A guide to what you'll find onboard Holland America's MS Ryndam
Cruise ships are extraordinary and they feel vast when you first go aboard. Soon enough, however, the corridors and decks begin to make sense and all that is remembered is the fabulous luxury on offer.
There are always plenty of staff to take care of passenger's needs and the food is so wonderfully tempting that it's very easy to finish the trip several pounds heavier.
It's one of the great travel experiences to awake, pull back the curtains and find yourself in a new, unexplored port.
The MS Ryndam is 720ft long and, unlike some of its sister ships, is designed to carry fewer guests while providing more space so you can revel in even more luxurious comfort.
Many of the staterooms feature ocean views and private verandahs, allowing time to gaze into the far horizon, especially wonderful if you're travelling through the fjords when it never really quite gets dark.
All the rooms are very comfortable and some staterooms have been adapted for wheelchair access.
The huge Penthouse suite on the top deck has floor to ceiling windows, a whirlpool bath and a dedicated concierge.
The ship has an interior theme of Dutch worldwide exploration featuring art and artefacts from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. A muzzle-loading canon (unloaded) from the 17th Century, found on the floor of the North Sea is one of the more unusual pieces.
At the heart of the MS Ryndam a three-story atrium features a monumental fountain.
Amongst all the splendid decor guests may also encounter a string quartet serenade in the splendid Rotterdam Dining Room and the two-deck Vermeer Show Lounge.
ROTTERDAM DINING ROOM:
Service levels on cruises are excellent and this restaurant features impeccable service and a good wine list. Five-course menus include continental cuisine, vegetarian and low-carb options.
Diners have to have a reservation to eat at the more intimate Pinnacle Grill, which serves premium beef, great seafood dishes and some great wines. It's all presented very elegantly on Bulgari china, Riedel stemware and Frette linens.
The Lido is more relaxed and breakfast, lunch and dinner is on offer, with a variety of fresh, cooked-to-order specialties.
THE CULINARY ARTS CENTRE, presented by Food & Wine Magazine, taught by the ship's Master Chefs or culinary guests.
These cooking demonstrations are great fun to watch and inspire thoughts of the great cooking programmes from the 1970s, such as the Galloping Gourmet. A particular highlight for us was a chef magically whipping the seeds out of a red pepper, which drew gasps from the audience.
*EXPLORATIONS CAFE, sponsored by The New York Times:
Explorations cafe is a like a neighbourhood coffee house, and has an extensive library, Internet access, newspapers and magazines.
Relaxation, Entertainment and Children
GREENHOUSE SPA & SALON:
Cruises are very relaxing but, if staring across the ocean and sipping cocktails isn't enough, this spa offers facials, a hot stone massage and a steam in a thermal suite. There's also a salon for hair and nails.
VERMEER SHOW LOUNGE:
The Vermeer Show Lounge features talented vocalists, dancers, illusionists, comedians and variety acts.
The Crow's Nest offers sweeping 270 degree views during the day, and a nightclub each evening featuring an illuminated dancefloor that used the Northern Lights for inspiration.
Holland America has great, supervised activities for kids from the ages of 3 -12 which means they won't be bored if their parents have gone into a deep, relaxed trance.
THE LOFT AND THE OASIS
The Loft and The Oasis are designed exclusively for teens (13 - 17) to have fun, socialize and hang out with people their own age.
There's a gym (in the spa), a running track (although a lot of people simply walk around the ship's deck) and a volleyball / tennis court. The gym is packed with state of the art machines classes in yoga and pilates are held each day.