we have just returned from a cruise from venice on royal Caribbean's rhapsody of the seas. having been on previous cruises with RC we have an understanding of the standard and were very disappointed that standards seem to be slipping. they failed in so many areas, food poor quality, poor guest services staff, poor entertainment, insufficient shuttle buses available (for which there was a hefty charge) and lack of tenders available at the three ports where a tender was required.
I have never heard so many people complain about a cruise - overheard conversations in which I did not take part. I did ask a member of staff to report back up the command chain that it seems their customer care is all talk but no action. They talk the talk but don't walk the walk. (our waiters were the only bright spot in the whole experience). we will not be travelling with RC again
However all staff on "Rhapsody of the Seas" were fantastic from everyone in Guest Relations department to F&B to Housekeeping to all the great shows on board. But I would like to point out 2 crew members who were exceptional and delivered the highest quality of service I have ever encountered. They tried their best for us with the loss of our luggage and we were never neglected. Most importantly they empathized with our situation and therefore made our misery much more manageable. The 2 crew member were Baris Beyosmanoglu and Bhiri Ramsarup from Guest Relations. They gave us things to get by such as laundry service, formal hire, toiletry pack and helped track down our
We will cruise again and Royal Caribbean will be our first choice from now on.
We had sailed Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas from Vancouver to Alaska in the spring of 1997. However we were truly looking forward to heading south and choose a Vancouver to Honolulu itinerary. The Vision Class, Rhapsody, like her sister's and cousins, is a beautiful ship. We over-nighted in Vancouver at the Waterfront Center Hotel, directly across from the Canada Place pier where the Rhapsody docks. It's a wonderful feeling waking up and seeing the ship directly across the street from twelve stories above street level, and that certainly added to the excitement, if that is possible.
On embarkation morning the bellman took our luggage directly to the pier. We got together with the CruiseMates we had met the previous night and arrived at the pier about 11:45 a.m, when the embarkation process began. The RCI staff went through the line checking documents and responding to questions prior to your arrival at the embarkation desk. However, the entire process was delayed by a computer glitch due to new computer software. Regardless, we were aboard withing an hour.
One change from the previous RCI check-in is the processing of credit cards for the "SuperCharge Cards." This replaces the old system of standing in line again to activate the "Super Charge" once onboard.
In waiting for embarkation,we were surprised by the broad range of age groups on this sailing. The norm is "more days, more years." This axiom didn't hold true for this cruise. The average age aboard this eleven day cruise, was similar to what one would encounter in the Caribbean- in the 45 or 50 plus range. This may have been impacted by a large group of 500 passengers, all in the auto parts business.
Also of note on this particular sailing was a large number of first time cruisers. I was very surprised because of the length of the cruise, and the somewhat exotic itinerary.
THE SHIP The Rhapsody's Centrum is a great spot to walk onboard. Windows to the sea are everywhere, and the warm earth tones in the interior areas direct your eyes to the blue skies, blue seas and panoramic views. This makes for a memorable first impression.
Having sailed the ship two years before, we were struck byt how good she looked in "most" areas, with some cabins being the exception. It appeared that much of the furniture in the public areas had recently been recovered. In a conversation with Hotel Manager, Bob Tavadia we found that it was simply a matter of effective and ongoing maintenance.
Some of our CruiseMates were rookie cruisers; some very much veterancruise addicts, but new to RCI. Everyone new to the Vision Class ships was most impressed with their look and layout. We were in a Category D cabin with a private balcony. The cabin, while not overly spacious, had great storage space and is so well designed that it feels more larger than cabins on other ships that boast more square footage. As this was a long cruise, we had seriously over-packed, yet everything found a place, out of our way.
The cabin's sitting area is equipped with a full size sofa, and a coffee table. Having a place to sit and relax inside the cabin is a nice bonus compared to, Princess's equivalent cabins, which offer only a tub chair, or Celebrity with "sofas" that are much more like loveseats. Yet, these comparable cabins are actually larger. In the tradition of RCI, the showers are miniscule. However, I must be too accustomed to cruising, because they're starting to seem spacious. Our showe had a mind of its own. It shifted from hot to cold a number of times during a typical shower. What a shame there's no video of me jumping in and out!
