My family and I sailed the Rhapsody of the Seas from Galveston in late May, and what follows are some thoughts, observations and port comments.
First, this was our 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean, and our 10th cruise overall.
The ship is a member of the Vision family and it entered service in 1997. She has a passenger capacity of 2400 people. We've also sailed the Splendour and found them to be almost identical, with few structural and cosmetic differences.
From reviews I've posted in the past and this trip Galveston remains out port of choice for departure. Like several million other cruise passengers it is only a short drive from our home. With a family we save nearly a grand on airfare by driving down, unloading and being in our stateroom in less than two hours total time.
The shortcoming of Galveston departures means most ports of call are Mexico, and the Rhapsody is no exception. The seven-night itinerary allows for more options, and with our sailing Jamaica and Grand Cayman was included along with Cozumel.
The Rhapsody alternates weekly itineraries with a Key West run every other week, and it skips Jamaica forthis one. The arrival in Key West is 4:00 pm EST and that limits time in port in daylight hours. If you have a family Key West is a different place after the sun goes down.
The ship is extremely well laid out, with the Lido deck being the hub of outdoor activities. The cruise director was quick to delegate entertainment and other passenger needs to an eager crew. The entertainment director was funny, well informed and everywhere.
The sail away day was uneventful. Weather was beautiful, the muster drill was the quickest of all our sailings and we departed exactly on time. The music from the steel drum band was excellent, and we were officially on vacation!
We enjoyed early seating dinner, and found two other couples, one from Texas and one from Missouri to dine with. Both were a pleasure to be with for the duration of the cruise.
The food service was absolutely incredible. Dinner was quick, accurate and served by a team of headwaiter, waiter and assistant that clearly enjoyed their positions. We were entertained as well as fed. If I were to improve on anything I'd make the beef choices a tenderer cut, and use a little more spice in the preparation. Seafood, including lobster tasted great. We have dined in the downstairs portion of the dining room on all the cruises, and enjoy a larger table, and this trip was no exception.
My family upgraded at the dock to a Royal Family Suite, and in a word, WOW. My teenager had her own bedroom, bathroom and closet. You cannot imagine how many pairs of flip-flops a 15 year old can carry. The balcony was great, the living area had a full-length window and the climate control system worked well enough to have us scurry for covers at night. We've never enjoyed a room this size before.
The only shortcomings of the cabin were poor television viewing choices and visible wear on the outdated furniture. These were minor observations, but worth noting. We woke Wednesday morning in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This is a pretty harbor area, but somewhat primitive compared to Cozumel or Nassau. Jamaica is a poor country, and the locals are not above begging, offering to sell drugs or braid hair. They are aggressive with all three. I was amazed that they solicited a 46-year-old man in tourist garb, his teenager and spouse. Dunns River Falls is the most touted excursion in Jamaica. We took a boat ride to the falls, and were quickly escorted as a group to the climb. The falls do represent some danger for those with little athletic ability. Several in our group left with scratches or bruises from a tumble. If you do this, bring your own water shoes, and bring a waterproof case for your ID's and cash. Leave your watches in the safe on the ship, as the rocks showed no mercy. We had a blast, and our family made the journey up the tiered falls in about an hour. We walked down the well-constructed boardwalk and trail back to the boat for the ride back to the ship.
After a quick shower and lunch we ventured into town. Here is where the locals see you as a cash resource. We took a cab to the newer shopping area, spent about 2 hours looking around and returned to the ship. Others at our table shared some of the same experiences with Ocho.
Grand Cayman is in a state of recovery from hurricane Ivan. The port area is rebuilt and the shops have returned to business. Beyond the first row of streets the damage is extensive. Office buildings, homes and small businesses remain in severe distress. These people are lucky to be alive.
Cayman is a tender port, and with two Carnival mega liners in port and the Rhapsody I was expecting a long wait for a ride to town. During breakfast it was announced that all the stingray excursions were cancelled. We quickly booked a tour of the island bus trip, as the weather turned from beautiful to thundershowers in about twenty minutes.
Our excursion included a semi-submersible boat ride, a trip to Hell, the Turtle Farm and the rum cake factory. All but the boat ride and cake shop were rained out. This was our least fun day, but Royal Caribbean cannot change the weather.
One note, the captain did reposition the ship four times during tender operation to facilitate re-boarding in calm water. This was fun to watch from the protected balcony of our cabin.
We woke the next morning early and watched the docking in Cozumel. We'd been here several times before, and this trip we selected the Playa Mia Beach Break for our destination.
Here is where I can strongly recommend you take the lesser of the two choices for Playa Mia. We selected the trip where a taxi is required at your own leisure. This allowed us to be the first family at the beach. We selected a great set of chairs and loungers, umbrellas and then spent nearly an hour on the Hobie Cat while those that paid more were waiting in line for the bus. By the time that group arrived we had revisited our Hobie skills from our youth, enjoyed a couple of the all-inclusive drinks and were headed to the kayaks.
Those on the Carnival ship were even less fortunate. They arrived in an old barge type vessel with blaring music at 99% distortion in the 11:30 am sun, and found few choices of chairs and amenities near the food and included activities. I'd be angry with my shore excursion desk personnel if they had recommended that for my family.
Playa Mia is a great place, they allow some local vendors to lease space for shopping, and they were clean, courteous and well stocked. The prices were the same as the shops in town.
Time passed far to quickly here and we returned to the ship. Our cabin was on the pier side and we enjoyed watching the 50 or 60 passengers that spent far too much time shopping and drinking versus making the departure time. Hecklers soon emerged from the balconies and the fun was on!
This agenda allows for two full days at sea before a port, and one day at sea to unwind before returning home. This was the best schedule my family has sailed.
The Rhapsody has great, but not excellent shows, good food, a nice casino, clean pools and a very friendly staff. The Solarium pool is very nice, and they opened the sliding roof on the sea days. The water in this pool is cold, so it made for a great place to cool off after being in the sun. Other things we liked included the fitness equipment, the ample supply of chairs, the beauty of the theatre for shows and the hotel like atmosphere the ship presents.
For those that live within a one to 6 hour drive from Galveston, Texas the Rhapsody is the finest choice for a 7 day cruise. It is not the least expensive, not rowdy, not gaudy and not a drunken party. If all these things are important you might consider some of the other options for ships. If however, you want a great vacation that allows some other ports besides Mexico then call your travel agent.
