My husband and I decided to take a cruise for our 3 year anniversary and to celebrate getting into graduate school. We chose the 7 night Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the seas, mainly because of the price and the itinerary. There were 4 ports, Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya, Mexico; Progresso, Mexico.
The overall review: This was an excellent deal, very much worth the money and we had the most relaxing, exciting, and fun vacation ever, all rolled into one. The ship was clean and a good size, our room was spacious and the service for our room, the dining room, and the rest of the ship was excellent. There was a laid back atmosphere on board and hardly any children, the children we did see were well behaved. We are in our mid twenties and found several people our own age to hang out with.
There were a few partiers on board, but we were never disrupted or bothered. The glass windows in the ship are marvelous, and there are plenty of quiet places to sit and watch the world go by. I have no complaints; the only thingsI would change are more dining choices and better food in the buffet area, eat in the dining room every chance you get. My biggest tips that I would pass on would be, bring an over the door shoe hanger, it saves tons of space, pack everything on hangers, hang everything up that you can as soon as you get to your room. Be at the ship early, we had a 4pm sail away, and we boarded at 1pm, 15 minutes to get from the shuttle to our room. Fill out the Set Sail pass paperwork ahead of time online, this saves tons of time. Double check everything if you did not book through a travel agent, or the line, flight times and dates, shuttle times and dates and hotel reservations. Confirm these a week or so ahead of time. Bring insect repellent, we could not find it on board and did not have time to find some in port before leaving for our excursion. First seating for dinner was excellent for us, even though we are younger and did stay up late. Bring Bonine (over the counter motion sickness medication), and take it at the first signs of sea sickness (faint headache, slight tiredness, and slight nausea). Bring your own water, soda and alcohol on board if the line allows it, this will save you money – call your cruise line to see what restrictions apply, some lines will let you bring a “reasonable amount” of some of these. Research the ports and try to book not with the cruise line for shorter excursions, for longer ones, do book with the line to avoid getting left. Two people go left at one of our ports. Book excursion ahead to avoid the line at the excursion desk or in port, also reduces stress. We did not self assist off, although we debated it, we were off the ship and on a shuttle by 10:30am the next morning, and our color was towards the bottom of the list. We booked our own shuttle from Houston to Galveston and back to the airport, one tip, it leaves on the taxi, ground transportation side, NOT the shuttle side, unless you booked with the cruise line and then it does leave from the shuttle side. A little confusing, thankfully we figured that out in time.
Dining Room: Good to Very Good food, if you do not like something, send it back, they really want you to be happy and it is truly a luxury to be able to do this. The beef was the best of all the fare, although the lobster was very good also. The desserts were so-so, the chocolate cake was excellent. I did not eat the lamb, but others at our table enjoyed it. The fish is okay, but the beef was the best. Very good bread. The best dinners were the best on the formal nights. Service was excellent an in my opinion could not have been better.
Buffet: Okay, some things were good, the pasta, the salad bar, the breads, my husband really enjoyed the deli sandwiches, and we did not try the carved meats. Service was great.
Room Service: We did not use this feature.
Stateroom: We booked the smallest cheapest stateroom, and we booked guaranteed instead of picking a specific room. We were upgraded to a larger interior stateroom and had plenty of space. We were close to the front of the ship and there was a rocking motion, but honestly it helped us sleep. The lack of the window was wonderful; we took a nap every day at all different times and the complete darkness was excellent.
Shows: Some were really good, the comedian, the juggler, and Lenny Welch, others were good, the Peru dancers and fluorescent puppet show. A couple were not that good, the impersonator (a good job, but too old for us, we did not know over half of the people he was impersonating) and we did not like the country musical, we did not go to piano man.
Other entertainment/activities: Tons to do on board, the casino was really fun, single deck blackjack was easy and fun. There were tons of dance classes that we went to, we went to a wine tasting, we went to some other shows such as the newlywed inspired game. We went dancing in the Viking crown lounge frequently. We went to the captain’s corner. We watched the art auction. All were lots of fun. There was definitely a lot to do, but no pressure to do it.
Ship: Clean, pretty, lots of windows, wonderful bars, lounges, and quiet areas. Easy to navigate.Ports:
Cozumel, we took the ferry to Playa del Carmen, and took a bus to the ruins at Tulum, very beautiful, my hubby had never seen ruins, nice, not so far as Chichen Itza. Also went to Xel-Ha (pronounced Shel-Ha), which is Mayan for brakish, it was a water park, we did not have enough time here but it was excellent, I would come back here and spend all day. I heard Xcaret is nicer, though. Our friends went to the Chankanaab water park in Cozumel (ten minute taxi ride from the ship), and swam with the dolphins, they said this was excellent and worth the money. If we went back I would go here instead, less time commuting, more time playing in the water. However we LOVED Xel-Ha and Playa del Carmen.
Roatan, Honduras: Beautiful, much more tropical than Mexico. We went to Gumbalimba Park and then snorkeled off the beach there. This is a botanical garden, monkey refuge, and bird sanctuary, very beautiful and fun, great for kids. Also, there is a zip line canopy tour. We loved the snorkeling, you could swim right off the beach to a reef and we saw TONs of fish. Our friends went up the beach a ways to the Tabayana beach and said it was excellent, they also said the scuba diving was very good here. Bring insect repellent! There are no seeums here.
Costa Maya, Mexico: We took a boat out to the reef and went snorkeling. It was a lot of fun, beautiful reef. Too much time commuting and not enough time in the water, it was a lot of fun though. To get there we went to a fishing village about ten minutes away from Costa Maya, which was a lot more authentic and less touristy.
Progresso, Mexico: this is the only place we did not book anything. The pier is very long, four miles, but there are free busses to the town, they will direct you to the beach and the market place. We went to the beach and hung out and relaxed, we walked down to a restaurant and ate Guacamole and Pico de Gallo, it was excellent and no Montezuma. Our friends went to Chichen Itza, they said it was a lot of fun, but a long way there and back and very hot. Some other friends on a carnival ship the same week went on the the Caves and Caverns tour and did not like it. She was accidentally pushed into a cenote from a great height by another tourist and fell 30 feet or so. No one offered her any condolences, she was quite upset. This was booked through Carnival; however, I am not sure if RCL would have handled it differently. Overall: Best Vacation Ever!!!! We loved it and hope that this review was helpful.
Parked in cruise sponsored parking lot for $70. There were other lots that were cheaper and that would shuttle you back. You pay in advance so have your cash ready! Porters were readily available to help with your luggage. Be sure and put something that stands on your luggage (bright ribbon) so you can easily pick it out of all the luggage on the ship. We were on the ship by 1pm, found our own luggage, and headed to unpack.
Ship Highlights - Captain's reception didn't have food and just champagne. You can meet the Captain and have your picture taken but the line is generally long. Crown and Anchor reception had food and drinks. Attended the drink making seminar for $9.95 and got to taste and learn how to make specialty drinks. Sit closer to the front so you don't get left out. Got to sample 5 drinks. Free wine tasting seminar was good (had coupon from being past cruiser). Love and Marriage game is really funny. Shows were great! Lots of contest and activities throughout the ship. Be sure and look at your compass each evening and highlight whatyou want to do the next day.
