Sunday, December 2, 2007

Review--Carnival Ecstasy --11.26.2007

Review--Ecstasy --November 26, 2007
Just The Facts:
Carnival Ecstasy
Five Day-November 26-December 1, 2007
Captain: Pier Paolo Scala
Cruise Director: Goose Neumann
Ports: Galveston-Progreso-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather: Overall Nice. Lt. rain in Progreso, Beautiful in Cozumel

Aware of pricing going up for cruises out of Galveston, and looking for bargain fares, I booked this as a 1A solo as it seemed to be a good value. Actually had a very small price drop, but pricing really went up on this as well as all cruises from Galveston. This was my 11th Carnival cruise and 3rd on the Ecstasy. I booked cabin E-181 which is on my favorite deck for a Fantasy class ship.

Note: I wanted to note this before reading my review as my activities on board this week were somewhat determined by the ‘bug’. As I live in a very rural area and I’m not exposed to many people my tolerance and resistance to germs is weak. I did do the Airborne before leaving as usual, but did seem to get a ‘bug’ and had a sore throat for most of the cruise. I sure did not drink as much or attend the late shows trying to get more rest. I could have got the ‘bug’ at Thanksgiving or first day on board so I won’t blame ‘muster drill’ or something else. Sorry the review will not be as complete.

Embarkation / Day 1.
The day began as usual with a check of the Galveston port web cam. There was no Ecstasy to be found at 6:30 a.m.. The drive from Bosque county was fine and Houston traffic wasn’t too bad for a weekday. I arrived at EZ Cruise about 11:15 a.m. I walked over to the terminal with bag in tow. I dropped my bag off myself skipping the porters. There was a line for building security before even entering the building as in September. Once inside it went very well. There was actually a line for VIP through security. I think this is new as it wasn’t there for my two cruises in the past several months. After security you go to the VIP rooms to check in which my timing was good. They took me right away. Several parties came while I was there so they had a small wait. After receiving my S&S card and separate room card it was a simple process boarding the ship. They did have another security check before getting your photo which was taken at the ship entry. I was onboard at 11:50, a smooth process, less than half the time last year on the Ecstasy. I wasn’t sure if the Grand Buffet Lunch would be ready as it opens at 12:00 noon, but they were already serving. Typical Carnival buffet with roast beef as the feature. It was good, but not great, but I am probably a bit more critical. Since the cabins won’t be available until 1:30 I went to the Atrium bar for my first Funship Special. The bar soon filled up with ladies, most ‘red hatters’. I think they are going to have a FUN cruise. I even had a lady buy me a drink which also happened last time I was on the Ecstasy. I think I like this ship. Soon the ladies discovered that I was Snoozeman and the experienced cruisers among them had the newbies read my blog and previous Ecstasy reviews as an introduction to the ship. Small world, and glad I could help. The cabin was ready at 1:30. I had a Platinum welcome letter so that all seems to be in order. I unloaded my carryon and then hit the buffet again for a light snack. I tried to take a nap, but too many announcements about the up coming muster drill to sleep. They began announcements after 3:30 and sounded the alarm just before 4:00. The room steward did check the cabin. The all clear sounded at 4:25 so the process took about half an hour. We did pull away from the dock during muster drill, but you could still see dolphins and the harbor as we left Galveston. As tradition a couple more Sail Away Funship specials during sailaway. I went to the Lido pool bar to see if anyone would show for the C-C meet&mingle and one couple did show in beads. I was later able to introduce them to the red hatter C-C members. My bag arrived by the time I returned to my cabin so I settled in nicely. I tried the sushi bar, which was good, on the way to the Welcome Show which was before dinner for late seating. The show featured comedian Phat Kat with the CD Goose and the singers and dancers.

I have 8:00 dinner in the Wind Song dining room, table 201. The waitress is Nana and she greeted me by name, (she must have a Platinum list) very impressed. I am at a solo table. Five guys and two gals, the exact same ratio at my solo table previously on the Ecstasy. For dinner, I had the penne pasta as an appetizer, green salad, filet mignon, and the black forest gâteau for desert. All was very good especially the steak. After dinner I returned to the cabin for a much needed rest.

At Sea / Day 2
I slept very well, almost to 9:30 a.m. I always eat in the dining room for 1st breakfast and order the same items. Can get a feel for the food for the rest of the mornings by doing so. Almost late, but in under the wire of 10:00 a.m. Eggs Benedict were a bit dry. I should have gone with an omelet since I was eating so late. Excellent service though.

I loaded my Poker pro card for the Texas Hold ‘em table. Yes they now have the automated table on the Ecstasy. It’s located at the edge of the casino almost into the City Lights Blvd. I played for a while, but didn’t do well.

I had lunch in the Wind Star dining room which was very good. The chocolate gâteau cake was excellent. Today is a beautiful day so all the lido deck activities are going well although I didn’t participate in any. Today was indian food day in the buffet so I had to just try a few items. The mulligatawny soup was just OK, the poppadam was very good as were the sauces. Returned to the Texas hold’em table this afternoon. Did much better. Pretty good crowd playing including one from our dinner table. I spent some time at the Atrium bar, my HQ, during the cruise.

The Captains party was this evening and went well. It is held in the Blue Sapphire Lounge which is not ideal, but fine. Found a nice spot at a back table and the cocktail waiters brought plenty of drinks. I have found that tipping helps keep your table filled with drinks. It became amusing as there were a lot of drinks on the table and I really had too many. Formal dinner this evening and the lobster tail was good. My favorite appetizers as well: Jumbo shrimp, Stuffed Mushrooms and the Pumpkin soup. A little disappointed with the Bitter & Blanc. This was yet another version, at least the third. This version has the vanilla sauce baked into the top of the dish. The production show, Dream Voyage was held after dinner, but I retired early. I have a bit of a throat irritation probably from the casino smoke while playing cards.

Progreso, Mexico / Day 3
My 6th time to Progreso so I’m not planning on going into town so it’s a nice day to sleep in which I did. We are docked next to the Fantasy, out of New Orleans, a sister ship to the Ecstasy. Its almost like looking at a mirror. The weather is overcast with a brisk north wind. Looks like more passengers staying on board than usual. The buffet was full which I wasn’t expecting. I had an omelet from the omelet station which was good. Usually a good time to use ship facilities since most people are off the ship. I took a steam in the spa which is very refreshing and seems to help clear the system as well. It began to rain so no pool or mini golf as I had planned for my on board port day. I did play in the 11:00 trivia game and had the same questions before. Still didn’t win (2nd) as I can’t remember names, etc. I will try to learn the names of the Hardy Boys, when toenails grow fastest (summer), and most popular color (red) before the next cruise.

Enjoyed a nice lunch in the Panorama Grill. It was French day and the feature on the regular side was roast pork. They had poppy seed napoleons in the desert area, very good. I did go off the ship in the afternoon, but only went to the touristy shops right at the dock. The new Cinco Soles shop which opened this year is a great addition. Walking back to the ship I noticed the new sign age. The new official name is Carnival Ecstasy. I had a Reuben sandwich as a late afternoon snack then had another steam hoping to relieve my throat. I had no congestion, just a sore throat so I am taking it easy today. Dinner was good, best was the Broccoli soup and Tiramisu for desert. Tonight was amateur show so I skipped that and review it on the cabin television later

Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4
Arrived in Cozumel and disappointed that we are docked at the International Pier. The Fantasy is docked at Punta Langosta. We are the only two ships today. Began the day with breakfast in dining room and had the omelet which was very good, and then prepared for trip into San Migel. Because we are at the Int’l pier you have the expense of a taxi to town. I went by the Mayan Pearl a nice jewelry store in Cozumel near the square run by our friend Nelly. We discussed something we are going to make for DW and pick up in January. It was just 10:00 and Martin, my barber, was a little late opening his shop. I understand Island time since I live on Bosque County time. Got my haircut and again saw Nelly and next to her shop is a Pharmacy. I had her translate to the druggist so that I could get something for my throat. Whatever it is works great. I felt better. Since I didn’t get my ‘on ship’ port day yesterday in Progreso, I returned to the ship early. I missed my usual mojitos with Jorge, but since I had taken the medicine, all worked out for the best. I was in the ship pool by 11:30 a.m. and even used the slide a few times. Lunch on the ship and then I got a table on the outside Lido deck facing Cozumel and did some reading. The weather was fantastic with a breeze to keep it cool. I went forward to watch the late arrivals at sail away. Always an interesting sport and again didn’t disappoint as a staggering lady hit the deck.