We booked the Splendour for Spring Break (again!) and I cannot wait for March.
I have a link to photos of the ship and ports, so e-mail me with your information.
This was my fifth cruise, but my first (and possibly my last) with Royal Caribbean. Here is a brief summary as to my thoughts from my recent cruise:
Rooms: We booked a junior suite on the 8th floor. The actual room was not bad, but there were several areas that could be improved upon. First of all, there are two 120v outlets for the entire room, located next to the desk. That is it! Secondly, the beds are basically cots with a mattress. Thirdly, we had a mini-fridge in the room which did not work. The one outstanding thing about our room was our balcony. It was huge!
Food: The food was always available, but all in all, I was not overly impressed with any of our meals. We stuck with the buffet for lunch since the menu in the dining room did not vary too much from day to day.
Ports of Call: Very disappointing. When we arrived for embarkation, we were informed that we would not be going to Grand Cayman due to the hurricanes that ran through that area last fall. Had I know we were eliminating that portof call and stopping instead in Costa Maya, I would probably have taken advantage of my option to cancel. The amount of money spent for basically two ports of call and one shopping excursion was not worth it. This was obviously known by RCCL for at least a short period of time since the daily itineraries were printed and ready to go with our Costa Maya stop when we departed.
As for the service on the ship, that was excellent. We had Evelyn, our head waiter, Rocco, our assistant waiter, and Dean, our housekeeper, along with the many others that kept everything running smoothly. They always had a smile on their face and were quick to assist with anything asked of them.
We recently took a great cruise on the "Rhapsody of the Seas" out of Galveston, Texas and she was a wonderful ship. We were four couples from Edmonton Alberta Canada. We decided on the "Rhapsody of the Seas" because we had friends that had cruise on her just a month before. They spoke very highly of this ship out of Galveston, Texas. So on their recommendation we decided on the "Rhapsody" as our ship and Galveston for two pre-cruise nights..
Non of us had ever been to Texas before. So we read up on Galveston and Houston, and this just seem to be the perfect place to start our cruise.
Our departure was on a Sunday and it started a little cloudy, at 12 noon our hotel. In Galveston provided the eight of us a with a free transfer to the ship, which was only a five minute ride from the hotel. Our check in on the "Rhapsody" went smoothly, our bag arrived at our cabins about the same time as we did. We unpacked of bags, met up with the rest of our party and then set out tofind our way around the ship.
We met other Canadians, and folks from thoughout the U. S., but as time went on we realized that about two-thirds of the passengers were fun loving Texans, from all over Texas. Even the ship's captain wore a Stetson hats.
The food abroad this ship was wonderful, oh there is so much to choice from. The service was excellent. The cabins stewart took good care of us.
We did a some gambling in the casino, we danced to this great band "The Doc Dockery Band" they played anything and everything. This band has been in Las Vegas for years, I'm told.
We were not much on the excursions, we did get off the ship in a number of ports, just to do some sightseeing, shopping, eating and people watch, one of my favorites was Key West, I loved the street performers there.
When we were planning our cruise, we got some advise from our friends from Edmonton that had been on a previous cruise from Galveston. They provided us with the name and telephone number of a gentlemen in Houston that transported them to Galveston from the big Houston airport.
So I made a call this gentlemen up three weeks prior to our arrival in Houston. Since our cruise would sail on Sunday afternoon, we all decided to fly down to Houston early, so we arrived at mid morning on Friday.
On the telephone this gentlemen a Mr. L. J. Cormier provided me with a lots information about his transfer service and hotels in Galveston. At his advise we booked a hotel in Galveston. We made our reservations at the Tremont House hotel, we told the hotel we were coming to go on a cruise ship and they give us this great rate. And this hotel even provides free transfer service to the ship on Sunday.
Mr. Cormier, agreed to transport us to Galveston on Friday. When we arrived at Bush Intercontinental Airport, he was waiting, we requested he give us a sightseeing tour of Houston before going to Galveston. It turned out he is a professional tour guide and had a great deal of knowledge about Houston and the area. After sightseeing in the big city of Houston he drove us to Galveston.
Thank God we called Mr. Cormier for transportation. Without him we would have never been able to ride in the same vehicle to Galveston, because of the bags. It would have taken us three separate cabs for this eighty mile trip. And would have cost of a bunch. Or we could have taken one stretch limo, and we would have had to crawl on our hand and knees to get to our seats only to have to put our bags in the passenger compartment on our laps with us. We saw this at the ship on Sunday. No thanks. We had a large comfortable van with nice windows to transport us.
When we got to Galveston we got a nice tour of this island city. Oh I thought I had gone to haven. As we drove down the "Seawall" where people lying around on the beach, young people surfing in the Gulf waters. We couldn't believe this was March, and folks walking around in shorts, swimsuits, short shelves and sandals. After we left the beach area we drove in area of town with beautiful old Victorian mansions. And then on to the old Historic downtown area called "The Strand". This is the area next to the cruise ship terminals with lot of shops, restaurants, bars and museums. This area is where our Galveston hotel was located. We spent Friday and Saturday nights at the Tremont House Hotel, everything was so close and convince . The hotel was great.
Friday afternoon after we checked in to our hotel, we did a walking around downtown, Friday evening we had delicious seafood in a restaurant overlooking the harbor at "Willie G's" and then walked to the "Strand" for cocktails before returning to our hotel.
On Saturday morning we all met in the hotel lobby at 9:00 am we walked a block from hotel and took and old fashion street trolley from downtown Galveston to the "Seawall" which is where beach is located, where we walked on the seawall overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. We had coffee and a light lunch at one of the many restaurant facing the Gulf. After a four hour visit to beach, we rode the street trolley back downtown. Once we returned downtown, we ladies decided do browsing of the shops. We took noticed of this dress shop called Morgan's Dress Shop it on a corner. We went inside and browse the shop which had some great stuff. I bought a sun hat, "I love my hat". There we met this delightful southern gentlemen by the name of Pat Morgan who owns this shop. He has a lot of information about the Galveston of old and today.
Saturday evening we had another great dinner, this time at Landry's. Had cocktails and retired early in anticipation our cruise the next day. Galveston turned out even better than we had hope.
