|# of Nights:|
This was my second cruise and second time sailing with Royal Caribbean. The Rhapsody is a sister ship to the Splendour of the Seas which I sailed six months ago and I found the ships very similar. I will however focus on the Rhapsody in this review.
My wife Valeri and I went on this cruise and we are from Utah. We used frequent flier miles to get to Houston Hobby airport (which is closer to Galveston) and as usual, the availability of frequent flier miles, has determined where we cruise from. Houston has been the only place we have found that we can get to with four-five months notice.
Since we had a great experience last time, we decided to do this again. There are several reasons this works well for us and I will attempt to share those in this review.
Transportation to the ship:
Transportation from the airport seems to be the hardest thing for me to do on these trips. After seeking advise from CruiseCarzies message borad, I found an LJ Cormier who has a site CruiseShipShuttle.com and was fairly priced, and very punctual on doing what he says. He was reasonable, and very on time. He communicated well and was a pleasant person to visit with. He comes highly recommended to anyone who needs a lift from either airport to and from Galveston.
We arrived at the ship on Sunday morning with rainy weather and dark skies. despite the bad weather, we were excited to be on vacation. I found embarking easy and fast. It was well organized and the staff was eager to help. They greeted us with a smile and for those who made mistakes and didn't read directions that they maybe should have, it did not seem like a big deal to them.
Arriving on the ship is always exciting. We found that you could board about 11am, but we arrived about noon. I found that the layout of the Rhapsody was very similar to the Splendour, so I already knew my way around. We headed to the Windjammer on deck 9 forward and had lunch. This is the buffet that is opened most of the time for anyone to have breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner if they choose. In the afternoon, they close half for cleaning. This did not seem to be a problem as it seemed less crowded at that time anyway. I found this facility clean and always well stocked with food. I was always able to find something there that I liked very much and plenty of it. The plates were large and the staff was very helpful to always make sure you had whatever it is you wanted. They always had Ice Tea, Lemonade and Water for free here. You could come here anytime and just grab a drink and take it to your room or anywhere else on the ship cutting the costs of sodas or other drinks (if you are worried about costs). The desserts were also good. There were always plenty of cake, pie, cookies, pudding, jello, and many other varietys I can't remember.
Our state rooms became available promptly at 1:00pm We stayed on deck 2 forward in a middle cabin. There are several advantages of doing this for us. Valeri does not like to see the ocean very much as it makes her ill sometimes. Also, both of us like how dark the room is in the event you like to nap, and we took at least one every day. It is also the least expensive of all the cabins for anyone more concerned about price.
Our cabin was about 2 feet wider than most of the inside cabins on the ship since it was forward on the ship. I believe we got this because we booked so far in advance.
The beds are bunks with matresses that are a little worn. Both Valeri and I noticed that it was not quite like our $2000 dollar matress at home, but we found them comfortable and good enough for our liking. They are able to configure the rooms to have the beds together or apart. We also noticed that there were two beds that could be dropped out of the ceiling of the room to accomodate children or other passengers if needed.
The shower was also larger than the last cabin we had. The sink was a little worn, but we found it very functional and it met our needs very well. There was plenty of room to store all our clothes in drawers and closets and our luggage fit very well under our cots. There is a small TV in the room, the channels all worked and the picture was good. The TV could be adjusted to any angle and tucked away nice when not in use. There was a safe that was very easy to program and seemed to be secure.
Our state room attendant was very nice and made our experience pleasant to say the least. He was very eager to help and instructed us the best ways to make our experience a great one. He learned our names very fast and made our stay that much better.
After a nap, we got dressed for dining in the Edelweiss dining room. It was clean and formal. The food was good and I found that they had many items to choose from that I would consider ordering. All tables always had fresh flowers and white linen table clothes. We sat on the second level up near the galley. We were very fortuante to sit with some very fun people who we became friends with quickly and did not notice anything that bothered us sitting so close to the galley. The Formal nights were nice and the food was always good. The service was fast and the waiters were pleasant. I would rate the dining very high from any experience I have had just about anywhere else.
I am afraid that the experience we had leaving Galveston was not a good one. Not because anything the crew could do, but because of weather. We headed directly into black skies and 15-20 foot swells on the ocean. Our ship was rocking and rolling! For those of us who didn't drink, we were walking like we were drinking. Those who were drinking seemed to walk in a straight line and didn't notice the ship rocking. (that was suppose to be funny) The crew I talked to said it was the worst they have seen on the Rhapsody since they have been on the ship. This continued through the next day and stoped on the second day at sea. There were not many people out and about on the first day. There were sickness sacks (barf bags) at every stairwell on every level. I noticed that as the day went on, there were fewer and fewer of them. Personally, I don't get sea sick, but for those who did, it was not pleasant. This is a rare thing and hopefully not something everyone will experience on any cruise. The rest of the cruise was GREAT weather and no rocking back and forth.
This being a 7 day cruise, we had our first two days at sea. That means that you can do whatever you want for at least two days. The Broadway Mealodies Theater is on deck 5 forward of this ship and the balcony is on the 6th deck. I am not one to enjoy the dancers and singers too much, but they seemed to be par for a cruise ship. I can only take them in very small doses. The theater always seemed to be full and people seemed to like it. There were other entertainers that did meet my liking. Comedy was funny and there was a juggeler who was also talented and funny. The Cruise Director and his staff seemed to have it together for the most part. They had the same kinds of activities that I remember from my last cruise from Royal Caribbean. The avtivities were often crowded, but I found the people I sat with pleasant and we all laughed a lot. We went to some dance classes and danced a lot. That is always fun for us and there were plenty of opprotunities to dance.
