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 to the 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.