All in all our entire party had a wonderful cruise on the "Rhapsody", the weather was great the entire time. It was a cool and breezy on our return to Galveston on the following Sunday. We disembarked the ship with no problems at about 9:45 am, and there was our driver L. J. waiting to return us to the Houston Airport, which was an hour and a half ride from the ship. I do want to return to Galveston someday. This is a wonderful part of the U. S., everyone we encountered were warm, friendly and accommodating.
We all recommend the "Rhapsody of the Seas" for your cruise, and spend a night before your cruise in Galveston. No matter which you choice, If you have a party or a family 6- 8- 10 people that needs transportation to Galveston, we suggest you contact Mr. L. J. Cormier at 281 443 4430 You need to call him in advance.
Feel free to write me, if I can provide you with additional information. Miriam Jewett Edmonton, Alberta Canada email@example.com
My wife and I had actually sworn off cruising after our last bad experience with Carnival . After some friends talked us into giving RC a chance I can only say we are back and loving it .
This had to be one of the best experiences of a lifetime . I have never heard of any other way to get so much for your dollar . Thank you RC for still being interested in giving a great vacation for a good price .
My fiancé and I (both in our mid 30's) traveled on our first cruise aboard the Rhapsody.
We booked a category C Superior Ocean View Suite. The embarkation was very quick, due in large part to RCCL having a separate embarkation line for Suite passengers. Parking is available at the Galveston pier for $60. The ship itself was very well kept and
I'll attempt to break down the cruise by using the following categories:
Room - The room is smaller than the pictures present, yet, it is still a decent size. I strongly suggest spending the extra money if possible and booking a balcony suite. Having the extra space and the balcony to relax or spend some private time is well worth it. We had some people we met on the cruise, who booked an inside room, visit us and they couldn't stop saying what a difference the balcony/space makes. However there were some problems with the room. On the first evening, we went to bed after 1AM, only to be awoken by a screaming 2 year old in the room next door.
Thankfully after speaking with the purser, we were able tomove to another suite down the hall. I don't know who would bring a 2 year old with them on a cruise. If you are considering doing this for whatever reason, please reconsider! Aside from the screaming 2 year old, the rooms are pretty soundproof, although I would suggest looking at ship map to ensure you are not under the swimming pool or above the lounges. The other major problem with the room was smoking. People on both sides of us smoked on their balconies, which definitely brings down the enjoyment of your balcony for non-smokers. RCCL should have non-smoking rooms aboard the ship. Some tips: bring an alarm clock, shoe organizer, and any other space saving/organizing things you can think of.
Food - What can I say? There was a lot of it. Available 24 hours a day. The dining room food and service was excellent. The Windjammer café is very tasty and convenient. Late night options included the Solarium café (pizza, hamburgers) or room service. Room service was good but it takes 45 minutes after you place your order. Drinks such as Iced tea, Lemonade, Tap Water (purified) and Orange Juice were free; Sodas, Booze and Bottled Water are extra.
Entertainment/Activities aboard the Ship - The nightly entertainment shows at the theatre were very well done. Other daily entertainment aboard the ship was spotty at best. After the first couple of days, bingo, art auctions and assorted pool games get old pretty fast, and I don't do shuffleboard or karaoke. The spa is overly expensive especially when you consider the treatments are not that great. The ship does have a decent exercise room and there is a jogging track.
Ports of Call - The Ports of Call the ship visited were Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The good news: Cozumel was excellent! We did not book an excursion through the cruise line. We rented a jeep at the pier. By talking with locals we were able to find Paradise Island Beach, which is brand new, very clean and provides free non-motorized water sports as well as rock climbing. At the beach, we booked a snorkeling tour of Palancar Reef aboard a glass bottom boat. The tour was simply awesome as the guides provided free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks during a 20-minute ride to the reef, provided the snorkeling equipment and instruction. We snorkeled the reef for 1 hour in which we literally saw thousands of fish. The trip to Key West was so-so. You don't arrive at Key West until @5PM EST and you leave by 12AM EST. Key West is a nice but peculiar town with plenty of shops and historical sites along the main drag but not an abundance of other activity due to both the time of arrival and the fact Key West is not known for water activities. A minor annoyance, due to it's timing there was not time to eat dinner aboard the ship. Now we get to Grand Cayman.....Or not! The ship did not go to Grand Cayman. The captain informed the passengers that the waters surrounding Grand Cayman were too rough and the harbormaster was not letting us tender. This was a MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT. We booked the cruise largely to go to Grand Cayman, not to spend another day at sea, watching pool games and playing bingo. To make matters worse, once we got to Cozumel the next day, we were informed by people aboard other cruise lines that they were went to Grand Cayman the prior morning and had absolutely no problem with tendering. The Captain was caught in a lie, which he tried to talk his way out of during a passenger/captain information meeting, which was held the next day. We also found out that the Rhapsody had canceled the Grand Cayman visit on the 2 cruises prior to ours. The captain informed us that RCCL doesn't want to take the risk other cruise lines do, and therefore will be canceling Grand Cayman as a destination.
Due to the Grand Cayman incident, I probably will not travel with RCCL again. Aside from that, the cruise was a good vacation and I would recommend taking a cruise vacation to people who ask.
Rhapsody of the Sea's (Captain Charles) Grand Suite Cabin: 8516
Hmm, the air is salty and the frozen drinks are circulating the pool area as I sit on the top deck writing the beginning of my cruise review for "The Rhapsody of the Sea's". The cruise began on January 25, 2004 from The Port of Galveston. The itinerary included Key West, Georgetown (Grand Cayman's) and Cozumel with several a few days at sea sprinkled into the schedule. The following is my take on what I observed during the cruise:
DEPARTURE EMBARKATION FROM GALVESTON (Sunday): It was utterly amazing how fast the port staff processed me through. I will say that I booked a Grand Suite (Cabin 8516) and had check-in privileges which included a separate line from the general boarding line. So, I walked right up to the counter and was on the ship and in my suite within 10-15 minutes. I traveled alone so I bypassed the boarding pictures that are taken.