Ocho Rios - Trevor Hudlin Tours .trevorhudlintours.com) took 12 of us on a tour for $55 each (he purchased the tickets for $15 each at Dunn's Falls and the tickets for rafting). Emailed him ahead of time to make reservations but didn't pay him until the end of the tour (cash only). Went to Dunn's River Falls first. Climbed 600' waterfall with two guides. You hold hands and walk aup as a group helping each other climb. This is not something to do if you are not agile and in relatively good shape. You can however watch from points if you choose not to climb it. Was beautiful but cold. RCCL will take pics of you and so will the locals. Tipped each guide $10. Kids loved it!! You do have to walk through a small narrow village when you leave the waterfalls. They are very pushy and will hand stuff to you and then they want money. Once we finished Trevor was waiting for us.
Next we went tubing down the white river. Tubes had fiberglass bottoms so your hind end would be saved. Water was cold again but you got used to it. Two guides went along with us and video taped and took pics to try an sell you at the end. Before we got to the end we stopped and you could jump off the side into the water. Kids also liked this! They are very pushy with the pics but everything is negotiable and they bring them to you at the end. $5 each pic. Tipped the main guide $10 and the other one $5.
Last Trevor took us through the town and to Fern Gully where the Ferns grow and where the road used to be where a river flowed through. At the end we paid Trevor and his helper. Tipped them $10 each. Grand Cayman we used Moby Dick Tours (www.mobydicktours.com). They were easy to find when we got off the tender. Unless you get an early tender you will be on a later tour. I also emailed them to make reservations so they were expecting us but couldn't give us a time as we couldn't firm up a time we would arrive. The ship lets passengers who booked early tours through them get the early tenders (you will pay double for the tours and there will be twice A LOT more people)! Our tour was not until 11 so we walked around and shopped. We then boarded a school bus to the boat and headed to stingray city. It is beautiful and there were only like 15 of us on this boat compared to like 50 on the ship tour boats. We had very personalized interaction with the stingrays from the guide. We also were able to hold them and feed them. We then got to snorkel near a corral reef before returning back. We then paid the guide $10 and headed to the bus. This tour was $35 each.
Cozumel- Dads and daughters went scuba diving with enn's for $82 each if you need equipment (http://www.divecozumel.com/emerald/index.html). This had to paid in advance to ensure that they got to dive. This place had been recommended by the dive shop where the kids were certified. We sent them a cashier's check and she emailed us upon receipt of the check. They all were certified divers so they did a 2 tank dive. They got sick going out because of the high winds and all the boat movement. Taxi ride to their pier was $12 each way. Taxi ride to Paradise Island was $12 each way. Paradise Island has chairs, trampolines, climbing wall, etc. but all this was put away because of the high winds. There is no entrance fee and it is only $8 to use everything but they constantly come by to ask if you want food or drinks. We then went shopping in Cozumel. They are fairly pushy but negotiate any price. Wished I had purchased vanilla for teacher gifts.
Food was great. We preferred to eat in the dining room as much as possible as you got served and had good choices. You can order whatever you want and as much as you want which the kids loved. We had requested a window seat before going and we had it. Be sure and choose late seating for dinner so that you can stay on the island longer and will still have time to get ready. Food is readily available throughout the day. The midnight buffet is beautiful and worth the wait in line. Always check to see what the drink of the day is because it will be the cheapest drink ($4.25). You can quickly drink up some money!
Cabin was small but plenty of storage space under the bed, by the vanity area, 3 big drawers, 3 small drawers, 2 drawers in each nightstand, medicine cabinet. You aren't in the cabin much so the size has never really mattered to us.
Kids-Between the two couples we had 4 kids age 10-14. They stayed in a room next to us by themselves. We let them go around on the ship as long as they stayed together. Bought them unlimited soft drink cups for $28 each and they could get refills at any bar area. They would not participate in the kids program. They didn't like the salt water in the pool. They did enjoy playing ping pong.
Things to pack: Warm clothes-it is chilly when you leave and when you come back and some days at sea when it was windy. Over the door hanger was great for the bathroom. Got it at Dollar store. It had 8 pockets. There are only two plugs in the whole room so bring something to give you some extra plugs. Bring a clock. Bring a nightlight if you are in an inside cabin as it is pitch black but great for napping during the day. Bring plenty of underwater cameras. Bring a backpack or something to carry your things when you go on an excursion. Bring plenty of small denomination of bills. Highlighter, sticky notes, various size ziplocks (take snacks on excursions, put your money in, I use the 2.5 gallon ones to pack clothes tight and increase my space), bought $1 ponchos at Bass Pro but didn't need them, packed water bottles for excursions, extra memory card for camera,. We put the tips for the week on our credit card-$68.25 pp for waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter, room attendant. We also had them all a thing of cajun seasoning to show our thanks.
Disembarking We opted for the express check out and carried our luggage off and we were on the road by 8am. Otherwise, you can be on the ship for awhile.
This was our first cruise, so we really didn't go into it with much expectation, but it was certainly very disappointing for us. If you want a good family cruise, you are better off booking with Carnival (or Disney on a splurge!) which is what I should have done. We booked about 2 days prior to the sailing after being told that our 2 year, 10 month old daughter who is potty trained would have no problem getting into the kid's program onboard, although their website states that it is for kids 3 and up. I asked the reservations person about this and was advised to just tell them that our daughter is 3 and they would let her in. Well, the second day of the cruise, a sea day, we took her up to the kids program area, signed the paperwork and then they checked a roster to find that her third birthday is still a month away and told us she could not participate since they have a very strict policy.
Well, already out at sea with our cruise paid for in full, we had no choice butto accept the situation the way it was. We love our daughter very much, but it is very hard to relax at all on a vacation when you are constantly parenting and having to keep a toddler out of trouble. Also, we were unable to enjoy any adult related activities onboard (the casino, lounge, several shows, etc) so it seemed like a huge waste. We also had to take her to all of the formal meals with us, which is very difficult for a child that age. Fortunately, the dining group next to us was large and rowdy so they made her look well behaved (thank goodness for small favors!). I did address the issue of the kids camp with the manager who was very apologetic, but still would not allow her to attend.
We enjoyed the shore excursions and had good weather for most of the cruise, although we also had to find out the hard way that Royal Caribbean does not offer a stroller rental onboard (most lines do). My lucky husband got to carry 30 lbs all around Key West, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. Most unpleasant, so be sure to pack a stroller. The crew was very nice to our daughter and very accommodating with all requests, but it just wasn't as family friendly as we were looking for.
The food was so-so, I think they sacrificed quality over quantity- you could eat all day and all night if you wanted to, but it all kind of tasted the same after awhile! The dining room food was better, we went to several dinners there and their lobster was outstanding as well as the service, but it was just too hard to do a long sit down dinner every evening, so we did a lot of meals at the Windjammer (which is buffet style).
In any case, I called the 1-800 customer service number today to voice my complaint over the kids camp issue and was offered a $100 off coupon for our next cruise with them, good for a year. If I do happen to book a cruise within the next year (or ever for that matter) it certainly won't be with Royal Caribbean. I was pretty dissatisfied with what they considered to be a “fair” resolution; their customer service was definitely lacking as all the rep did was repeatedly apologize and offer the insult of a coupon; she could not even give me the assurance that this type of incident would not happen again with another family. The other problem I repeatedly encountered was that we were constantly being reminded by cruise staff that the cruise was booked to capacity so it was almost like they were telling us not to expect too much from them. I feel like our money is just as good as anyone's sailing on a half empty cruise, so this was also rude and frustrating. Had some problems when I tried to talk with guest relations as well. Watch out if you value good customer service, once they have your money, they don't go out of their way for anything.
