We arrived in Galveston around 11:30 AM. We parked in the "Dolphin" lot which is privately owned and not associated with the Port Authority. It is the first cruise parking lot you see on approach to the terminal. The price is exactly the same and the advantage is, they take your luggage on their shuttles unlike the Port Authority parking. This is a great advantage when you return because you can just hop right on the shuttle with your bags (it was POURING RAIN when we returned) and they take you right to your car! No futzing with taking the port shuttle to get your car, fighting traffic back to the terminal, and trying to fight to get near enough to get your gear. I highly recommend them.
Embarkation when very smoothly and is well organized. It took us about 45 min. to get through and get on board. No waiting to get on the ship once we got through the first line. They will present you with your "Sea Pass" card at that time. Be sure to have your driver's license, passport or birth certificate to present at this time.Keep your Sea Pass close at hand for the rest of the cruise.
After boarding we headed to the Windjammer for lunch. We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer where the food is varied. In fact, I thought the quality of the Windjammer food was better overall than what we were served in the dining room. Overall, I would give the food a score of 4 out of 5. Regarding some things I read before we departed. 1. The Windjammer coffee was undrinkable. I found the coffee fine, but weak, so I guess they had enough complaints and changed it. 2. The Windjammer ice cream was bad. The "ice cream" was frozen yogurt and was clearly marked as such. I really liked it (a little too much). You can get the real stuff in the dining room and the coffee there was better I thought too.
Our dining experience was very pleasant. We changed tables after the first night in order to sit with some friends we met on board. This really worked out well and we had a great time with our table mates. Our waiter "Yousef" from Turkey and assistant waiter "Maria" from Bulgaria were very efficient but not overly friendly. They did their jobs and got out of the way. Basically, they were just too busy to spend too much time chitchatting. The head waiter for our area was "Ian" from India. He came by each night and chatted for a few moments. He was delightful. As I mentioned, the food overall was good and well presented. From time to time, I thought the meats were a bit overcooked for my taste and dry. The desserts however were outstanding. I usually ordered two starters, salad, entrée and one main dessert with ice cream. On two nights, we were offered additional desserts to enjoy. WOW!! Each night, a waiter would come by with cordials in souvenir shot glasses. These were $5.95 but SO good. You could also order other digestives and coffees which we took advantage of on several occasions.
After dinner activities included the casino and on-board shows. The casino slots were very unforgiving and I didn't see too many people winning (especially the $.05 slots) which I thought was a shame. There were a three or four slot winners but that was about it. We did have some luck with "Piggy Bank" $.25 slot which is closest to one of the exit doors. I had fairly good luck on the blackjack tables. Basically, we lost our shirts on the slots. I did a lot better on the last Carnival cruise. The casino staff on the other hand was very friendly and helpful, especially to new players. In addition, the bar staff throughout the ship were great and after a day or so called you by name (which may not be such a good thing). Don't bother with the daily bingo games, but do play the final game. The odds are around 900 to 1 to win the big money which is about as good as it gets for such a large pot. Bingo tickets are $25 for a half sheet (3 games) and $35 for a full sheet of 6 games. Each bingo game consists of 5 total games giving you 5 chances to win for your $25. Furthermore, each game offers a "jackpot" which rolls over to the final big money if no one wins. Bingo is played twice a day. "Goose," the Assistant Cruise Director runs the game and makes it fun. The after dinner shows were VERY good and enjoyable. As a professional musician I was really impressed with both the singing and dancing. In addition, there were also comedians who I found to be really funny. I didn't make it to the late night "adult" shows though.
There are TONS of onboard activities and you will be hard pressed to be board. Some require an addition fee (such as the spa programs) but many are free of charge such as the "Belly Flop" contest for example. We didn't participate in the ship's excursions but booked a snorkel/Stingray City excursion with Captain Marvin's Watersports in Grand Caymen. This turned out to be a great choice and I highly recommend it. There are lots of excursions to choose from to meet everyone's needs. Unfortunately, there is just not ample time to do everything you would like to do in the ports of call. This is one aspect of cruising that I wish were different in that port time was longer. I have only been on two cruises and both times wished we could have stayed longer.
Now it wouldn't be fair for me to tell you only the good stuff and not include a little critique. I was only aggravated by a couple of things during the trip (which I guess isn't too bad all things considered. I found disembarking at ports of a call a bummer. Things went smoothly enough in Key West for some reason but when we tendered in Grand Caymen, it was a pain. People who have booked excursions through the ship were given their disembarkation time with their tickets. This makes sense (and I don't really have a problem with that) BUT if you booked through the ship and your tender time was early, you were given first preference in getting off the ship. If you didn't book and excursion through the ship and you need to get off the ship early, you must go to the "Moonlight Bay Lounge" at 7 AM to get tender tickets. I got there a little before 7 and there was already a line. We got Tender #1 so we got off fairly quickly. The return to the ship was mess however. The line was nearly two blocks long in the middle of the afternoon with no shade. Boy was it HOT! One of the tender ships broke down (I heard). After about 15 min. in line, a local tender vessel was brought in to help with the crowd. It was quite large and must have held several hundred people. All in all, it took about 30 min. in line to get on the tender boat. This seemed like an eternity after a long day and having to stand in the blistering sun. The other mess was disembarking in Cozumel. There was ONE LINE for people to get off the ship. Imagine 2,800 trying to get through ONE security line. GRRRR!! The other thing that pestered me while on board was the multitudinous afternoon announcements for the Art Auction and Bingo. If you like to take naps in the afternoon and are a light sleeper like me, forget it. I can see making one general announcement around midday to cover the afternoon's activities, but announcement after announcement was a little much in my opinion.
In conclusion, I was very impressed with Rhapsody. She is a beautiful ship and is well maintained. Her crew was friendly and genuinely seemed to be concerned with providing the best service possible to pamper the guests. Imagine doing that gig week to week for 6 months with every other Tuesday off. Our Cabin Steward "Lennox" did a great job and somehow kept up with our mess. The wait staff was wonderful overall and was eager to please. The Cruise Director "James" was enthusiastic and the Cruise Director staff worked very hard throughout the cruise was busy making sure the many on-board events went smoothly and everyone was entertained and had a good time.
I give Rhapsody 4 stars!!
This was my second cruise with Royal Caribbean and my husband Bill's first. We decided to take a trip on the Rhapsody after our workplaces "graciously" allowed us time off for our delayed honeymoon (June).
It was very convenient for us to sail from Galveston since we live in McAllen and wouldn't have to buy airline tickets. Our vacation approvals didn't come through until two weeks before our sailing date, so we were pleased to find that we could book a large interior stateroom for $549 per person. Unfortunately, we apparently waited too long because when we tried to book through RCCL, all the interior rooms were booked. The only available cabins were suites (Category C and up) for $999 per person. So we paid for a suite. After all, this was our honeymoon.
We left for Galveston the Saturday before and stayed overnight in Sugarland. It was foggy, cold and wet when we left at 10:30 the next morning for the drive to the Port. It was fairly easy to find the terminal. We also noted that some parking companies charge you $60 to park in their lots a mile fromthe terminal -- the same price that the terminal itself charges for parking. When we pulled up, a porter was waiting; he took no time at all to load up our bags and told my husband where he could park. I was worried because we hadn't receives any luggage tags or papers when we booked online, whereas people who went through an agent did. J.D., our porter, told me not to worry and led me to the warehouse where someone with a passenger manifest looked up our cabin number and tagged everything for us. Total baggage check-in time was less than five minutes.