The cabins are equipped with all the normal amenities with the exception of hair dryers, so if you use one, bring your own. The verandahs are pleasant but small, and not all that private, and have two arm chairs and a small side table. What impressed me most was the sliding glass door to the verandah, as opposed to a door that opens in or out. These don't take up valuable room inside the cabin, or on the verandah.
The Edelweiss Dining Room is, in my view, one of RCI's prettiest, with a particularly relaxing ambiance. Our CruiseMates group was seated at three tables towards the rear of the main floor. I would have preferred round tables to the rectangular ones we had, for easier conversation rather. We decided ond simply switching our seating arrangements each evening to allow everyone to converse with different folks nightly. Of course, this bunch was loud enoughto make ourselves heard!
ENTERTAINMENT With entertainment normally one of RCI's strengths I was looking forward to very good acts. The first night's "Welcome Aboard" was without a doubt one of the worst I've ever seen at sea. The cruise director specifically mentioned that they keep announcements to a minimum. As the cruise unfolded we noticed that this couldn't have been farther from the truth.I would have never given these announcements another though if he hadn't made such a point of mentioning them. They announced bingo, art auctions, horse races, and when anyone on the ship ate, or so it seemed.
My choice of shows on this cruise was definitely off. I attended the bad shows and then skipped the next night,hearing afterward how good they were.
Combining my opinions of the shows I saw with those I heard about from CruiseMates, I would have to say the showroom entertainment was generally below the quality we've come to expect from RCI.
FOOD The dining room cuisine overall was good to very good. The Windjammer buffet was pretty typical buffet-not very exciting, yet not bad. Mornings featured a made-to-order omelet station; lunche offered a carving station for roast beef, pork and similar items. The breakfast buffet menu wasrelatively basic and stagnant all week, alternating pancakes and French Toast from one day to the next. Except for variations in the potato preparation, the morning buffet menu did not change.
I had a mediocre NY steak twice during the cruise but everything else I in the dining room was very good-even other beef dishes. At our table, aside from everyone's individual entrees, the waiter brought plates of the daily pasta for all of us to share, and it was very tasty.
Don't be shy about sending back things you don't care for, or ordering another portion of the dishes you liked. The waiters want you to enjoy meals rather than leave the table complaining. If you do, in a way, it's as much your fault as the chef's.
Royal Caribbean can still lay claim to the worst pizza at sea. It seems a shame that no ones attention has been directed to improving this area. I'm sure some people couldn't care less about pizza on a ship. But, after so many elaborate meals, some good old junk food can be pretty appealing.
The Solarium Cafe also featured good hamburgers, decent hot dogs and wonderful curly French fries.
The room service menu is not exciting, but fairly substantial for snacks.During meal times you may order off of the full dining room menufor service to your cabin.
SERVICE & STAFF We encountered what I feel is quite standard for Royal Caribbean; a warm and friendly staff. Our cabin steward did a good job of keeping our Kuki little home clean, and decorating the roome using pillows to create different shapes and insignias. It wasn't quite up to the "towel animals" of Carnival, but nonetheless, cute.
Our dining room waiter was a true professional, and shared his pleasant personality with us, while doing a yeoman's job of delivering the goods.A few days into the cruise he realized that we would welcome his participation in the fun at the table, and joined right in. In Maui we found a shop that had tee shirts dyed in chocolate. One had a moose characture with the title Chocolate Moose on it. This seemd like an appropriate gift for our waiter Andre, so we gave it to him at dinner. He was thrilled. I believe that by the end of the cruise he was sorry to see us go.
The assistant waiter/bus boy was perhaps the worst we've ever had. He wasn't happy with his job and it showed. He should not have been there. I notedon my comment card that he should seek a career change.
Regardless of this we maintained a Kuki tradition. Every cruise, I bring tee shirts from Calgary for our dining room staff and present these on the last night. Both were very appreciative until I explained that it was in place of the customer gratuities. Both were very relieved when I reassured them that I was kidding.
The headwaiter in charge of our section was very personable. He stopped by for a chat nightly. However, when he was informed of the bus boy's shortcomings hedid nothing to remedy the situation. We were told they would reduce the number of the busboy's tables on the next cruise, but that did nothing to address our problems. I felt that if the headwaiter was aware that the job was not well done, it was his responsibility, even if he had to pitch in himself.
Tim Seaver was the Cruise Director on this sailing, a nice enough guy, but everyone seemed to agree that he didn't come across as very genuine. He admitted that people seemed to either love him or hate him.