The Viking Lounge on deck 11 aft was where the late night dancing took place. They had an 80 night and a Disco night that were both very fun. We didn't stay too long at either of these, but had a great time while we were there.
My wife wanted to play Bingo, so we went and found that this is a place the ship cashes in on your money. As far as we could tell and me doing math for about 30 seconds. The ship takes in about $9000 per Bingo session and gives out about 6 or 7 hundred in winnings. There were about 5 bingo sessions and I figured that they took in at least 70k as some sessions were much larger and more money, and gave out about 10k in prizes total. Maybe I should be opening a bingo parlor! At $35-50 a game (each) it didn't take long to find out that the odds of winning were much better in the casino
The Casino seemed to be fun as long as we were winning. The slots are really tight on all cruise ships from what I have read. This ship is no different. The tables were the same as any other casino anywhere else I have been. the odds were just a bit worse, but still fun. The staff was nice and fun to talk to.
Jamaica was our first stop. We did not have an excursion planned but saw that about half of the excursions were centered around Dunns River Falls. We docked and walked off the ship. We found that everyone was very excited to offer you a taxi and even more excited to take your money any way they could. Our Assistant Waiter was from Jamaica and told us the falls was about a 10 minute ride in a taxi. One lady was very persistant on giving us a ride there. She wanted to charge us $20 to go one way. I tried to talk her down and she started playing on my feelings and calling me cheap and all this stuff. I asked a different guy who was walking by and he said $8 I said OKAY! The lady knew she was trying to take us for a ride and not in a taxi.
The Falls were nice. They were swarmed with staff who wanted to take a picture with our own camera and were eager to aske for a tip after taking your picture. This only took once and we were done with people pretending to be nice.
The Falls themselves were pretty. They are the type that have many natural steps and a lot of people climbed them. The people I talked to who did had a wonderful experience and would do it again over and over. We had fun watching.
The other activity I heard that was fun was the zip lines.
We went back to the shopping center and got out of our taxi and immeadiately got badgered to get right into another one. In fact, two people saw us get out of a taxi and right away asked us to get in another one. We found the prices to be much better at any Walmart and the selection to be focused around Bob Marley.
We got off the ship at 9:30 am and was back on the ship by 11:30am. I would not select Jamaica as a port of call if I had a choice to go anywhere else. I have had better experiences arguing with my ex-wife than I did in Jamaica. I found it very uncomfortable.
We booked an excursion to swim with the Stinrays for this one. We tendered to the island and found our arranged transportation to the boat dock about 15 minutes away. We got on a large caramaran and then headed 45 minutes to Stingray city. This turned out to be pretty amazing to me. They were all pretty tame and would come right up to you. Of course they wanted a hand out too, but we were prepared. The boat staff provided squid and they would suck it right out of your hands. I felt a bit weird at first with all these stingrays swimming around your feet and running into you, but after a while I felt comfortable holding them and feeding them. It was a great experience for me. Valeri did not like it so much and spent most of her time on the boat. She did enjoy watching and also said this was a great experience for her.
Shopping was also pretty expensive and much more american in culture. I did not really talk to anyone from the island and was never asked for money, a taxi, drugs, sex or anything else. It was a nice place overall. Flat compared to Jamaica and not as many green trees. I would definately put Grand Cayman on my list of places to stop if I were to go again.
I was in Cozumel six months ago. Exactly a year ago they got hit hard by a hurricane. They are recovering very well and leaves are back on the trees and they are still finishing some of the buildings that were destroyed. The beaches are back and resorts are opened. We did not have an excursion planned here, but instead rented a car. It was about $40 to rent a car and $50 for a jeep. They rent them right at the pier where we docked. Our dock was a few minutes out of town, but we noticed that 2 ships docked walking distance from the main shopping area.
Renting a car seemed to be the way to go on this island. We found a place to park a couple blocks from the shopping and found one shop where we bought most of our souviners for our kids and loved ones. They are a bartering culture, so we found a price that worked for all of us and then put it in the trunk of our air condidioned car. We chose a car because of air conditioning as it was so hot! We felt that it was nice not to have to worry about our belongings as they were loced in the trunk.
I hear the crime rate in Cozumel is very low also.
There is one road that takes you all the way around the island (45 miles) and we took it about half way. We found our own little beach and walked up and down it a few times before jumping into the warm ocean. We had some cokes at a little hut and then decided to head back.
This time in Cozumel was much better than six months ago. I think renting a car was a great way to go and would highly recommend it for this island.
The last day on the ship was very anti-climatic. You just knew you were heading home! We found ourselves eating like it was our last meal (several times) and packing our bags (boo-hoo) and taking a nap and eating again.
Getting off the ship was also pretty easy. Yes you have to wait to go through customs and the line took about 20 minutes or so. It was raining again in Galveston, but it was nice to have a ride waiting for you and we left immeadiately because of who we chose to take us to the airport.
This trip was a very memorable one for Valeri and I. We loved the people we sailed with (at least 50% Texans) and loved the ship, staff, food, entertainment and just plain old laziness. Some of the reviews I have read were very negative. I would imagine that the people who wrote them were also a bit negative as well. I found this ship to be VERY clean, pleasant, fun and for the money - BIG BANG FOR THE BUCK!
I would encourage anyone who wants a slow paced cruise with lots of varieties of activities and things to do, a kind crew and great food to sail the Rhapsody of the Seas!