Answers to Your Questions
Select a topic from the list below:
- Travel To/From the Cruise
- Tips for Traveling Abroad
- Life Aboard Ship
- Contact Us
Here you will find answers to the more common questions we have been asked about our cruises. We also address some important issues specific to this cruise.
Before sailing with us, you must read and sign our Terms and Conditions, which spell out important and contractually binding guidelines for our cruise.
We recommend that you visit Holland America's website. You will find extensive and detailed information about sailing on their ships. They have been in the cruise business much longer than we have — please make use of their expertise.
Executive Meetings and Incentives, Inc. (EMI) is your partner in travel. They are your first stop for any help you may need with travel arrangements or any question you may have. See EMI's website for more information.
YOU MUST HAVE A CURRENT PASSPORT TO SAIL ON THIS CRUISE.
YOUR VISIT TO ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA REQUIRES A TOURIST VISA.
This is entirely your responsibility to acquire before traveling. Visas cannot be acquired once you travel outside of your home country. Holland America shore excursions include visa arrangements. See below.
YOU MUST SEND EMI YOUR FLIGHT ITINERARY BEFORE SAILING ON THIS CRUISE.
You must also provide details as to your transfer to Dover. This is a Holland America requirement. See below for information.
Who are we?
Prairie Home Productions (PHP, APHC) is an independent company licensed by American Public Media Group to produce Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" and its related ventures. With them, we chartered the ms Ryndam and will produce the cruise. Prairie Home is responsible for all changes and additions made to the regularly scheduled HAL cruise. We will provide the APHC performers, entertainers, and lecturers sailing with you.
Holland America Lines (HAL) operates and manages the Ryndam; provides for passenger safety and comfort; and is responsible for your cabin accommodations, food, beverages, recreation, and shopping while on board. Go to HAL's website for more information about life aboard ship.
Executive Meetings and Incentives (EMI) is our agent in charge of selling our cruise and booking your accommodations. They will provide you with the highest levels of professional travel-related services. They will book your passage on the ship. EMI will help you with transfers to and from the cruise, cabin selection, dinner table seating, and provide guidance for other onboard needs.
For other questions, contact us by email or call EMI at 800-225-5364 x 2179.
How much does the cruise cost?
For pricing information, visit EMI's pricing page. We have cabins in a wide range of prices. For those of you who have sailed with us before, take note that on a per-day basis these are our lowest fares since our first cruise in 2005.
What types of cabins are on the ship? Where are they located?
We have a variety of cabins from inside rooms to "Vista" and "Neptune" suites. See HAL's Ryndam Info for pictures, descriptions, and deck plans.
Why do the cabin categories on the Ryndam look different now?
Before our 2014 cruise, Holland America Line is implementing a fleet-wide re-categorization of staterooms including a re-naming of suites. This initiative improves consistency across the fleet and corresponds with the feedback from guests regarding the most desirable attributes such as location and proximity to elevators. Those of you who want particular staterooms or stateroom categories should be careful in your selection. Old and new plans are available at the Holland America Line website. Be sure you are looking at the correct plans, entitled "from 4/6/14". One major change is re-assigning categories for many Ocean-View Staterooms. Many Main Deck staterooms will be in higher categories than identical staterooms on the Lower Promenade. This is primarily due to the increased privacy on the Main Deck without the public promenade outside your window, but also due to factors such as being close to elevators.
How do I book a cabin? What types are currently available?
For booking information, visit EMI's pricing page. You will see a list of the currently available cabins. Just click on the one you are interested in.
Are wheelchair-accessible rooms available on board? What about other special needs?Holland America, APHC, and EMI do not discriminate against persons on the basis of disability. We seek, to the fullest extent feasible, to accommodate guests with special needs. Holland America offers a limited number of staterooms designed to be wheelchair and scooter accessible. Most public areas of the ship are wheelchair accessible. To learn more about HAL's options for guests with special needs, see the HAL Cruise Planning and Advice section. You can explore the deck plans in HAL's Ryndam Info to see where the wheelchair-accessible rooms are located. Please contact EMI directly at 800-225-5364 x 2179 to discuss any special needs you may have.
Is travel insurance necessary?
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. This is a long cruise moving through several foreign countries. You will be booking this cruise many months before we sail, circumstances can easily change. Insurance is your only recourse for reimbursement in the event of change, delay, or crisis. For more information, see EMI's pricing page.
