Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Review--Rhapsody of the Seas--September 24, 2006

Rhapsody of the Seas September 24-October 1, 2006

This will be written with some comparisons to the Conquest and Ecstasy which we have sailed within the past few weeks. This was our second time on the Rhapsody which is DW’s favorite ship.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation Oversleeping and one accident on Houston Freeways delayed usual arrival by an hour+, but seemed to work out overall. Usually I’m one of those people who think they need to be at the check-in by 11:30. The delay put us there about 12:30 which IMHO was actually better. The early arrivers where on board yet we were ahead of the published 1:00 pm boarding so it went very smooth. No lines in Security, Check-in, Security photos, or Windjammer. From street to buffet in 15 minutes. I think a 12:30 arrival is ideal for the future.

The Windjammer buffet is very good, much better than Ecstasy and Conquest, my recent sailings. I really appreciate the drinks (lemonade, tea, water) being available on trays. You do not have to fix your own (find the glasses. find the ice, find the dispenser) as on the previously mentioned ships. Explored the ship and some sail away drinks this afternoon. BTW-you will save about $1 in taxes if you purchase drinks after we leave Galveston.

Our C-C group had prearranged to wear mardi gras beads so it was easy to find our new friends following muster drill. Nice to meet some folks before our official meet on Monday. I did wear my new C-C T-shirt under my Caribbean shirt, but it was still noticed by a few, mostly crew!

The Welcome Aboard Show was good. The CD is Dan Whitney and he is one of the best-IMHO. We had an excellent draw on the dinning room table. Round six-top table center location of DR just below staircase. Very nice people at out table including Cruise Critic fans. We turned in after dinner. During the night we passed through a thunderstorm and the thunder and lightning was both interesting and entertaining.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea I enjoyed a dining room breakfast and DW ordered room service breakfast for the balcony. Very nice to have options. Our Meet & Mingle was at 12:30 and was well attended. RCL provided canapés, a gift (note pad) for everyone, and a raffle prize. A bit rainy a lot of the day, but it was interesting. Saw a very large waterspout from aft balcony. The weather cleared in the afternoon and everyone was enjoying the usual ship board activities. This is formal night. The Captains reception was held in the Lounge and Champagne was distributed by the waiters. The Captain, Anders Ingebrigtsen, spoke about the changes and new deployment for Rhapsody next year. Formal dinner was very good. I had shrimp cocktail, escargot, beef, & Grand Mariner soufflé for desert. The production show after dinner was very good as well, Piano Man, featuring the RCL Singers & Dancers.

Day Three--Tuesday--at Sea/Key West This is a great day in that you have a sea day and a port day in one. We began with room service breakfast on the balcony. DW spent most of the day in the Solarium swimming and relaxing in a more quiet environment. than the main pool. I entered the Texas Hold’em Tournament, but didn’t get too far. Congrats to C-C member Wes who made the final table. They served southern style pork chops & potatoes with onions in the Windjammer. Very good, reminded me of my younger days. We watched the port activity as we approached Key West. The Enchantment of the Seas leaves port as we arrive. Pretty cool as the two ships pass each other. Key West: We headed straight for Henrietta’s Bakery located on Petronia Street in the Bahamian district. About a six block walk and as we got there they just flipped the closed sign. They opened for us and we even got to met Henrietta. Their business has really changed since being featured on the Food Network. They ship a USPS truck full of bakery items out daily. She said she ships more items to Texas than anywhere else. We made our selections and headed back to the Green Parrot which we passed along the way. This is the real deal Key West bar established in 1890. Few tourists and it was full of very interesting locals. My first beer and beginning of our Key West pub crawl. Next to Kelly’s Caribbean Bar which has perhaps the best happy hour on the island. We spent the balance of happy here enjoying the Key Lime margaritas. Kelly’s is in the original Pan-Am airlines headquarters and has very old Key West roots. The bar is made/cut out from an old Pan-Am clipper wing. Cool place. Next we walked to the Key West bight or boardwalk. We stopped at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, but found our favorite place on the seaport to be the Schooner Wharf. Excellent live music and very good mango mojitos. From the Schooner Wharf to Sloppy Joe's for a final nightcap. Enjoying our pub crawl we turned in and didn’t make the sail away midnight buffet & entertainment, but heard it was very good.

Day Four--Wednesday--at Sea Room service breakfast works very well so we did it once again. Some swimming in the Solarium pool in the morning. We purchased tickets to the Cocktail Seminar at Sea which was at 12:15. This was very entertaining and they do their best to get you buzzed in the early afternoon. They passed out samples of most of the drinks including: Apple martinis, Cosmopolitans, Bahama Mamas, Yellow Birds, & BBC’s. If you wanted extras you could get it. Lunch in Windjammer which I have found has a very good lunch selections. I had the roast beef and cajun chicken. The feature show this evening was Kenny James a great singer/entertainer. Dinner was again very good. Maryland Crab cake, New England clam chowder, and Pork chop was my selections. Had to have two deserts: Baked Alaska & Bananas Foster. Quest was tonight, but left that to the newbies.