The welcome guest party was this evening and nice. You could have as many drinks as you wished as they had plenty of servers working the party. The Captain is a hoot. Dinner was good. I again ordered the steak from the alternative menu. They served the Grand Mariner soufflé for dessert, which IMHO is the best item on the menu. The production show tonight is Ultimate Country and is a big crowd pleaser. Don’t miss this show if you’ve never seen it.

At Sea / Day 5
Final breakfast in dining room. I had fried eggs for a change of pace. They were good and cooked to order. It is a beautiful day and a good time for the Lido deck activities. I had lunch in the dining room and it was very good. I had Fish & chips and a salad. I took the Galley tour as they allow Platinum's to go ahead of the regular tour and I knew it would go smoothly. I thought this galley tour was better than the one on the Conquest. I took some cabin time and I watched a movie, the most recent Die Hard, this afternoon as well as playing some poker, but the smoke really bothered me so quit that. After cashing out the poker card I just took the $ and paid my Sail & Sign account so I’ll be ready to go with a zero balance.

I went to the final show which featured Glenn Miller a comedy hypnosis act. Very entertaining. Dinner was very good, one of the better ones of the cruise. The Neptune Basket is becoming one of my favorites. I also had the Pork Chop as well. Both were excellent. The desert was Baked Alaska. I retired to the cabin to pack and rest for an early self-debarkation.

Platinums meet at 8:00 a.m. in the Library for self-debarkation. They never came and got us, but I was watching them prepare and went when they first called for self. Really had no problem, but I would have just stayed on Empress deck and not had to have used the stairs twice if I knew they weren’t going to get us first. I was at EZ Cruise by 8:30 and on my way.

I have E-181, a 1A (upper/lower) on the Empress Deck. The configuration is different because of the center interior location. The cabin does have the new furniture installed following the Katrina retrofit: flat screen TV, carpet, chairs, tables, and bedding and because of the configuration plenty of room and storage for a single. The wood is a big improvement from the metal. The bathroom is different. The shower is larger than the usual shower. The sink is more of a pedestal style. The actual toilet is against the wall (not opposite the sink) and could be cramped, but overall I think the bathroom is larger than the standard bath on Ecstasy. My cabin steward was great and he kept my ice chest full and cabin cleaned very well. The cleaning service does seem to be later in the day, sometimes after lunch. No refrigerator, a punch code safe, no hair dryer, one power outlet, one chair, one stool, two small tables and the Carnival bedding.

Food / Bar
Having cruised a lot I am probably more critical of the food. Overall the dining room food is good to very good. Some entrees better than the others. You do have a great variety of dishes and the service is excellent. The deli sandwiches are very good as is the salad bar and desert station in the Panorama grill. Many rave over the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with ice cream on the side. It was a desert that was available every night. I thought the Bar Service was excellent although I didn’t spend as much time at HQ as usual due to my ‘bug’. Friendly bartenders and cocktail waiters everywhere. The staff always seemed willing to help with special requests and were always willing to serve. There were no Red/Blue/White team interruptions at dinner which I feel is an improvement. Still have the singing/dancing waiters though. Probably a good compromise.

Again the ship is in great shape since the refit. Very clean and well maintained. The staff is friendly and you can see why they have won the award for best service three of the past six years. The ship was decorated for Christmas and it looked very nice especially in the atrium. Captain Scala has several scheduled times to meet and talk to guests (other than the usual receptions, etc. ) such as a cigars under the stars and in a lounge on sea day. Very good Captain.

Overall another great cruise. I met a lot of very nice people, made some new friends and I will be cruising the Ecstasy again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Review--Adventure of the Seas--September 30, 2007

Adventure of the Seas Review 9.30.2007

Just The Facts
Ship: Adventure of the Seas
September 30-October 7, 2007
Captain: Tommy Nyseter
Entertainment Director: Pierce Ivan
Ports: San Juan-Aruba-Curacao-St. Maarten-St.Thomas-San Juan
Weather: Good all week, hot during the day, some clouds and occasional rain.

Taking this cruise as a solo. This is also the first cruise that I have flown to the debarkation port in many many years.

Day Zero--Saturday
We left the Ranch very early in order to make the 6:20 a.m. flight from Waco Regional Airport to DFW. My first time to fly from Waco and it went well. Connections from DFW to San Juan arriving about 2:15 p.m. local time. A taxi from the airport to OSJ (Old San Juan) is $20. Arrived at Hotel Milano about 3:00 which is check in time. The hotel is located in the middle of OSJ and a convenient place to explore the city. I walked around OSJ and stopped at The Parrot Club to sample their Parrot Special drink made with passion fruit & Limon Barcardi Rum. A short nap and then another walking tour to see the lights of OSJ, the City Walls, and La Princesa fountain and waterfront. I stopped at the Cathedral of San Juan and the restaurant Barrachina, the birthplace of the pina colada. Since this day started very early I didn’t stay out too late although OSJ has a lot of boutique style clubs which seem fun.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
I had breakfast at La Bombonera an old established bakery/coffee house in the center of OSJ. It was full of locals and a few tourists. Setting at the counter it was very interesting watching the coffees being made on a very old machine. They had a big selection of pastries and this is very good breakfast location.

I checked out about 10:45 and took a taxi to the Pan-American pier arriving at 11:00 which is the time they start taking checked bags. Since I had to get baggage tags they just took my bags and saved me waiting in the line to check bags. They opened the terminal about 20 minutes or so later and being Platinum I was in the first group of Platinum, Diamond and suite passengers. I was on board shortly after 11:30. Very impressed with my first time on a Voyager class ship, it brings out that ‘cruise excitement’ feeling very quick. I did purchase a coke package which I don’t usually do, but I usually drive and bring coca-cola with me. My bet on the over/under on when I lose the coke glass is four days. We’ll see how that goes. I was in the Windjammer soon after the noon opening and the buffet was very good. The roast beef with horseradish was excellent. The salads, fruits and desserts were also good. At 1:00 pm we were allowed in our cabins so I went to deck nine and headed aft. They just finished with my cabin so I was able to unpack my carry on and set up the cabin. I explored the ship visiting: the Promenade, Spa & Sauna area, Viking Crown Lounge, and Dining Room. Knowing that dinner will be late tonight I did visit the Windjammer again for a bit of roast beef only late in the afternoon. I met a couple of Cruise Critic members sailing solo in the course of the afternoon. I shouldn’t put my photo out on roll calls if I owe money! Coke card doing well so far, I’ve had three refills, but at 5:00 I had to try a couple of Bahama Mama’s. Pool Bar bartenders and drink are very good so a few more sail away at 8:00+ pm. Sailing past the Carnival Destiny docked at OSJ and El Morro Castle at night is impressive. Dinner was at 9:00 this evening and I am at table 412 in the Strauss dining room which is an 8-top table. I had the Vidalia onion tart, the Tuscan tomato soup, Roast beef, and Savrin for dessert which were all very good. The Welcome Show featured comedian Tony Daro and he was good. The Entertainment Director is Pierce Ivan. They held a parade at midnight in the promenade, but I was too tired to make it that late and returned to the cabin for some reading and TV.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
I had breakfast in the dining room. Eggs Benedict, fruit, tomato juice. Very good. I met with the Loyalty Ambassador and changed a future booking in order to qualify for the $100 OBC. I was reminded about picking up tickets for the Ice Skating Show later in the week which was done just before the table closed. I ate at Johnny Rockets for lunch and it was very good. I took a nap after lunch and explored more of the ship in the afternoon. The Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle was at 5:00 pm in the Blue Moon lounge. We had a small group probably just making the minimum number. I ordered the fruit plate and cheese plate for evening cabin/balcony snacks. The Captains reception was held in the Grand Promenade for both dinner seatings so it was very crowded. Good idea and location, but they should have two receptions. Dinner was very good. Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Lobster Bisque, Beef, and Grand Mariner Soufflé were my selections. The headline entertainer was Greg Bonham and was after dinner for late seating. At midnight I had a coke refill in the coke mug so it has survived two days.