Background: We traveled with our three children: 8 yr & 10 yr old boys, & 13 yr old girl. We had two inside cabins next to each other 3573 & 3575. This was my our 6th cruise and the children's 2nd. Past cruise experience: Chandris Victoria (1989), Celebrity Mercury (1999), Sea Princess (2001), Grand Princess (2003), & Carnival Paradise (2004) –with the kids.
Pre Cruise: We flew ATA airlines the day before the cruise from LaGuardia NY to Houston Hobby airport. Unfortunately one piece of our luggage didn't make it to Houston with us (our kids clothing). We did a one way Enterprise minivan rental to Galveston and stayed at The LaQuinta Inn & Suites. The hotel was clean and had free breakfast the next morning. Our missing piece of luggage arrived at around 1 am at the hotel.
Embarkation day: After breakfast I dropped off my family & luggage (11:15 am) at the pier and returned my car. Enterprise took me to the pier. Check-in was a breeze and we boarded the ship and we were eating lunch in the Windjammer by 12:00. They didn't allow anyone to the cabins until1:00. For a ship that was built in 1997 she was in good shape. During our cruise the crew was changing carpeting in many areas on the ship – most of the stairway carpets and the entire outdoor carpet area on the lido deck was replaced. When our cruise ended they were replacing carpet in the cabins on deck 3. We really liked the layout of the ship—very easy to navigate. The Rhapsody is classy and not glitzy. The extensive use of glass provided stunning ocean views. Our cabins were very well laid out and although not large very functional and had plenty of storage room. The beds were firm but comfortable. The shower had good water pressure. Our cabin steward introduced himself to us immediately and was fantastic throughout the cruise- towel animals and mint chocolates every night!!! He greeted us in the mornings and at night to see how our day was. The staff on the Rhapsody is known as the friendliest on the seas…I have to say our experience with them was fantastic. Everyone was very friendly, respectful and helpful. After the muster drill the Rhapsody had a sail away party on deck as we pulled away from the pier around 5:30 pm.
Breakfast: We ate in the main dining room for breakfast in the mornings…the service at times was inconsistent and the food was sometimes not served very hot.
Lunch: We didn't care too much for the Windjammer for lunch so on sea days we ate lunch in the dining room. Excellent food and choices-Ribs, burgers, made to order pastas-with shrimp if you wanted. On port days we ate at the Windjammer-usually we ate salad & sandwiches. We had pizza, hot dogs & burgers at the solarium-decent but have had better on other cruise lines. My kids ordered room service on several nights and loved the service and the food they received. I think if there was one area they could improve the ship is to add more dining options during the next dry dock.
Dinner: The Edelweiss dining room was beautiful. We had a nice table for eight on the 4th deck. We were traveling with my wife's aunt, my brother and his girlfriend. Our wait staff was excellent. The waiter was from India and our assistant waiter was from Lithuania, All our requests were delivered with smiles. The food was good to excellent every night. Some of the highlights: Prime Rib, Lobster, Chicken Marsala, Sirloin & NY Strip Steaks, Shrimp Cocktail, the soups, Cherries jubilee, Baked Alaska, flourless Chocolate cake, and the Pineapple Sherbet. No problem ordering several entrees, apps or deserts. We were served extra Lobster tails until we said uncle. One thing that stood out on Royal Caribbean is that the Head waiter visited with us a few times during each dinner to make sure we were pleased with everything. He even cut my daughter's steak for her.. I almost never met them on the other cruise lines except on the last night to make an impression so you might tip them. We never felt rushed –we had the late setting (8:30pm). Our son's only ate with us on the first night. We would take them to the Windjammer or the Solarium for dinner earlier so they could enjoy the Adventure Ocean activities. One thing to note-the Rhapsody of the seas had open dining on Key West night. 6:30-9:30.
Cruising the seas: Unfortunately we had very rough seas at times especially on Monday. Many people were seasick including my wife. It was so bad in fact that they had seasick bags at every stairwell. My wife made it to the formal dinner and lasted about 5 minutes until she had to leave. The winds were 35-40 miles per hour for about the first day and a half and made it difficult to be on the pool deck it was actually chilly. The winds stayed with us until the ship sailed with the wind not against it. We had high winds until Wednesday. The best days of the cruise were Wednesday and Saturday when we could enjoy being on the pool deck. We only had a little rain while we were at Key West.
Ports: Key West-This ship docks here. We took our boys to see Ripley's Believe it or Not. They loved this exhibit. My daughter went shopping with my Wife's aunt and had a good time. We went walking around town then headed to Mallory Square to watch the Sunset festivities-(do not miss). At sail away (around midnight) they had a deck party on board with a BBQ ,Mexican food, fruits, deserts & tropical drinks. Again it was very windy and cool on deck.
Grand Cayman - We had to tender at this port and the crew had trouble loading the tender due to rough seas. We were planning to take the pirate cruise but the water was still pretty rough-my wife took one look at the pirate ship bouncing in the waves and she turned green. We went to Seven Mile Beach instead. This beach is beautiful. The water is crystal clear and was slightly cold which was fine since it was pretty hot. My daughter went snorkeling with my brother at the beach. A word of warning the sun is very strong in the Caymans our suntan lotion (SPF30) was no match for it and we all received a bad sunburn, This night was also our 2nd formal dinner (Lobster night)…and also the night they had the Midnight buffet. We looked at it but we were still stuffed from dinner.
Cozumel - The Rhapsody of the Seas was able to dock at International pier. This was great-only one ship at a time can dock in Cozumel. We were planning to go to Paradise Beach but everyone was not ready to go back into the sun. My boys stayed onboard and enjoyed Adventure Ocean. Everyone else went shopping in Cozumel. It was overcast while we were in port.
Adventure Ocean - Our boys loved the kids program onboard. Many activities including science projects, ball playing, scavenger hunts. They even offered a dining with the kids program on three nights. Our boys made several friends. The program for my daughter is much less structured-for the 12-14 yr olds they have activities planned but some were cancelled if not enough people showed up. She made friends the first day at the get together so they hanged out together. Because it was a smaller group they did get to do some things not normally on the schedule such as a behind the scenes look at the theater and even got to help prepare & deliver some room service. We gave my daughter a two way radio so she can let us know where she was at all times. They also had a small video game arcade onboard that was very expensive to use. Tip: If your kids like to drink soda purchase the Soda card for them-its about $32 including tip. This will be much cheaper then buying them individually ($1.75 a can).
Fellow passengers: A very nice group. I would say the mix was probably 60% Texans, 30% Mexicans and 10% from everywhere else. This time period was also a popular time to vacation from Mexico. The people were all very nice. Most of the Mexicans were from Monterey or Mexico City. Since this was spring break for many areas in the country (not Texas) there were a nice amount of kids onboard. No real behavior problems to note. With the exception of three teenagers who would run in elevators and press all the buttons and we even heard of other people complaining that these teenagers would remove their do not disturb signs and knock on cabin doors. I didn't see this. Otherwise we saw no problems.