Day Five--Thursday--Grand Cayman We have decided to stay on board ship so we are on island time (relaxed) today. Room Service breakfast on the balcony, then swimming in the pools. Nice when there are few people on board. By midday we started getting rain so people began coming back to the ship earlier than norm. Again a good lunch in the Windjammer. My selections: Corned beef and cabbage, pork cutlets, potatoes, salad. The weather really started getting bad later in the day which made the solarium busier than normal so we opened the balcony door and enjoyed the thunder, lightning, and rain. After the dry summer in Texas, it was nice to just see the rain. The late afternoon was much better & the aft balcony gave a great sail away view of Grand Cayman, improved by Bahama mama’s from room service. Tonight is the second formal night. The Crown & Anchor get together was this evening (we skipped) and the production show was Pure Country. Lobster was the choice for most at dinner and yes a second lobster was available to those who wished. Also later was the Gala Buffet at midnight. Didn’t make it after the lobsters, but heard it was great.

Day Six--Friday--Cozumel Very impressive entry into the Strait of Cozumel with the Conquest, Rhapsody, & Mariner coming in side by side. GOOD NEWS for everyone. We docked at Punta Langosta. We were the first ship to do so. The Mariner docked at the International pier and I’m guessing that the Rhapsody will dock there on the weeks that the Mariner is not here and at Punta Langosta on the other weeks. Bottom line: Looks like that the Rhapsody will always be docked and not tendering every other week. Hopefully this will be true for the Splendour as well when she starts her Cozumel sailings from galveston. We have been to Cozumel more than 30 times over a period of 25 years so usually never make specific plans and ‘play it by ear’ depending on mood and weather. Today we went to see Nelly at Mayan Pearl as DW needed some items. While DW had some items custom made I spent an hour in the internet store (next door to my Coz barber). We walked down to the Havana Club for a couple of mojitos, then some shopping on the way back. We thought we’d visit some of the oldest establishments so spent some time at Casa Denis and then La Mission. We returned to the ship around 3:30 and spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony which luckily over looked Cozumel. We could follow the action in town where they had a parade on the Malecon (& in boats on the water) as well as the action at Senor Frogs. Great view and comfort as we had room service snacks as well. Really love the big balcony on this cruise. Dinner was again great. A highlight this evening was watching the lights of the Conquest and the moon above her as she sailed along our port side.

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea Room service breakfast again this morning. Swimming and relaxing in the solarium pool area is the agenda of the day. Lunch in Windjammer again good-my selections salad, seafood etouffee, pork tenderloin (jerk style) was very good. A visit to Mary Ann, the C&A and future cruise representative. We booked two more cruises on Rhapsody. A few Yellow Birds in the afternoon to use the 2for1 coupons in the C&A booklet made for a fun day.

About 3:00 p.m. I returned to the cabin and went on the balcony to watch the Conquest which was following on our port side. Suddenly the Conquest made a extreme 90˚turn to starboard. The first thing that came to mind was a “man overboard”. About 15 minutes passed and the Conquest started north again, this time on our starboard side but now several miles behind. I mentioned this to DW and some friends and of course as we found out the next day, they did have a tragedy on the Conquest at that time.

The farewell production show was good and the International Parade between dinners was excellent. The final dinner was as usual very good. My selections: Shrimp cocktail, Onion soup, Chicken Marsala, & Tiramisu for desert. No Conquest along side tonight as she is still catching up from the delay.

Debarkation--Sunday We did the self and it went fairly well. There was a hold up because of people trying to take too many bags and having to ride the elevators in the terminal. You must have one free hand to use the escalator. We were off the island by 8:00 a.m..

Ship I do think that the Rhapsody does deserve its reputation as the friendliest ship on the seas. The staff and crew are very good. The ship itself does show some wear and needs the upcoming dry dock. Yes there was vibration, but usually only when approaching a port. It may have more noticeable to others, but we are used to sailing and some vibration is part of the cruise. The passageways are narrow on Rhapsody so be careful.

Cabin We had originally booked this while onboard the Rhapsody last year, but later upgraded, so we were fortunate to get cabin 7152 an aft corner wrap balcony. The room is standard size, but the balcony is very large. There are no public aft stairs so it is a long walk to the elevator/stairs mid ship. There is some noise from the Lounge below, but we normally sleep with the TV on so it didn’t bother us that much. It did give me a start during what I assume was the finale on the first night-I did jump out of bed!! One good advantage is no passageway noise. No traffic and no cabin doors near us. Fair tradeoff IMHO. The cabin needs updating and It will be in February so we’ll have the new bedding, etc. on our Rhapsody cruises next year. Did we enjoy this cabin? Yes very much.

Food The room service breakfast has more selections than most cruise lines, so it is a great option especially if you can eat on the balcony. Many of the dining room dinner items are available from room service or the Windjammer from 6:30-9:30 daily. A great option for those who can not make the dining room.

Lunch is the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. You can order a banana split for desert at lunch. All the bread selections are very good on board. The buffet is also very good and much better than other lines. There are ice creme and yogurt machines in the Windjammer.

Overall we both thought the food was much better on Rhapsody than the two RCL ships; however, the deserts on Conquest & Ecstasy are better than the Rhapsody.

Needs Improvement The water jets at the entry steps of the pool in the Solarium never worked. Smoking was much worse on this cruise than previous RoS cruise. The Schooner Bar should be nonsmoking as you have to walk through it to get to the various other venues. This will be moot when she goes to Asia, but that is a while yet. Missed our breakfast order one morning, but I can see how that happened--the corner aft cabins don’t open on the main passage ways, but on an out set. It was just missed. The good thing is that the Room Service manager sent us some chocolate strawberries later that day. Wow I was impressed. Also the self-debarkation should be limited to one bag per person.

Final We really enjoyed the cruise and met some very nice people including a good C-C group. We still haven’t done everything on board there is to do, so I know we had an entertaining and enjoyable time. Another great cruise!

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