While he was very pleasant when we encountered him, we didn't notice him about the ship much. To my view this limited his involvement with passengers.
I've had the pleasure of sailing with two of the best CDs in the business; RCI's Jamie Logan, who Tim tells me ihas left the business, and Carnival's John Heald, so it may be hard for other Cruise Director's to measure up in my eyes.
RANTS AND RAVES RCI's has given it's onboard daily activities report, Cruise Compass, a new and innovative twist. Along with the normal 4 page, 8 by 11, pamphlet, is an abbreviated carry around size. These are easy to carry, and serve as great bookmarks at the same time. It doesn't sound like much, but was very handy to keep up with events. Unfortunately someone continuously placed mis-infomation in the Compass. The other oddity with regard to these were the numerous and daily, typos and errors in grammar. Doesn't their word processor have spell check? It was daily entertainment to find the errors. We laughed out loud at the look on the head waiter's face when it was pointed out that on debarkation day the Compass stated the dining room would be open for breakfast from 6 AM to 8 PM. We told him we'd see him at 7PM for breakfast.
The Cruise Compass is a part of the Cruise Director's responsibilities, so that may have impacted my earlier evaluation of him.
Another area we found very confusing is the way they worded some of the "suggested dress." RCI has "Formal," "Smart Casual" and "Casual." I think most understand "Formal" and "Casual" but the "Smart Casual" seems to throw everyone off. I inquired as to the meaing of this classification. For men, they intended sports jackets, with no ties necessary.
On the first "Smart Casual" night, I bet my fellow CruiseMates that most people would be confused by this description and I was right. At least 75% of the passengers just took it to be another casual night. I really don't care what people are wearing, but the poor description of the attire they're trying to promote is to blame. A more apt term to describe the dress they're suggesting would seem to be semi formal (tie optional). I discussed this with Hotel Manager, Bob Tavadia, and while he understood our viewpoint of view, company research and opinion polls came up with this terminology.
Along this line; it's been my observation on my last three cruises, that attire on board all ships lately is heading more and more casual. On this particular cruise I cited quite a few people wearing blue jeans, jogging suits, and even shorts in the dining room.
I personally don't mind getting "gussied up" a couple of times on a cruise, and dressing reasonably well on the remaining nights. But, if the cruise lines are not going to enforce their suggested dress codes,they should stick with the two formal nights, with the balance remaining casual. It seems to be what the passengers are after.
Summary We found our RCI cruise experience to be very comfortable. Overall it was a terrific cruise. Theinteraction we had with fellow CruiseMates truly made it memorable. The group fun seemed to diminish any shortcomings we noticed on the part of the RCI.
We were on The Rhapsody of The Seas on the 14 night trip from Sydney around the 2 islands of New Zealand and back to Sydney. For us the trip was just too long. We have sailed several times before, but this was our longest trip. There are 2 days at sea in the beginning of the trip and 2 days at the end, but there are also two other days at sea, one when cruising the Sounds and the other cruising White Volcano Island. There were a lot of people complaining of catching a cold and coughing in the passages and lifts. It is just too unnatural to live in an air-conditioned environment for so long. The fact that the weather was quite chilly resulted in most people staying inside the ship.
The ship, although an old ship, was very well maintained. The entertainment in the theatre was outstanding, the best we had ever seen on a Royal Caribbean ship. The waiters in the dining room were very good and friendly -- actually the whole staff on the ship was extremely friendly and helpful. The food was fine, butone could see there were cut downs on very luxury foods like crayfish, etc., but on the whole it was good.
Please try to avoid the medical facility on the ship, because it is day light robbery! My husband went to the doctor with a nasal drip and sore throat. He drew blood before making a decision what to prescribe! He also wanted to take X-rays, but my husband refused. The drawing of blood and the results thereof amounted to $180; the total of the visit was $298! He gave him a few antibiotic tablets costing $10. Imagine what the bill would have been if he took the X-rays?
After leaving Sydney on the evening of the 10th of February we were in a storm at sea. It was really scary. The ship creaked, things slammed and our TV was rolling in and out on its rails the whole night. The ship rocked and rolled for two days. People fell in the passages and for the first time on a cruise I noticed that vomiting bags were placed on all staircases and other strategic places. The swells were about 8 meters high and the wind about 40 knots. On the 5th deck water came through the sliding doors and soaked the carpets in the lobby. A window was apparently also broken in the Windjammer. It was a blessing when we woke-up the third morning and were cruising in the calm waters of the Sounds.