Gambling: The casino was very nice 5 cent slots $5 blackjack-we didn't play too much. I did hear someone won $5000 on the slots during our cruise. We did play bingo three times and didn't win anything the Jackpot was over $7000 and was won on the last day by a couple from Mexico. Bingo can get expensive it cost us $35 a session.
Onboard activities: We attended an art auction which was interesting but we didn't buy anything. Don't miss the adult game show Quest it was fun & raunchy. We also played scrabble in the card room (great sea views). Our family participated in Cartoon trivia and won. The entertainment was very good on the Rhapsody-We saw two shows and both were great. The Piano man featured music from Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow and more. The farewell show was very entertaining and featured Illuminations & Palmas Gauchos from Argentina
Deck Area: We didn't have too much trouble getting deck chairs on this cruise. The pool area was nice. The water in the pools is chlorinated salt water and not heated but not too cold. The hot tubs were great but at times there where a lot of kids in them. The Caribbean band would play here several times a day. Drink service was fast and friendly. If you do not specify they will always deliver and charge you for the glass. One side of the deck area was reserved as non-smoking. They held several fun events here such as: Belly flop contest, Men's sexy legs contest and the Horse racing. When we wanted to have a quieter time we went to the Solarium (no kids under 16 yrs old). This area had a nice pool, two hot tubs, a fast food area (burgers, Pizza & hotdogs), and a bar.
Debarkation: This took forever but was not Royal Caribbean's fault. We didn't get our colored tags called until 11:30 am and began the long process of exiting the ship, getting the luggage and going through customs. This took about another 2 hrs. The problem was because of all the people traveling from Mexico the immigration/customs process was slowed to a crawl. Every one of the Mexican residents had to be fingerprinted, photographed and background checked. The other reason is that the customs team was short handed because of Easter Sunday.
Post cruise: We went back to Enterprise for another mini-van rental and drove back to Houston and stayed at the Drury hotel at Hobby airport. This hotel was great!!! Big rooms, indoor/outdoor pool & Jacuzzi. Free Soda & popcorn from 3-10, free wireless internet, 1 hr free long distance included with the room and a great free breakfast. The flight home the next morning was fine.
Conclusion: We had a great time on the Rhapsody and would go on her again. For the price we paid ($2300 for both cabins including all taxes & insurance) it was a great value.
Following is my personal review of this past week sailing aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas from Galveston. I have tried to cover all the things I would find helpful in planning a cruise aboard this ship. I hope it will help you to get ready for your cruise! Bon Voyage!
Port of Galveston info: Easy for drop off and pick up. Less crowded around 2:00pm drop off. Buffet lunch on board runs until 3:45pm.
Parking lot D was also a good option for the other family traveling with us. The cost was $70 for a week uncovered and $80 to park under a shade canopy. You pay in advance in cash. (I am sure they have learned that you might not have the $$ when you return!)
For disembarkation, they no longer make you go to the lounge in the morning for U. S. Citizens. Non- U. S. still had to report in the morning. They now take care of customs in the baggage area after you pick up your bags, you proceed to the customs booth just like the airports and they check your documents and take your customs form andthen you exit the building. There is also a separate line for non- U.S. for exiting the baggage area, so make sure you are in the right line.
Aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas:
Cabins: This ship was very clean and in great shape. On this cruise I had an inside cabin, which I have not had in a long time. There was plenty of storage with drawers, closets and shelves. They provide a hair dryer and there is a set your own combination safe in the room at no charge. They also provide soap and mystery shampoo in a dispenser in the shower. After that you are on your own.. I always bring my own sundries so I never pay much attention these items. Although the last time I sailed on Carnival I did really enjoy the basket of sample sizes that put in each room and wish Royal Caribbean would catch on to this idea. I also bring a good sampling from my own medicine cabinet like Tylenol, IB, floss, cough drops, eye drops, etc. Better to be prepared!
Another word on the cabins, after 39 cruises, I have learned to bring my own pillow from home and on the last few cruises I have started to bring my own blanket. I know this may sound crazy, but I pick up one of those fleece or micro fiber throw type blankets that fits perfectly on the twin beds on the ship and is so soft and comfortable to lie on or under. I asked my cabin steward on the first day to take away the bed spread and not to return it all week and just to make up the bed with my blanket on top. (You know my Jamaican cabin steward said " No Problem Mon") I also asked him to take away the bar set up that takes up counter space on the desk and to take away the robes that take up space in the closet. (No worries Mon!) LOL
Also, another tip that I learned from reading the boards was to ask them to replace the blanket that is between the sheets on the bed. They usually put a scratchy type heavier blanket between and you can ask them to replace it with the softer velour type and they readily will. I asked for this on both of my last cruises on Grandeur and now on Rhapsody and they immediately knew what I was talking about and replaced it.
The cabin also has a desk, chair, a small couch and a television that showed movies, news, sports, sitcoms, and the in house channel that showed the talks, talents shows, game shows etc and the view from the bridge channel that showed you what the weather was like outside with music in the background.
Also, I was traveling with a diabetic and we were able to request a refrigerator for her insulin and they also provided a sharps container for needles both at no additional charge.
Food: The food in both the dining room and at the buffet was good and plentiful. They always had a selection of sugar-free desserts, which was great for my diabetic Mom. They do have a Ben and Jerry's and a Seattle's Best coffee area on this ship. There was a small charge for these places but I tried them both and they were very good. The coffee however was scalding hot..so be sure to ask them to tone it down a bit if you don't like it so hot! If you are a past passenger and you give your Crown and Anchor numbers when you make your reservations to your Travel Agent to give to Royal Caribbean you should receive a coupon booklet in your room that will have coupons for these places as well as the casino, internet café, photos, gift shop etc.
A word about the Internet café, it was .50 cents a minute and is charged to your sign and sail card. The Internet café we found in the square in Cozumel was $1.00 for an entire hour!!!!! Also, it was .50 a minute to call the U. S. from Cozumel instead of $7.99 a minute from the ship!
Entertainment: I am not much of a show person, so I cannot tell you about the big shows. I did however enjoy the piano bar, the Centrum music, and the poolside music. I also laughed my head off at " The Quest!" I also had fun in the casino playing roulette. Although, I do not play the slots, the people at our table won frequently on them and one of the ladies even won $1600 and they took her picture!
Spa: I did not partake in any spa treatments, they are pretty high priced and not my cup of tea..however, I did enjoy the rather large sauna in the ladies locker room and it is free! I did not use the gym, but I did enjoy the open air walking and jogging track on the top deck of the ship. Be sure to bring sneakers for walking and if you want to climb the rock wall they require you to have socks with either sandals or sneakers . It is a good workout walking against the wind! They also have a sheltered promenade deck for walking and strolling that was great for enjoying the sunsets and we saw a pod of wild dolphins swimming and jumping off the side of the wake during sunset on two different days from the promenade deck. Awesome!