What is included in the payment and what will cost extra?
Please see our Terms and Conditions page. While on board, you can spend a minimal amount or incur significant charges by the end of the cruise. You will certainly be able to have an enjoyable time no matter how little or how much you spend. Alcoholic beverages, soda, spa services, the casino, and other on-board services are not included in your fare. We do not include airfare, ground transportation, shore excursions, or other off-ship expenses in our fares.
I'm a Holland America stockholder. Can I get a discount on my cruise?
No. This cruise is private and chartered.
I've booked my cabin. What's next?
EMI will confirm your reservation with you electronically and provide an EMI confirmation number they will use to track your reservation. Closer to the cruise, EMI will provide your Holland America booking number and cabin number, which you will use to prepare for your trip and book shore excursions.
Please note that you will need to obtain a Russian tourist visa in order to visit St. Petersburg, unless you visit on an excursion arranged through Holland America.
Visas must be acquired in your home country well before leaving for your trip. There are no exceptions and these regulations will be strictly enforced by local officials. See below for instructions.
All excursions arranged through Holland America are with approved registered operators who provide blanket visas for the group. Blanket visas only allow you to be off the ship during the time of your excursion.
How do I check in?
Check-in and preparation for your cruise is an online process that HAL calls Express Docs. All passengers will be required to check in using this system in advance of the cruise. You will need your HAL booking number to do this. You must return the signed Terms and Conditions for the cruise to receive your booking number. All documents necessary for your cruise will be provided online through Express Docs, including your cruise contract and your boarding pass. You will need to print these documents yourself and bring them with you. We will not send you "hard copies" of these documents. See EMI's website for step-by-step instructions on how to use Express Docs.
It is essential that you review all documents thoroughly and that you bring everything with you.
May I cancel my reservation?
You may cancel, but we have a strict refund policy. One week after registering, your deposit becomes nonrefundable. On or after March 25, 2014, your full cruise fare will be collected and is not refundable. Please see our terms and conditions page.
How do I pay for extras while on board?
While on board, HAL maintains a "cashless society." All additional purchases made will be charged to passengers' on-board accounts. These accounts must be settled before disembarking.
When you board the ship, your account will have already been activated and you may make purchases by simply showing your guest identification card and signing a receipt. If you have not done so already online, you will need to register your credit or debit card in order to use your on-board account for shipboard purchases. On the day of sailing, your card will be pre-authorized for U.S. $60 per person for each day, or $840 per person for this cruise. At the end of your cruise, you will receive a final statement, and your card will be charged only for the actual amount of your purchases. Please inform your credit or debit card issuer in advance that your card will be used on a Holland America Line ship. This will help prevent delays in obtaining pre-authorization on board. Some banks may keep the pre-authorization in place for up to 30 days. If you do not want to use a credit or debit card, the ship will collect a cash deposit from you at time of boarding in the same pre-authorization amount. Any excess deposit will be refunded to you at the end of the cruise. Travelers' checks may be cashed at the front office to make your deposit. Personal checks are not accepted on board.
What about tipping? To whom and how much?
A prepaid gratuity is included in your cruise fare. For suites, this gratuity is $12.00 per person per day, or $168.00 per person for the cruise. For staterooms, this gratuity is $11.50 per person per day, or $161.00 per person for the cruise. This will be shared among the Ryndam's entire staff. In addition, an automatic 15 percent gratuity is added to all bar and beverage service. Any tipping above this is entirely up to you. It is common, but not required, to tip for personal service in your cabin and at the spa. Additional tipping for bar service, dining room service, or the ship's transportation services is not expected. For more info, see HAL Service Charge Info.
In terminals, airports, ports of call, on shore excursions, and at hotels, we suggest that you extend gratuities consistent with customary practices.
Are guests from outside the U.S. able to purchase online?
Yes. International guests will be able to book their cabins online. All credit card charges will take place in USD and be converted to your local currency the day of the transaction.
III. Travel To/From the Cruise
Regardless of who books your air travel, you must send EMI a copy of your flight itinerary. If you book your own travel, you must still provide EMI with your flight itinerary. EMI must provide HAL with travel itineraries for all passengers. This is a legal requirement: you will be denied boarding if you do not provide your travel itinerary in advance. You must provide a cell or other phone number that can be used to communicate with you in the event of travel delays.