We arrived at Milford Sound about 6.30 am and it was absolutely awesome! The sun was slowly rising behind the majestic snow capped mountains. A nice place to be is on deck 5 as you can walk through to the other side and see the Sound from both sides. We had a perfectly clear day cruising the Sounds and it was really breathtaking.
When taking excursions try to avoid the Panoramic tours. They are a total waste of time, because they just drive through all the places with only a few photo stops. There is no time to just browse around the city or do some shopping. If you want to stay behind you will have to make your own way back to the ship. Most of the docking harbours are about 7 to 15 kilometers from the actual city. There are shuttle busses, but at a cost.
New Zealand is a beautiful country with lots of water, hills and coves. I particularly liked Christchurch with the Avon river flowing through the city. At Auckland we unfortunately did not even bother to leave the ship as it was pouring rain, with a strong wind and a thick fog hanging over the city.
After the last two boring days at sea we could not wait to be back on terra firma.
Back in Sydney we stayed at the Marriott Harbour Hotel at Circular Quay for another two days. We had a deluxe room with views of the Opera House on the 26th floor. The hotel is really recommended, with a very friendly staff and it is very centrally situated.
When taking a tour of the Opera House, just make sure that the Opera House itself is open for viewing. After we bought our tickets and climbed several stairs to get to the foyer, the guide told us that we will not be able to view the Opera House as they were busy with a rehearsal. The funny part is that we were allowed to enter the concert hall while a rehearsal was going on, but not in the opera house which was the actual reason for taking this tour.
My opinion of this cruise is that it was too long and apart from Sydney, nothing was really outstanding except for the Sounds.
My husband and I were first-time cruisers and since we never heard anything negative about an Alaskan cruise we were really geared up to go. We were disappointed in the entire cruise experience.
Our biggest complaint is that it's a giant money pit. You pay for everything. Soda, alcohol, all with gratuity added in, even some of the activities onboard included a fee. How ridiculous is it to charge $31 for bingo?
Also, not one review ever mentions the commercialization of the Alaskan ports. The day before the Juneau stop we attended the port & shopping show where they push diamond stores on you.
Walking through the streets of Juneau I was really taken aback to find I was surrounded by jewelry stores that are of course owned by the cruise line. I didn't go to Alaska to buy diamonds and it really takes away from the experience. It wasn't Juneau, just a commercialized version the cruise ship wants you to see.
It was the same thing in Skagway. The whole town was filled with jewelry stores.
I would definitely not recommend this cruise but instead would rather try flying farther north and goingon the land tours as it would show more of the real Alaskan experience.
Having been on Legend and Radiance of the Seas I was expecting more. The service was generally outstanding. The decor was, shall we say subdued. The cabins were small compared to other lines.
It apparently had a refurbishment last year but the cabins mustn't have seen that refurb.
The cabin steward was rarely seen and didn't make himself known until day 3.
The dining room staff were outstanding but the food was variable from quite good to not very good.
Radiance the previous year was excellent by comparison. The portions varied hugely - e.g. starters were sometimes as large as main/entrees and vice versa. Some menu items were not able to be delivered towards the end of the cruise because, according to staff, some food items had run out. The Windjammer buffet food was very mediocre.
The cruise Director - Luke - was excellent and the entertainers were very good also.
The cabin TV programming was appalling. A few incorrect public announcements made custom clearance and disembarkation slow and frustrating. Overall it was far from the best cruise ever taken.
Royal Caribbean did not disclose the previous cruise had Norovirus on the Rhapsody of the Seas.. I left on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 and by Monday I was violently ill with Norovirus.
The crew continued to clean and disinfect, no one was allowed to carry their own buffet plates, the lines were very, very long as a crew member had to go with each passenger thru the buffet line.
My roommate and I nearly choked to death when we walked into our hallway trying to get to our stateroom and were overcome with a cloud of disinfectant. The cabin steward was wearing a mask! No mask for us!
We were told that we may carry our own plates if there were no more cases of Norovirus. Imagaine a cruise with that hanging over the atmosphere?
This was our fifth cruise and our 2nd on RCI. Last one was East Carib on RCI's Radiance of the Seas.