Ports of call: On our sailing we went to Ocho Rios, Jamaica ...they usually go to Montego Bay, Jamaica or Key West every other week, so you may not go to Ocho Rios on this ship. There were 5 of us traveling together, so we decided to get a van cab and driver for $20 per person for the day. He took us to through the Fern Gully area, and stopped to show us all the plants and fruits that are grown in Jamaica, then up to a scenic spot to get a great picture of the ship in the harbor. Then since it was getting late he took us to an area of the Dunn's River falls where you can see the falls for free if you are not going to climb them and do not want to pay the entrance fee to the park of $15 per person. Then he dropped us off at an area called Magnolia Beach to swim for an hour and then picked us up to take us back to the ship. We had a very full day and even stopped at Burger King for lunch and had an hour for shopping too. Be sure to negotiate in advance if you are going to go off with a driver.
Grand Cayman: This is a tendering port, so if you are not a shore tour, I recommend you take your time, have some breakfast, and get ready to go into port. By the time you have done all this and it is around 10am, you will no longer need tender tickets to go ashore. We decided to spend a few hours at the beach. I have been to Cayman before and friends recommended that we try the "Sea Grape " area of 7-mile beach. It was about a $4.00 ride per person in a shared van taxi each way. It leaves right from the dock area and takes about 10 minutes. There are three stops on the 7 mile beach, the first is Royal Palms.which is where I think I went last time, the second is "the beach club" and the third is Sea Grape. Sea Grape was a VERY nice area. It was very clean and had a restaurant, bar, nice restrooms, chair, umbrella, and float rentals, and a deck area in the sand. They were also offering banana boat rides and parasailing for a charge. The water was very clear and nice and warm. I would go back anytime! The shopping by the pier is expensive and the Hard Rock Café was a mob scene since it is the only familiar name in the shopping area.
Cozumel: Coz, is one of my favorite ports and I have been there many times. We spent the day shopping and had lunch in the square at one of our favorite restaurants "Casa Dennis". The shopping in Cozumel is by far the best and most plentiful on this itinerary. There are markets to bargain and there are jewelry and perfume shops or more upscale shopping. We did not go to the beach on this trip but I would recommend Mr. Sanchos beach or Chanukanaab state park for snorkeling. I have also taken the Fury catamaran trip and it is a wonderful day excursion that includes snorkeling and a day at the beach.
I will end with a few helpful hints of things to bring on your cruise to make it more enjoyable. Some of these are from years of experience and some are new ones I have learned from reading in other reviews.
Bring a travel clock that lights up! There are no clocks in the room!
A pen or a few pens! It seems you are always looking for a pen to fill out a form or write a note to your traveling companions or your steward.
A white kitchen garbage bag to hang in the closet over a hanger to put your dirty clothes in. At the end of the cruise you can just toss it into the suitcase!
A multi hanger to put over one of the hooks to make more hook space. Post it notes to leave notes for your cabin steward. A highlighter to mark the activities you want to do on the daily schedule.
As I mentioned earlier, a pillow and blanket from home.
Walkie-talkies! These work great to find each other on the ship!
Camera, extra batteries, binoculars, air freshener or matches for the bathroom, a rain poncho or wind breaker incase it rains. Water shoes for the beaches or climbing the falls in Jamaica. Be sure to bring a great tote bag to take in the ports to hold your beach gear, money, camera and your shopping purchases.
Go to the bank at home and get lots of singles, fives and smaller bills for tipping, cabs and bargaining in the markets in port. If you forget to do this, you can get change in the casino onboard much faster than the Pursers desk.
Feel free to email me at C2Cmarci@yahoo.com if you have any cruise questions or would like help setting up you next cruise.
Wishing you smooth seas.
I am 53 years old and love to travel, but had never thought I would enjoy a cruise until the last 2 or 3 years. I talked my best friend into going with me, and we chose the Rhapsody of the Seas based on Galveston's close proximity to where we live, high recommendations of Royal Caribbean from people I trust and the itinerary. I was not disappointed and absolutely everything about our cruise met my expectations or more.
I love doing all of the planning, preparation and research before taking any trip. Cruisemates.com was an invaluable tool as we planned our cruise. I checked it weekly to read the new reviews about Rhapsody of the Seas and also used all of the articles for first time cruisers and what to expect. I booked our cruise through priceline.com and have nothing but praise for how our reservations and the entire process were handled. I was always kept informed of what was expected of me and received all of my documentation on or before I was told I would. We both applied for and received passports before the cruise, even though we werewithin the deadline of still being able to travel in the Caribbean with only photo id and a birth certificate. We both decided we would have to get passports eventually, so we went ahead and got them now. We received them in exactly 8 weeks, and did not pay for any expedited service. I made one special request through priceline.com regarding our dinner seating. We did not go on the cruise with any desire to meet new people or socialize a lot. My friend preferred the early dinner seating, but we had initially been assigned to the late seating. I requested through priceline.com that we be moved to the early seating and also requested a table for 2, and both requests were approved.
We drove to Galveston on Saturday before our cruise was to leave on Sunday. We live 6-1/2 hours away in Hope, Arkansas, and made the trip with no problems. I had booked a room at the Days Inn in Galveston (also through priceline.com). It is not on the beach, but was very convenient and was only $50. I was very pleased with the Days Inn, and when we told them where we had planned on eating, they gave us a coupon for a free appetizer and a free dessert. We had planned to eat at Gaido's, but instead ate at Casey's, which is right next door, owned by the same people, use basically the same kitchen, but is a little less formal and a little less expensive. It is right on the gulf coast. Our food was superb and the view was great. We were back in our room in time to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks beat Tennessee on tv.
Sunday morning we went to church, changed clothes at the church and drove to EZ Cruise Parking, where I had made a reservation over the internet. You get a discount by making your reservation on the internet. Galveston is very easy to navigate and everything was very convenient. EZ Cruise will shuttle you AND your luggage to the terminal, which was a real plus as I understand the other parking lots require that you drop off your luggage at the terminal and will only provide shuttle service for the drivers. Be sure to put your luggage tags (found in your cruise documents that are mailed to you) on your luggage before you get to the terminal. We were the only two on the entire shuttle bus who had done so, and we were going to have to wait for everyone else to write out their luggage tags and attach them. One of the stevedores realized that all of our luggage was properly tagged, so he put ours on a separate rack and we were on our way. I had printed our Set Sail passes, but had not signed them as I thought they would want them signed in person when we checked in. That was pretty much the only thing that slowed us down at all in the check-in process. Royal Caribbean had several employees around and available to point you in the right direction and help in any way needed. We did not get out of church until a little after 12:00 and even after changing clothes, getting to the parking lot, parking and checking in, we were on the ship by 1:00. We found our stateroom, dropped off our carry-ons and went to eat lunch in the Windjammer. After that we walked around the ship and got acclimated to where everything was located. I had printed the deck plans from the Royal Caribbean website, and it was helpful to have reviewed them. We found our table in the dining room (table for 2 and early seating as I stated earlier – yeah). We then saw most of our luggage, took it to the room and unpacked some. Muster drill went very smoothly and we went up to Deck 10 for sail-a-way. Carnival Conquest left a few minutes before us and it was fun watching it slowly slip away and then realize that we, too, were moving out of the harbor.