We recommend that you purchase airline tickets early. While we hope that our roundtrip itinerary will allow for affordable airfare, please research costs carefully before you choose to book our cruise. EMI can help you book your flights; see EMI's website for more information.
When do we leave? When do we come home?
Boarding will begin in Dover at approximately 11:00 a.m. on August 9th; please do not arrive at the terminal before that time. You must be on board no later than 2:00 p.m. We sail at 4:00 p.m. local time and cannot wait for delayed passengers.
We recommend that you arrive in London the day before we sail, on Friday, August 8, 2014. As Dover is approximately 75 miles from London, please consider your plans very carefully if you intend to arrive the day we sail. Gatwick is closer than Heathrow to Dover, but there are far fewer flight options.
Holland America's website has information about traveling through London to Dover in their Explore Cruise Ports section. Look to the APHC Cruise website for additional information.
Upon our return to Dover, disembarkation may begin as early as 6:30 a.m. and will end by 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 23rd. In addition to getting you and your luggage off the ship and then on to transportation, you will need to travel about 75 miles to the airport. You should allow 4 hours travel time plus check-in/security time at the airport. Please consider your plans carefully if you intend to depart from London on the same day we return to Dover.
What if my luggage gets lost by the airline?
In the event your bags are delayed, Holland America will make every effort to work with local operators to help your bags catch up with the ship. Please note that some major discount air carriers require that lost or delayed luggage be signed for personally by the owner at the airport. Please check policies carefully before booking your air travel.
Where can I stay in London or Dover?
EMI has blocked out rooms in a hotel adjacent to Heathrow Airport. They would be happy to book you a room the night before or after the cruise, see EMI's website for details. London hotel rooms are not included in your cruise fare. EMI will not book a hotel room for you unless you ask them to do so.
Please note that while London offers all types of accommodations, they are generally expensive. Accommodations in Dover, if you prefer to stay there, are limited.
What are the arrangements for travel from airport to ship?We recommend that you purchase a transfer package from EMI when you purchase your cruise. At your request, EMI will arrange group transfers for you between the Heathrow hotel and the ship, see EMI's website for details. These transfers will include luggage handling. EMI will not book any of these options for you unless you request them. Costs for these transfers are in addition to your cruise fare. Here are the options:
- EMI is arranging rooms at a hotel adjacent to Heathrow airport, before and after the cruise. They can reserve rooms for you.
- EMI has booked buses from Heathrow to the Dover cruise port. They can hold a seat for you and will take care of your luggage.
- EMI has booked buses from the Dover cruise port to Heathrow. They can hold a seat for you and will take care of your luggage.
How about getting to Dover on my own?
The port terminal in Dover is about 2.5 hours driving from London's Heathrow airport. Gatwick is closer to Dover but has limited flight options. It takes as much as 3 hours to drive between the Dover cruise terminal and downtown London.
If you choose to get to the ship or return to the airport on your own, please allow an absolute minimum of 4 hours travel time plus time for check-in on either end.
Trains and busses are available to get from London to Dover. There are various trains and busses that leave from various stations in London, including express service. Note that these are NOT door-to-door and do NOT assist you with your luggage. You will need to get to the station in London with your luggage, board the train and utilize limited storage areas, and once in Dover you will need a taxi to get from the train or bus station to the port terminal.
Taxis and private cars are available for hire at considerable expense.
How do I get my luggage on to the ship?
They do it for you! Once at the port terminal, you will leave your bags for transfer to the ship, much like you would check bags for a plane flight. There is no cost for this service. Your bags will be delivered directly to your cabin. A similar procedure will happen in reverse when we return to Dover.
When you first get on and last get off the boat, there will be a lengthy period of time when you will not have access to your baggage or to your cabin. Please be prepared with a small carry-on bag to hold the stuff you need, including all of your travel documents, medications, and any valuables you may have with you.
Whenever your bags are being transferred for you, please be sure to respect deadlines for having your bag ready, properly tag your bags, and re-claim them promptly. In particular, remember that just as at an airport you will always need to claim your luggage in the cruise terminal. It will not automatically be transferred to your hotel.
Is there security screening?
Before embarking the ship, you will be subject to security screening similar to that in any airport.
Will I need a passport?
All passengers need passports. No exceptions, including infants and minors. They must be good for six months beyond the duration of the cruise. These regulations are strictly enforced. For more information, see HAL Passport Info.
