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Family Cruising Discuss family cruising - kids programs, babysitting, infant care, etc.

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old May 20th, 2005, 12:23 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 23
Default Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatots)

We enjoyed our recent cruise on Rhapsody. I mentioned that I would post a review on our experiences. My husband and I took our 3 year old (non potty trained) son on this ship for the 5/8/05 sailing. We participated in the Aqua Tots program and shore excursions for each port. Here is a review of what we did with him. First, neither of us are drinkers or partiers, so we were usually in bed by 10:30 at the latest. Because my son is not potty trained, we didn't spend a lot of time around the pool. I didn't want him to feel like he was missing something by not being in the pool. So, what did we do?

Aquatots - We attended every session of Aquatots, except for Thursday and Friday port days. The classes consisted of a song at the beginning, playtime, song at the end. On the last day, the instructor actually pulled out a coloring sheet for the kids. The first day there were 6 kids, it averaged 2-3 the rest of the cruise. The toys were Fisher-Price toys, Little People Farm, Power Touch, Litttle People Trucks, and Little People playground, school with more trucks. My son really enjoyed playing with this group and the toys. There were many that he didn't have. I would like to see them make this a little more structured, with a story, and some other type of activity that encourages interaction. I would also like to see a room set aside for the children to use at other times of the day for free play. The class was only held at 10:30 in the morning in a small area of the Moonlight Bay Lounge. It would be nice if it could be held twice a day.

Excursions - We took R.C. sponsored excursions at each of the ports. My husband was worried about taking taxis, so we booked excursions that had transportation included.

Key West - When we booked this cruise over Carnival's Elation, we chose it because it stopped at Key West. I wanted to see the Hemingway House and the famous cats. We booked the Hemingway House Walking tour. Well, Empress of the Seas was in port before us with engine trouble and it delayed our entry into Key West over an hour. The Hemingway House closes at 5:00pm. We thought since we booked this excursion, that they would still be open for us. Boy were we wrong. When we arrived on the dock at 4:15 our time (5:15 Key West), we were informed that the museum had already closed. This was a major disappointment. But, we took the walking tour anyway, and it was very nice. My son slept in his stroller for most of the tour. They refunded the amount of the tickets for the Hemingway House. I really think they should just not offer this excursion. With a 3:00pm (4:00 pm Key West) arrival time, trying to see any museum there is chancy.

Grand Cayman - We took the Turtle Farm and Beach Colony Club excursion. We were packed like sardines on buses and given a detailed description of all of the banks and businesses on Grand Cayman by the driver, Max. He was very nice, but the bus was way too crowded. The turtle farm was kind of sad. Turtles are packed at least 5 deep in pools and although they say it is for conservation, we were told that they are farmed for consumption. But, we did get to hold some of the smaller turtles, and it was a very neat experience. My son really liked it. Before the turtle farm, we stopped at the town of Hell for about 15 minutes. The rocks are interesting, but we could have missed it. The biggest disappointment of the excursion was the Beach Colony Club. Each cruise line was given a tiny area where lounge chairs were packed like sardines. You couldn't leave this area while there, you had to stay in the assigned area. The beach was dirty with cigarette butts, and my husband said he even saw a rusty nail. He was not impressed at all. But, my son really enjoyed being able to actually get in the water. We stayed mostly on the sand, just at the surf, because he has never really been around water and I don't swim.

Cozumel - One word of advice. Take your stroller. It may be a major inconvenience, but the place where we docked was very far from where we went to the buses. My son wanted to be carried on the way there, and was asleep on the way back. That's a long walk carrying a 35 lb kid. It nearly killed my back. We took the Deluxe Beach Break. They have very nice air conditioned buses, so the transportation was the best we had on the trip. Playa Mia was very nice. There was enough stuff to do for the 5 hours we were there. My son got to play in the water for about 2 1/2 hours, then we ate at the buffet (so so food). There is a mini zoo there that is not too bad. Several monkeys, etc. Plus, there is a nice little playground. So, he was able to climb and go on the slide.

People - Everyone we met in the dining room and staff in other parts of the ship were wonderful to my son. We had main seating at table 128. Our waiter (Glenda Carolus) and assistant waiter (Iowanna P from Romania) were wonderful with him. Iowanna seemed very taken with him. Others we met were Rosario, Lolly, etc. I don't know last names. My son had no problem asking for food that was not out, and he was never denied any request. On two occasions, staff went out of their way to bring him what he requested. Our stateroom attendant Carlos Alvarez (?) was especially nice to John and always gave him candy when he saw him. The towel buddies were especially nice.

Shows - My main gripe with the cruise is the late timing of the shows for those with early seating. They were mostly at 9:00, with one at 10:30. We only made it to 2 shows because of this. We saw the Hanes magic show and the Rock on Broadway show.