The Rhapsody is a lovely ship. Our 10th cruise from Sydney took in two stops in New Caledonia and two stops in Vanuatu. The Isle of Pines in NC was a beautiful south pacific paradise -- but little there and souvenirs $$$$. Luganville and Port Vila in Vanuatu are third world dirty, hot and crowded. Don't bother getting off at Luganville.
The ship's dining room meals were excellent. The buffet breakfasts and lunches got a bit tiring after awhile.
Cruise Director Matt (from UK) was a pro and is very good at his job. Most shows were very good. Staff friendly. Good value. Just wish it had been a Med Cruise as ports out of Australia are limited.
Not a cruise to go on for shopping as the islands offer little or, in the case of NC, are $$$$.
Weather was good. Rate: 8.5/10.
While my review may seem overly critical, we still had a great time on our trip. I think it is important to report the good with the bad so that is what I have tried to do in this review. The cruise was good, but it wasn't the "wow" that I've come to expect from Royal Caribbean. Overall, I don't think I can recommend this cruise.
Embarkation Embarkation was smooth. We arrived at the pier around 10:30 am and we were able to check in quickly. After a brief wait in the terminal, boarding was opened up around 11:00.
Crew/Service Every crew member I encountered was smiling, friendly and displayed a genuine eagerness to help! Service in the dining room during dinner was a bit slow and spotty at times (forgotten desserts, missing soup spoons, very sluggish service) but overall it was good. I also found it difficult to communicate with some of the crew members and more often than not, they struggled with English and had trouble understanding what the guests were saying. I saw miscommunication between staff and guests happening everywhere I went.
Staterooms Our 7th floor balcony cabin was spacious,well laid out and very clean. We had plenty of storage space and there were lots of little cubby holes hidden all over the room. Beds had nice, crisp and fresh new bedding and were comfortable. A hair dryer was provided as was a pre-stocked mini refrigerator. The balcony was a bit on the small side and there was a lot of rust and peeling paint.
Dining Royal Caribbean overall has some of the worst food of any major cruise line. The food in the dining room is much better than the food offered in the Windjammer Cafe, room service, or at the Solarium snack bar. The Solarium Cafe was absolutely horrible. Truly awful pepperoni or cheese pizza was served up by the slice, as was hot dogs (with cold buns and wieners swimming in an oily water pan) and ice cold hamburgers (don't ask for cheese, you'll get a huge pat of Velveeta-like orange "loaf" that doesn't even melt on your burger)! There were limited late night dining options on the ship and it is not a cruise for foodies or night owls.
Entertainment Awful! We couldn't sit through one of the shows! Even the karaoke was boring and terrible! Most of the entertainers were Asian guys with electric guitars -- maybe because the previous itinerary was in Asia. One night I said "oh, listen to that awful guy singing karaoke" but it wasn't karaoke -- it was a paid entertainer! The evening shows in the showroom ranged the gamut from a very unfunny "dirty" comedian (oh dear, he said one bad word!) to a trio of flamenco guitarists and puppeteers (I am not kidding). While the showroom was really nice, the entertainment was the worst I have ever seen. There was no variety and most nights I just felt so bad for the entertainers. They were giving it their all, but it just wasn't very good. I guess when a ship is full of non-lively passengers, you'd expect the entertainment to be very, very low-key.
Activities/Fellow Passengers I would say the average age of passengers on this cruise was easily in the 55+ range. On-board activities were geared to the over 60 crowd. All of the activities were very low-key (making a rose out of ribbon, bingo, art auctions, digital camera seminars, towel folding, very short trivia games, etc.) and were scheduled to start early in the morning and most were over by 9 p.m. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think before you book this cruise you need to know what to expect. Most people on this cruise wanted to sit and watch the beautiful scenery go by (including us), but we would have appreciated some fun activities in the evening. Most passengers were on the "Grandma and Grandpa" schedule -- go to bed early, get up with the sunrise. If you are looking for a very active ship with lots of different things to do, this cruise ship is not for you! If you have cruised on a luxury line or a mega-ship, this cruise ship is not for you.