What about visiting Russia?
In order to leave the ship in St. Petersburg you must obtain a Russian Tourist Visa or be have a blanket visa arranged through a shore excursion. This includes any activity on shore, even just to walk off the ship. The only way to obtain a visa is in your home country. Allow at least 2 months to complete the visa application process before you leave.
Visa procedures are strictly enforced by local officials in St. Petersburg. No one on the ship will be able to assist you in these matters. No one can obtain a visa for you after you leave home.
Visa arrangements will be made on your behalf if you arrange, well in advance, an excursion through Holland America. The shore operator will arrange a blanket visa for your group. With a blanket visa you must stay with your group at all times. It is YOUR responsibility to confirm these arrangements. You must have paper documentation with you when leaving the ship in St. Petersburg.
There are other shore operators that provide excursions. Visa arrangements with these operators are entirely your responsibility.
We are advised that booking a shore excursion with an authorized operator is the most efficient and economical way to visit St. Petersburg. There are all types of excursions available through Holland America, from basic shopping trips to small group tours to large bus tours.
If you choose to apply for a personal visa, there are a number of options. We recommend Visa Central, see EMI's website for details. Holland America provides Visa Central with information on its cruises, stream-lining the application process. Fees to the consulate and for processing generally add up to approximately $300. You will need to send in your passport for processing. The forms required are extensive and require detailed personal information. You will need to acquire a Visa Support Letter that confirms your travel details, Visa Central automatically generates these. There are a number of agencies that can help you apply, with options for how much help they will provide. Again, we recommend Visa Central.
YOU WILL NEED A VISA TO GET OFF THE SHIP IN ST. PETERSBURG, unless you book a shore excursion with Holland America.
May visitors come aboard?
Sorry, no. Due to customer and safety concerns, HAL has established a no-visitor policy. As at most airport terminals, only booked passengers will be permitted past the security check-in point.
What about after the cruise, in Dover/London?
We arrive early in Dover. If you would like to take some time to explore London upon our return, we certainly recommend it. Holland America offers excursions and there are many other resources you could employ. EMI has blocked out hotel rooms in London if you'd like to stay overnight.
EMI will also offer you the option of booking a transfer directly to the airport if you are flying immediately following the cruise. They will offer hotel accommodations as well, if you would like to stay over.
You will require a minimum of 4 hours to transfer off and get from the ship to the airport, plus time to navigate the airport itself. Please consider your return flight time carefully to allow for travel and transfers from Dover.
IV. Traveling Abroad
Will I need a passport?
Yes, all passengers must carry a passport that expires a minimum of six months following the cruise. This includes infants and minors.
What are the requirements for visiting Russia?
In general, you will need a Russian tourist visa to leave the ship in St. Petersburg, unless you plan to visit entirely as part of an excursion arranged through Holland America.
Understanding and complying with the procedures, deadlines, rules and regulations for this process is entirely up to you. We do know that after you leave home, there is no possible way to acquire a tourist visa.
If you book a shore excursion through Holland America, the shore operator will acquire a blanket visa on your behalf. We are advised that this is the easiest and most cost-efficient way to visit Russia. Holland America offers a wide variety of shore excursions in St. Petersburg, at many price levels including simple shopping trips.
We are told that other local operators can provide excursions. If you choose these operators, visa requirements are entirely your responsibility.
Other than in Russia, will I need a visa?
Most U.S. Citizens will not. We will be traveling to multiple destinations in Europe. Some passports from assorted nations need a Schengen Visa in order to do this. Please discuss your personal requirements with the proper consular officials prior to leaving home. Those guests who require a visa and do not obtain one will be denied boarding.
Do I need shots?
We are not aware of any special vaccinations or immunizations required for most of the areas to which we are traveling. There are recommendations for Eastern Europe, including Russia and Estonia. Health officials generally recommend that travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations. Please consult a medical professional for their opinion as to vaccinations that may be appropriate to have current when visiting our ports of call.
What languages will be spoken at our ports of call?
English, Danish, German, Swedish, Estonian, Finnish, Russian, and more will be spoken in various ports on this cruise. In most situations, we will be able to communicate in English.
What about currency?