Cabin - Unlike many, we spent a lot of time in our cabin. My husband was having trouble with his knee and shoulder and was in a lot of pain. We brought a portable DVD player and Thomas train pieces for my son. We had a balcony cabin and really enjoyed it. The beds were not very comfortable and even though my son had his own bed, he usually ended up with us in our bed sometime in the night. We did not get very good sleep. He developed a cold about the same time we boarded.

On our last day at sea, we found a location that really was good for him to stretch his legs and not bother other people. We took him on the promenade deck, and he really seemed to have a good time there. I wish we had done it earlier in the cruise. There aren't that many people on this deck, so he really didn't bother anyone.

Other things that we really liked: food was pretty good, musicians in the dining room were very good. Biggest surprise, and pleasant for us, the musicians in the dining room played some old and not so old well loved hymns, as well as Phantom of the Opera songs. They also played some Texas favorites, Cotton eyed Joe and Orange Blossom Special. If you take a child, make sure they see the Parade of Friends. I was the only one who went, but I think my son would have loved seeing the staff parading with flags. It was very nice.

One word of warning, although that's a little strong term. My son became very clingy on the cruise. I could barely leave the room without him, and couldn't go to the bathroom without him. So, keep that in mind if you are cruising with little ones. They may need you much more than they usually do.

For things to do in and around Galveston: We went down a day early and saw the Johnson Space Center and the Battleship Texas. My son loved them. After the cruise, we went to the train museum, which is very close to the terminal. I was surprised at the deterioration of the museum. I had been there right after it opened, and wanted my son to see it. They must have lost a lot of funding. But, he enjoyed it anyway and didn't want to leave.

Hopes this helps those who may be taking little ones in the future.


Rhapsody of the Seas 5/8/05
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old May 20th, 2005, 07:55 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 825
Default Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatots)

Sounds like you had a nice time despite a few setbacks. We too have a 3 yr old and have taken him on several RCI cruises (11 mos, 23 mos, 35 mos and another coming up in Dec at 47 mos). Weve skipped excursions (or my husband goes with my dad and brother) to avoid our son getting bored. Normally we walk around port, shop a little, head back for lunch, then go to a beach for a few hours. Give my son some sand and waves and hes a happy little camper!

Im glad you didnt run into an unhappy people that you read about on these boards re: kids. We too have been lucky. The staff has also been very accomodating when it comes to emptying the trash out more frequently (dirty diapers, though I bring extra bags to really wrap them up), and getting us food/drinks that are not out for the taking. Some of our dinner waiters have been wonderful as well, especially those with kids back home. One of our waiters said our son looked like his and I think he had a hard time dealing with it. He really went out of his way and when he got a rare free moment, would entertain our son with origami animals or magic tricks.

Thanks for mentioning the Aquatots program. Our son will be old enough for the kids club finally, and is potty trained (again finally!) but I will have a 5 mos old girl on our next cruise. It doesnt sound like it was a great program, but allowed the kids some play time. Our son was always happy just to explore the ship, watch the elevators, and people. That was until my idiot brother decided to show him the arcade so now when we board a ship its the first thing he wants to find (hes got a good memory). We took him to the shows as long as they were the flashy upbeat musical types. He usually ended falling asleep 20 minutes into it since it was so late. All that sun, sea air and exploring really wear out the little ones. We always managed some down time/nap back in the cabin so we could make it through dinner. The balcony cabins are priceless for sitting out there while our son slept. And we too bring along a dvd player for him, along with a few small toys, books, and beach toys.

The turtle farm is depressing isnt it. They do release some of the turtles back into the wild, but most are for consumption. I too was surprised to hear that since Id always thought they released them. We stayed in Cayman back in the early 90s and then stopped the other year. What a huge change. Its so built up now its no where near as nice as it used to be. The tanks at the turtle farm used to be right up on the beach/ocean. Seems a hurricane (not the ones last year) came through and basically wiped it all out. Most of the turtles were washed out to sea or died. The rebuilt most of the tanks across the street for this reason.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you continue to cruise with your family as its a great experience!


AHC-Hawaiian Islands
PCL-Caribbean, Alaska, Panama Canal
12/02 RCI-Enchantment-Western Caribbean
12/03 RCI-Navigator-Western Caribbean
12/04 RCI-Mariner-Eastern Caribbean
12/05 RCI-Brilliance-Panama Canal
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old May 20th, 2005, 11:53 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatots)

Nice review, but I am sorry you didn't just grab a taxi on Grand Cayman, of all your ports that one would have been the very easiest to just go to a nice beach on. We saw " Hell" and the Turle farm and hated them.
We then just cabbed to a beach and had a wonderful time.
As for the clingy thing, that was your boy, my boy never got even a little bit clingy, in fact it was a chore to keep him near us as he always wanted to dash away( he was a bit younger then yours, only 2) , at least when they are clingy they are safe!

