Holland America makes over 'Ryndam' to upgrade luxury

Recent upgrades to Holland America's <i>Ryndam</i> have provided the ship with a new sense of luxury.

Associated Press (2004)

Recent upgrades to Holland America's Ryndam have provided the ship with a new sense of luxury.

TAMPA

Cruise ships don't age as quickly as, say, dogs and cats. They are more like your automobile. So into its 16th year, the Ryndam was about ready for one of those "collectible" license plates that Florida gives drivers of old cars.

But not yet: The 1,270-passenger ship, which sails from Tampa on weeklong cruises from October through April, is fresh from a multimillion-dollar makeover that was much more than a couple of shots of Botox.

During 14 days in a Bahamian drydock, as many as 970 workers swarmed the ship almost from hull to bridge. Not only did the 631 staterooms get new drapes and carpeting, plus new flooring and granite countertops in the bathrooms, but so did the crew's two-person cabins — they even got flat-screen TVs like those the passengers have.

Much of this would simply be in the nature of a mammoth spring cleaning. But there are also three changes to public areas, and two of them are smashing:

A clever grouping of three new specialty bars, much better seating in the main theater and an Italian cuisine restaurant carved from the casual dining room.

Each of those is part of what Holland America Lines calls its Signature of Excellence, providing tangible upgrades to maintain the line's premium market position, above Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

Earlier upgrades ranged from higher thread-count bed linens to a creation of a combination library-Internet cafe-specialty coffee bar. Lighter-colored, more modern upholstery and wall coverings were introduced to some public rooms.

Also added were cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and daily lessons in computer usage, taught by "techsperts" at no extra fee.

The Ryndam underwent that makeover in 2004. But a couple of years ago, Holland America decided to continue modernizing the 14-ship fleet. Hence, Ryndam's February update.

Most impressive is the added set of lounges, collectively titled Mix.

Walls enclosing the popular Piano Bar were taken down and the nearby casino bar was removed. This newly created space has been converted into three alluring specialty bars — serving champagne, martinis and beer and top-shelf liquors.

There is a broad range of selections: 17 beers, including four imports on tap, 36 red, white or sparkling wines, and 11 champagnes, six available by the glass, starting at $12.

The seating is in conversational clusters, on upholstered chairs or chocolate-leather couches, and on bar stools. A half-dozen tables offer something extra: Their tops are touch-screen computers that will offer games.

The other major change is in Ryndam's two-deck-tall Vermeer theater, where the musical revues and headliner shows are staged. The Vermeer was originally built with a flat first level, which meant poor sightlines for many in the audience. Now, this lower deck has been terraced into five levels, most of them about 6 inches higher than the one in front. At the back of the room, the level is three steps higher.

The other large makeover was creating an Italian restaurant, Canaletto, within the pool deck's casual restaurant. This mainly involved placing some dividers to separate the 62 places from the rest of the dining room and assigning waiters to what is, otherwise, buffet-line service.

Next up for Ryndam, in 2012-13, will be the renovation of decking around the smaller of the two pools and the addition there of a huge LED screen to show movies. Also, some office space and existing cabins will be restructured to create 39 staterooms with balconies. The beds in these "Lanai suites" will be flush against one wall, providing more open space in the cabin, and the door to the balcony will be operated by remote control.

That's just a couple of years away, about the time Ryndam qualifies for the nautical version of a nip and a tuck.

Robert N. Jenkins is former travel editor of the Times.

On the Ryndam

The crew: For years, Holland America has been known for the friendliness of its crew members. It is not unusual to nod hello to a dining room captain — overseeing dozens of waiters serving hundreds of meals at that moment — and have him respond using your name.

The dining: This cruise line has joined the trend to offer more choices in the formal dining room. Passengers can ask to be seated at one of the two main times during dinner, can make a reservation for a different time, or can simply walk up to the maitre d' and wait to be seated. Despite this set of choices, there can be a jumble at the maitre d's stand, with clusters of diners waiting for a table.

Menus for dinner typically offer 10 entrees and about 10 appetizers, soups and salads. When the Ryndam is in port, the formal dining room is usually closed, but choices at the pool deck can be as broad.

It's well worth spending an extra $20 to eat in the Pinnacle Grill. The 62-seat, upscale room has its own galley and uses better cuts of beef.

Tipping: Passengers can simply accept the $11 per person per day added to their bill; this money is shared by all cabin stewards and waitstaff.
Bar staffers receive 11.5 percent of the 15 percent
surcharge placed on all drink orders. That surcharge is fixed, but passengers may speak with the front desk to raise or lower the daily tipping fee.

Pay-as-you-go fees: Among these fees, common on many cruise ships, are a $3 charge to rent a DVD from the voluminous library; four pay plans for using the Internet, even if you have your own laptop; a $1.95 or $2.95 charge if you'd like to purchase bottles of water to take on shore excursions; $12 for some fitness classes; and $19.50 for drink-mixing lessons (though there is a 2-for-1 happy hour in the popular Crow's Nest lounge).

Glitches: On my cruise after the makeover, I heard several passengers complaining that their in-room safes would not work. My stateroom had a minifridge that was warm on the inside and was pouring out fumes. I made two calls to have it fixed; finally it was taken away, but it was not replaced until the next day.

If you sail

The Ryndam has four basic cabin types, of varying sizes, but they are grouped in 25 categories. In addition to cabin type, location on the ship and season of the year mean dozens of fares are
available. Consult a travel agent or go to www.hollandamerica.com to get more information or to book a cruise. Ryndam sails from Tampa from October to April.

It's wise to register your e-mail address on your favorite cruise lines' Web sites; passengers of my most recent cruise of three nights paid as little as $99 a person, based on double occupancy. They had gotten an e-mail from the line just three days before Ryndam left port.

From Tampa, the ports of call are Key West; Belize City, Belize; Mahogany Bay at Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico. For cruises in the fall, rates start at $499 on Holland America's Web site.

Robert N. Jenkins

Holland America makes over 'Ryndam' to upgrade luxury 04/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 12, 2010 8:06pm]

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...