Day Three--Tuesday--Aruba
The weather is again very nice, but hot. Calm seas, fair winds. Most on board are getting ready to get off for the day as we are docked at 8:00 am. I went up to the Windjammer about 8:30 and brought a breakfast down to eat on the balcony. I went to the Solarium and had a swim then had a coke at the pool bar. I swam in the main pool for a full 45 minutes and had the entire pool to myself. Great. Somewhere in the process of getting ready to swim I lost my S&S card. It was in my shirt pocket. No problem, guest relations replaced it and the coke sticker without any hassle at all. No charges were made on it and all is well. Lunch in the Windjammer is very good. Corned beef was the feature at the carving station. I went into Oranjestad about 12:30. I was going to do a quick tour of the island ($20) but passed. Visited the shops, casino, had one Balashi, and was basically ready to return because of the heat by 2:30 pm... I ventured back to town, which just a very short walk from the ship, to meet BFFW Dan at Carlos & Charlie's. I had a few more Balashi and enjoyed the time. I do admit that there was some curiosity about the Natalie Holloway situation two years earlier. We then went to Iguana Joe's for an Iguana Mama and then back to the ship. I did visit the Pool Bar, and my favorite Jamaica bartenders for some Jamaican Mama’s before the late, 8:00 pm, sail away. I went down to the Dog & Duck pub for a beer and people watch. At 8:00 two singers appeared on a cross bridge just above the D&D and they same down to a small stage on the Grand Promenade and did a 20 minute show. The promenade is very interesting. Dinner was again good. I had the Chicken Marsala and a Strip Steak from the alternative menu. Dessert was Tiramisù. They had a deck party on pool deck with food and special drinks. Very crowded, I attended for a while, but still turned in by midnight.

Day Four--Wednesday--Curacao
We arrived by 8:00 a.m. and again the weather is fair, but very hot. I had a room service breakfast on the balcony which was nice and delivered promptly. I went into the town of Willemstad early in order to beat the heat. A very beautiful and colorful town, but I returned early to the ship. A very enjoyable swim to cool off and then lunch in the Windjammer. I walked around the ship and took photos of both the port and of the ship before taking an afternoon nap. I attended the C&A past guest reception which was at 5:15. The reception was good with better quality drinks than CCL and two at my table ordered specific call drinks which they received without problem. The production show, Can’t Stop The Rock followed the reception and before dinner. One of the female feature singers, Tamara, is outstanding and all the singers and dancers are very good. Dinner was good, but one of the weaker menus. I had the Tilapia, but also with a steak and the BBB for desert.

Day Five--Thursday--at Sea
Calm seas and weather. I had a dining room breakfast this morning, fruit and an omelet which were great. I watched a movie in the cabin during the morning. This is the last day for the dining room to be open for lunch so I went there for a nice soup and sandwich. I went to the Promenade to people watch for awhile and caught another movie in the afternoon. I attended the ‘Cool Art, Hot Ice’ show which was outstanding. Certainly a first for me to see an ice show at sea. Don’t miss this if you ever have the opportunity. There was a reception for Crown & Anchor Platinum & Diamond members in the Blue Moon lounge which was very nice. They had cocktails, canapés, and music by Rosario Strings. Dinner was good, the Pork Chop was excellent, the best entrée of the week so far. Baked Alaska was the featured dessert. The production show, after dinner was Billy Richard’s Coasters, which were great. Also later was the Gala Buffet at midnight. Didn’t make it, but heard it was very good.

Day Six--Friday--St. Maarten
Rainy day all day. We arrived at St. Maarten about 8:00 a.m. We are backed into the dock so I have a great view of the action down on the pier. I went up to the Windjammer for a breakfast, then took a water ferry into Philipsburg. Visited the shops and a casino, but not a lot of sightseeing due to the light rain. I returned to the ship in time for a late Windjammer lunch and I was also able to catch the movie I had been wanting to see in the afternoon, so it all worked out for a nice day in spite of the rain. The production show was Jackpot, a Las Vegas theme, featuring the singers and dancers. I actually thought the show was just good, not great. The best scene being the multiple Elvi. Dinner was very good. It was lobster night, first time it hasn’t been on a formal night for me that I recall. I actually had three entrees: the ziti as a starter, the lobster (seafood), and then the prime rib, which was actually the best. BTW-I still have the insulated coke glass, so that is a surprise.

Day Seven--Saturday--St. Thomas
Cloudy today, but not raining as yesterday. We are docked at Havensight and we are aft to aft with the Carnival Miracle. I went through the mandatory immigration early as to avoid the crowds and confusion. That went smoothly. Then to the Windjammer for a light breakfast and then on the pool deck for a swim and some sun. I did go to the spa and use the whirlpool on my knee. That felt good. While forward I did discover a viewing area on deck 11 or 12 that you can observe the inside of the bridge. Lunch in the Windjammer. Roast beef again, but still very good. The menu doesn’t vary as much as the RH and I guess the menu caters to the passengers and port of debarkation. Afternoon was a good cabin day with football on TV, pre packing, customs forms, and the balcony facing the pier for people watching. The show was before dinner and featured the Duo Ignatov and Dario El Gaucho. Also the Adventure orchestra and singers for a farewell. Dinner was actually my favorite of the cruise. I had Caesar salad, Shrimp Cocktail, French onion soup, NY strip steak, and Key Lime pie. The head waiter promised me some hearts of palm and she had a bowl for me which were great on the salad. Good byes to the table mates, waiters, and new friends and back to the room to pack. After setting out my bags at the midnight deadline I went up to the Blue Moon lounge where members of the Adventure orchestra were playing jazz. It was great. Seemed to be the hangout for the entertainment staff on a late Saturday night while the pax are all snug in their cabins preparing to leave early the next morning. It was good music for sure and the grand mojitos were great, but I could only last to 1:00 am.

We were in San Juan early. No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu in the dining room. I had a nice breakfast then soon afterward my number was called and I was off the ship about 9:15. There was some anxiety when I couldn’t immediately find my bags in the Brown-1 section. I did find them and thought a porter may speed up my getting out easier and it did a lot. I was in a cab to OSJ by 9:30. The hotel Milano keeps the bags for early arrivals so I left mine and was off on a walking tour of OSJ.

This was my first time on a Voyager class ship since we will not have one in Texas until later in the year. I am very impressed. There are good and bad things about the size. There are a lot of people and the pools seemed very crowded especially during peak times. The elevators are always packed. The Grand Promenade is very impressive. The additional size also means that there is room for the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck. The aquariums are impressive as are the Studio B, the Theater, and other public spaces. There is some vibration, but not very noticeable especially since I am in an aft cabin.

The staff and crew are very good. Captain Tommy is the son of Olav Gunner Nyseter, the captain of the Rhapsody who we sailed with last month. He is the youngest Captain in the RCL fleet and was very informative with his daily announcements. My cabin steward and waiters were all great.

I had cabin 9692 which is an aft with an extended balcony. The balcony is partially covered which is very nice as it’s not completely in the sun. Thanks to a Cruise Critic tip I knew that deck nine is one of the decks that you would NOT want the corner aft. This was very evident after inspecting the balconies, the corner is much smaller although perhaps still larger than the standard balcony. The cabin seems slightly larger than the aft balcony cabins on Rhapsody; however, there is less storage for sure. Plenty of room for one, but two would be tight on storage. The bathroom has a solid shower door which is a big improvement from RH. My cabin steward is Mario and he is good. He has kept my cooler full of ice for me although I haven’t used it as much since I did have the coke card on this sailing. Never used the refrigerator. The safe has a button key pad. On debarkation I went down to inspect cabins 7388 and 7688 since I have future cruise on the Voyager in them.