On this cruise we will have the opportunity to use several foreign currencies. All ports we visit will have official currency exchange bureaus. Local ATM's wlll be generally accessible and dispense local currency. Please be cautious in your use of ATM's in public spaces. In Italy in 2013 a number of passengers were, unfortunately, the victim of PIN code thieves. On board ship, the hotel desk can convert limited amounts of currency.
- In England on either end of our tour, the Great British Pound is the coin of the realm. We can all learn what a shilling, crown and guinea really are (or were).
- In Denmark, we will spend our money in kroner, what the English call the Danish crown.
- In Russia, we'll be paying for our trinkets with the ruble.
- In Sweden, you'll need Swedish kronor if you want to pay cash.
- Three countries on our itinerary have established the euro as their legal tender: Germany (formerly the Deutsche Mark), Estonia (kroon), Finland (markka).
You can avoid acquiring a currency collection by using credit cards.
What about credit cards?
Most major credit cards are accepted at many vendors in the ports we will visit. Please remember to notify your credit card companies of your travel plans. Many European retailers expect credit cards with security chips and PIN codes: this is a new system for the U.S. and you may wish to discuss this with your credit card provider. If you have a little silver decal on your credit card, make sure you know your PIN code.
What will we do on board?Boredom is not an issue. Never has been, never will be. We will schedule a full slate of musical performances. In the main showroom and in smaller venues throughout the ship, you will have ample opportunity to enjoy your favorite "Prairie Home" performers. There will be sing-alongs and story-telling and gatherings with Garrison. We will add lectures, readings, and other events to HAL's regular cruise offerings.
The APHC events are in addition to all of the activities you would expect on a cruise ship: dining, swimming, spa services, eating, relaxing, sports, gambling, shopping, eating, entertainment, other special events, and more eating.
When do we attend the evening performances?
Our main attraction on board is the evening performance in the main showroom. These can be similar to APHC broadcast shows, or they can be music concerts, or even shows featuring the various talents of your fellow passengers. Regardless, everyone wants to come see them.
The showroom only holds about half of the ship's passengers, which is why we repeat the show each night. The problem comes when people try to see both shows. This can deny your fellow passengers the opportunity to see the show. So we use a plan that we hope you think is fair.
You will receive a color-coded Holland America ID card. This will identify which show you may attend each night. We are going to check this identification for each main evening show, just as we would take tickets for a regular performance. We will clear the auditorium after each show, and we will not allow people to reserve seats in advance.
Will you publish a schedule of activities?
We are always adding new things to do, right up to the day of departure. When you arrive on the ship we will have for you a schedule of activities for the entire cruise. Once aboard, we adjust the schedule daily. HAL and APHC will publish an official daily schedule, which will be delivered to your cabin every morning.
Will I actually SEE Garrison? How about the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band? And what about the Royal Academy of Radio Actors?
Prairie Home performers will be guests of Holland America just like you. You'll see them in the elevators, on the Lido deck, at the buffets and bars, and, of course, on stage. Don't be afraid to say hi, ask questions, or tell us you loved a particular event. But do understand that we may be running to our next assignment, or just need some time on our own.
Should I bring a musical instrument?
If it is something that you'd like to play for your pleasure in a casual, sit-around-a-campfire kind of atmosphere, yes. While a few people may end up performing on stage, please don't expect this.
Will any of the shows be broadcast?
No, but they will be recorded for possible later use. We may create a broadcast from the recorded material.
Will there be opportunities for autographs?
While on board, feel free to ask for autographs at your leisure. We will also schedule autograph sessions in coordination with the gift shops on board. Check in with a Prairie Home or EMI staff member on board if you have questions about this.
Will there be APHC merchandise for sale?
Yes. Check out the gift shops on board. We'll have clothing, books, and lots of music featuring your "Prairie Home" favorites.
When do we schedule our dining? Can we sit together at dinner?
When you register for the cruise, you will request your seating preferences for dining. EMI will do everything possible to honor seating requests. In most every case you will be able to sit near friends and family, assuming you want to. You may meet new friends at your table as well. Note that your dining time preference determines which performance of the evening Showroom events you will attend.
What is the difference between early seating and late seating?
The Dining Room and the Main Show Lounge each hold half of the ship's passengers, so we all need to rotate.
- EARLY seating passengers will eat at the first seating of dinner, at 5:30 p.m. Then they go to the second show, at 8:30 p.m.
- LATE seating passengers see the Main Lounge Show first, at 6:00 p.m. They then go to dinner at the second seating, at 7:45 p.m.