When Bill returned from parking, we went upstairs to wait in line for security, which looked like it took longer than it actually did. Remember those papers that we didn't receive? Well, guess what the cruise representatives were telling everyone to have out. But if you didn't get the papers, they had forms available, and we only had to fill out one of two while we waited in line. Security was quick. We got stopped for stowing alcohol in our luggage and carry-on cooler, but when we told them this was our honeymoon, they waved us through. There was a special check-in line for RCCL Diamond members and for passengers in suites, which was nice; there was only one person ahead of us. We were checked in, cards in hand, and had our photos taken in less than five minutes.
There was a slight delay with the elevators, since most were used for luggage and loading. My first impression of the ship was that it was very beautiful and gleaming. The biggest sign of wear and tear was the carpet, but what can you expect when 2,400 people step on it every week?
We found our cabin relatively quickly, but we had printed a map of the ship before we left home. The cabin was a nice size, with plenty of room to move around. The queen-size bed was actually two twins pushed together, although pretty comfortable. There was also a loveseat/pullout, two chairs and two pods to be used as extra seats or footrests. They also had storage space inside.
The bathroom was a bit narrow, but since we had a combination tub/shower, it made the room longer. The only downside to the tub was that it was a couple of inches higher than the floor. So, if you're 6'4" like my husband, you'll be ducking during your morning shower. We also had complimentary use of two robes for the week, and plenty of closet space. I've read in other reviews that there wasn't enough space, but we found larger bags easily fit under the bed, and other items could be stored in the nightstand, vanity or above the fridge. We enjoyed the balcony, which had room for four chairs and a table. We spent quite a bit of time there, especially when pulling into our ports.
After a quick tour of the ship we decided to skip the buffet lunch in the Windjammer since we were still full from breakfast. We went back to the stateroom to watch the activity in the harbor. The only disappointment about leaving from Galveston is that the scenery is mainly cargo ships, tankers and oil rigs, and there's a scent of oil and chemicals from the refineries.
We ordered room service breakfast a couple of times, and split the other days between the Windjammer and Edelweiss dining room. Windjammer had buffet breakfast (usually scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, French toast and waffles). It also had an excellent omelet station (which Bill enjoyed every time). We also split lunch between the two dining rooms, and unlike breakfast, the lunch menu at the Edelweiss was always different.
We always had dinner in the Edelweiss dining room. The first night, both seatings were 15 minutes later than usual. We ended up being the only ones at our table that night, but I've heard it's not uncommon for people to skip the first night. The food was excellent. The best dinners were the filet, lobster and prime rib. Be ready for the ship's photographer to snap lots of pictures while you're eating.
Drinks are also worth mentioning. I had some of the best mixed drinks I ever had on the ship. At $5.95 for 16 oz. it's not a bad deal, though we found that it was cheaper to buy a drink card and share it between the two of us. The only downside to the card was that (besides beer and wine) it only included the 12 oz. mixed drinks, and could only be used at the bars.
We participated in a couple of seminars and paid $6 each for a wine-tasting festival, which we enjoyed. It seemed like the ship was really pushing for Bingo, which had a jackpot of $10,000 -- but it seemed like it should be more, since a pack of tickets cost around $35 and the lounges were full each time. Shopping was also encouraged, especially when we arrived at our ports of call. We went to most of the shows, the biggest being the Mardi Gras Du Monde (Vegas style show). And yes, the dancers do wear thongs.
We spent a great deal of time at the pool, especially on days at sea. We never had a problem getting two seats together in the sun, and it didn't seem like people were saving seats. I will add that if you don't like the smell of school cafeteria food (like my husband), stay out of the solarium. We sat in the hot tubs a couple of times but only because it was chilly outside. The pools were also pretty chilly. I only went swimming on Wednesday, on our way to Belize, because it was so hot out.
This was our first port, and the shortest stay. We didn't arrive until 3 p.m. and had to be back on the ship by 11:30. There was a huge crowd waiting to get off the ship; we didn't think we were ever going to make it! We rented a rickshaw to give us a ride to the southernmost point of the island, which was under construction due to graffiti. We walked back up Duval Street and poked around a couple of shops before heading up to the pier for the famous sunset, which was beautiful. We also ate the famous conch fritters before heading back for more shopping and a peek at the "freak show" in Mallory Square.
We didn't buy any excursions for Belize, because we didn't hear very nice things about Belize City, and because the ship's excursions were pretty expensive. We teamed up with a couple we met at the wine tasting and awaited our tender to go ashore. When you arrive at the dock, you're right in the middle of the "tourist village," which is basically a bunch of shops. There are also lots of people trying to sell excursions to the same places as the ship, but for less. We decided to go exploring a bit and wandered outside the village gates. There were a few more street vendors and a department store of sorts. We ended up persuading a cab driver to give us a half-hour city tour at $20 for four people. He was a nice, informative young man and we enjoyed seeing parts of the city that others wouldn't usually see. We found out that there is an hourly water taxi service to the outer islands for around $25 per person roundtrip. But by the time we discovered this, we had to return to the ship.
I had convinced Bill to buy tickets for the catamaran sail, snorkel and beach party excursion. We were off the ship by 8:15 and setting sail via catamaran by 8:30. Voyager of the Seas and one of Carnival's ships were arriving into port at the same time, so we got a really close-up view of these two ships. We stopped at a site the guides called a baby reef. We were disappointed that there weren't more fish and coral -- and I was stung by a couple of baby jellyfish. We stayed in the water for around 30 minutes and then got back in the boat to go to a private beach. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. We went sea kayaking and then retired to a hammock for the rest of the hour.
Then the crew called us back to the boat and we set sail for the trip back. The funniest part was when the crew started line dancing. by the time we made it back to the dock, we were doing a conga line with margarita shots. We went back to our stateroom and changed to go back out shopping; we ended up walking three miles to the other cruise terminal, where Princess and Crystal ships were docked. This was the nicer of the two shopping areas. There was an outdoor mall, Punta Langosta, that had a Burger King, TGI Friday's, Senior Frog's, and Carlos and Charlie's. We started to go shopping, but we live on the Texas-Mexico border, so once you've been to one shop, you've pretty much seen them all.
Service on the ship was excellent. Several staff members went out of their way to help us enjoy our cruise. Our cabin attendant, Peter, was fantastic; he made neat creatures out of pillows and towels each night. My only gripe was with the photo shop. We had formal pictures taken the first night at the captain's reception, but couldn't find the photo. It turns out they messed up a roll of film that probably had our photos on it. I waited until the last day to buy any of our other pictures. Again, we had pictures taken on the second formal night, but couldn't find the ones taken at dinner. I went back around 7:30 p.m. and found that they had put up more photos, ours included. Don't be surprised if you pay around $50 for six photos.
In general, we had a great time, and plan on sailing with Royal Caribbean in the future. There were a few key things that we learned:
(1) Research the area that you'll be visiting for the availability of shore excursions from local operators. They're often the same as those sold on the ship and at half cost. (2) Stock up on medicines like Tums, Dramamine, sea bands, Dayquil, Nyquil, etc. It'll be cheaper to go this route than through the ship's hospital if you get sick. Also try sitting facing forward or backwards and not toward the sides. (3) Bring your own drinks. There is no law against bringing your own sodas and water. You can even bring your own alcohol if it's for a special occasion and if you don't mind paying corking fees in the dining room.