Now, for the lecture.
You have to take swim lessons. My mom was raised on the prairies and never learned to swim, but when we were about 5 or 6 she got a scare at a hotel pool. My younger sister seemed to be having trouble swimming( we had been put in some lessons so could swim a bit) to the edge, my mom was there with us, but not in water, she couldn't swim, so she starts yelling at me to " help" her( I am what maybe 7), my sister managed to get to the side, but my mom never got over how she had reacted, and how she couldn't have done anything except scream.
So , go and get lessons, my mom did at 35 , so can you!
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old May 22nd, 2005, 01:20 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 23
Default Re: Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatot

We forgot to bring extra bags for the dirty diapers, but once we explained to Carlos what we needed, he was able to provide us something for them. They don't put any liners in either wastebasket and the bathroom's basket is tiny. We used their plastic laundry bags for the most part and supplemented when we had extra bags from somewhere else.

pg - I would much rather have used the cab, but my husband was uncomfortable using cabs in places we'd never been before. Maybe if we go back, we can do something different.

Also on swimming, I can swim some, probably enough to save my son if he were in a hotel or private pool, but I don't like it at all. Definitely not in the ocean, but would probably go in if I knew how deep it was. I don't care for it in my face, nose, eyes and ears. Never have. I'm fine as long as its not in the real deep end and nobody tries to dunk me.

Thanks for your comments on my review. I really wanted to give my perspective on Aquatots. My son really enjoyed it, so did I, but it does need more structure for most kids to want to come back. We are involved in a Kindermusik class, so this was similar, but could have had more stories, or activities that reinforced the theme that they were playing in.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Old May 22nd, 2005, 04:07 AM
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Default Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatots)

Suze, I agree the program sounded like ti could have used a bit more structure. Have yo9u considered other lines, apparently some other lines have really well organized kids programs.

As for cabbing it, well, there are places that I could understand your hubbys reluctance,( like Jamaica, ugh) but Gand Cayman isn't one of them. It has almost no unemployment ( well ,pre hurricane) and little poverty, so not much crime( blue collar, bet there is some fancy banking going on down there, ) .Plus it is a tiny island, impossible to get lost!
May be next time you'll be able to research your ports on these and similar boards and present hubby with enough info to be able to reassure him that you could do SOME things on your own. It is actually easier with little kids , we did it that way on our Mexican cruise with a 5 month old baby and our two yr old son, just taxi to a beach or a nice hotel( yes we actually just did a " nice hotel pool" for one of our ports) and not have to worry about the kids screaming on a bus, or getting bored and wanting to leave early( impossible on a tour).

The important thing is you all enjoyed your cruise.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Old May 23rd, 2005, 02:52 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatots)

FYI...I'll be checking out the Aqua Tots program this August and will write about it in detail on this site. It'll be interesting if it's better then since you experienced it in its "infancy!" No pun intended!?
Luisa Frey Gaynor
Family Cruise Editor
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 05:22 PM
Posts: n/a
Default Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatots)

Thank you very much for your comments on things to do in Galveston. The distance this port is from Houston airports gives ships with this departure port a big negative in my mind, but if there are things to do, it might not be so bad. My son loves (or used to anyway) trains and now that he like Star Wars, I know DH and he would like the Johnson Space Center. Is it far from the hotel area?

We are considering this cruise for a 10 day holiday sailing. Do you think the ship was in good shape? How about seasickness? Some ships have really good stabilizers, and some don't!

How would you rate the food?

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  #8 (permalink)  
Old May 24th, 2005, 08:12 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 23
Default Re: Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aquatot

The Johnson Space Center is between Houston and Galveston in Webster, Texas. It's about 30-45 minutes from Galveston. We stayed in a hotel near the space center on Saturday and drove into Galveston on Sunday after we went to the Battleship Texas (about 1 hour from Galveston).

If you come into the airports, Hobby Airport is closest to Galveston. Houston has several nice museums, the Natural History Museum, Museum of Fine Arts and a great children's museum. It's been a while since I was there but it was really nice a few years ago. The zoo is also close to the museums. Galveston has the Strand (shopping), several house museums (Ashton Villa, Moody Mansion), a tallship named the Elyssa (check to see if it is open, it used to be sailed on occasion).

The food was good to really good. We ate in the dining room for most lunches and all dinners. The lunch menu stays the same, except for one change every day. I would have preferred to eat breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer buffet (I like the variety), but my husband liked the dining room. They put alot of silverware on the tables and only had glass stemware in the dining room. I was really scared that my son would break a glass, but he didn't. He loved playing with the silverware though.

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Old May 24th, 2005, 08:19 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 23
Default Re: Re: Re: Review - Rhapsody with a 3 year old (5/8/05, Aqu

The ship was in very good condition. Very pretty. Workers were painting in some areas during the cruise. Our cabin was okay, the bedspread was a little worn, and the sofa was definitely showing age, but not too bad. None of the beds were very comfortable, the sofa, probably better than the main bed. It was too small for 2 adults, kids would probably be okay. We only felt the ship really rocking on one night, but none of us got sick.

One other thing. Take a flashlight for the bathroom. If your child can reach the light switch which is on the outside, they'll probably really enjoy turning the bathroom light on and off while you are in there. This was one of my sons favorite thing to do.

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