Rather than providing a day-by-day recounting, I will give you my thoughts on various aspects of the cruise:
Stateroom: Oceanview room was perfect for us. We were in 4502 which is 2nd from the front of the ship on the starboard side, so we probably felt more movement than rooms in the middle of the ship, but it was never a problem. Neither of us have ever had any motion-sickness problems, but I took some Dramamine with us just in case. We never needed it. The night between Cayman & Cozumel, the seas were rougher than usual. I got up during the night and had a little trouble walking to the bathroom. My friend woke up later and said the drawers on the night stand were opening and closing and the ice was rattling in the ice bucket. It did not bother us at all, and actually was kinda fun. Our room was below the stage of the main theatre or the backstage area, but I never heard any noise. We had more than enough storage room for all of our stuff. The large space between the window and our bed was especially helpful to put hats, books, magazines, purses, etc. We met our stateroom attendant, Natasha, in the hall. She was very nice and our room was always cleaned and straightened up twice a day. I had taken Razorback post-it notes and wrote her notes every day and she would write notes back to us.
Meals: The food, atmosphere and service were superb in the dining room. I do not see how anyone could not find something they like to eat. A couple of times I ordered two entrees just because I could not decide. The Norwegian salmon was especially delicious. We both really love seafood and that is what we ate most meals. I did get lamb one night and it was good. I also enjoyed the different cold soups (watermelon). All of the desserts were very good. I even took a picture of a couple of them because they were so attractively presented. My friend raved so much about the banana cream pie that she had one night that I wish I'd gotten it also. Our waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter were all three from India and were all very pleasant and helpful. Our head waiter stopped by our table every single night and answered any question we had. The last night we asked him how to say 'thank you' in Indian and he wrote down two words that mean 'thank you'. We used one to our waiter and the other to our assistant waiter and they both seemed very surprised and pleased that we spoke to them in their language. We also made a point to eat breakfast and lunch in the dining room at least once. For those two meals, you are seated at tables to fit the number in your party as you arrive. We met several very nice folks and enjoyed both of those meals tremendously. It was nice to be able to order and be waited on. The other meals we ate in the Windjammer and the Solarium. I have no complaints about either one. The food is good, the variety is plentiful and the tables are bussed quickly. All of the wait staff was always helpful and available. We ordered room service (coffee, juice and fruit) two mornings and it was there on time and very good.
Entertainment: I really enjoy trivia contests and there were several to choose from during the week: general info, sports, name that tune, tv shows, etc. The activities staff made them all enjoyable. One minor complaint --- the Broadway Show Tune trivia contest was not Broadway show tunes .. it was basically well-known songs. About half-way through one of the trivia games, someone at the bar (contest was being held in the Schooner Bar during the afternoon) starting yelling out the answers. Instructions had already been given to write down answers and not yell out answers. He was asked by the person in charge of the game to stop. His companion yelled out the answer to the next question. They were again warned. He then yelled out an answer to next question, and the person in charge very nicely told him that all passengers are required to comply with the policies and procedures posted in all staterooms, that the rules did apply to him too and that if it happened again security would be called. I thought this was handled in a very tactful and calm manner and I appreciate the staff person making the offending person accountable.
We went to every show in the main theatre. The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers were good and obviously enjoyed their job. I personally thought the singing in both of their production numbers was too loud. Our favorite show was El Goucho --- South American cowboy who played guitar, drums, piano and did outstanding tricks with the bolo, and he was very funny. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show.
We played bingo twice. It was fun, but we were not able to use the free bingo cards we were given the first day on the ship either time, and I still am not sure why. They just said they had to be used in a 'regular' bingo session. We went to a couple of karaoke programs, the Quest game, Love and Marriage game show, back-stage tour, and they were all fun and enjoyable. We also went to a couple of the art auctions – pleasant but won't do that again – not my cup of tea. The cooking demonstration and other demonstrations in the Centrum were very nice.
We had occasion to deal with the purser's office several times and they were always very helpful and friendly. We asked to get our passports stamped in the three ports and they were able to have them stamped in Jamaica and Mexico (too many ships were in port at Grand Cayman and they could not get the port agent to stamp them). I bought Jamaican postage and Cayman postage to mail post cards. Also, I left my fanny pack in the Windjammer one morning and when I went back to get it, the head waiter had already delivered it to the purser's office. They handled everything with efficiency and friendliness.
Ports: In Jamaica I booked a ½ day tour with Orville Taylor over the internet ($20 each). After we got off the ship we had to wait about 15 minutes and then he picked us up on his bus. It was the two of us and a family of 6 from Seattle. We had a very nice, informative tour of the highlights of Jamaica. We wanted to see Dunn's River Falls and the folks from Washington did not, so Orville dropped us off at Dunn's River Falls ($15 admission each) with instructions on when and where he would pick us up and then took the others where they wanted to go. My friend climbed the falls and I used the stairs that run next to them and took pictures. It is very pretty. Orville was waiting on us, and we all ended up at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We did lots of shopping at the shopping area --- bought coffee, rum and t-shirts for gifts --- and walked back to the ship.
In Cayman I booked a ¼ day snorkeling and sting ray city tour with Captain Marvin over the internet ($40 each). We did the early-bird tender at 7:00 a.m. so we would not miss our tour. Captain Marvin's is great. We snorkeled in two different spots and the fish and underwater plant life was beautiful. I had never snorkeled before and really enjoyed it. The stingray city stop was also fun, even though I was a little hesitant after the Steve Irwin incident. I even kissed a stingray and got a back massage from one. The guides and assistants on the boat were extremely helpful. Snorkeling was the highlight for my friend. We ate again at Margaritaville, did some shopping and walked right onto a tender boat to go back to the Rhapsody – no waiting. It was starting to sprinkle and seemed that a little storm was coming up and when the tender boat got to the Rhapsody it took about 30 to 45 minutes before they were able to get us close enough to get back on the ship. It was interesting to see what all was going on. There were about 8 ships at Cayman that day. Some of the other folks on the tender boat seemed to be a little anxious at the waiting, but I thought it made it more interesting.
We had not booked anything in Cozumel as we wanted to wait and see what we enjoyed and what we might want to do after two days of planned tours. We tried to do some more snorkeling after we had enjoyed it so much in Cayman, but all of the water activities on our side of the island were cancelled due to the bad weather the night before and the undercurrent was still too strong. We walked around, did some shopping and went back to the ship and laid out by the pool and read. It was a very relaxing, nice day.
Other: Probably the thing I liked the best about the Rhapsody of the Seas was the many different places to sit and watch the sea go by. You could sit inside or outside, in large groups or alone, by the pool or away from all the activity, you could find any preference. I love, love, love the sea and thoroughly enjoyed watching it go by. Since our room was on the front of the ship on Deck 4 and the dining room is on the rear of the ship and our table was on Deck 5, every evening we would go outside on Deck 5 at the first door available from the front and walk along the outside promenade until we went inside to go eat. You can also walk outside the entire circumference of the ship on Deck 10, which is very nice (very windy at times). Also, there is some kind of music playing almost continuously at different places on the ship --- in the Centrum, by the pool, in the lounges, in the dining room --- which is very nice. We also used the library (friend read two books during the week) and the internet service (50cents minute) to check and send e-mail. One time the internet would not log off and would not give us the amount of time and money we were charged for one of the sessions. We contacted the purser's office and they told us to check back the next day to see what had posted to our account. We knew about how long we were on and the next day when we checked it was a much larger amount. The purser's office gave us a $10 credit on our account with no problem.