I hope this review was informative and enjoy your vacation!
We are a family of 4, with 2 daughters ages 9 & 14. This was a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving. I can't remember the last time I wasn't dicing, chopping and stressing on Thanksgiving morning!
We left Houston at 10:00 am and pulled into Galveston around 11:00 am. Having been down to see the ship a couple of weeks earlier, we knew how to avoid the traffic jam. We went to the Strand (versus following the directions to the pier) and approached the ship from the other side. We dropped off the luggage, parked the car and returned by shuttle. Check-in moved very quickly. (FYI--At check-in there is a staffed table telling you the alcohol policy and giving you a chance to turn in any bottles-we chose not to deal with this issue and came aboard without any alcohol in either checked luggage or carry on). If you are a repeat passenger or staying in a suite, look for the sign that designates the left side of the check in line as an express line for you. We took advantage of this as we are Crown and Anchor members andcheck in was a breeze. We then received our boarding cards. They punch a hole in the minor's cards to identify them as such. We proceeded to have our picture taken by the ship photographers and then on to board the ship. At this point security has you insert your boarding card and your photo is taken again. (As you leave the ship at port and return, your insert your card into a scanner which not only identifies you, but also provides security with a photo id to match.)
We then went to our cabin, Category C Deck 8 (8084) with a veranda and noticed that there were 2 terry robes for our use while on board as well as a hair dryer. We dropped our carry on luggage and went to the Windjammer for lunch. The afternoon was spent exploring the ship. We purchased the soft drink sticker for $20 for our youngest daughter and a non-alcoholic drink card for $29 for our teenager, in my opinion both were a very good deal.
We had late seating and never felt rushed. It would have been very difficult to enjoy our time onshore and have 4 people dressed and ready for dinner by 6:00 pm. As it was we learned to dress in shifts! Our luggage was delivered to our cabin prior to sailing and we managed to find a nook and cranny for all our belongings--there were even 4 empty drawers.
The kids programs were very well organized, they had 402 kids on board from infants to late teens. The age groups were as follows: 3-5, 7-8, 9-11,12-14 & 15-17. There were activities arranged while in port as well as evenings and late night group sitting (10pm-1AM for $5 per hour cash). Our youngest went every night directly from dinner to spend time with her friends.
In Cozumel we arrived before 7:00 am and docked at the pier. It makes it very easy to come and go during the day. Having been there before, we chose to go to Chakanaab park. The taxi fare was $8 each way and $10 per person admission (children under age 10 I believe are free). We spent the afternoon relaxing on chairs under a thatched hut. The water was a bit rough so we did not snorkel. There was equipment rental available as well as restaurants, shower and changing facilities, gardens, etc…
In Grand Cayman we had arranged the 1:45 tour with Captain Marvin to snorkel and swim with the stingrays. This was one of the highlights of our trip. The cost was $30 per adult and $20 for children. We had a van ride of about 15 minutes and then were taken out on a boat with 2 guides and 13 guests. This was ideal. The guides were very helpful for nervous snorkelers, and were in the water with us and the stingrays. by the end of the swim, they had my very skittish daughter holding the stingray and even held it up to lay on her back. The attention was very personal and this was a fabulous experience! We saw the ship's tour at the sand bar and it was a large boat holding approx. 200 people. We went back to town and had about 45 minutes to explore and shop before catching the tender back to the ship.
In Key West we wandered the area and in Mallory Square found a very entertaining and creative man at a candle booth. We ended up designing our own candles and watching them made (great long lasting souvenirs).
The service on the ship was terrific. Our waiter was very personable, provided excellent service and catered to our every whim. He entertained our youngest daughter with nightly magic tricks, napkin art and even sent her a foil turkey filled with warm chocolate chip cookies. He was on his last trip before leaving for his 2 month vacation, and gave us final hugs in the terminal while he was waiting his bus to the airport.
Our cabin steward was an artist with towels! He left everything from an octopus made from a spare blanket, to daily pillow art to hanging monkeys, swans and the piece de resistance--the baseball cap, night gown clad creature sitting in a chair holding the remote control while watching TV.
Overall experience was great. The food was very well done for feeding 2200 passengers 3 meals a day. The evening entertainment was not necessarily what we loved, but was well received by others. We enjoyed Name That Tune in the Schooner Bar on Sea days, as well as other activities.
A couple of random thoughts-- If you have kids, bring yarn or string to thread through the hole on their card to make a necklace. Bring your own shampoo, conditioner and lotion
I am sure there are details I have forgotten, I may add more later.
Cruise Review February 9, 2003 to February 16, 2003 Rhapsody of the Seas
Day One: took Continental flight leaving Denver at 6:30 arriving in Houston at 9:45 am. From there we took the Royal Caribbean shuttle which costs 62.00 per person round trip in the pouring rain to Galveston. We got to Galveston at 12:00 and were on the ship by 12:30. That was by far the best embarkation we have ever experienced. We did book a suite category C which lets you skip the lines and get right on the boat. Upon arriving on the ship we proceeded directly to our stateroom which was easy to find and ready for us. We had the best state room attendant Edgar who came and introduced himself to us after we had settled in. As soon as we were settled in we went to eat in the Windjammer which I was dreading because of the poor reviews it received on the message board but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the buffet was very good and fresh and included everything you could want in a buffet including a carving station and ahuge desert station.
Although it was very cold in Galveston (low 50's) the sail away party on the pool deck went on as planned and we were headed to Key West with our bahamma mama drinks in our hand. Just before dinner around 5:30 our bags arrived in our room and we were able to dress for dinner. The first nights dinner we met our waiter Mustafa and assistant waiter Allen who were very proficient considering they had 20 people to wait on they were right on top of it. We ordered the wine and dine package which cost 125.00 including tip which gives you one bottle of wine of your choice with each dinner. However on the first night we could not be served wine until we were in international waters so we didn't get wine until mid way through our dinner. We also met our table mates who were wonderful entertainment.
That night's show included the Royal Caribbean singer and dancers singing "taking care of business" the Ritmos Duo which are male and female drummers who were entertaining but strange and goofy too. We were also introduced to Tom Canosa who is the cruise director who did a great job through out the cruise.
Day two at Sea: there were plenty of activities through out the day for all ages but we chose to relax and swim this day in the solarium pool which was very nice. We did decide to play bingo this day but were not impressed. You paid 35.00 for 5 games but the odds of wining were like a thousand to one too many people played bingo. The show for that night was the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers doing the Swingin Singing Years the band and singers put on a very good show that was defunitny geared to an older audience you can tell that a lot of hard work goes in to the production
Day three Key West: There where a lot of activities in the morning. We walked a mile; Ate breakfast in the windjammer witch I always liked. it was very good any breakfast item you could want ( bagels , lox's , eggs , ham , donnuts , made to order omelets , potato cakes , yogurt . and much more ) At 3:00 pm the ship arrived at key west we docked at the down town Hilton pear. My wife and I got off the ship at 3:45 pm walked around town looked at the bars and shops got back on the ship just in time to watch the sunset from our cabin balcony with a bottle of Champagne. Dinner was open seating we ate early so we could see my big fat Greek wedding in the theater it was very funny hopping they would show it. After the movie we went to bed and missed the comedy show and late night sail away pool party. It is nice to do as much or as little as you like!