I first saw the new room service breakfast menu on the RH and it has fewer selections than previously, but still more than most cruise lines, so it is a great option. My two favorite room service items are the Seasonal fruit plate and the International cheese plate. The cheese plate consists of five different cheeses and garnished with a strawberry, walnuts, and dried apricots. It is served with water biscuits or saltines. The fruit plate usually has grapes, pineapple, kiwi, melon, strawberry, and orange slice. Both are great. Johnny Rockets was a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer buffet is also very good and better than many other lines. There are several ice creme and yogurt machines. You can order room service on the RC-TV which works very well especially for breakfast. I had late seating, table 412 in the Strauss Dining room. Lloyd was the waiter and the assistant was Joenelle from the Philippines who I had as an assistant waiter previously on the Rhapsody. The dining room food was good to very good. Some entrées were better than others. Cold baked potatoes seems to be the norm according to those at my table and I noticed desserts that should have been warm were not. Overall the dinners were very good and enjoyable, but the overall opinion was that it the food overall was not up to the standard of other Royal Caribbean ships I have sailed.

Needs Improvement
I really have no comparisons as to physical improvements as this was the first time on a Voyager class ship. I noticed that the water features in the Solarium pool did not work, but that seems to be the norm now.

They should add more security when they have a Quinceañeras cruise as they do during spring break cruises. There were a very large number of young and teen cruisers on board and they were playing the elevator game, laying in stairwells & hallways, swimming in the pool without adult supervision, etc. Also many unexperienced cruisers on board who seemed to be on the rude side.

They really seem to do a very good job of scheduling the entertainment and production shows then coordinating them with the various receptions, and other events. The additional public rooms on a Voyager class certainly helps.

I really enjoyed the cruise, but would not cruise from Puerto Rico again this time of year. Too hot, too many children, and too many other variables just make the cruise a little less than perfect.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Review--The Conquest--September 16, 2007

Conquest Review 9.16.2007

Just The Facts
Carnival Conquest
September 16-September 23, 2007
Captain: Massimo Marino
Cruise Director: Butch Begovich
Ports: Galveston-MoBay, Jamaica-Grand Cayman-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather: Very Good all week.

This is my tenth Carnival cruise and first time as a Platinum status guest. This is also my 5th and DW’s 4th time on the Conquest. We are traveling with our neighbors and also Cruise Critic friends, both of whom we have traveled with before.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
We left the ranch at 6:30 a.m. and had an easy drive to Galveston stopping for breakfast at Ama’s in Hearne, Texas. We arrived about 11:35 a.m. so dropped the passengers and luggage at the pier and took the car to EZ Cruise parking. WALKED back to the pier from EZ Cruise which is much easier than waiting for the shuttle. The Conquest was an hour late in arriving this morning so there was more confusion than usual for our noonish arrival. There was a pre security line before even entering the building which was new to me. It also added to the confusion, but once we got into the building we were able to take advantage of the VIP boarding. We only waited a few minutes and a VIP clerk checked in our party of six very quickly. We were able to bypass long lines at check in and proceed to the ship. Very easy considering the long lines and the VIP status paid dividends with embarkation.

We had “Funship Special” cocktails in the Artists Lobby Bar lobby and visited with our friends. A visit to the Maitre'd got our party of six at a banquette table in the Renoir dining room. We then headed to the Cezanne buffets on Lido deck for lunch.

Our cabin was ready at 1:30 so we dropped off our bags and soon our checked bags arrived. Not sure if the VIP tags helped, but it did seem quick considering the confusion at the pier. It’s great to be unpacked and settled early. We sailed at 4:00 p.m. and we had a little party on our balcony until muster drill. Our C-C group met following muster drill and had we had prearranged to wear mardi gras beads so it was easy to see many of our online friends. I wore my Cruise Critic t-shirt as well. It’s nice putting faces to screen names. A very good C-C turn out for the Conquest.

We went to dinner at 8:30 and it was good. Our waiter is Winston from India. I had the shrimp cocktail and NY strip steak which was very good. I had the Black Forrest Gateau and the Cream Brule for dessert, both good. DW had the Chocolate Melting Cake which is available every evening now.

The Welcome Aboard Show was at 10:30 pm for both Tastings. The CD is Butch from Minnesota. My first experience with him. He had a great routine involving a few gentlemen passengers and dancing. It was very funny. I have seen Marc Rubben several times and he did not disappoint. The girl he picked for his ‘honeymoon’ routine was the best I have seen. She was very animated and Marc made it very funny.

Day Two--at Sea
I had breakfast in the dining room, the standard carnival breakfast of Eggs Benedict, which were fine. DW got fruit from the buffet and ate on the balcony. I met DF’s Mo & Jerry for Trivia in the morning. Lunch at Sur Mer. The bouillabaisse and fish&chips are very good. Another round of trivia and ‘name that tune’ in the afternoon. Rest, relaxation, and a nap the rest of the day. Our friends hosted a little sunset cocktail party on their extended balcony which is the mirror image of ours on deck eight. The Captains cocktail reception was before dinner and we were able to get good seats and the servers were very generous with the cocktails. Thank you Captain Massimo. We moved our entire table to an eight-top along the wall and it is better than the banquet table we had the previous night. Our new head waiter is Nicholas from the Philippines. This was the first formal night and Lobster was the entree of choice. The best dish was the stuffed mushrooms served as a starter. The pumpkin soup was also good as was the Cherries Jubilee for desert. The feature production show is Formidable which is a French/Paris theme show with a lot of costume changes and dance numbers. My favorite dance is the cancan of course. This is the 4th time to see the show and it better with more female dancers, much more of a ‘show girl’ production in addition to the dance and vocals. It’s a long show, about an hour. The show fits the theme and decor of the Conquest very well. We turned in as it was a long day for us old timers.

Day Three--at Sea
I was up early to I went up to the Cezanne for a custom ‘western’ omelet from the omelet station. Did well at TV theme show music trivia, 24 of 25, but someone got 25 so not a winner. Played some other trivia and had lunch in the Cezanne. We played one more game of trivia after lunch and finally had luck go our way and a 16 of 20 won us a ship on a stick and Carnival medal. As platinum guests we took advantage of the private Galley tour this afternoon. It was interesting to see the kitchen and get an idea of how the waiters get the food to all the tables during dinner. I attended the past guest reception which was very full. They had two receptions as there are a lot of past guests. We had another cocktail & canapés balcony ‘sundown’ party which made us a bit late for the Ron Joseph show. The show was before dinner for late seating guests. Dinner was good, but the highlight was having a cake delivered for our anniversary couple which was accompanied by the “Happy Versery song” sung by the waiters.

Day Four--Montego Bay, Jamaica
Went to Cezanne for an omelet early this morning, It was empty at same time yesterday, sea day, but it was packed with people eating breakfast and anxious to get off in early in Jamaica. Arrived, on time at the pier, 8:00 a.m.. We took our time, swimming in the pool, and debarked at about 10:00 am. W e took a taxi ($4.00 pp) to Doctors Cave beach. We met DF’s already there and went snorkeling from a glass bottom boat ($10-15 pp) for a while just off the beach. The place to hang at Doctors Cave is the Groovy Grouper. We really enjoyed the live band, red stripe beers, and lunch. It was a very enjoyable day. We took a water taxi back to the ship for just a bit more than a taxi cab would have cost. We could get a great view of Montego Bay from the water and actually avoided a delay at customs by this route. DW had stayed aboard ship and enjoyed the solarium pool. I also enjoyed the late afternoon in the Solarium and the ‘yellow bird’ cocktail was better than the one I had at the GG. A late thunderstorm caused them to close the roof, but it did cool off the weather and was pleasant from the balcony for balance of day. Enjoyed the sail away with a rainbow over Montego Bay. The show was comedian Ronnie Bullard and the cruise staff (If I Were Not Upon the Sea). Dinner was good, I had the Tomato Soup, grilled Pork Chop. and the Bitter & Blanc.

Day Five--Georgetown, Grand Caymans
We arrived about 7:00 am. and are anchored off shore as usual. The Freedom of the Seas is anchored very close to us. In fact I can pick up their WiFi better than from on our ship. We have no plans for Grand Cayman as we have been here many times and thought we would enjoy the ship today. We did make a quick trip over and back to Georgetown to order some liquor but was back on the ship by 10:30 am. We had lunch in the Cezanne, played golf on the new Putt-Putt course located at the stack, went down the water slide for the first time in five cruises, DW watched a big screen movie in the Degas lounge, and just enjoyed the day on board. We sailed just before 4:00 pm and we had a great view of Grand Cayman from the aft balcony as we sailed away. I tried the Poker Pro table in the casino. It only takes a few hands to learn the system and it is faster than a live dealer. They delivered petite-fours to the cabin as part of the Platinum status. We skipped the feature show, Point & Click as we have seen it several times. Dinner was good, I had the chateaubriand, and DW had the best vegetarian dish of the cruise which was the princess vegetables entree. This was the second formal night.