While accommodations can often be made, due to the popularity of our evening shows we will use assigned dinner times: the "As-You-Wish" dining program available on regular HAL cruises will not be used.
If I have food allergies or other dietary needs, will the ship be able to accommodate these?
Yes, but you must inform us in advance. You can learn more at HAL Shipboard Life.
What is the Dress Code?
Because we are chartering the ship, APHC has the freedom to set our own dress-code policies. We are considerably more relaxed than the standard cruise. Sunday-go-to-church clothes is about as fancy as we get. If you like to dress up, please feel free, and many of us may join you.
The only time there will be an actual dress code is in the dining rooms during the evening meal. On most nights, the dress code will be "smart casual." This means long pants and sports shirt or sweater for men, and skirt or long pants and sweater or blouse for women. Please avoid casual T-shirts, swimsuits, bathrobes, tank tops, shorts, and the like in the dining room. Further, we will designate one or two evenings as "semi-formal." This generally means sport coat and maybe a tie for men; and a dress, skirt, or pantsuit for women. These nights are an opportunity for you to dress up, and the crew will wear their dress uniforms, but it is not a strict requirement.
May we dine elsewhere?
Holland America offers many other options for dining. You are not obligated to join us in the dining room, although you may want to let your seatmates know you won't be joining them. Dining options include a private table at the Pinnacle Grill or the Canaletto Restaurant, informal dining on the Lido Deck, and Room Service available 24/7. The Pinnacle and Canaletto options require a modest surcharge—well worth it for the high quality of food, level of service, and atmosphere. Remember that the dining room is a lovely, peaceful, option for breakfast and lunch—and it's included.
VII. Life Aboard Ship
How do I contact an EMI or APHC staff person? How will they be identified?
We will staff an info table near the front desk. And we'll all try to wear our ID lanyards.
After boarding the ship, how long before I can get into the cabin?
Boarding for the ship begins several hours before we cast off. You'll be able to settle in once your stateroom is prepared. HAL has streamlined this process to a great degree, but please understand that they have to turn around accommodations for more than 1,200 people in a very short period of time. Plenty of on-board activities will be available while you wait, including making a few arrangements for your week. And the buffet lines will be open.
An announcement will be made when your staterooms are ready, that's when you can meet your steward and get un-packed.
What kind of amenities will I find in my cabin?
Cabins on the Ryndam are outfitted much like a good hotel room. You will find them to be comfortable, nicely decorated, efficient, and clean.
All linens and bedding will be supplied. Your bathroom comes complete with towels, toiletries, and your very own bathrobe. You will find ample closet and drawer space, a dressing table, cabin-controlled air conditioning, a variety of cabin lighting, and a television with shipboard programming.
All staterooms are equipped with standard 110 AC and 220 AC power outlets. Personal care items and electronics will work just as they do at home. Hairdryers are available in all staterooms. You may wish to bring a travel alarm clock since they are not provided, although your cabin phone accesses an effective wake-up call system.
For safety reasons, we respectfully request that you do not iron clothing in your stateroom. Ironing facilities are available in the self-service laundry rooms for your convenience. Full laundry, dry-cleaning, and valet services are available on the Ryndam.
Where can I smoke?
Please note that Holland America has a policy of prohibiting smoking in all staterooms. This policy will be strictly enforced. Substantial fees will be charged for cleaning your cabin if you smoke inside. In Verandah cabins, smoking is permitted outside on the balconies only.
In deference to our performers and your fellow passengers, this is a "non-smoking" cruise with even stricter policies than regular cruises. You may smoke only in a certain designated area on one outside deck of the ship. Our cruise designates all interior areas (including all lounge and restaurant areas) as non-smoking where smoking might be permitted on other HAL cruises.
How can I be reached in case of an emergency?
Holland America has procedures in place for situations that require emergency contact with your loved ones. Find more details at HAL Planning and Advice.
What if I need medical attention?
Fully trained medical professionals are on board at all times, and a complete medical facility is available. Aspirin and seasickness pills are on the house, but you may have to pay for other items or services.
Can I call my friends in their cabin? Can I call home?
Your stateroom comes equipped with telephones that can be used to call your fellow passengers just as in a hotel. They can also be used for ship-to-shore communication, however significant charges apply. Find out more about how this works at HAL Planning and Advice. Passengers may not see our guest roster and we will not give out cabin numbers.