Day Four at Sea: Again there were a lot of activities to do during the day at sea. We did all the ship shape activities to earn our ship shape dollars and that was kind of fun. We played in the casino but never one a dime only gave tons to the slots. The out door pool is usually crowded on sea days so we used the in door pool to swim and lay by the pool it is a really nice area to relax. The 4th night show was the best show we have seen. The Original Drifters were on the ship and put on a great show. Even at 26 and 30 we new every song they sang, it was so good. It was by far the best cruise show performance we have ever seen.
Day Five Belize City: We anchored near Belize City at 7:30 a.m. and all the tours were the first ones off the ship and then the rest of the passengers wanting to go ashore could go but you had to tender over so we decided we weren't going to get off the ship. But later that day we changed our minds and took the tender over. It is about a 15 minute boat ride over but there is really not much to see when you get over to the island. We only stayed in Belize for an hour and then tendered back it was kind of a waste but at least now we can say we've been to Belize. We were going to watch the movie that was playing in the Broadway Melodies Lounge but a quarter way through the movie shut off and the only two men who new how to run the computer were in Belize picking up a piano player for the next nights show so the movie was never fixed. However they did run the movie on the T.V. in each stateroom the next day all day long so we were able to see it. We were so exhausted this night we decided to order room service watch a movie and go to bed it was one of the best nights we had.
Day Six Cozumel: We arrived at 7:30 a.m. and we were one of the first people off the ship. It is so easy to get off the ship when you are at the international peer. We took a taxi over to the plaza for $6.00 and we were there way too early nothing opened up until 10:00 or later in the morning. We walked all around and looked at the open markets and found a great place to play mini golf we had a lot of fun. It was hot this day so after playing mini golf we took a taxi back to the peer and got back on the ship and lay by the pool for awhile. It was a great day to be in Cozumel. This was lobster night in the dinning room so we ate in their and had a pretty good meal. The lobster tail were good sized and they even offered you a second or third. This was one of the better meals in the dining room. This evening's show was a pianist named Glenn Smith. He was very unprepared and he was sick so the show wasn't very good. He also wasn't like a concert pianist he was more of a rock-n-roll pianist it just wasn't our taste of music I guess.
Day Seven At Sea: We laid in the sun most of this day as it was our last chance to work on our tans before headed home. We also played the final game of bingo that was a jack pot of $10,000.00 I got with in two numbers but some guy from Texas won the whole pot lucky him. The weather started to change as we got closer and closer to Galveston and we were trying to avoid a storm most of the night. This night's diner was the best on the cruise. It was prime rib and they cooked it any way you liked. It was a great final dinner for the cruise. We decided to skip the last night show and have one more relaxing night before we headed home to our busy house with the kids running around all the time but it was a great night none the less.
Day Eight Disembarkation: We had a lot of trouble docking in Galveston because of the wind so this put the disembarkation about an hour behind but it didn't seem to bother anyone. The customs process ran really smooth and the disembarkation also ran smooth. We were some of the first ones off the ship because we booked the Royal Caribbean shuttle to the airport and these left early so that was a plus. All in all the disembarkation was an easy process.
A final summary: The ship was magnificent very well maintained and very clean. Our state room attendant was the best he was so efficient and very nice too. The food over all was hit and miss the dining room was the worst place to eat but the food in the windjammer was great. We had a great trip and we already booked another one on the same ship for next year. Happy sailings to everyone.
we set sail 2/9/03. the 1st time cruise was fantastic!!! we thought the food was great. sevice super.the shows were good.alot to do onboard.we liked key west but forget belize.
we felt they were anti-american! will never go back.cozumel was the best port. we would go back there.we had one day of bad seas but i think that was our fault too. too much to drink at bingo!but my husband & i cant wait to go again.we meet such great people. so get out there! there is something for everyone!!!!! cant wait til we sailo again!!!!! cheryl
Because I am writing this review over a year after I actually cruised, I will not address in detail the ship, food, crew, etc. except to say we (my sister and I) had a wonderful time and we were so impressed with all of the above.
The point I would like to make specifically is about the stop we made in Belize. I was so excited to make a stop here, after all I had heard and I must say I was not disappointed. If you keep in mind this is a destination in it's infancy as far as attracting cruise ships, it was really exciting. The city itself is a little scary, but if you don't wander too far, you will be fine. We chose not to book an excursion through RCI and took the tender boat to the port, it only takes a few minutes.
From there, we walked a short distance (we were fine, it wasn't scary) to a water taxi service, paid about $25 as I remember and went to one of the outer islands. This is the best kept secret! I wish I could rememberthe name of it, I think it is San Pedro Island. When you get off the taxi, you walk on to a beautiful beach and it is a short walk to the main part of the island. It was incredible to be standing in the sandy street they would call Main Street looking all around, to my left I could see the end of the island with the ocean beyond and to my right the same thing, that is how narrow this island is. It is definitely worth the trip and made our stop in Belize one I will never forget. Just a note about the rough seas and the water taxi, because of the direction the taxi was headed, you must sit in the back of the boat, not in the bow, if you want a smooth ride. I had just had major surgery, (a cervical fusion) and made the whole trip with a towel wrapped around my neck to stabilize it! All was well when I went for my check up, and I have
My wife and I (3 previous cruises) just returned from the 3 Nov 2002 sailing on the Rhapsody of the Seas (Galveston-Key West-Belize-Cozumel). Here's a quick review:
Passengers: Vast majority of passengers seemed to be in their 40's to 60's. If you are looking for a young "party cruise", this is probably not the cruise for you (try Carnival). But if you want to get away from loud drunken parties (like us), this cruise is probably right up your alley.
Ship: Beautiful! Ship was in great condition. Staterooms seemed plenty large (we were in the smallest/cheapest, and we still thought it was large.
Price/Value: Outstanding! (we booked online for $399 each for 7 days)
Food: Very good. To be honest, we thought the food was better on Carnival and Norwegian. But the food on Rhapsody was still very good!
Courtesy of Staff: Good (not as good as Norwegian).
Onboard Activities: Very Good (we spend a LOT of time in the casino)
Summary: We had a great time, and will go again (since we are from Texas, sailing from Galveston is very convenient).
If you want to see the scheduled daily activities ("pocket" Compass), I have posted themonline at http://www.cruiseenvy.com/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=8. You can also see photos from our Cave Tubing excursion in Belize, as well as other cruise photos aboard the ship and from Key West and Cozumel.
I've never written a review before but I've read many. I think I'll start with just the basics so you won't have to read through my day by day account unless you really want to. This was the first cruise for me and my husband, celebrating our 23rd anniversary. We live about 30 minutes from the port so we drove to Galveston the morning of the cruise.
Embarkation - we arrived at the terminal at 11:30 and the traffic was heavy because the ship was still unloading. A porter met us and took our checked baggage. I waited about 20 minutes for my husband to park the car and get back in the shuttle. Once in the terminal we walked straight through and were in our stateroom by 12:30. On-line embarkation forms, passports, and having everything ready to hand over made it go really fast. The lady at the counter said "I can tell you've done this before" - Actually I heard that a lot on this cruise. Thank you to everyone posting on Message Boards!
