This was the best five course £10 lunch with wine I’ve had in the last 30 years, served in pleasant surroundings by polite and attentive staff. It was on the 1,200 passenger ms Ryndam as part of a marketing visit for Silver Travel Adviser clients and contacts. Silver Travel Adviser offered these one day visits on this Holland America line ship on several dates through June and July. In our case it turned out to be a micro cruise. My wife and I have enjoyed several cruises on P&O and Princess ships and have often seen Holland America ships moored in ports we’ve visited in both Europe and America. We were therefore keen to take the opportunity of being on board ms Ryndam for a few hours whilst she was moored in the Port of Dover between cruises.
The visit was in three parts: a self guided tour of the ship; lunch; and a presentation on the benefits of cruising with Holland America. During the first of these, we were free to explore the range of accommodation available from small inside cabins with no windows to the top of the range suite number 001 with its oversize whirlpool bath, king size bed, separate living and dining rooms with table to seat 8, and a butler’s pantry. I didn’t ask “How much?” I just knew we couldn’t afford it. Our normal standard on the cruises we’ve been on has been outside cabin with balcony. These are hyped in the brochures as Ocean View Staterooms with Verandah. The one we saw today was much the same as those on P&O and Princess, I’d certainly be happy to spend a week or two in one of these on Ryndam.
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the public spaces, but the areas we passed through all appeared to be tastefully decorated. The main exceptions to this were the two model windmills with rotating sails and the plastic tulips at the entrance to the Rotterdam Restaurant. We thought these were more suited to a theme park, in fact Small World in Disneyworld Florida comes to mind. Otherwise, this main restaurant at the back of the ship with two wide staircases between the two floors, was very pleasant. We felt comfortable at our chosen table for two. Others in the party sat in groups of four, six or eight as they preferred.
The lunch was excellent. A Parfait of Tuna and Salmon on Crostini with Salmon Caviar was followed by Tomato Gazpacho with Buffalo Mozzarella. I chose the Grilled Filet Mignon as a main course in preference to the Alaskan Salmon or Mushroom Ravioli, despite the warning on the menu “The US Food and Drug Administration advises that eating uncooked or partially cooked meat ….. may increase your risk for food borne illnesses….”. Is Holland America suggesting that the ms Ryndam chefs might serve improperly cooked filet mignon? I hope not. Feeling lucky I took a chance and ate it, enjoyed it and lived to tell the tale. So what’s the purpose of the warning? Is it that Holland America is trying to get some protection from the ever increasing litigious society? Is this what “no win, no fee” lawyers have brought us to? Happily I didn’t see any warnings about the risk of Merlot wine causing liver disease so I drank this without worry, and it was good. Coffee and Petits Fours were on offer after the Esterel Cake desert but we gave these a miss in order to gain a few more minutes to explore the ship.
The marketing presentation was given by the Holland America UK Marketing Manager. She explained that although Holland America is now part of the Carnival Group, it started many years ago by offering Transatlantic passage to Dutch emigrants to the USA. Nowadays, the line is pitched as a premium brand, drawing the analogy with Waitrose and BMW. It offers cruises in all continents, in ships of all sizes from small to large. Cruises might be short or long duration, but non shorter than the one we had. During our few hours on board, the ship relocated from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 in Dover Docks, a couple of hundred metres at most!
As cheap lunches go, this was excellent value if you ignore the cost of the dinner and overnight hotel stay near Dover. We booked this to make sure we weren’t late for the 9.30am reception in the docks. But with the hotel stay included we thoroughly enjoyed our weekend, and ms Ryndam provided an interesting and enjoyable highlight. Holland America will certainly be in the frame when we choose our next cruise.