Royal Caribbean International - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

Rhapsody of the Seas
by Andy Gilbert
Western Caribbean
April 9, 2006

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 until 1:00. 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.

Dining observations:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.