Thats a difficult decision, been on Rhapsody and loved it and was just on Golden Princess. Both have some differences, the kids programs seemed very good on both lines, but you mentioned that you kids loved Explorer. We cruised Explorer last year too and absolutely loved that ship and found that this class of ships is hard to beat for families cruising. There is just so much to see and do on the ships, you almost don't need to get off for the whole week.
Last week on Golden they did do the automatic tipping for the dinning room staff, you still had to tip your cabin attendant with cash in the envelopes. I did read though that soon they will be doing the automatic tipping for everything at $10.00 a day per person. I, Myself kind of liked not having to bring all that extra cash, and you can still adjust it, if you feel that is necessary.
Do let us know what ship you do decide on, and have fun in the process.
Hi Julie, I have done both ships. I personally liked the Grand better for a variety of reasons. One in particular is the food. Also the kids loved the virtual reality center, which was only on the Grand. I just seemed to me that the Grand and princess was a cut above. This is only my opinion. I really did like the Rhapsody very much, it has many things to offer. Neither ship is a mistake.To show how much I loved the Grand though, I sailed her twice and I am going on her sister the Golden next week. I however will bet the farm that Kuki disagrees with my take. He is the God of cruising, and loved the Rhapsody. I am but a meager wannabe Kuki. Gary
I've been on rhapsody explorer & golden. I'll take rccl over princess anyday. Explorer is my favorite ship with rhapsody being a close second. I prefer the larger ships except golden. It is an awkward ship to get around on (good luck finding a restroom as they are not clearly marked). The main pool is only 1/2 used for swimming while the other 1/2 is 0 depth (strange in my opinion). If you like the steel band at the pool stick with rccl (they played more often). The food is about equal with a slight edge for princess for lunch & dinner but rccl has a better breakfast buffet. I'll guess since you loved explorer and if you choose rhapsody it will also be your second favorite.
Either way any cruise is better than not cruising. Have agreat cruise no matter which you choose.
I actually would prefer to take the youngsters aboard one of the ships of Princess's "Sun class" (MV Sun Princess, MV Dawn Princess, MV Sea Princess, or MV Ocean Princess). These ships also have excellent facilities for children of all ages and children's programs that the youngsters really do enjoy.
I'm not really sure how to advise you. From your comment about going to the Eastern Caribbean aboard MV [i] Grand Princess, I'm guessing that you are considering a summer cruise. If so, all four ships of the "Sun class" will be cruising to Alaska -- which is, by all accounts, a fascinating destination for all ages, though its character is somewhat different than the Caribbean. If you would consider going to Alaska rather than to the Caribbean, any of these ships would be an excellent choice. OTOH, if you can go during your nine-year-old's winter or spring vacation instead, three of the four "Sun class" ships are in the Caribbean -- MV Dawn Princess with seven-day itineraires from San Juan and MV Ocean Princess and MV Sun Princess with 10-day itineraries from Fort Lauderdale (the latter including a day in the Panama Canal, going through the westernmost set of locks to Gatun Lake and back). Anyway, your call....