Day Six--Cozumel, Mexico
I had another omelet from Cezanne which was very good. We arrived and docked on time in Cozumel at Puerto Langosta pier. The Caribbean Princess was docked next to us. Everyone in our group was kind of on their own today. One played golf, two for snorkeling, two for shopping and myself off to town. I first went to Antonio's for a haircut, but they were closed so I spent an hour next door at the internet cafe ($1 for an hour). Barber still not open so I went to the Mayan Pearl where I found DW visiting with our friend Nelly, the owner. I went down the Malecon to the Forum shops, to go to Havana Blue. It was busy as a ships tour was there for the folkloric show. I had a mojito and before I could order another DW & DF show up so we get a table on the patio overlooking the water. Very relaxing and the water is beautiful so we stayed for more mojitos. The girls were going to shop so I was just going to head back towards the ship, but fortunately did check Antonio’s one more time. Bingo, they were open. Martin has been cutting my hair for two years and I really needed a haircut so for me, a big deal. (Note: There is only one barber in my county and a haircut is not easy where I live). He did a great job. I was heading back to the ship, but stopped for a few DosXX on the square. Several more cervezas, margaritas, and mariachis and two hours disappeared. We had prearranged to met our DF’s on deck three above the gangway for sail away. This is one of our favorite Cozumel activities. It was not as rowdy as usual for a Cozumel crowd, but it did begin to rain so that dampened or sobered up the late comers. Dinner was again good. I chose the filet mignon. Very tired after a big day in Cozumel so we skipped the shows and turned in.

Day Seven--at Sea
Tried to sleep in a bit this morning, then another omelet from the Cezanne for breakfast. Casual morning and then met our party for lunch in the Monet Dining Room. It was my best lunch of the cruise, but only time I had eaten in the dining room. I had the Neptune Chef Salad and the Pepper Steak. I had cabin time after lunch and watched some College football on TV. I spent a little time on the poker table, but absolutely no luck there all cruise. Dinner was again good, my choices were Escargot, Crab Cake, a two Neptune Platters. We did attend the Carnival Legends Show. I have to admit we had always skipped this show, but we did attend since we knew one person from our roll call performing. This show was GREAT. Very glad we attended and won’t miss it again.

I knew they would have priority debarkation for Platinum guests, but I was surprised that they have a priority for the self-debarkation as well. You have to meet at 6:45 a.m., but you are escorted off the ship. We were the 2nd couple off the ship.

The Conquest might be showing her 5 years, but the crew is always repairing and updating. The ship was very clean and you would always see staff cleaning during the day and night. I have always thought that the Conquest is beautiful. The French impressionist theme is wonderful. Try to see the video featuring the designer of the Conquest on the ships TV while onboard.

We had cabin 8457 which is an aft with the larger extended balcony. There are public aft stairs/elevators so it‘s not a long walk to the elevator/stairs. Close to the Cezanne restaurant which is very nice. The advantage of this cabin is the larger balcony and we used it this voyage. There is noise from the chairs being moved above us on lido deck, but not too bad. Our cabin steward was great and kept our small cooler full of ice all week.

I can not say enough about our Maitre d' Sudhir Nair. Not only did he give us a tour of the Galley, but he arranged a better table for our group and called us by name on may occasions. By far the best we have ever had on Carnival. All the staff and crew seemed very accommodating.

The best addition to the menu is the Stuffed Mushrooms. They were served on 1st formal night and are excellent. The Cezanne buffet food is good, but not great. The dining room food is better. There are ice creme and yogurt machines in three locations on Lido deck. I had very good luck with the omelet station, all very good and not a long wait for service (I did try to time it right).

Needs Improvement
Although the Capers indicate that the sports bar would be open for Sunday football, it was not. A lot of Cowboy fans decked out in their jerseys were very disappointed. The menu listed on the ship TV is NOT necessarily what will be the actual menu. The menus were updated, but not the TV listing.

Interesting / Unique
This was a unique cruise in that there was a running joke throughout the week concerning “Tuesday” which began at the Welcome Show. The inside joke was a unifier among the passengers. It was a 'you had to be there' deal, but very funny.

Although our 5th cruise on The Conquest it was one of the best as it was great to be cruising with friends. We have done most of the activities, but there are still a few we have not been able to do, so another future Conquest cruise may be in the future.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cruise Critic Roll Call Group--Conquest

Craig from West (comma) Texas took a great group roll call photo. We didn't get to see everyone again, and some we saw a lot, but it was a fun cruise.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Review--Rhapsody of the Seas--August 26, 2007

Rhapsody of the Seas Review 8.26.2007

Just The Facts
Rhapsody of the Seas
August 26-September 1, 2007
Captain: Olav Gunner Nysetter
Cruise Director: Eric Dowis
Ports: Galveston-Cozumel-Roatan-Playa del Carman-Progreso-Galveston
Weather: Good all week, hot during the day.

This cruise was booked while on board last year and is scheduled as the FINAL round trip sailing from Galveston. This was our forth time on the Rhapsody which is DW’s favorite ship.

Day Zero--Saturday
We have very dear friends (DF’s) Scott & Nancy, who have never sailed before, sailing with us on this cruise. They met us at our place so we actually began with a pre cruise party, test sampling several pitchers of mojitos while preparing for the weeks events.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
We left the ranch at 6:00 a.m. and had an easy drive to Galveston. We were early, about 10:45 a.m. so we dropped the passengers and luggage at the pier and took the car to EZ Cruise parking. (It was Cathy, the managers, Birthday.) DF’s needed luggage tags so they had that all worked out by the time I walked back to the pier from EZ Cruise. We checked in without problem and proceeded to the waiting area. Our last RH cruise boarded at 11:25, but we didn’t board until noon so there were a lot of people in the waiting area. We boarded with group one and were on the ship in good order.

The Windjammer buffet is again very good, especially the roast beef. Our cabin was ready at 1:15 so we dropped off our bags and took DF’s on a tour of the ship. We had our first cocktail in the Viking Crown Lounge. We returned to the cabin and our checked bags were inside, it’s great to be unpacked and settled before muster drill. Our C-C group had prearranged to wear mardi gras beads so it was easy to see many of our online friends following muster drill. I wore my Cruise Critic T-shirt during the day so many folks introduced themselves which was great, as we will be spending more time with our first time cruising DF’s this time out. We had a visit to the Windjammer as dinner is so late and they had a wonderful Stir-Fry bar set up which is one of the new items featured. The Welcome Aboard Show was at 8:00 pm for both seating. The CD is Eric Dowis and the entertainment for the welcome show was Los Pampas Gauchos. I can see they have gone to fewer comedians and more visual entertainment before the Asia trip. We have late seating in the dining room as requested. We have a nice 6 top table with Lisa and Chris, our new BFFW (best friends for a week) a honeymooning couple (mid 30’s) from Wales. Dinner was good. The Vidalia onion tart and Tuscan soup were best. I had the recommended seafood but should have gone for the steak from the alternative menu. We retired early this evening.

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
We slept in this morning then had room service breakfast on the balcony. Relaxed in the solarium until the Cocktail Seminar in the Shall We Dance Lounge. We had four drinks: Cosmopolitan, Bahama Mama, Yellow Bird, & BBC. Our little group of DF’s & BFFW had great fun. I missed our scheduled C-C Meet & Mingle as it was scheduled at the same time as the Cocktail Seminar. We had a late Windjammer lunch then an afternoon nap. Our DF’s met us for wine, cheese & fruit in our cabin/balcony prior to the Captain’s Reception. We have been on board as long as Captain Olav as he has just joined the ship. Formal dinner was very good. I had shrimp cocktail, escargot, beef, & Grand Mariner soufflé for desert. We had a 30th Anniversary cake delivered for our DF’s and it came with the the waiters singing the RCL standard “Happy Versary to You” We were really the very last to leave the dining room this evening.