I had purposely chosen a week I did not think there would be very many kids traveling, and that was also nice. One night there were 3 or 4 pre-teen boys chasing each other in the hall, but that was the only time I ever saw any of the small number of kids doing anything out of the way. We chose a timed departure as we had too many bags (with the souvenirs purchased) to do the express departure. Our color was supposed to be called at 9:15. We ate a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer and sat in one of the lounges until an announcement was made at about 8:30 that all remaining colors could disembark. EZ Cruise was waiting for us outside the terminal and we were in our car headed home by 9:00.
Things I'm really glad I took: water shoes, highlighter to mark the daily calendar for things not to miss, clock for the room, hats, lots of $1's for tips, fanny pack
What I'll do different on my next cruise: pack less clothes and shoes, leave room in luggage or take an extra bag for souvenirs
In conclusion, I will definitely cruise again, and with Royal Caribbean. You can do as much or as little as your want in wonderful surroundings. I loved the whole experience --- where else can you get a nice room (which is cleaned twice a day); as much food as you can eat 24/7; entertainment; the mesmerizing ocean all around you; and travel to Jamaica, Grand Cayman & Mexico for about $100 a day!!!! Incredible value!!! I would like to see some of the other Caribbean islands, which will probably mean leaving from a Florida port, or possibly New Orleans. I can't wait!!!!!
First time cruiser here and after returning from the ship I can now say that I will definitely be cruising again......and soon I hope.
Rhapsody of the Seas is a beautiful ship with an absolute top-notch crew.
I was very aprehensive about cabin size, motion sickness, boredom, and basically getting on this huge ship to begin with. Embarking and Disembarkating were an absolute breeze. Took about an hour to do each one.
Completely lost all track of what day it was and what time it was during the cruise and it was GREAT! You can be as relaxed as you want or as busy as you want at any time of the day or night.......totally your choice.
Things I learned: The additional cost of having a balcony is totally worth it. Cannot tell you how relaxing it was to spend time on the balcony - early morning with coffee, noon time before a little cat-nap, and late night winding down. And the water - I have never seen such beautiful shades of blue water.
Avoid the temptation to over pack. Came home without wearing over half of the things I packed. More bathing suits,shorts and coverups next time.
The dining room food and service was wonderful. Tried it 3 times.....a little pretentious for my taste. Preferred the WindJammer, Solarium Cafe and Room Service....although the Room Service selections are limited. Any time day or night - findng something to eat is not a problem.
Take a clock of some sort. It became a focal point because you truly do lose track of time. Next cruise I probably will not book any excursions.
Totally enjoyed Swimming with the StingRays in the Caymans and the Playa Mia Beach Break in Cozumel but I think we'll just walk-about and shop in the various ports next time. On this cruise we docked in Key West and Cozumel - Grand Cayman is a tender port.
Will not buy the soda card next time. Thought we would use it more than we did. Will check a case of soda's with one of our luggage tags next time and save the $50.
Find Martin - he's a pool-side drink server at the main pool. What a hoot he is - he will definitely take care of you. Tell him Christopher, Jeri and Jan-Jan said HELLO What a hoot he is - he will definitely take care of you. Tell him Christopher, Jeri and Jan-Jan said HELLO !!
Be generous with your tipping - it may seem to be an extra expense - but the staff work very hard for you and they deserve to be compensated for it.
Bottom line - if you're anxious or undecided about taking a cruise - go for it. GET OUT THERE !!!
We just returned from our vacation aboard this ship yesterday and had a great time. I traveled with my husband, my brother and his wife, and my parents. We are from Spokane, Washington so we flew into Houston Hobby on the Saturday before the cruise started. We stayed at a hotel at the airport Saturday night and used the Galveston Limo company shuttle to get us to the ship on Sunday. If you are flying in, I recommend this service. It isn't a limo, it is a shuttle bus. They picked us up at the airport on Sunday morning and provided round trip service between the airport and the ship. Both getting to the ship and returning were efficient and painless.
Even though the Rhapsody is an older ship, I felt she was clean and pretty well kept. I expected to see some wear and tear so I wasn't dissapointed. My parents, however, thought it was a little too worn out and due for a makeover. We were very pleased with the dining room quality and service, and the Windjammer cafe provided quantity if you're looking for that over quality. Embarkationand disembarkation were both uneventful and easy.
We did excursions through the ship at both Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We did the Rays and Reef w/ lunch in Grand Cayman and had a great time. Both the stingrays and the snorkeling were awesome! The lunch piece was at a hotel on the beach, so we had a couple of hours of beach time w/ beach chairs, showers, restrooms, etc. In Cozumel we did the Tulum Express to the Mayan ruins. We didn't bring my parents with us on this one and were thankful they stayed behind. It was the most hot I have ever been in my entire life. There was also no shade so, although the ruins were beautiful, it was hard being in the extreme heat... especially if you aren't used to hot, humid weather.
The only real challenge we encountered on the ship was that the beach chairs and tables around the pool area are saved with beach towels by about 9am. There is a rule that you can't save a chair for longer than a half hour but it isn't enforced. My parents enjoy "people watching" so someone had to be up on the pool deck sitting at a table in the shade to save it by about 7:30 am on sea days.
I thought the nightly entertainment was just so so. However, my parents (who are seniors), loved it. It was all well done, so it must just be a matter of entertainment preference.
Overall, we had a great cruise experience. This was our third RCI cruise and fourth overall. I definitely recommend this cruise and thought that for an older ship, the Rhapsody was a pleasant voyage.
Our history: This was my fourth cruise with Royal Caribbean and my wife's first cruise at all. I am a Royal Caribbean fan, having previously been on the Empress to the Bahamas, the Radiance to Alaska and the Monarch to Mexico. We're off to Alaska on the Radiance (different itinerary) next year and the Panama Canal a year after that.
Trip Prep: We chose to have our ticket paperwork sent electronically and while it was nice to able to download everything to our printer, it becomes difficult in trying to "tear out" the vouchers and coupons for transfers. In the future for us, and our recommendation is to get the tickets printed and sent to you by RC. As usual (for me at least) we let RC make all of our plane reservations and transfer arrangements. I've found, unless you have frequent flyer miles to cash in or you get a screaming deal on airfare, there isn't but a few dollars difference in doing it yourself and letting RC work it for you. The earlier you book, the better your flight/connection times will be. We also read a lot of on-line reviewson the Rhapsody and most were very helpful
Trip to the ship: We flew into Houston from Phoenix (with a stop in Dallas) and were met by the RC rep at baggage claim. We immediately started getting questioned about how many folks were in our party based on my wife's total pieces of luggage. We boarded a shuttle bus to the Doubletree Hotel at the Houston Airport where our reservations were waiting for us, I even got us a room upgrade at no charge by presenting my Hilton Honors card. We got RC bag tags for our many suitcases from the bellman (here's another reason why you want to get the ticket package sent to you, the tags are in the package, I had to write out all the ship and cabin info on ours) Knowing we had a busy day in front of us and after traveling by plane all day, we ordered room service (you pay for that yourself, meals are not included in the overnight hotel stay set up by RC) and then went to sleep. The next morning, we called the bellman who took our bags off to a holding area for RC passengers; he said we'll see them next on the ship. That was great not to have to worry about them anymore for a while. Next we met with the RC rep in the hotel lobby, got a check-in number for the shuttle to the Galveston port and then we had breaskfast while waiting. The shuttle bus takes a little over an hour. The check-in at the port was smooth and fast. We had our passports, credit card and Seapass in hand and it took less than 5 minutes and we were on the Rhapsody; absolutely, hands down the quickest and smoothest I've seen yet.