During the evenings, the library was turned into a "cigar lounge" and the Viking Crown lounge was a "disco." The same awful band played in the atrium night after night. There was just no variety anywhere! We felt really bad for the teenagers and children on board -- all of the ones we saw seemed to be bored out of their minds. They had a very small arcade but more than half of the video games were out of service, and they were 95 cents each to play. The indoor pool and hot tubs were open late, though the pool and hot tubs outdoors had spotty schedules and were hardly ever opened. The ship did have a rock climbing wall but that's about it as far as the activities go! I'm not sure the kid's program was that great on this ship either. We don't have children so I can't speak directly about the programs on the Rhapsody, but on previous cruises we haven't been bothered by kids at all. On this cruise, kids were literally running amuck everywhere.
We didn't book this cruise for ourselves; we were on a family reunion and it was selected by someone else. There were lots and lots of multi-generational families traveling on this cruise -- a bunch of family reunions. I think cruises to Alaska have a reputation as the perfect vacation to take Grandma and Grandpa as well as the great-grandkids along because there is something for everyone to see. The onboard vibe is very different than a cruise to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Mexico. On one night at sea, something pretty much summed up the entire cruise: we watched as a group of four 60 to 70 year olds "cut a rug" on the dance floor doing the Electric Slide. This was the "late night party crowd" at 10 p.m. That was as good as it got the whole week.
Dress Code I know this is a hot topic of discussion on message boards, so I thought I'd give my observations about our sailing last week. While I always try to respect the dress code, I don't judge others if they choose not to. About half of the passengers adhered to the recommended dress code. I actually did see shorts and t-shirts in the dining room at dinner time (I did think that was a bit disrespectful). On formal night, I would say less than 10% of the male passengers wore tuxedos; a bit more wore suits and ties, and most wore khakis and long sleeve shirts (what I would consider business casual). Obviously the crew doesn't care about enforcing the dress code so if you don't want to dress up, you shouldn't have any problems. We were in tuxedos and evening/cocktail dresses each formal night and dresses/jackets on smart casual nights, but you would not feel out of place if you either chose to dress up or you didn't. I'd say 99% of the folks dressed up for dinner would go back and change into casual clothes before going back out to the shows or lounges at night.
Ship The ship is really showing her age. We had a balcony cabin and the entire balcony had huge rust spots and chipped paint. The railing was worn and needed to be re-varnished. To their credit, Royal Caribbean did have painters and maintenance workers at work while we were in port, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The rooms and common areas just felt so dated. The casino was nice and spacious, and the showroom was well laid out with seats that felt more like comfy couches. It seems like kids and teens would be really bored on this ship. There is a "champagne bar" but it's more about the name than actual champagne as on some of the other RCL ships. The small game room was always packed, as was the library. The Viking Crown Lounge was a very nice and quiet spot but it got really hot (since heat rises, of course). The other bars and lounges were fairly empty all day and night. If you've sailed on any of their Voyager or higher class ships, this one will be a rude awakening. It wasn't a terrible ship, but it was probably the worst I've ever been on. I do not recommend choosing this ship for your trip to Alaska.
Disembarkation Very organized and swift! We were off the ship by 8:45 a.m. The color coded tag system worked great.
Ship Facts Maiden Voyage: May 19, 1997 Passenger Capacity: 2,435 Godmother: Bodil Wilhelmsen Gross Tonnage: 78,491 Length: 915' Beam: 105.6' Draft: 25' Cruising Speed: 22 knots
My wife and I are regular cruisers on Star Cruise ships in the Far East. When we heard that the Rhapsody of the Seas was coming to Singapore we were naturally excited as we have never been on a Royal Caribbean ship before and thought that this could be a great opportunity to experience one of their ships without having to fly the grueling long distance over to the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. So we decided to take the plunge by booking a balcony stateroom on the 7th deck.
The Rhapsody sailed to Port Klang, Penang and Phuket for this cruise. We were informed that there were about 2000 passengers on board.
This is the first time I am writing a cruise ship review which I will try to make as comprehensive as I possibly can.Boarding Three weeks before sailing we were invited to a pre-cruise briefing by their local agent City State, from whom we booked our cruise. We were informed of the procedures on board: no drinks are to be brought aboard, all dinners at the restaurant are formal, and hence suit and tie or tuxedos for gentlemen and gown for ladies are imperative, otherwise the alternative dining venue would be the Windjammer. We were also encouraged to check in via internet which we did.