Ship Overall - Very Elegant. Every lounge, the theatre, dining room, Windjammer cafe - very comfortableand well decorated. The sculptures in the stairways were gorgeous. Favorite places on the ship besides our balcony - outside Windjammer, the Centrum with the music, the Schooner Lounge, the Dining Room, the decks on 4 & 5, and the theatre. They were replacing carpet on the stairways and many floors have beautiful new carpet. They had not gotten to Deck 7 yet, but it wasn't terrible. We rarely used the pools, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying them. I don't think I ever saw a problem with a lack of deck chairs - there were always some available. I never heard any complaints about the pool area except when it rained. We didn't spend much time in the casino - I heard about lots of people winning in the first few days of the cruise, after that it seemed to slow down.
Stateroom - We were in 7652, a Cat D corner aft cabin with a huge wraparound balcony. The room was great. With just the two of us we had plenty of room and never felt crowded. There was plenty of room for everything. The only problem we experienced was the electrical circuit to our plug would go out sometimes - no big deal. I will book cruises from now on based on getting a room like this - the aft is wonderful! Best tip I received before sailing was the over-the-door shoe holder - it made everything so organized. We kept all our toiletries and medicines in it - everything was handy. The cabin attendant was great - he kept the room in top shape, refilled the ice bucket a couple of times a day and generally took great care of us.
Food - We ate most of our evening meals in the Dining Room (first seating). The food was excellent! My favorites here were the lobster, prime rib, all the appetizers (even escargot) and the flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Service was top-rate - the head waiter even stopped by a few times to chat and serve some of the dishes. We tried the dining room once for lunch thinking we would be able to go in and get a small table. It was very regimented - they seated us at a large table with some who seem to have known each other - just less than comfortable for us. Most of our lunches were at the Windjammer. The pasta was always my favorite - a new dish every day and very tasty. They also had lots of fresh fruits. We always enjoyed our meals there. Sometimes we ate breakfast at the Windjammer, but a lot of the time we ordered from room service. Room service was prompt and the food arrived as ordered. Dining Room, Windjammer (inside) and Room Service coffee were very good. We brought our own little coffee maker and that saved us when we would wake up before our breakfast arrived.
Entertainment - wonderful!! We really enjoyed the Mardi Gras du Monde show. The singers and dancers are very talented professionals. The comedians were great. One of the best shows (which I'm told is under contract for 3 years) is the magic show with LaRaf. This happened in port at Key West - it is one not to be missed. Then there was Susan Anton (remember her? Baywatch, Dudley Moore's girlfriend back in the 70's). She did an incredible show - had everyone dancing & singing. I think she's on the Rhapsody, then the Explorer this week. If you have a chance to see her, do it. The games onboard the ship were a fun way to meet people. We managed to get together with the same group for many of these and enjoyed it thoroughly. Our favorite-Rhapsody Mania (aka "Quest"). It is amazing what the crew can get ordinary people to do. I do have one comment about shows in the theatre - If you have young kids with short attention spans (my kid was like that!), it would be really nice if you would sit in the aisle seats so that you can make a quick easy escape if the child starts getting noisy. It wasn't too bad on this cruise - there were very few youngsters, but it would be really considerate and a lot less disruptive for the other guests..
Disembarkation - I had heard so many horror stories about the Galveston return, I braced myself for the worst. Actually it wasn't that bad. We had breakfast around 7, were called to immigration check-out about 7:45 then we went back to the stateroom. Our cabin attendant let us stay in the room until they called us to leave the ship. We went down when they called us, found our luggage, my husband picked up the car and we were on the road out of Galveston by 10:30.
Things I'm glad I packed: The over-the-door shoe holder Highliter for the daily Compass Yellow stickie notes - used these a lot when we were on the balcony and couldn't hear the door. Hooks with suction cups - just made it easier to keep things off the floor Collapsible cooler and backpack for day trips at port Champagne in our carry-on for sail-away Binoculars
The rest of this is excerpts from the journal I kept during the cruise. You can stop here if this is getting too long or boring.
Day 1 We went to our stateroom, "oohhed" and "ahhed" over the size of the balcony. John's first innocent question "And who do we share this with?" We unpacked our carryons then went exploring the ship - first stop - the Windjammer for our first lunch aboard. We spent the rest of the day just wandering around. We stopped by the library and picked out our reading material for the week. Luggage arrived late afternoon. We unpacked then popped the champagne for sail-away. What a thrill - people lined the docks and waved. Had our first dinner that evening with table mates... 2 other couples from Texas, 1 couple from Oklahoma. We hit it off right away. Went to the first show (comedians), then relaxed on the balcony, finished off the champagne and fell asleep pretty early.
Day 2 (at sea) Got up around 8 and after coffee on the balcony, ate breakfast at the Windjammer. We hit blue water midmorning and I cannot describe how beautiful it was - the deepest blue! John worked out at the gym, I sat on the balcony reading & writing. After lunch we attended the first trivia game and Name That Tune. We didn't win, but met some cool folks from Cincinnati. After that we attended a wine-tasting. I had never been to one before so it was really fun and interesting. We chose our wines for dinners for the rest of the week. This night was the first formal night. Everyone looked so good! We invited our table-mates to join us on our balcony for drinks after the show. They all came - very pleasant company! One thing I remember ... During the day, the special drink was called "The Love Connection" - a huge concoction. I never got one of those but that morning I did see one table of elderly couples, each with their own huge drink.. Reminded me of The Love Boat - very cute.
Day 3 (at sea & Key West) Woke up early (for me) before 7 and ordered breakfast from Room Service. Spent a very lazy morning relaxing on the balcony and wandering around the ship. We visited the RCI rep (Dean) for the first time and started making plans for another cruise. Arrived in Key West around 3pm and everyone except us (it seemed) got off the ship. Since we had visited Key West before, we decided to take advantage of the empty ship - no one at the pools. Later played Trivia and Majority Rules. We didn't win, but hooked up with our 'games' group for the rest of the week. By dinner most people had returned from Key West. They said it was hot & muggy, but they had a good time walking around and shopping. Being this relaxed, I had to force myself to stay awake for sail-away out of Key West at midnight. I'm glad I did - it was beautiful! I fell asleep on the balcony - trudged off to bed about 1:30am.
Day 4 (at sea) Slept till 8:30, had breakfast at the Windjammer. relaxed on balcony and read all morning. After lunch we did the tour of the theatre which was very cool (I'm a techie at heart). It is so amazing that they can have a state-of-the art theatre nestled in a cruise ship. We admired all their light & sound systems, met one of the dancers and enjoyed talking with the stage crew. We went back to the cabin and I took a nap - right through dinner! I was up in time for the Cruise Critic party at 7:45. It was very well done ... The 'light snacks' included caviar. I loved it. They had a drink special for us, but not free. It was so much fun meeting friends from the online community. We had a visit from cruise director, Tom Canosa, and RCI rep, Dean. My only complaint is that the party wasn't long enough. They scheduled it between dinner seatings so people were rushing in from dinner, then rushing out for late-seating and the show. I think it would have been better during the day when schedules are less pressed. We really enjoyed hearing from the staff, but it didn't leave us much time to visit. My husband was really surprised that so many people knew who I was.