If you don't care for the photo's you can go around that queue. Once on the ship it was a direct beeline for the 8th deck. I was able toboard around 2:30. Unfortunately, my bags did not get to my cabin until 5:30 but since the first night on the ship is a casual night, I was already appropriately dressed. I took the time to checkout the features of the suite and to make my spa appointments for the entire week. Once I finished all that it was time to depart which was exactly 5:00PM as scheduled. I stayed on my veranda until I could barely see land. It was really awesome. About that time my cabin attendant (Leslie Ann) came by to introduce herself. We had a nice chat and I explained that she probably wouldn't be hearing from me that often as I was pretty much a low maintenance traveler. However she was always nearby and anytime you left the room it was immediately made up when you came back. I tested her one day and left a hand towel on the bathroom floor. When I returned 15 minutes later it was gone and a new one was in its place. However, she did not come in if you left the "Do Not Disturb" sign in the door. After Leslie Ann left I unpacked. My shirts that had been recently starched at the cleaners were somewhat wrinkled so I hung them in the shower for about 10 minutes with the hot steam and they all came out looking perfect. I would have sent them out for pressing but wanted to try this little trick which seemed to work fine. By the time I unpacked it was time for dinner.
STATEROOM: As I mentioned I booked into one of the Grand Suites which are on the 8th deck. I read several reviews before departing that made the "Rhapsody of the Sea's" seem like a Holiday Inn. Whoever posted that ad was sadly mistaken! My suite was absolutely beautiful and VERY clean. I'm hard to impress when it comes to aesthetics and I was impressed. The bathroom was awesome and really large. I'm not sure what they were doing to the bathroom but it always smelled extremely clean and fresh. The furniture was all comfortable as was the bed. The designers used common sense with space that would normally not be used. Meaning, there were many cubbyholes to store personal items in corner shelves and the closets. The veranda had plenty of seating and tables for dining if needed. Oh, and not that I was in my room much but when I wanted some quiet time they had "Retro TV" on the television. It was a really cool station with old television shows like, "Flipper", "The Patty Duke Show", "The Jefferson's", "Charlie's Angels" and many shows you might see on "TVLAND". It was really fun while getting ready for dinner or watching some TV before bed. As I said, the bathroom was really great. Beautiful inlaid tile flooring and plenty of towels, bath products and tons of storage space for personal items. For those like me who are tall (I'm 6'4") be careful when you get in the shower.it's a really low ceiling and I actually forgot one day and bashed my head.
THE CRUISE: The ship departed Galveston for Key West and was not scheduled to arrive until 3PM on Tuesday. This was one of the things that attracted me to this itinerary (outside the fact that I live in Houston and could depart from Galveston). I really enjoy the time on the ship and care little about the ports of call. That evening for dinner I met my table mates for dinner. As I approached my table I noticed that it was a table for 8. There were already 4 people seated. The two couples were traveling together and well into their middle to late 70's (I'm 40). I didn't have an issue with the difference in age had they been engaging. The entire time we ate dinner they complained about getting stuck with a late seating versus the main seating earlier in the evening. They had asked to switch but the main seating was full and couldn't accommodate 4 people. So, as the dinner continued I noticed that my table companions didn't even look up the entire time we ate. I also made note that the other 3 seats were still empty and apparently the five of us were going to be it for a week. After kindly excusing myself after dinner I hightailed it over to the dining room supervisor who was more than happy to reassign me for the following day. He did a great job! The following day at dinner I was THRILLED with my new table mates and we all really enjoyed each other's company. The first stop on the itinerary was Key West which was just great. It was so convenient getting around and we bar hoped up and down the main street (Duvall Street). We docked around 3PM and had until 11:30 (sailing at Midnight). We ended up getting back on the ship around 9PM. To sum Key West up, it's definitely worth hanging out there.
We left Key West and were scheduled to be at sea another 1.5 days for Georgetown, Grand Cayman's. However, the water was really rough and in fact I noticed a lot of green and sad faces walking around. Captain Charles announced that it was possible we wouldn't be able to tender into Georgetown if the harbor master didn't approve our visit because of the rough water. At 6AM the day we were supposed to arrive (Thursday) Captain Charles announced that in fact we were not approved and they had already started heading for Cozumel. A lot of people were bummed as they had scheduled a shore excursion and was looking forward to the fun things Georgetown has to offer. The Purser's Desk was quick to credit all SeaPass accounts. So, we ended up having an additional day at sea (which to me was awesome). We were now scheduled to arrive Cozumel the evening of Thursday. We arrived at 8:15 PM and was allowed to go ashore by 9PM. The ship basically emptied out after the late seating for dinner. Everyone went into town to party at the various places just outside the gates to the pier. Needless to say they were a lot of hangovers the following day as well. I chose to stay on the ship as it was "Retro 80's" night in the Viking Lounge. Unfortunately there weren't a lot of people on board so it was pretty empty. I enjoyed listening to the music as I grew up in the 80's.
The following morning (Friday) we were still docked in Cozumel so it gave everyone the entire day to do their shore excursions, shop and have a lot of fun. It was really busy while we were docked that day as RCL's "Mariner of the Sea's" pulled up next to us and TOWERED over the Rhapsody. It was beautiful. Then Carnival's "Conquest" (which I believe is their largest ship) pulled up as well as Princess' "Grand Princess".they were all beautiful. The Rhapsody was sort of swallowed up by the other larger ships but was still EXTREMELY beautiful. I read another review once where the reviewer said they were really proud to be on the Rhapsody and couldn't figure out why they were having that feeling. I must say I felt the same. Other than getting off the ship to buy some cologne and take some pictures I was on the ship for the rest of the day as I really enjoy the quiet time while everyone else is gone. However, the buzz was all the excursions were great and I didn't hear any complaints as I made a point to ask a lot of people. We departed promptly at 6PM to head back to Galveston.
SPA: I booked 3 separate spa appointments. The first was the salt scrub and the full body massage. It was really awesome but I had to admit, I've had better and for a lot less money. It was $160.00 plus I tipped my therapist $30.00 because they truly do work hard.
The second treatment I had was a facial which was really nice. The facialist who did my facial advised me my skin looked great but I had some very slight dark circles which can be caused by cigarette smoke in bars, even second hand smoke. Then a day after I had my facial with her we were in Cozumel and I saw her walking down the pier with a big ole cigarette hanging out of her mouth. I thought it was really funny for some reason.