Day Three--Tuesday--Cozumel
The weather is again very nice. Calm seas, fair winds. We began with small early room service breakfast on the balcony as they woke us up with a phone call. I later met our DF’s in the dining room for proper breakfast. One of the waiters recognized me from a previous cruise which was very interesting. I had the eggs benedict which were good. We left the ship about 10:00 and rented a jeep for the day. Our goal was to go to Playa Bonita, but were told that the road wasn’t open on the ‘wild side’ due to hurricane Dean last week. We stopped first at Paradise Beach for a round of drinks. It was crowded, but I did hit the water just to cool off. We were off to attempt the circle of the island. We stopped at Punta Sur just to view the waves and the park was closed due to the road into the park being completely washed out. The main road around the island was also washed out in several locations on the ‘wild side’; however, we were able to make it all the way to Playa Bonita. Ricky our favorite waiter was there (12 years) and we got a table on the patio. The girls had a special sangria drink and Dos XX for the guys. The water was fantastic once you got past a bit of hurricane debris (just broken coral, fans, shells, etc.) along the first few feet of surf. After some guacamole and chips we headed for San Migel. We went to Havana Blue for mojitos, which were excellent. The girls went shopping and the guys went to Panchos Backyard for a late lunch. We had a great day in Cozumel and we returned to the ship about 4:30 . On board we relaxed and cooled off in the pool. We attended the production show, Piano Man, in the theater which was before late seating dining. The show was very good. They have four new feature singers from our RH cruise six months ago. They were younger, but IMHO better. Dinner was good. Maryland Crab cake, Salad, Pork Chop, and Baked Alaska were my selections. We enjoyed the balcony for a while before retiring.

Day Four--Wednesday--Roatan
I had a Windjammer breakfast and DW had room service on the balcony. We have been to Roatan several times, but this was the first time we have been able to see the mainland of Honduras. Very impressive with the large mountain ranges. Usually they are covered in clouds, but it was a very clear morning (you couldn’t see them after noon). Since we have been here many times we had nothing major planned. Our DF’s took an all-day island tour and we took a bicycle taxi to Coxen Hole and walked down hill back to the ship looking at a few shops on the way. Lunch in Windjammer which I have found consistently has very good lunch selections. My choices were: corned beef, pork cutlets, sweet & sour chicken. When not eating today we enjoyed the ship, especially the Solarium. We had drinks with fruit & cheese on the balcony for sail away. The show was before dinner and featured comedian/singer Roger Behr who had a great act. Dinner was very good, I had the Steak from the alternative menu, Jalapeño potato soup and the BBB for desert. The service was excellent and again we were last to leave the dining room as the company was so good.

Day Five--Thursday--Playa del Carmen
We were originally scheduled to stop at Costa Maya on this day, but it was hit by Hurricane Dean last week and the pier was destroyed. PDC is a good replacement port. I had a dining room breakfast this morning. Good, but the room service and Windjammer breakfasts are equally as good. We stayed on the ship and swam while most pax were concerning themselves with tender tickets and going ashore. After a Windjammer lunch we took the tender to Playa del Carmen. I found a Cuban Bar right away and hung there while the others shopped. Very good mojitos @ 50 pesos each. Didn’t do much else as it was very hot and we returned to the ship by 4:00. This would be an excellent place to take a tour to Tulum, go to Xcaret, or take excursions, but we were in Playa twice last year so we just took it easy this year. Did not want to fight crowds in the heat. DW headed back to the solarium for a swim. We hosted our own party on the balcony rather than attend the Crown & Anchor get together. We again ordered fruit and cheese plates to snack on and enjoyed cocktails with DF’s and BFFW. Tonight is the second formal night. Lobster was the choice for most at dinner and yes a second lobster was available to those who wished. I thought the dinner was good, but not great. The production show was Pure Country and it was very good. Also later was the Gala Buffet at midnight. Didn’t make it after the lobster, but heard it was great.

Day Six--Friday--Progreso
We arrived at Progreso about 10:00 a.m. in fact a bit early. I was able to get down to deck 1 just as they cleared the ship and was actually the 1st person off the ship. I wanted to get off early to assure that we could get a rental car. They do not have that many at the pier. We got a nice 4-door sedan and began our day by driving to Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins and Museum. We had been before but our DF’s had not. It was interesting, but very hot. I did enjoy a swim in the Cenote. From there we drove to Xcambo to see those Mayan ruins. These were smaller but again very interesting and located near the coast and the Laguna Rosada which is the home to large groups of Flamingos. There were many more Flamingos than we had seen in previous trips, but we had not gone all the way to Laguna Rosada either. We then headed back to Progreso and our favorite restaurant/bar, Le Saint Bonnet. We always set on the bar side as we linger to enjoy drinks as well as the food. My old friend Carlos remembered me AND the number of times I had visited. DW bought some very nice embroidery pieces from roaming Mayan vendors and we enjoyed a few mariachis while relaxing in the bar. DW believes this port has the best shopping values of any of the ports. We returned the rental car about 6:30 and enjoyed the large mariachis band playing in the pier area from the aft balcony which faces the pier since the Rhapsody backs into the dock area. Dinner was scheduled for 8:45 tonight due to late port departure. I had shrimp cocktail and the NY strip steak. The DF’s & BFFW visited the Viking Lounge, but too much port fun for the old timers.

Day Seven--Saturday--Sept. 1st--at Sea
It rained during the night, but the weather is clear and the seas are very smooth. Room service breakfast again this morning. Relaxing in the solarium pool area is the agenda of the day. Another good location for relaxation and sun is on deck five (muster/lifeboat) deck. I had my first lunch in the dining room just to check it and it was good, I had the Buffalo chicken sandwich. The guys played the Ultimate Trivia, but didn’t even get close. Who know how many ridges are on the edge of a dime? (118) I also had to check tea in the Windjammer just because I hadn’t all week. The scones were very good and they had a great selection of sandwiches, tacos, finger foods, etc.

Flourescence was the show preceding the final farewell production show. Tonight is unique as it’s the farewell show for both the RH Galveston sailing's and the entire group of singers and dancers. The troupe were able to perform their own selections and interpretive dances. It was very good. Some acts better than others. The Friendship Celebration Parade between dinners was both sad and interesting as they did play up the fact that they were sorry to be leaving Galveston, the Rhapsody's home port for five years. The final dinner was as usual very good. I had the Chicken Marsala. The melting chocolate cake was a great desert. A final farewell to the waiters and new friends. We skipped the late shows in order to pack and be up early the next morning.

No room service on debarkation morning. We had some milk and snacks we had saved. This was Captain Olav's first docking in Galveston and he did take his time in the turning basin. It did allow us time to see the dolphins in the harbor, we didn't see any at sail away. We also had a good view of the aft balcony cabin on the Conquest we will have in a few weeks. We did the self assist debarkation and it went fairly well. I picked up the car and drove back to pick up the others. It went fairly slow but we were still off the island by 8:45 am. Brunch at Ana’s in Hearne, Texas, famous for great miga's. Home by 1:45 p.m.

I do think that the Rhapsody has gone through a transition and we’ll see if it keeps its reputation as the Friendliest Ship on the Seas. Yes there was vibration, and more than on our previous RH cruises. I really like the changes in the Windjammer, but DW said she liked the previous layout. There are more individual smaller stations for food, salad, breads, and one station that alternates from a Stir Fry Bar, Deli Bar, Pasta Bar, etc. that is excellent. The passageways are narrow on Rhapsody so be careful. Again, yes the vibration is much more noticeable, but we are on a moving ship.

The staff and crew are very good. Our waiter Cleo from India and his assistant from China were very good. The head waiter, Chris from England, was unique and reminded DW of a Harry Potter house elf. Our cabin steward, from China, was very good. He went above and beyond usual tasks and cleaning. The staff is very Asian oriented now. Most from China, but also Indonesia, India, and the Philippines. Less from Eastern Europe, Caribbean, and Americas. The Asian crew are very good. Sometimes there would be a language barrier, but they are so willing to help in any way. Eric, the cruise director is very good, not too much, if you know what I mean. He’s taking a vacation following this cruise coming back when the Voyager arrives in Galveston. I look forward to seeing him on the Voyager.