We usually board the Superstar Virgo at the Singapore Cruise Centre, but as the Rhapsody is taller and could not berth at the Cruise Centre because of the overhead cable car joining the mainland to Sentosa, she was docked at the Pasir Panjang wharf. However arrangements were made for us to check in our luggage at the Cruise Centre and then transported by coach to the ship. Nevertheless check-in was a breeze as we had submitted the details via the net.
Although we were informed that boarding time is to be from 2 to 6pm, we were already tucking into lunch at the Windjammer café at 1.30pm.
We were back at our cabin at about 3pm when our luggage arrived. I open the door and a big burly black man heaved and huffed when he lifted the bags from the luggage trolley. We reckoned he must be tired and he was not in a mood to say a word of welcome.
We then visited the Pursers Desk on the 5th deck to activate our Sea Pass which we have linked to our credit card.Dining The facilities on board were numerous as promised. For dining we had two restaurants to choose from: The Windjammer Café and the Edelweiss.
The former is a less formal place with a breathtaking view of the ocean and an equally breathtaking buffet spread. At every lunch or dinner one can bread to dosai, and mushroom soup to Asian congee and sweet desserts for those wishing to put on some extra kilos. Free flow of lemonade (yikes, super sweet), tea and coffee are always available at the self serve dispensers. The large dining oval shaped melamine plates ensure one's appetite is fully satisfied.
We then went to check out the other restaurant and were surprised that our agent had booked us for the 5.30pm dinner sitting without even consulting us. As we usually take our dinner at around 8pm we managed to ask the Edelweiss restaurant to swap it to a more decent time at 8pm.
The Edelweiss restaurant is a more formal venue with a menu to choose from. During the pre-cruise briefing we were informed that jackets are a must to enter for dinner. But were we surprised when we were told on board that guests can dine in tee shirts too. So we decided to go with the flow and I donned a Hawaiian shirt and flip flop lazy shoes instead.
Each table is served by a waiter who takes your order and an assistant waiter who brings you water and bread.
Again we were surprised when we ordered drinks and had to sign two separate order receipts, one for the Shirley Temple from the bar and the other for the Cabernet Sauvignon from the restaurant itself. We would have thought that one bill would suffice, but were told that these had to be separately billed as this is the procedure on board.
We were attended to by two very polite and friendly people, Alifton from India and Lauro from Lima, Peru.
Dining at the Edelweiss was like dining at a renowned French restaurant. Only difference was you don't see the food bill as it was prepaid.
The cuisine was wonderful. We had lobsters, escargot, rib eye steak that melts in your mouth and even Atlantic cod fish. There is no limit to the food you may have as long as you are not on a diet or watching your waistline.
Afternoon snacks (tea?) were served from 3 to 5pm at the Windjammer Café.
Do not let the word snacks fool you as it is much more than a snack. It is really a complete spread from tacos to sausages to pastries.
Late night snacks were served at the Edelweiss between 11pm to 1.30am. But do not expect a scrumptious spread as the Executive Chef certainly did not prepare it. But there are lots of fresh fruits available.Entertainment For entertainment we somehow gravitated towards the Schooner Bar and the Champagne Terrace each evening.
The Rhapsody Orchestra, a nine piece orchestra, led by a Polish alto sax player comprises alto and tenor saxophones from Poland, two trumpeters from USA, a bassist from Romania, a guitarist from Argentina, a pianist from Russia and a percussionist from the UK. All these talented musicians sight read from scores. The band's forte seems to be ballroom music, including those of Glen Miller's. We often parked ourselves at the Champagne Terrace listening to them playing our favourite tunes.
Another 4 piece combo, Tom's Band, plays ballroom pieces too and was equally impressive. I had the opportunity to speak to the Ryszard (Richard), the Polish drummer. This band sight reads too.
I was also mesmerized by Yuri Zhuk, a jazz guitar maestro from Russia, who appeared often at these two venues. We made sure we read the daily Cruise Compass to keep ourselves informed of the activities and program on board.
Derek Lewis, a guitarist cum vocalist from Texas is a one man band who performs at the Schooner Bar. You are most welcome to sing with him. And if you are good enough he may even award you a recording contract.
If you are into pop and rock music, then the Sea Monkeys, a 4 piece group from Canada will keep you happy.
Wayne Dalhoun, who hails from Quezon City, Philippines is an accomplished pianist who could play almost all Cole Porter numbers. For the elder set, do drop by to enjoy his music and take part in the guessing the tune contest. We walked with the first prize the first night.