The third treatment was the day docked in Cozumel and a last minute booking. I booked one of their specials where you can pick two 25-minute treatments for $79.00. So, I booked the Alpha Capsule and a neck, scalp and shoulder massage. The Alpha Capsule is supposed to relax you so much that 25 minutes in this enclosed capsule is equivalent to a 3-hour nap. What they didn't tell you is it got up to 114 degrees inside and I about went out of my mind and didn't feel well rested as advertised. The massage was of course really nice. CREW: I simply can't say enough about the entire crew. Everyone was wonderful and couldn't do enough for you. One of the things I noticed that really impressed me was many of the crew remembered your name if they had met you previously. Additionally, they always paraphrased sentences in a conversation and used your name freely in which made me feel like they were listening. It was quite noticeable and I heard other passengers who appreciated this as well. The dining room staff was particularly attentive and if they heard even the minimal dissatisfaction about something being served they were right there trying to make it right.
FOOD: Frankly I'm not going to write much about the food because I had no complaints. I will say that if you want 3 awesome meals a day go to the main dining room and eat as I didn't have a bad meal in there the whole week. Plus, they will seat you with other people on the cruise and it gives you a chance to chat. One day I met a group of "Quilters" who organized a vacation together and they all brought their sewing machines on the ship to do some projects while at sea. RCL accommodated them by allowing the machines to all be setup in once of their large conference spaces.pretty cool. They were a hoot. Anyway, back to the food.I didn't care much for the Solarium food which was basically pizza, burgers and hot dogs. The burgers were pretty good but that was about it, oh and the veggie burgers were awesome. The Windjammer buffet was decent but I usually just ate their if I wanted a salad or some of their awesome frozen yogurt for an afternoon treat. I ordered room service for breakfast a few times which was really good. I liked the strong coffee. Plus, I used this service as sort of a wake up call as they call 10 minutes before arriving with you tray. So I chose the earliest breakfast time (7AM) which ensured I had a full day. The surf and turf on Thursday evening was great. If you dine during the main seating at 6:30 PM you will only be allowed to have 2 lobster tails but the late seating got unlimited tails and our table of ten pretty much made fools of themselves! The chocolate buffet they did early in the week was fab and I think I almost slipped into a sugar coma that night.
SHIPSHAPE FITNESS CENTER: Superb!! Enough classes and variety for all ages and levels of fitness. I also enjoyed running on the top deck running track. It was a pretty awesome feeling running while the ship was sailing alone in the middle of no where.
DRINK PRICES: I drink Bacardi and Coke and they ran $5.75 for each which I didn't think was bad. They have endless specialty drinks ranging in price and all were really great.
VIKING LOUNGE: Frankly, not the greatest but after you meet a few folks and hangout it gets better. The music isn't catered properly to the people who are actually in the club. Meaning, most of the people in the club were younger and ready to dance but the music wasn't always the best for dancing. It was pretty much like a wedding reception everynight but, it was fun and we managed to make our own party. The first night in the "Viking Lounge" they had a singles night at 11PM. It was a TOTAL bust as there were very few single people on the ship. Since I was traveling by myself I included myself into the singles crowd. However, the following night was PACKED and I attributed the first nights lack of energy to people being tired from traveling and getting settled in. Monday night they did a 70's night and it was a blast. I met a ton of people that evening and two guys I ended up hanging with for the rest of the week.
CHAMPAGNE BAR: Needless to say I spent time here every evening right before dinner. They serve a champagne cocktail called, "The Classic" which was amazing. It included champagne, bitters some sugar and lemon.very refreshing. Watch it though each one of those babies ran $9.14.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Since I decided not to do any shore excursions this trip I don't have much to write on the topic. However, I heard from several people that the Dolphin swim was amazing in Cozumel. You actually get to swim with them for up to an hour whereas the same excursion in the Grand Cayman's is a bust as you only get to touch them for a couple minutes. I don't believe I heard any complaints about the excursions.
FOR GAYS AND LESBIANS: It's really funny to watch all the gay men cluster together within the first day. Usually it happens the first night in the nightclub. As I said I was traveling by myself so I just made it a point to go and introduce myself to most of the people I thought were gay. Within a day we were all hanging out and it was really fun. I'm not hip about the idea of "all gay" cruises as there is only one word to describe to many gay men on a ship."DRAMA"! This itinerary was nice because there was a really nice mix of people. In addition, the passengers and crew I encountered were really gay friendly and people at my table were also really fun and I never got the impression it was an issue. My partner did not sail with me on this cruise but I met some really nice gay couples and a lesbian woman who was a real blast.
DISEMBARKATION: The disembarkation was very orderly and there didn't seem to be any confusion. Since all cabins are released by a colored coded process it's hard to go wrong. Since 9/11 all passengers are required to pass through U.S. Customs but it only took a couple seconds per passenger. Once in the terminal I had my bags and was out front in just a couple minutes where I picked up my ride back to Houston.
CLOSING: As the car pulled away from The Rhapsody I was actually upset and I had utterly enjoyed myself. I've traveled all over the world and have even cruised once before but I was really impressed with that ship and the service. I highly recommend it to anyone. In fact, my partner and I have decided to book on the March 21st sailing of the Rhapsody. This time we are going up another notch to an "Owners Suite" which should be really nice. I went on and on about the Grand Suite but there was a really great deal advertised for an Owners Suite on the March 21st sailing so we decided to go for it. For those sailing during that time please let me know so we can meet up for a drink.
My husband and I took the Thanksgiving 2003 cruise on the Rhapsody from Galveston, TX. We left the Sunday before Thanksgiving and returned the Sunday after. We live in the Houston area, so the drive to the port was quick and easy. We the directions the cruise documents suggested and found this to be very efficient. We chose to park in the Dolphin Lot, which we feel was a great bonus. We parked and boarded a bus immediately taking us to the cruise terminal. Drop off and pick up at the end of the cruise was a breeze. We arrived at the Dolphin Lot around noon and were on the ship by 12:45pm.
Please take into consideration; we are a young couple in the upper-middle class bracket. We enjoy dining at Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, and other Middle America restaurants as well as the occasional fine dining establishment. We live in a brand new home in an upscale area and enjoy newer hotels and up-to-date surroundings. We do not have any children and do not have plans for any. These factors, of course, impact our opinion concerning this cruise.