We had cabin 7652 which is an aft with the large extended wrap balcony. We had booked this last year on The RH in order to get this cabin. When we arrived the bathroom had a sour smell. We notified our Steward and he said he would really clean well that evening. He did and it was fine. There are no public aft stairs so it is a long walk to the elevator/stairs mid ship. The advantage of this cabin is the large balcony and we used it this voyage.

If you have read this far you probably have figuired out that I like food. The new room service breakfast menu has fewer selections than previously, but still more than most cruise lines, so it is a great option. Our two favorite room service items are the fruit plate and the cheese plate. They did not disappoint. The cheese plate consists of five different cheeses and garnished with a few strawberries, walnuts, and dried apricots. It is served with water biscuits or saltines. The fruit plate has grapes. pineapple, kiwi, melon, strawberry, and orange slice. It is garnished with mint. Both are great. Lunch is the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer buffet is also very good and better than many other lines. I actually prefer the Windjammer luncheon by far over the dining room. Many more selections and variety of food. There are ice creme and yogurt machines.

Needs Improvement
The water jets on the entry steps of the Solarium pool never worked. Loyalty Ambassador.

We really enjoyed the cruise and met some very nice people including many C-C members and we had an excellent dinner table group. The weather was fantastic all week although hot during the day. Another great cruise!

Flamingos at Laguna Rosada

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Review--Grand Princess--March 17, 2007

Review--Grand Princess--March 17, 2007
Just The Facts
Grand Princess
March 17-March 24, 2007
Captain: Edward Perrin
Cruise Director: James Ibrahim
Ports: Galveston-Costa Maya-Roatan-Belize-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather: Excellent all week

Day 1-Embarkation- Woke early to finish packing and also checked the Galveston Harbor Cam web site. The Grand is not yet docked, which is a worrisome thing. You want to see your ship before beginning the drive. We left the Ranch about 6:30 and drove strait through without major delays so we decided if possible to drop off the bags at the pier before parking at EZ Cruise. We had spotted the Grand while crossing the Galveston Island bridge so no worries. It was only a bit late as we found out. We dropped the bags and DW at terminal one just after 11:00 a.m. I went to EZ Cruise and parked without problem. There was a long line of people waiting to board shuttles with their bags for the pier so we did the right thing. I just walked the 2+ blocks. A slight delay waiting for security, but the line ran smoothly. After we cleared security we went to the “priority check in” and we were checked in without a wait. They had not begun boarding so we made our way to the waiting area and we were taken to the priority area which was just a few seats along the wall beyond the waiting area. The person who took us began the boarding process so our timing on everything was perfect. We were onboard about 11:45. We took our bags to the cabin and luckily it was ready and available. We went down to the Divinci dining room and it was not serving. Only big disappointment of the day. We went to the buffet and it was OK, but I had my heart set on the dining room. After lunch we went to the cabin to rest and relax. The thermostat didn’t work so we told our steward who said she reported it. The fan was blowing hot air, but we left the verandah door open which neutralized the temperature. We exchanged our “elite’ bar for items we would use while waiting. Our bags came fairly quickly. We were unpacked and settled in by 2:30. We had our own welcome aboard drinks on the balcony and watched all the activity of ‘sailing/turn around day at the pier. The weather was wonderful and there were a lot of people walking around Galveston and the Strand. The balcony on deck 14 give you a great view across the island.

After muster drill we met the Cruise Critic roll-call group at the Oasis bar. A very well attended event and a good mixer. We met so many wonderful people. We attended the Welcome Show and met the new CD, James Ibrahim. The comedian was Cary Long who was good. We have late sitting dinner in the Botticelli at 8:15. A nice table completely aft in the dining room. I had shrimp cocktail, mushroom soup and the prime rib. It was good, but not super. Got off to rocky start with waiter, I waited for a menu for a long while after being seated although everyone else had a menu. Also didn’t serve or offer condiments for my iced tea. We’ll see how that works out tomorrow night. Following dinner we went to the cabin and it was like a sauna. Very hot. We called the purser and they sent someone right away. They worked on a temporary fix so I went to the casino and played the Texas hold’em table. I could only last until 1:00 a.m. and just did OK. It was very interesting though. The table was nonsmoking which was nice. The cabin was cooler by the time I got back, so no major problem.

Day 2-at sea- The weather is nice, perhaps a bit cool. I had breakfast, Eggs Benedict, in the dining room and it was very good. They have a different specialty item each morning and I want to again try each during the week. I visited the internet cafe and the connections were good considering we are at sea. Not as crowed as usual. The new system for platinum & elite seems very simple. I think 90% will never notice a difference. I don’t consider it a down grade of benefits at all. Since you no longer swipe your card, it keeps people from opening a row of computers for their kids to play games. Maintenance came to the cabin to fix the thermostat and something in the blower itself. Seems to work fine now. We passed the Ecstasy going south at about 11:30. I ate lunch, Red Snapper, in the dining room. and DW had a buffet from Horizon court and ate on the balcony. We took a nap and missed tea so we ordered light snacks for the cabin. This is formal night and the Captains Gala Cocktail Party. For dinner I had the tournedos of beef and a soufflé for desert. Very good and the service was excellent tonight. We went to the Princess Theater and saw the production show Cinematastic. This was the third time we have seen this show and I found myself concentrating on the ‘dance captain' who we met on a previous cruise. What a bundle of energy. After the show we went to the casino. Tonight is no smoking night in the casino. It seem to be very busy and very noticeable was that people were much better dressed. My thought is yes they get more people than normal and the dinner dress indicates perhaps ‘new’ people into the casino. We went by the Horizon court late as our cabin is on Lido deck. DW was impressed with the selection that late. I made a little desert/fruit plate to take back to the cabin. Tonight we set our clocks back one hour. I think this will place ships time and all our ports on the same time.

Day 3-Costa Maya-The weather is beautiful this morning. Eggs Florentine was the feature breakfast in the dining room and it was good. We docked in Costa Maya next to the Carnival Liberty. From our balcony, which is only about six cabins from the bridge, we have a perfect view of the Captain maneuvering the ship into dock. He backed it into the inner side of the pier. A+ Just after we docked the Carnival Holiday docked in the 3rd position. It was interesting contrasting the newest and oldest of the Carnival ships. Our balcony cabin faced the Liberty so it was also easy to compare the Grand with the Liberty as well. The Liberty seem to be at least one deck higher than the Grand. A nice looking ship.

We went to shore about noon and met up with Cruise Critic friends at El Faro in Mahahual. Spent the afternoon enjoying: mojitos, mariachis and good company. Mojito Monday was quite fun. The ship sailed on time at 6:00 p.m. We had in cabin tea delivered to our cabin and we had our own sail away party on the balcony. Amazingly the Costa Maya Harbor Master tied down the Liberty and wouldn’t allow her to leave. I’m anxious to hear what that was all about. We watched until we could no longer see her. I read on the internet that she was still there very late into the evening.

Tonight is Italian night in the dining room. The eggplant parmesan was excellent, my favorite dish on the Grand. I had it as both appetizer and entree. Tiramisu for desert. Mojito Monday had caught up with me so I retired after dinner.

Day 4-Roatan- It was cloudy very early but cleared by midmorning. The featured breakfast was a special French Toast and DW actually joined me for breakfast this morning. We decided to stay aboard ship today. This was our forth visit to Roatan and we have seen and done almost everything on the island. We enjoyed time at the spa pool, lunch in dining room, internet cafe, and the cabin. Again enjoyed sail away from the balcony. We left at 5:00 and it was still very much daylight and a beautiful day. The sea was like glass. It was Caribbean night in the dining room, one of the weaker menus so I had the New York strip steak which was good. The Caribbean Party is now amidship on Lido deck which is very nice, you can’t use MUTS for movies, but they showed live shots of the party. The poker tables and satellite tournament were full this evening.