The cruise starts: I liked that my Seapass card said "Gold Member" for the Crown and Anchor society on it, everywhere I went for the length of the cruise I was "welcomed back" by crew members. We got a Oceanview room with a small balcony on deck 7 and it was the way to go. In the days we were at sea, my wife spent a great deal of time out on the balcony just relaxing. We got the Coca-Cola stickers on our cards, despite what others may say, I still think this is a good deal. We hit the Windjammer for lunch and then relaxed in our cabin as our suitcases arrived one by one (by one by one.....). The cabin was spacious with a good size bathroom, a valuables safe and stocked (careful the stuff is expensive) mini refrigerator. After the mandatory lifeboat drill, we went up to the deck for the departure. It was very windy and a little drizzely (rain-wise) but all in all pretty smooth as we headed out to sea that night. We got dressed for our dinner, since it's just us we chose late seating. Our table mates were all from Texas....as was a vast majority of the other passengers. We lost Dave and MJ who had previously arranged for private table, so it was me, my wife Debi joined by Barabara and Jim from San Antonio after the first night at our table. We had fun all week at dinner and seeing them in shipboard activities. The Rhapsody is not too big, you'll see folks all week long.
At sea and Key West: Gotta love the days at sea to relax and unwind. We explored and just kicked back on day two. We attended the "shopping" briefing in the theater and made our list of places to go in each port. Just a lot of souvenir stuff, no big ticket items planned. Key West was fun, but really humid for us desert dwellers from Arizona. We bought tickets for the Hemingway House tour and it was great.... a lot of local Key West history is covered in the walk to the house from the ship. Being a big fan of James Bond movies, I wanted to see some of the sites where they had filmed parts of the 007 movies and we did (poor Debi had to watch the movies with me when we got home so I could show her the scenes in the movies). It was 4th of July, but except for some cool fireworks we saw later from our balcony on the ship, it seemed like just another night in Key West to us. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe after making the rounds at the shops recommended by RC. We pulled out of Key West later that night and headed for Grand Cayman.
At Sea and Grand Cayman: More relaxation at sea and formal night brought out my wife in a killer dress and me putting on the tuxedo I own which pretty much only gets used on cruises now. Everyone looked great. We posed for formal pictures and met the captain at his reception. Grand Cayman started out ominously for us. The ship "parks" off-shore and you tender in to the island. It was raining steady when we first got on the tender and was pouring by the time we hit the shore. We booked the Stingray City and Turtle farm tour and our bus was waiting for us when we got off the tender, we shivered as we dried out in the air conditioned bus. You get a brief guided tour of Grand Cayman on the way, some hurricane damage from last year is still evident. We got to a dock and boarded a catamaran to Stingray City, eventually ending up at a pair of anchored catamarans in the Caribbean. The tour takes in a semi-sumbersible to see the stingrays and even a barracuda named "Chili"....worth he trip and the time, even with the rainy weather. We headed for the turtle hatchery stopping off in "Hell". It is a spot with a lot of strange rock formations that were named Hell. You can send a post card with the "Hell postmark on it and they play up the "How the Hell are you" and "What the hell can I do for you" aspects. The turtle hatchery is recovering from hurrican damage, but even then it wasn't very interesting for us; someone with children would love it. You even get to pick up and hold the baby sea turtles.
Cozumel: They've got the dock fixed for ships the Rahpsody's size, so no tendering. Great weather and a lot of sun!!!!! Trust me, a lot of sun. I missed a few spots of applying sunscreen (no less than SPF45) on the tops of my feet and my shoulders and paid for it for 3 weeks (seriously)!!!! We got the "beach party" tour that included transportaion, drinks and food. The beach is great and the Playa Mia facility itself is wonderful. You can rent jet-skis (bring a photo ID) or just relax and bake. All drinks, yes all drinks, are included and that's good, the food was nothing to write home about, a Mexican buffet but then again we got spoiled on the ship. Still a lot of hurrican damage in Cozumel, it's really overwhelming in some places, but will not affect any excursions.
The last day at sea/disembark: More relaxation at sea, another formal night; just a suit this time....put the tux away. Spent the day sort of packing and one last bit of shopping on board and even attedning one of the art auctions (they're fun and informative, please try one of them). The packing can be tricky. You have to place your suitcases outside the cabin no later than midnight the last night, which means you have to have carry on bags to hold your night clothes, toiletries and stuff the next day. We got up, went to our appointed meeting place and waited for our group to be called. We got off the ship, grabbed a porter for 10 bucks and got through customs with no issues. On the shuttle to Houston airport and back to the Arizona desert with a lot of great memories.
Inputs to our traveling partners: A great suggestion was to get a plastic over the door shoe holder. Debi was able to put most of her shoes there and we had room for other stuff, toiletries and things. Don't forget chargers for digital cameras and cell phones (you can use them in Key West to call friends and relatives). They have wireless capability for computers in some parts of the ship, but it is pricey. The food on the Rhapsody was great in quality; I'd complain about the portion of some items being a little small, but you could always ask for seconds. We had great service from our cabin attendant as well as our waiter and asst waiter who was surprised and happy when I spoke a little Turkish to him (from my military travels). The ride on the Rhapsody stays pretty smooth. We had great weather asea for the most part and with only one exception, there weren't any "whoa, did you feel that" moments.
We really needed a relaxing cruise after my business had been so busy. What we got was far more opposite of that it was hard to believe. We sailed out of Galveston so there were a lot of Texans on the cruise. They are great! However, we did not know this was a Texas school holiday and there were 400 kids on board. They hogged the elevators by laying on the floors and pushing every available button to stop at all floors. They ran up and down the hall. Since we had a suite (more on that later), they rang our doorbell all night long. We had the doorbell disconnected and they started knocking on the doors. We finally contacted security about his issue and they said "no one else has had an issue with this."
We talked with several other people on our deck who had also complained. We had sailed on the hip when she was one year old and the staterooms were fantastic - same stateroom we had this trip. There were several pieces of chipped wood trim all over the woodwork (which is extensivein a suite). And forget about room service (although the service was quick) because there is a very limited menu. Our room steward, Marva, was excellent by the way. On one night, they were having an Asian Food buffet and we decided to try it. They next day I had food poisoning and contracted and intestinal virus which kept me down and in the stateroom for 2 1/2 days. Since this was our third cruise with RCCL, this was amazing. The bed in our suite was also very broken down and we found ourselves virtually sleeping on the bed platform. We asked for a new mattress and were told none was available. Royal Carribean was our preferred cruise line....no more. Princes offers several alternative restaurants plus and extensive room service menu identical to the dining rooms. They will be our choice from now on. RCCL needs to do some serious maintenance on this ship,,,,,parents need to control their kids. Had it not been for the inferior food this would have been a great cruise. However, RCCL needs to update their room service options, provide comfortable beds, and figure out a way to help parents control the kids. By the way.....we did great in the casino on the first and last nights.