Our immediate reaction tothe Rhapsody was of disappointment. She appeared much older than expected. We had an inside stateroom which was decorated in a late eighties style. The sofa in the room was badly stained, as well as one of the extra blankets for the bed. There was a cigarette burn in the bedspread, and the bathroom sink was chipped in several places. The room and bathroom were clean, but lacked appeal. Although, the Rhapsody is reported to have undergone recent updates, we did not find this to be applicable to our stateroom or many of the public areas. Other than the décor, I would highly recommend an inside stateroom. When you close the door and turn out the lights, the room is pitch black. For us, this provides the restful sleep we desire on vacation. We do however, find a nightlight in the bathroom helpful, but there were no outlets present. The shower is of course tiny, but nothing out of the ordinary for a previous cruiser. Despite what he had to work with, our Cabin Steward did a remarkable job and received extra gratuity.
The ship itself lacked the polish and class we expected. Our last cruise was onboard the brand new Celebrity Millennium, so we were quite let down by the older "Holiday Inn" feel of Rhapsody. We would classify the Millennium as a "Westin" style, so the difference was very evident from the beginning. The carpets were separating and somewhat tattered looking. Most people in their reviews say this can only be expected with 2000+ people traveling each week. I disagree. It can't be too difficult to keep things in a constant state of attractiveness. Hotels and other ships do it everyday, even if they are not brand new. Everything doesn't need to be perfect all of the time, but it should at least appear well maintained. This ship did not.
We were expecting a rather quite and relaxing cruise experience. We assumed kids would be in school Monday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving week and would not be on the cruise. We were mistaken in this. There were children everywhere. Most where well behaved, but there were occasional instances where the parents had not taught them how to control themselves in public. One day my husband and I were in the solarium (adults only area) hot tub. A child came over and tried to get in. We kindly told him it was for people over 16. He left and returned with his entire family. A Royal Caribbean lady came over and asked the parents to reserve to hot tubs for adults only (we did not ask her to do this by the way). The father was very rude and told her his kids were not leaving. If she wanted to go get the captain he would discuss it with him. The poor lady was obviously embarrassed and left. So did we. It's people like this who dampen vacation spirits for everyone.
Even with these negative experiences, we enjoyed several aspects of our cruise. The food and service in the formal dining room was amazing! We were much more impressed with the food here than on our Celebrity cruise. We ate breakfast in there once and had a nice experience. However, we enjoy eating lighter for breakfast and spent the rest of our mornings in the Windjammer. The fresh fruit was marvelous along with everything else we tried. Being a Texas cruise, my husband was grateful to see biscuits and gravy served. We took most of our lunches in the dining room except on port days. The food and service were phenomenal each time we were there. If you enjoy a grilled chicken sandwich, the "Chicken Burger" was amazing. All of the shrimp and salmon dishes were delightful as well. My husband found the burgers to be above par also. Diners are another topic entirely! If I could eat like that every day, I would be fat but oh so happy. I didn't have a single thing I didn't enjoy. Our waiters were fantastic and thrilled me with their "my pleasure!" The waiters were polished and polite, yet genuinely friendly and cared about us as people. Our glasses never went empty and with every "thank you" we gave came back "my pleasure!" I've never experienced wait staff who went so far above and beyond my wildest expectations. Many nights the cuisine was based on a theme. The Texas night the entire staff sang "Deep in the Heart of Texas". With the many different foreign accents blending together, it was the most delightful version I've ever heard.
We went to a few shows, each of which was delightful. The talent employed on the ship is first rate. We did find a lack of activities during the day. If we had come with another couple we could have played cards or something, but there wasn't a lot offered which interested us. We did however; find deck five to be a wonderfully secluded place to read while listening to the water. Many deck chairs were provided, but with no activities offered, there were no children to interrupt or distract. We spent most of our time out there. It turned out to be our fondest experience other than the food and service in the formal dining room.
Considering the ease of travel to the port, and the other positive points mentioned, we would take this cruise again given a last minute discount. However, I would not recommend it to first time cruisers (unless you enjoy an older Holiday Inn style experience) and I would certainly not recommend it to Honeymooners. There really was none of the romantic experience we were going for. There are only five tables for two in the formal dining room and they are next to impossible to acquire. This being said, Royal Caribbean is a wonderful line, but I would recommend sticking to ships built in the 2000's.
This was our fourth cruise on an RCCL (RCI) vessel. The Rhapsody of the Seas was surprisingly clean. We expected her to be less than superb given that the port of Galveston is not one of the premium ports for RCCL. She was clean and well maintained.
Embarkation. We started our embarkation at approximately 11:45am. We were onboard in about 20 minutes. We had to get duplicate keys to our rooms and that added about five extra minutes. Smooth getting on.
Day 1 Departure. This day saw us departing Galveston just after a cold front passed through at 5:00p.m. We left behind the Carnival Conquest. It was windy (35mph) on the fore peak and cold. The wind was driving the waves and thus the vessel was rolling a bit in the 12-15 foot swells. Later that night, the Captain announced we were in 20-22 foot swells and the vessel was rolling a bit more, but we were fine. I do know a few people either did not come to dinner or left in the middle of dinner. I enjoyed the rolling and was rocked to sleep.
Day 2 at Sea. The seashad fallen back to 10-15 feet and the sky was sunny. Still a bit of wind and cool, but no big deal. Plenty of games and goings on throughout the vessel. We walked, played shuffleboard, slept, ate, played trivia, ate some more, and had a good day. The Solarium's food is below par for me. It was like eating at a Friday night high school football game. Hot, filling, but little else. The Windjammer Cafe was better. Food was hot, tasty and satisfying. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just good wholesome food. Dinner was at the main seating. We enjoyed our meal. Very good quality, good selection, and we drove our poor brand new assistant waiter nuts. He is better trained after a week with us. Thanks NuNu. Anroy our waiter was excellent. Handled the trip with ease. The Solarium pool was invaded by children due to the temperature of the outside air.
Day 3. Key West. Sorry, Been there done that. Key West is the type of port that should be deleted and a port such as Roatan added. Arrival at Key West was at 3:00p.m. Daylight gone by 5:30pm and me want to go home. We went to Ripley's Believe It or Not....daughter has a desire to go to them all (76 more to go). If you like drinking and loud music, there are a lot of small bars near the port that will entertain you. We returned to the ship in time for dinner. The ship left at midnight. Nice lights as we sail away, sail away, sail away.