Day 5 (Grand Cayman) We arrived in Grand Cayman around 7am, had breakfast from room service and went to the tendering dock around 8. We expected a big crowd, but there were very few people there. A tour group was leaving at that time so we tendered in with them. Our excursion with Captain Marvin was scheduled at 10am, we were to check in at 9:15. We turned left after getting past the dock and walked several blocks (it was further than I thought). We were there so early we went to a Bakery just past Captain Marvin's place and had another breakfast. I noticed they had Internet terminals for $1.50 for 15 minutes - much better than $.50 per minute on the ship. Captain Marvin's is the best snorkeling tour we've ever done. We had a group of 22 and weren't crowded on their boat. First we snorkeled at Coral Gardens and thought that was beautiful. Then we went to Stingray City - I loved the critters! Played with them & petted them for about half an hour, then went to the barrier reef. This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen - huge schools of fish - the reef was amazing with all the types of coral. Sometimes it felt like we were in a cavern. I just can't describe it except to say it was spectacular. We headed back to the ship, ate lunch then took a nap. Again, right through dinner (I'm thinking maybe early seating isn't the best for us). Ate dinner at the Windjammer, then went to the Swing Show in the theatre. Again, it was great. We sat out on the deck outside the Windjammer until around midnight, then headed back to the cabin. This was the first time we felt ANY motion at all on the ship. I noticed it a lot more towards the bow. It was pretty stable in the aft in comparison.
Day 6 (Cozumel) I was up in time to see the sunrise from the balcony - beautiful! We ordered breakfast from room service and watched as the ship docked right next to the Voyager. That is one huge ship! We had a great view of their aft cabins but they seemed really closed-in compared to ours. We went ashore about 10:30 and took a cab to Chankanaab. It poured rain on us as we arrived at the park, but cleared up very shortly. The park wasn't crowded at all. We snorkeled for an hour, then ate lunch at the restaurant there on the beach. It was a bit pricey by Tex-Mex standards, but the food was delicious. We took a chance and ate conch ceviche. No serious repercussions from that adventure. We walked through the botanical gardens admiring the beautiful plants and landscaping, met a couple of iguanas who were nice enough to pose for some pictures. We snorkeled for another 45 minutes and headed back to the ship around 3:00. John took a nap and I headed off to visit Dean again. John later asked if he should be worried about all my meetings with this guy - I told him "Absolutely! Think about all the cruises I could take if I ran off with him!" Seriously, Dean is a wealth of info about ships, ports, itineraries that would appeal to individual interests. I ended up booking a 10-day Western Caribbean on the Splendour out of Galveston. It's the best itinerary for snorkeling and diving (I'll be certified by then!). Went to dinner and had an awesome time with our table mates - these folks became our best buddies. I had two appetizers this time and THREE lobster tails. The food was superb! Shopped a bit after dinner then went to Susan Anton's show. After the show was the much-awaited Rhapsody Mania. I won't tell everything (like how my dear husband was in the middle of the dance floor waving his trousers and my bra) but I will say that it was a sight to behold. We stayed at the Shall We Dance Lounge through the 50's/60's sock hop. A grand time that night.
Day 7 (We hooked up with Fay at sea) I just found out this morning that there was a tropical storm off the coast of Galveston. We took it easy all morning, then we rocked and rolled for pretty much the rest of the trip. John read a lot - trying to finish his huge book from the library. I decided to play bingo for the big prizes. In the morning, I didn't win. No one won the $8,000 so they were having another bingo game that afternoon. I played again for the $10,000 prize. The man sitting right next to me won it. Bingo was held in the theatre and the motion was VERY noticeable there. It rained and rained. The wind blew hard. At one point the ship was hit by lightening. That got my pulse rate up a bit. I was very proud of myself though - I never felt seasick at all and I was never afraid. As a matter of fact, it is good that we had so much motion that day - it was the only time you could tell for sure you were on a ship! We went to dinner and said our good-byes to our friends, exchanged addresses & e-mails, then spent the rest of the evening packing. I stretched out on the bed around 10pm and felt the rocking of the ship - it was so soothing I drifted off to sleep. Woke up at 4:30am and decided to stay awake till we made Galveston. The weather had calmed down and the sun broke through just as we entered the channel.
Best vacation ever.
I posted some of our pictures at http://community.webshots.com/user/sheriew
Background info: We are from the Houston area. I am 47 and my wife is 45. We have three children (they stayed home with Grandma). This was our second cruise. Our first was on the Inspiration last summer.
It was the best of times... It was the worst of times.
The Best of Times: My wife and I were very excited about this cruise. For personal reasons this cruise was enormously important to us. Having taken only one cruise in our life, and that being on a different line and an entirely different type of cruise, we were not sure what to expect.
We had a pretty good idea that it was going to be a good cruise. We were not disappointed. While it was not perfect (nothing in life is perfect, INCLUDING MYSELF), it was as close to it as one could hope for.
Embarkation was very fast and easy. Yes, if you follow the directions in your cruise book, things go faster! We actually had the necessary forms filled out (two weeks before our cruise). A lot of people didn't for some reason.
First impression was that it was a bitwarm in and near the elevators. (that got better when we got underway). Running a close second as impressions go was "UH... UH... UH... " which is short for "MAN, THIS IS ONE FINE SHIP"!
I'm not sure when I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore :-D.
It is very elegant in it's decor and setup. The Centrum has an enormous work of art hanging suspended in mid-air. There is a multi-level running water sculpture below it. There is a wide variety of colorful artwork throughout the ship that was fun to discover. I had read that her carpet and furnishings were a bit stained and worn. Some places were like that a little, but with 2000 people onboard continuously you can hardly expect anything different. It wasn't that bad and in NO way did it detract from our enjoyment.
I was a bit disappointed when we arrived at our stateroom to find that the flowers I had ordered the week prior to our cruise were the only thing that showed up. The chocolate covered strawberries and wine were missing. It was explained (unfortunately in front of my wife) to me that we had to be so many miles out at sea before they could deliver it. Strawberries came that night (actually twice) and the wine was chilling for us when we returned from breakfast the next morning. We had eaten the berries by then and we didn't feel like wine at 10AM so we just brought it home. Not that big a deal I just wish someone would have let me know it was like that. That way I still could have surprised my wife. Anyhow, it's ours to enjoy at a special time in the future. We can reminisce about our cruise then. It will be nice.
I had been told that the staterooms were smaller that the Inspiration's, but if they were I couldn't tell. There was plenty enough room and we never felt cramped at all. There was even enough room on the sides of our bed. I'm not sure if our room steward saw that we were a couple and pushed the two beds together before we got there, OR if they were always like that. I wonder because other cabins nearby had beds that were separated before the guests arrived. The window was a nice upgrade from the inside stateroom on our other cruise.
It took a couple of days to get oriented to where everything was onboard, and to be honest I still got a little turned around every now and then until the last day. Did I mention that we found it to be an AWESOME ship?
Our favorite place onboard was quickly discovered...The solarium pool! The decor is done in Egyptian with sarcophagus as columns. There are Egyptian statuettes along the top of the wall on one side of the pool. The "Eye of Ra" on another wall, statues of scarabs and sphinx-like statues guarding the pool. Water flowed into the pool from two holes surrounded by what appeared to be snakes. Hieroglyphics everywhere....and every so often you could hear the sounds of jackals howling in the distant and bird chirping. This area was very peaceful and there was never a problem with any youngsters being in there. In fact we really seldom saw any kids in the area at all, except to get a burger, hot dog or pizza every once in a while. No unruly adults either (that was special also).
