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!!