Day 4 At Sea. Nice day at sea. Sunny, warm, cruising the coast of Cuba. Lesiurly day. Spent most of the daylight hours listening to books on tape. Talked to my son for a few hours. Played shuffleboard, walked around, listened to music, played trivia, took a nap, just a lazy day. Sweet. Formal lunch. Good selection, good food, nice company.
Day 5 Grand Cayman. We departed on the 2nd tender to go to our personal diving trip with Absolute Divers. Mark did a good job. The water on the north shore was not cooperating and the swells were running 4-6 feet and we stayed on Stingray City for two dives. My daughter had a great time. We played with the rays, a green moray, saw lobsters, and a lot of fish. Returned to downtown, tendered out, cleaned up and came back to town to shop for trinkets.
Day 6 Cozumel, Mexico. Again, we had arranged our own personal dive trip and chartered a six pack for diving and snorkeling from Blue Angel Diving. Great dive. We went to Columbia Wall, Columbia Shallows and the Star Fish Flats near Columbia Shallows. Beautiful water. We saw turtles, Eagle Rays, lobster, a sleeping nurse shark, barracuda, and a large assortment of beautiful corals, sponges, and fish. Thanks to the Blue Angel crew. We will be back on a diving trip. The water was rough on departure from Cozumel. That night the seas climbed again to 15-18 feet. Mechanical noise at bow.
Day 7 At sea. Gray and dreary day. Spent time catching up on sleep, listening to books on tape, eating, snoozing, and then packing.
Entertainment. We had four comics, the Rhapsody not ready for prime time dancers and singers, the Gouchos and a lot of fun. The main showroom was very good. We enjoyed the acts of the comics, comic jugglers, and comic singer. They were all very entertaining. The Rhapsody Singers and Dancers put a lot of energy into their shows and were entertaining. The audio was a bit overpowering from a musicians standpoint and overwelmed the singers. I do not know if this was by plan or just trying to pump up the volume. The drinks in the showroom were very good.
We really enjoyed Eric in the Schooner Bar for Kamakazee Karaoke. Not for the faint of heart and at times an adult themed show. Worth the ticket price and was more fun than normal adult karaoke. Rhapsody Mania was OK. We got to play in several trivia games and the Majority Rules. The pools were well used. Good music on the pool deck. The Brazilian muscians in the Champagne Terrace Bar kept my daughter entertained. She was amused at their language and the way they were singing. Good band. The Viking Crown Lounge was under utilized. I don't know why.
Casino was in full swing every chance it could be running. Too many novice blackjack players to make it worth staying on a table. No one playing the odds and too many people taking hits with the dealer showing 3, 4, and 5. Saved my money for better things.
The disembarkation procedures were somewhat more formal with everyone having to go through immigration. We were near the end of the getting off groups and were still off by 9:50am.
We had a good time, enjoyed the trip and will be taking our next one on the Golden Princess in July 2004. We will return to the Rhapsody or another RCCL vessel. We signed onto this cruise with just four week to go to cruise day.
Food. As mentioned above, the Solarium Grill was not my favorite. The Windjammer cafe had good breakfasts. Omelettes to order, greasy bacon....I like it that way... Cereal, milk, hard waffles, good French toast, average pancakes, ham, and bananas. Lunch in the Windjammer was also good. A mixture of entres, tacos, sandwiches and wraps to order, good macadamia nut cookies, and good desserts. Frozen Yogurt and lemonade.
We did not eat dinner in the Windjammer as we were not going to miss dining in the formal dining room. The appetizers were all good. I usually always had two. Something and a soup. The roasted garlic soup was very good. The rolls are a bit hard. The cornbread was very good. We enjoyed the Ceasar salad. There was always at least two fish dishes, a pasta, a meat, and usually a poultry dish as well. The Royal steaks were a bit tough. We were eating them medium and medium rare and they were still tough. I am not a fish eater, but I tried a few fish dishes and they were ok. My son got into eating shrimp cocktail every night and while they were not on the menu, they always appeared. Thanks to Hank and Anroy. The desserts were all good. Every one of them. All that we ordered.....all that we tried....yea, you can order more than one. My favorite, Bananas Foster.
Ask for just about anything and you will get it. One of the boys sitting next to us put away five lobster tails......I told Anroy he could do it. Our wait staff was excellent. Even NuNu got into it once he figured we were not going to roast him.
Herbert my room attendant did a jam up job in the room. Thanks.
Accomodations. Our room was 4524. It was an outside cabin near the starboard bow. It was good. The bed was a bit hard. There was some mechanical noise in the high seas, but it did not bother me. It did bother my wife. There was some smoking odor in the hallway. We have been told that most ships allow smoking on the starboard side, but not the port side. Check that out before you cruise.
See you at sea. If you can't laugh at yourself, don't get up from your seat. "Bob"
This review is being submitted while still "fresh". We embarked on the Rhapsody of the Seas on Sunday, Sept 28th. As we had "suite" accommodations, the embarkation process was fast and painless. We were in our mini-suite in 30 minutes or less. Category "C" offers pleasantly large staterooms with more than sufficient closet/drawer storage and a small "frige" in the stateroom. This category also has a "tub" in the bathroom.
Stateroom steward was excellent, but room service leaves a little to be desired. Be forewarned: Order coffee for early morning delivery (before 7:30 a.m.) or it may not arrive at all.
After reading all of the reviews regarding food, I must state: food was much better than what we were expecting. I would rate it "good" or better, most of the time.
Our waiter "Rambo" was a lot of fun and he had his hands full. Early seating dining was "sold out", which resulted in the service being a "little slow". But not unforgiveable.
Entertainment: Overall, it was VERY GOOD! There was plenty to do to keep one occupied. However, there were some complaints about the "rock climbing wall". It was not utilizedby the majority of the passengers, and some wondered what happened to the miniature golf course.
Oh, on this cruise 80% (or more) of the passengers were from Texas. This was the most "friendly" cruise thus far. (Texans are just down right friendly!)
Out of a possible "5", we give this cruise a 4+ rating.
We are going again. On the Brillance of the Seas in January, 2004.