There is also the Musicmaker Trio playing at the Champagne Terrace. You can buy their CDs too.
Rosario strings, a one man violinist plays while you take your soup at the Edelweiss, and also at the Schooner Bar.
Keep an eye on the daily Cruise Compass to know where the music is.
There was also nightly karaoke at the Moonlight Bay Lounge. We were informed that they have a 4500 song repertoire, all in English. There is no need to purchase drinks to sing as on the Virgo. But if you like to exhibit you crooning skill do be there early so you can show off as much as you want.
The nightly shows at the Broadway Melodies Theatre were simply superb. We enjoyed tremendously the country music show where 4 dancers sing in perfect harmony all the tunes we are so familiar with. There was a drum group from Argentina with synchronized drumming and poiyt slinging? And an Australian magician who could link rings together. How did he do it?Other Facilities The ship is equipped with a comprehensive gym and fitness center aptly named the Shipshape Fitness Centre.
I was informed earlier when I made a tour of the facilities that they had decided not to provide keys for the lockers. So when I decided to do some exercise on the tread mill machines I was wise enough to lug along just my room digital card key. But still I was surprised when after a languishing shower I discovered they don't provide any comb or hair dryer. Quite unlike other ships we had sailed on.Ports of Call Port Klang: The ship arrived at 8.00am and berthed alongside the pier. We did not go ashore to Kuala Lumpur although they organized buses to take us to Jalan Bukit Bintang in the city centre. The ride into town could be anything from 1 hour depending on the traffic.
The charge is USD30 per person for a return bus trip.
Penang: The ship arrived at 8.00am and anchored in the harbour. Those wishing to go ashore for scheduled excursions or as free and easy can take the tenders. We got our tender tickets at 9.30am and only went into the tender at 11am. At the disembarking area there was only one computer station to "beep" our access card. I saw the cruise director and suggested that more stations should be setup as in the Virgo, but he just rudely brushed me off with a big "Naaaah" and a wave of his hand.
I soon realised that they don't listen, and especially so when you mentioned the five letter word Virgo. So much for reception of our feedback.
Phuket: We got our tender tickets (No 16) at 11.30am and they were just calling for those holding ticket no 3. Needless to say we managed to board ours only at 1:30pm -- a tiring 3 hour wait and a complete waste of time at the Schooner Bar. I wished they should at least dish out drinks on the house to cool tempers. Many were flustered again at the inept logistics. The crew blamed it on the choppy waters and the lack of tenders.
I reckon if RCL wishes to be in Asia long term they need to wise up and listen to its customers and polish up this area.Disembarkation It is always sad to leave a cruise ship. On the day before we disembark we had to collect our passports. It took one hour of queuing as there were only 3 crew members searching and matching the passports against the access cards from the 2000 in boxes on the table.
A huge jam occurred in the corridors on the way out at the 2nd deck. Again there was only one computer station. We boarded the bus again to take us to the Cruise Centre. On arrival our bus had to wait another 15 minutes before it could maneuver along the precarious pier side to allow us to disembark. I dread the possibility of an inexperienced driver crashing the bus into the water as the windows are all sealed making no chance of escape possible. The Singapore authorities seem to be sleeping on this one. There is an accident waiting to happen here.
Would we go on this cruise again?
YES if we can. We are certain RCL, being one of the largest in the cruise business and very experienced will continue to do better if they wish to have a share of the cruise market in Asia.
YES 'cos we enjoyed the food, music and the entertainment on board.
YES 'cos our waiters Alifton and Lauro will be waiting for us.
Would we recommend this cruise?
YES and NO.
YES if you a WOG. Western orientated gentleman.
YES if you are really into western cuisine. I find the cuisine excellent. Not of Michelin Chef level, but nevertheless still excellent.
YES if you are into western music and broadway shows.
YES if you do not wish to disembark at each port.
NO if you are truly Asian and cannot change your Asian habits.
NO if you need to have your Singapore chicken rice 'cos there is none of this on board. If they have it, it would be probably a poor attempt by a Jamaican chef.
NO if you like to get onshore at every port and buy food to take home for your aunties, uncles, nephews and nieces, 'cos they will not allow food of any kind to be brought on board for health reasons.
NO if you like to get onshore at every port to shop 'cos it can take as long as 3 hours to get to shore.