed by daily multiple screenings of a first-run movie in the Showroom or Wajang Theater. More movies were available for in-room viewing from a free rental service featuring hundreds of film titles.
The well-stocked ship’s library included computers with Wi-Fi minutes available for purchase at package rates. Holland America’s partnership with the New York Times includes free onboard access to the newspaper’s website, as well as daily news updates and puzzles provided by the Times. The Explorations Café, adjacent to the library on deck 8, served free sweet and savory snacks, combined with a menu of coffees available for purchase throughout the day and evening.
|Sailing from Funchal, Madeira in Verandah Suite. // All photos by Maureen Stone|
Nightlife at Sea
One of the unexpected benefits of a first trans-Atlantic cruise is that the ship provides repositioning for a lot of fleet entertainers in addition to the ship itself. In the case of the “Spanish Farewell” cruise, several entertainers were crossing from their summer work in the Mediterranean on HAL ships to the start of their winter work in the Caribbean. The bonus for passengers was a wide variety of nightly stages entertainments, from comedians to music soloists to full-scale musical production shows.
In no particular order the cruise included: a Hollywood-themed production called Epic Moves; a Celtic music song-and-dance duo called Livewire; a classical-music inspired stage show called Classique; a flamenco and classical guitarist named Adam Westcott; a visiting quintet of Ukelele-playing singers from Liverpool named Ukebox, which drew packed houses and audience raves for two Showroom at Sea performances and an SRO dance crowd in the Ocean Bar; the comedian Jim McDonald, who has appeared on the Letterman show; a Rock Legends stage show; a comic pianist named Brett Cave from London’s West End singing Elton John and Billy Joel tunes; the comedy magician Mel Mellers from the UK, and a fantasy world stage spectacular called Droom. Colorful Indonesian and Philippine crew shows on separate evenings displayed the musical talents and native cultures of the popular Ryndam crew members.
Guests with other entertainment tastes than stage productions found a choice of diversions each evening around the ship. Lee, an infectiously entertaining piano man, hosted theme nights with sing-alongs around his piano bar keyboard, including movie music, mystery trivia, the Beatles and Sinatra’s Rat Pack music. An acoustic guitarist named Matt entertained guests with pop vocals in the Mix martini bar, while an accomplished violin-piano chamber duo named Adagio did the same with their relaxing pre-and post-dinner classics in the Explorer Lounge.
Those with an inclination to dance could find the Neptunes, a trio playing tunes from the American Songbook in the Ocean Bar, or the HAL Cats, a larger dance band that played early evenings in the Crow’s Nest nightclub at the top of the ship. The ship’s casino on deck 8 hosted blackjack, poker and slot tournaments on several nights. There were three formal nights on the ship with the highlight evening a “Black & White Ball” in the Ryndam’s Crow’s Nest hosted by Captain Mark Rowden and hotel director Darren Lewis. Ship officers paraded into the ball in their dress uniforms and passengers were invited to ask any officer, male or female, to dance. The event proved the most popular party of the cruise and filled the Crow’s Nest to overflowing.
Another of many unexpected surprises on the Ryndam westbound crossing was the turning of clocks back one hour at night on seven different overnights as the vessel crossed time zones at sea between Barcelona and Tampa. Catching up on sleep from evenings like the Black & White Ball was easy thanks to the extra hour. Heading back to Europe on Ryndam’s eastbound crossing in April could require more afternoon naps thanks to a loss of the same overnight hours as clocks move ahead.
A recent comment posted online by a Ryndam passenger on a Mediterranean itinerary prior to the trans-Atlantic crossing summarized her experience. “Rydam is such an elegant ship, beautifully kept and maintained,” wrote the guest. “However, the really special feature of the ship is its amazing crew. So friendly. Nothing is a bother and they can’t do enough to make your holiday feel so special.”
This exactly describes our experience of the “Spanish Farewell” across the Atlantic.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for our ongoing coverage of Ryndam's final few voyages, including HAL's Signature of Excellence ship upgrade program.