We arrived in Galveston around 11:30 AM. We parked in the "Dolphin" lot which is privately owned and not associated with the Port Authority. It is the first cruise parking lot you see on approach to the terminal. The price is exactly the same and the advantage is, they take your luggage on their shuttles unlike the Port Authority parking. This is a great advantage when you return because you can just hop right on the shuttle with your bags (it was POURING RAIN when we returned) and they take you right to your car! No futzing with taking the port shuttle to get your car, fighting traffic back to the terminal, and trying to fight to get near enough to get your gear. I highly recommend them.
Embarkation when very smoothly and is well organized. It took us about 45 min. to get through and get on board. No waiting to get on the ship once we got through the first line. They will present you with your "Sea Pass" card at that time. Be sure to have your driver's license, passport or birth certificate to present at this time.Keep your Sea Pass close at hand for the rest of the cruise.
After boarding we headed to the Windjammer for lunch. We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer where the food is varied. In fact, I thought the quality of the Windjammer food was better overall than what we were served in the dining room. Overall, I would give the food a score of 4 out of 5. Regarding some things I read before we departed. 1. The Windjammer coffee was undrinkable. I found the coffee fine, but weak, so I guess they had enough complaints and changed it. 2. The Windjammer ice cream was bad. The "ice cream" was frozen yogurt and was clearly marked as such. I really liked it (a little too much). You can get the real stuff in the dining room and the coffee there was better I thought too.
Our dining experience was very pleasant. We changed tables after the first night in order to sit with some friends we met on board. This really worked out well and we had a great time with our table mates. Our waiter "Yousef" from Turkey and assistant waiter "Maria" from Bulgaria were very efficient but not overly friendly. They did their jobs and got out of the way. Basically, they were just too busy to spend too much time chitchatting. The head waiter for our area was "Ian" from India. He came by each night and chatted for a few moments. He was delightful. As I mentioned, the food overall was good and well presented. From time to time, I thought the meats were a bit overcooked for my taste and dry. The desserts however were outstanding. I usually ordered two starters, salad, entrée and one main dessert with ice cream. On two nights, we were offered additional desserts to enjoy. WOW!! Each night, a waiter would come by with cordials in souvenir shot glasses. These were $5.95 but SO good. You could also order other digestives and coffees which we took advantage of on several occasions.
After dinner activities included the casino and on-board shows. The casino slots were very unforgiving and I didn't see too many people winning (especially the $.05 slots) which I thought was a shame. There were a three or four slot winners but that was about it. We did have some luck with "Piggy Bank" $.25 slot which is closest to one of the exit doors. I had fairly good luck on the blackjack tables. Basically, we lost our shirts on the slots. I did a lot better on the last Carnival cruise. The casino staff on the other hand was very friendly and helpful, especially to new players. In addition, the bar staff throughout the ship were great and after a day or so called you by name (which may not be such a good thing). Don't bother with the daily bingo games, but do play the final game. The odds are around 900 to 1 to win the big money which is about as good as it gets for such a large pot. Bingo tickets are $25 for a half sheet (3 games) and $35 for a full sheet of 6 games. Each bingo game consists of 5 total games giving you 5 chances to win for your $25. Furthermore, each game offers a "jackpot" which rolls over to the final big money if no one wins. Bingo is played twice a day. "Goose," the Assistant Cruise Director runs the game and makes it fun. The after dinner shows were VERY good and enjoyable. As a professional musician I was really impressed with both the singing and dancing. In addition, there were also comedians who I found to be really funny. I didn't make it to the late night "adult" shows though.
There are TONS of onboard activities and you will be hard pressed to be board. Some require an addition fee (such as the spa programs) but many are free of charge such as the "Belly Flop" contest for example. We didn't participate in the ship's excursions but booked a snorkel/Stingray City excursion with Captain Marvin's Watersports in Grand Caymen. This turned out to be a great choice and I highly recommend it. There are lots of excursions to choose from to meet everyone's needs. Unfortunately, there is just not ample time to do everything you would like to do in the ports of call. This is one aspect of cruising that I wish were different in that port time was longer. I have only been on two cruises and both times wished we could have stayed longer.
Now it wouldn't be fair for me to tell you only the good stuff and not include a little critique. I was only aggravated by a couple of things during the trip (which I guess isn't too bad all things considered. I found disembarking at ports of a call a bummer. Things went smoothly enough in Key West for some reason but when we tendered in Grand Caymen, it was a pain. People who have booked excursions through the ship were given their disembarkation time with their tickets. This makes sense (and I don't really have a problem with that) BUT if you booked through the ship and your tender time was early, you were given first preference in getting off the ship. If you didn't book and excursion through the ship and you need to get off the ship early, you must go to the "Moonlight Bay Lounge" at 7 AM to get tender tickets. I got there a little before 7 and there was already a line. We got Tender #1 so we got off fairly quickly. The return to the ship was mess however. The line was nearly two blocks long in the middle of the afternoon with no shade. Boy was it HOT! One of the tender ships broke down (I heard). After about 15 min. in line, a local tender vessel was brought in to help with the crowd. It was quite large and must have held several hundred people. All in all, it took about 30 min. in line to get on the tender boat. This seemed like an eternity after a long day and having to stand in the blistering sun. The other mess was disembarking in Cozumel. There was ONE LINE for people to get off the ship. Imagine 2,800 trying to get through ONE security line. GRRRR!! The other thing that pestered me while on board was the multitudinous afternoon announcements for the Art Auction and Bingo. If you like to take naps in the afternoon and are a light sleeper like me, forget it. I can see making one general announcement around midday to cover the afternoon's activities, but announcement after announcement was a little much in my opinion.
In conclusion, I was very impressed with Rhapsody. She is a beautiful ship and is well maintained. Her crew was friendly and genuinely seemed to be concerned with providing the best service possible to pamper the guests. Imagine doing that gig week to week for 6 months with every other Tuesday off. Our Cabin Steward "Lennox" did a great job and somehow kept up with our mess. The wait staff was wonderful overall and was eager to please. The Cruise Director "James" was enthusiastic and the Cruise Director staff worked very hard throughout the cruise was busy making sure the many on-board events went smoothly and everyone was entertained and had a good time.
I give Rhapsody 4 stars!!