The canopy was closed the first day ONLY, as I recall.
The other pool area was nice and the band that played there "Hot Sands" was exceptional (a word that I can use for almost everything about this cruise). We spent some time there and enjoyed the upbeat, party atmosphere that prevailed, but we would soon return to the solarium.
We enjoyed diner (main seating) in the Eidelweis every evening. It was a real treat for my wife to dress up and enjoy an altogether new and exotic dish every time. We enjoyed most of these unfamiliar dishes. The more familiar and much anticipated meals like the filet mignon, the lobster and prime rib didn't disappoint us either. It was let me see... hmmm... exceptional!
RCCL must have done some profiling in choosing our dinner companions. There were three couples at our table. The three women were all accountants (and NO!... they were anything but boring) and two of the three men were involved in the medicine / paramedic field. One of the couples was a delightful newlywed couple on their honeymoon. The other couple was our age and very interesting, nice people. We also had a few lunches and a couple of breakfasts there. My wife and I would ask for a table for two at lunch.. It was our "private little five star restaurant" It was as I said above "The Best of Times".
The Windjammer was pretty good with a large variety of foods, and we ate most of our lunches and breakfasts there. The omelets are by far the best thing going at breakfast. The windjammer offers great views while coming into the ports.
The port of calls are really what you make of them. We were disappointed in the decisions we made in Key West and Grand Cayman as far as the excursions are concerned, but "we made them". I'm not going to say what we chose to do, as everyone has different tastes and might well have liked what we did.
Our Cozumel excursion was another story for us. We chose (I have to tell you this one) The Passion Island trip. We thoroughly enjoyed this one! First of all, If you book, you will be extremely fortunate if you get a young man named "Alehandro" as a guide. He has an amazing talent that you would not believe is possible. He was very entertaining and made EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL feel special. Like I said, you will hardly believe what he can do (and NO, I'm not going to tell you).
The island itself and all that goes with this tour is well worth it! If we are ever in Cozumel again, we will do the tour again!
We didn't get to participate in any of the typical onboard cruise director activities like horse racing, bingo, art auctions, belly flop contests, etc. but involved ourselves with each other. It was much more pleasurable than any activity Kyle the cruise director (seems like a nice guy and good at his job) could have come up with. I just wanted to make this cruise special for my wife.
I'm sort of like this cruise... Pretty good, but not perfect. I know my wife enjoyed herself in spite of me :)
The guest entertainers included a pretty funny comedian named John Wing, a very talented comedian / juggler (don't remember his name). We really enjoyed his performance.
Our favorite show BY FAR was "The Fifth Dimension" We had front row seats to what was a spectacular performance. They ALL can belt it out!
BTW, the ship was extremely stable and I couldn't even tell we were on a ship in our cabin, until we left Cozumel on Friday night. There was a storm brewing and a lot of wind but we outran it by Saturday. My wife wasn't bothered by the movement, but I was a bit uneasy in the belly Friday night.
The staff was very good and I made sure to point this out to a number of the supervisors. These people never quit smiling the entire time we were onboard. By looking at them you would think that they were the ones on vacation.
I was glad to find the volume knob for the stateroom announcement speaker :)
This cruise was a keeper!
Now for the "Worst of Times": We had to get off after only seven days! :-( We had to go back to work! We won't be able to do this again for a while! The staff didn't follow us home to keep doing what they were doing so well!
If anyone has any specific questions, I will be happy to reply via e-mail. Mark
"Everything I expected and more" is how I would describe our experience on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. The beauty of the ship is only surpassed by the level of comfort one will find on board.
My partner and I took the 7-day Mexican Riviera excursion out of Los Angeles right before the height of the season (Oct. 29 to Nov. 5), and had a fantastic time.
The check-in process (other than the porter service) was extremely well-organized. Within an hour, our bags were enroute to the cabin, our documents checked out and our Super Charge card activated.
STEPPING ON BOARD AND SETTLING IN Upon arriving on the ship, you're met by the fantastic "Centrum" multi-floor atrium area. This has a distinctive Hyatt hotel feel with its marble, plants, sculptures and glass elevators -- all quite intoxicating for a first-time cruiser.
Quickly we found our way to our cabin on the Commodore Deck (No. 7). (A note: The decks are numbered on board, not named as they are in the brochure, so be sure and know your level number.)
We were stateroom 7100, a Category D, "superior ocean-view stateroom with balcony." Now, let metell you, the balcony was worth every dime! I know that you read over and over how people say they never spend any time in the room, but I think that's because their room is not as pleasant. The balcony *made* the room! We watched dolphins swim by, eyed each port as we arrived, reveled in the privacy of our own ocean view balcony, and slept each night to the sound of waves hitting the side of the ship. It was like having an oceanfront hotel room for a week!
The cabin, itself, was very comfortable, with plenty of storage space. The 7-foot ceiling took about an hour to get used to due to my height at 6-foot-4. But in due time, I no longer felt like "The Land of the Giants." Our room also boasted a full-size sofa that was great for watching TV. The bath is compact but well laid out. The small shower was a tight fit for me, but I made it in and got the job done. The "roaring" toilets are hilarious (I was prepared for these from my reading on the Internet). I joked with our tablemate that if you sat on the toilet and flushed you would get the biggest hickey on your bottom.
The color scheme of the room is done in pastels of blue and peach. The ship is 3 years old now, so I did find some minor coffee stains on the carpet, but nothing that made me worry about going barefoot.
On a side note about the cabin, from what I gather the more expensive rooms boast a couple more conveniences. For example, I was surprised when we found fluffy robes for our use (never mentioned in the brochure). Our tablemate at dinner commented she did not bring a robe and none was in their oceanview room (with no balcony), so I ended up loaning my silk robe I brought to her. They also mentioned that their refrigerator was more like an honor bar, while ours had plenty of room for the liquor and soda we brought on board.
Our cabin steward, Verol, was at our door within the hour of boarding to explain his job and to see whether we had any special requests. A tip: Take notes of things you wish to ask the cabin steward and any additional items you would like (pillows, etc). Verol came to the door, and I was all prepared with a three-item or so list. He was back at our door in 5 minutes with everything we requested.
GETTING OUR BEARINGS Instead of waiting for our suitcases to arrive, we decided to get a bite to eat at the buffet and take a quick tour of the ship. Armed with the ship diagram I ripped out of the our brochure before we left home, we quickly navigated all 11 floors. (Taking the ship diagram was a tip I learned from a cruise-tour book, and it was so helpful in learning the layout of the ship and came in handy for days.) ... By the way, another quick tip, make one of your first stops the library on the seventh deck -- we quickly snagged two biographies that we enjoyed reading at various times during our cruise.
After the library stop, we began to check out the rest of the ship. The outdoor pool is gorgeous with spraying fountains. It was a great place to lay out, and do some reading and people-watching. The indoor pool in the Solarium was my personal favorite. Done in an Egyptian theme, it felt like you were swimming at Hearst Castle. By the way, the pools are heated to 86 degrees -- even I could stand to go in them!
The Windjammer Cafe (where they have the boarding buffet set up) is very pleasant with numerous windows to watch the ocean and view. The food is buffet-fare, but came in handy especially at breakfast-time when we wanted a quick meal or just wished to dine alone.