Will my cell phone work?
Probably not while on board, possibly while in port — but be careful. If you do not set up an international calling plan most services will incur substantial "roaming" fees when overseas. Call your carrier for international details for your plan.
Will I have access to the Internet?
Yes. You may bring your own computer or use ones provided by HAL. You can buy minutes for surfing the Internet at any point throughout the trip. Wireless is available in some locations and is charged under the same system. Please be aware the prices are high and can add up quickly. See HAL Planning and Advice for more details.
We were frustrated with the internet service aboard the Ryndam in 2013, and we imagine many of you were as well. Our friends at Holland America did everything they could to remedy the situation while we were on board, they agree that there were challenges with the service during the cruise. Before our 2014 program, Holland America Line will have a new service provider onboard with the goal of offering a better and more consistent internet experience aboard the Ryndam.
Can I get married on board ship?
No. This is a private, chartered cruise. No weddings. No divorces, either.
Will there be stuff for my kids to do?
Holland America provides a range of activities for kids through their Club Hal program. See HAL On-board Activities for details. The Club HAL room is regularly available with games electronic and otherwise, and has daily special group activities. The schedule of events is determined by the number of kids who sail with us; we promise to include APHC programming in their schedule. The Ryndam also features The Loft and The Oasis, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas specifically reserved for teenagers.
How should I dress for the weather?
While weather can always change, we will be sailing at a popular time of year. Temperatures in our ports should be comfortable and moderate, in the 60's and 70's Fahrenheit.
When on deck it can always be windy and cool, be prepared for that. Of course, be prepared for rain. Be sure to bring comfortable shoes for walking on deck or on shore.
Should I bring anything else?
If you are interested in "knowing stuff," you might want to bring along your binoculars and a field guide or three (birds, marine mammals, wildflowers, and geology are just a few). Previous guests have found benefit from bringing a camera, a journal, an instrument, or their most recent knitting project.
What will sea conditions be like?
We could have calm seas. We could have 15-foot waves. The ship may glide placidly along with barely a perceptible murmur. The ship may rock back and forth, making even the stout of heart (and stomach) reach for the Dramamine. We will probably see a bit of everything. It is unlikely that we will experience severe weather, and HAL does an excellent job of tracking and avoiding storms.
We are sailing the Baltic at a favorable time, but the Northern seas do tend to be more active than the consistent calm we experienced in the Mediterranean.
You'll find all the information you need at Shore Excursions.
Please be sure to take note of visa requirements in St. Petersburg, see above.
Booked guests may confirm shore excursion requests in advance of sailing. Once you have your Holland America booking number and cabin number, you may use it to view shore excursion information specific to your itinerary. To complete a booking, please proceed through all screens on the HAL booking page until you receive confirmation from them that your booking is complete.
Before you leave from home, we suggest you make use of a handy feature on the website: you can generate a complete schedule of your cruise that includes your pre-booked activities.
Guests may pre-book shore excursions online until five days prior to sailing. If your departure date is less than five days away, please call Shore Excursions at 1-888-425-9376 to book directly with an agent. All shore excursion requests are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Wait-listed requests for sold-out shore excursions will be processed prior to requests made on board. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult over 25.
Excursion cancellations may incur a cancellation fee, and any refund may be issued in the form of credit to your on-board account. Excursions have individual deadlines after which no refund or credit is given. Please refer to Shore Excursions for details.
All excursions are the responsibility of independent tour operators. HAL acts only as an agent to help you book your tours. We have no financial or operational relationship with them. While excursions may be arranged directly with independent operators on shore, you will have limited recourse in the event of an unsatisfactory experience.
All of our ports afford the opportunity to explore on foot at no cost or by local transportation. The exception on this cruise is St. Petersburg, where you will need a visa to leave the ship, arranged either personally or as part of a pre-booked excursion. We will have extra information on all of our ports for you before and during the cruise. Please feel free to set out as you wish.
Wherever and however you explore, be sure to be back on time. Be sure that your watch is set to ship's time; local time on land can be different. The ship cannot wait past scheduled departure times.
IX. Contact Us
Contact us by email or call EMI at 800-225-5364 x2179.
Visit our journal of daily updates to see the highlights from this year's cruise — including videos, photos and notes — or relive your time aboard the ms Ryndam »