The fitness center is also very pleasant -- be sure and use the steam room and sauna found in the locker rooms by the health spa. They're free to use, and often were empty when I went in them in the early evening. The casino is aptly glitzy. On our first night, my partner lost $5 in the slots, and I made $7 on the $5 I put in, so we came out $2 ahead. That was the first and last time we used the casino, though. We're just not big gamblers.
There are numerous bars on board with live music. Our personal favorite was the Schooner Lounge, which is a nice quiet place to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while listening to the piano player sing some standards and easy-listening songs. The Viking Crown Lounge on the 11th floor boasts a fantastic view, and was very lively at night with its disco/dance music. We went one time, and enjoyed ourselves very much. We never went to the Shall We Dance lounge during its entertainment times but were there during the Captain's Cocktail Party. The band was so-so -- read wedding-style fare.
There was a wide range of entertainment on board in the main theater. It's everything you read -- very beautiful, very comfortable seating and not a bad site-line in the house. During our seven-day trip, we saw only three of the nightly shows and one late-night comedian. The Coasters performed during one "headliner" show and were quite enjoyable. Comedian Kelly Monteith was on the bill for the other "headliner" show, and was quite funny. We saw one production show, and it proved to be enjoyable fare when we were ready to just sit and be entertained. One note: We were second seating for dinner, which proved problematic sometimes to catch the shows, in that several of the performances set aside for second-seating diners were *before* dinner. We skipped nearly all of these because we preferred to not be hurried prior to dinner. Rest assured, though, the headliner shows are *after* the second-seating at dinner.
IT'S DINNERTIME! Speaking of dinner, the Edelweiss Dining Room is absolutely beautiful, and the service impeccable. We had requested a table for eight (in order to get several options for conversation), but ended up assigned to a table for four. We chose to go with the flow, and were happy we did. Our dining partners were a couple in their early 40s on their honeymoon. Every night, we closed the dining room down because we enjoyed talking with them so much. In fact, our waiter, Ivan, thought we were traveling together because we got along so famously. So, the lesson here is to be open if dining arrangements were not exactly as you had requested. Of course, you can always request a change if your partners are not to your liking. (We did encounter this a couple times during the open seating meals of breakfast and lunch -- why is it that some people complain about everything???) Those times we were even happier that dinner was with our fabulous tablemates, Rich and Karen.
Dinner, itself, was fantastic and never disappointing. Each meal had a theme -- Venetian, Mexican, etc. There are always several entree choices -- at least one fish, one meat, one pasta and one vegetarian. I did learn as the trip proceeded to order as many courses as I wished, because the appetizer, soup, and salad courses are all small-to-reasonable sizes. In addition, I began to order a couple appetizer courses because, again, they were so small in size I could afford to sample at will. Oh, and that's also another suggestion -- try new items on board (what other time can you do this, and not have to pay for something you don't care for?).
Our waiter, Ivan, and assistant waiter, Dragos, were the epitome of efficiency, competency and charm. Factored in with our tablemates, they made dinner a special occasion every night. Our smaller table also allowed us some more personal interaction with Ivan and Dragos, which was always enjoyed. My goal every night was to get Ivan to crack a smile or make him laugh, because he was always the height of decorum -- I'm happy to say I succeeded every time.
WHEN DO WE DOCK? Other than dinner, our most anticipated point of our trips were the ports of call -- Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. It was so exciting to wake up or watch as we approached each port from our balcony -- again, one of the top benefits of having one. We took a ship-sponsored shore excursion at every stop, and were happy we did. I vacillated for weeks prior to the cruise whether to do this or go on our own. I would strongly recommend that first-time visitors to a port take the ship's shore excursions. The cost was quiet reasonable -- between $25 and $35 each for 31/2- to 5-hour outings, and we felt we were able to see numerous sites in our one day in each port. Those who went out on their own seemed to have been in the places before, but still did not enjoy much savings at all. It seemed the benefit of the "going on your own" was more freedom, but we never felt too rushed at any stop. Plus, we liked not having to think while in port.
In terms of the ports, Cabo San Lucas was a beautiful fishing/marina type city. We took the city tour, which also allowed us to venture to San Jose del Cabo (another town on the outskirts). Again, we felt as if we got a great overview of the city on the tour. Mazatlan was my least favorite stop. It's separated into two areas -- Old and New Mazatlan. In the morning, we went on our own to Old Mazatlan. It was a bad idea. The vendors and taxi drivers are *extremely* aggressive -- pulling on your arms, shouting at you, calling for you to come into the shops and "buy a dress for your girlfriend," etc. The downtown is also very congested, dirty and the only place I felt concerned about being pickpocketed, etc. New Mazatlan is much glitzier and very Americanized -- to the point of feeling like a tourist trap. The drive along the shoreline and the view stops were enjoyable, though.
Puerto Vallarta, on the other hand, was my favorite port. Very tropical, gorgeous, and still maintained a strong Mexican-feel without the dirt and aggressiveness of Mazatlan. I would go back any day -- and our "city, country and tequila tour" was so much fun. We got a wonderful feel for the city, and enjoyed several enjoyable stops, including a ranch in the country, a country church and school, and, of course, the tequila distillery. All in all, my favorite place we stopped.
On a side note, for us Internet junkies, the cruise terminals in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta boast businesses that offer Internet/email access for $2-$3 for 15 minutes of usage -- much cheaper than the 50 cents per minute on board the Rhapsody. I emailed one friend on AOL -- who was tickled to death to hear from me -- and she called a few friends and relatives to read them my note.
NEGATIVES -- "IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING" Being a positive-attitude person, it's foreign to me to mention anything I found not to my liking during our cruise on the Rhapsody. But the two sources of frustration we found on board were the porters when checking in at the terminal and the haphazard room service.
Upon arriving at the terminal, we were met with the most unorganized baggage check-in I've ever encountered. This was not helped by the fact that the majority of the porters were either rude, surly or just uninterested in helping anyone. There were no signs directing where one should drop their cases or wait for a porter, so it was a free for all to get someone to take our cases. From speaking to many others on board, it seemed everyone else came away with the same impression. The best tactic I can recommend is to move your cases into the terminal or directly outside (they won't take them from across the street), find a porter, and stand next to him until he takes yours. This took at least three or four tries. We were lucky enough to find one female porter -- the first friendly porter we encountered -- who took our bags with a smile. On our comment card at the end of the trip, I asked why they did not have a more airline-type bag check-in, in which you could drop 'em on a belt and have them whisked away.
Our second negative experience was with the room service on board. Several times, they were right on the money -- our order arriving when we requested and correct. But other times, we were met with the following experiences: items missing (silverware, etc); duplicate orders (one order arrives, and then 20 minutes later, it arrives again); extremely tardy service (we waited one hour and 45 minutes for two salads) and a general disorganized feel about that department on board. This, too, went on my comment card.
However, despite those two minor irritations, we loved every minute on our cruise on the Rhapsody.
CRUISING -- A FANTASY LIFE When we were driving back home to San Diego, my partner and I commented that we were surprised we didn't take part in more of the organized activities on board (bingo, cooking demonstrations, etc). But, for us, the point of our trip was to see some cities where we had never been, not be beholden to any schedule, and generally relax and do what we wanted.
If I had to summarize the joy of cruising, it's the rare opportunity in this world to have someone else do everything else -- and, you, to do whatever you want in between. And the Rhapsody lived up to that in every way. Now, when do we get to go again?