Day 5-Belize- Another beautiful day in the Caribbean. Huevos Rancheros was the breakfast in the dining room and very good. My plan today is to go to Caye Caulker and DW, who usually stays aboard in Belize, decided she would go ashore as well. After tendering to Belize City I went to see my friend Marvin at Ecological Tours and he agreed to let us ride one of his snorkel boats over and and back to Caye Caulker. The ride over was rough as we were fighting the ‘easterly' and current. The ‘easterly' winds did provide a great cool breeze off of the caribbean all day though. The boat dropped us off about 11:30 am and this gave us a full 3+ hours on the island. First stop was the Wet Lizard located at the split. Alma is still tending bar. The split had a lot of young folks enjoying the water and sun. Several Bilikins later we began our tour of the island. This is a very laid-back out of the way location with sandy streets and no vehicles. Beautiful boutique looking buildings painted in pastels with palm trees and beach everywhere you look. You can easily see from one side of the island to the other. We bought some banana bread and a meat pie from a bicycle vendor and it was quite good. His wife made them fresh that morning. We met the snorkeling group and returned to Belize City. Much smoother and faster return. We tendered back to the ship by 4:15.

This was the second formal night. Dinner was very good. Escargot was the appetizer and I had the Beef tournedos of beef with lobster. Before retiring we attended the Motor City show which was very good.
Day 6-Cozumel-Again another beautiful day. The Lumberjack breakfast was featured in the dining room. This is the best of the specialty breakfasts. There were six ships in port for only four berths. International pier can now dock two ships which is a recent development. It does help the odds. We were fortunate that we docked at Punta Langosta which is walking distance of town. The Ecstasy was opposite us. We went to town about 10:00 a.m. and went by Mayan Pearl to see Nelly. I got a haircut at Antonio’s while DW shopped. We went down to Havana Blue for mojitos. Jorge still makes the best mojitos in the Caribbean IMHO. We took a taxi back to the ship about 1:30 pm. in time for lunch in the dining room. I took a nap and DW went to a movie in the Princess theater. We watched the sail away and saw two people rushing to the boat as we pulled away. They boarded the pilot boat and caught the ship coming up the rope ladder. Both were crew members who worked in the casino. We ate with friends taking advantage of the ‘anytime dining’. We may just have to try that next cruise. Dinner tonight was good. I had the crab legs. This was also French onion soup night-very good. Following dinner I played Texas Hold’em until very late. Guess who the dealer was...yes one of the late crew members. He supposedly forgot to change his watch back earlier in the cruise so he was off ships time. We also had to set our clocks forward tonight which was easy to do since I was still awake.

Day 7-at Sea-Seas were a little higher overnight, but nothing compared to the last Grand cruise. We got fruit from Horizon court and ate on the balcony. We have caught up with the Ecstasy who left Cozumel two hours ahead of us. Nice watching her from the balcony and we passed her before noon.

We were again invited to the Captains Luncheon as we are frequent cruisers. We sat with Passenger Services Director Franco Consavari & his lovely wife Jo. Franco is head of all Hotel services on board. The food & desert was very good, I had the lamb. We talked with the Captain and also saw Chief Technical Officer John Bates and his wife Linda. We had met John & Linda previously and really enjoy them. Also a chance to meet some of the other officers aboard ship.

We went to afternoon tea and enjoyed the scones which are very good. We walked around the ship and enjoyed the day. We went to the Farewell Variety show featuring Chris Linn and Rollin’Jay Moore. Farewell Dinner was good. I had prime rib. The Baked Alaska parade has returned and it was a very good dessert. Time to cash casino chips and settle sail card account. Did well on poker table, covered the on board account and coming home with some extra pocket $. We returned to the cabin to pack and prepare for debarkation which took the rest of the evening.

Debarkation-We arrive in Galveston and were docked at about 7:00 a.m. They did use a tug to assist the turn around in the turning basin. We are doing self-debarkation and were assigned numbers 350-351. We went to the Vista Lounge about 7:20 and I was a bit worried about going the opposite direction of the gangway. Soon they called for the 100 & 200 numbers and shortly afterward called the 300’s. We got off in very good shape. They had four + customs agents working on the pier-no problems. We walked over to EZ Cruise parking and were pulling out of the parking lot at 8:00 a.m. Arrived home about 1:00 p.m..

Ship / PAX: All the public rooms were well maintained and very clean. The ship doesn’t look worn in any way. There are lots of spaces for various cruise activities on all the public decks. There were a lot of people from Oklahoma and Kansas on board as it is ‘spring break’ for them. More kids than we are used to, but all in all it was a good mix of passengers. Princess did add a group of "Youth Security" personnel due to spring break season. They seemed to have everything under control.

Cabin: We were in a starboard side Lido deck balcony a little more forward than in December. Very good view of the bridge. We did have the new bedding this cruise (didn’t in December). The cabins are smaller than Carnival and does not have a couch. Smaller closets and bath area storage than RCL and Carnival. The cabin is quite adequate though. There was the bar set up and some of the other Elite perks. MaryAnn our Stateroom Steward was good. The cabin safe uses a code. Once the air conditioning problems were fixed all was fine. No towel animals, but none were expected. Just a nice clean cabin.

Food: As many know the Horizon Court set up is probably not ideal. The food was good though. And food is available 24 hours. Very good to excellent food in the dining room. The wait service is generally the best of any cruise line I have experienced. Our waiter, Nick, from Romania was good. Most all the staff are good. We may use ‘Anytime’ next cruise, but you would miss out on some specialty items such as Baked Alaska, Bananas Foster, etc. The sandwiches served at tea are smaller, probably more like proper tea sandwiches. Previously they were on small rolls and croissants and ‘man sized’ tea sandwiches.

3 Suggestions: A line for Elite/Platinum guests at Pursers office. Missed the sea bass usually served on 1st sea day. Review sail accounts on television.

Cruise: We had a great time on this cruise, but usually always do. Everything is so well done and the crew is outstanding. It’s a shame that the Grand isn’t returning to Galveston next year. The Crew or staff would not confirm any rumors about any other Princess ship coming to the new Houston Cruise Ship Terminal in 2008/9 other than what most of us already suspect.
Again, we loved the ports of call on this sailing. We also had a wonderful time with the new friends we met on board. This cruise goes down as one of our better cruises.

Most Improved/Best Improvement: Photographers. On our previous Grand cruises the photographers were very intrusive. Especially during dinner and sometimes on debarkation in ports. One girl in particular in December we avoided like the plague. After rearranging our dinner table in the middle of eating for a photo we swore off photographers especially her. She also actually accosted us upon leaving the ship for walking around her little barrier she set up. It was unsafe, held up debarkation, and a huge inconvenience to those who didn’t want photos. Very bad form. There are plenty of photo opportunities for passengers without accosting passengers. Not EVERYONE wants a photo. On this cruise the photographers were polite and would pass if told a photo was not wanted. A much needed improvement, one I also mentioned to Franco Consavari at the Captains lunch.

Link to great photos of this cruise by our friend John:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Review--Shark Ray Alley Snorkel & Caye Caulker Tour

Review--Shark Ray Alley Snorkel & Caye Caulker Beach Tour
Ecological Tours & Services--Belize C.A.

I have had the pleasure of taking the Snorkel & Reef tour offered by Ecological Tours / Wet ‘n Wild on a couple of occasions while in Belize. It is a very simple process to meet the tours at the pier in Belize City. You can check-in at the Ecological Tours kiosk located directly on the front of the boardwalk where the cruise ship tenders dock. They have several boats which leave in the morning and return you well before the last tender back to your cruise ship is scheduled to leave. A typical tour consists of a 30-40 minute trip to the barrier reef and a snorkeling opportunity at Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and Coral Gardens which is a protected underwater national park. The park and reef area have a large number of tropical fish and eels in addition to the beautiful coral and reef. You also visit the Shark/Stingray alley for opportunities to view stingrays, nurse sharks, barracuda and other sea life. All snorkel gear and instruction is included. Following your water adventures you have 45+ minutes on Caye Caulker for lunch and to visit the unique shops on this remote barrier island.

I really enjoyed my tours with Ecological Tours and would highly recommend them to anyone.

They also offer tours for cave-tubing and into the interior.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Norway Photo from long ago

Not really a review, but interesting.......

My dear wife is a volunteer at the local theater. The next play takes place in the 1970-80's and they mention going on a cruise in the dialogue. She asked me if I had any old photos they could use to place as a prop on the stage. I searched the old cruise box and came up with this photo. It's 25 years old this year I believe.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Review--Rhapsody of the Seas--January 14, 2007

Rhapsody of the Seas January 14-21, 2007

Just The Facts
Rhapsody of the Seas
January 14-January 21, 2007
Captain: Anders Ingebrigtsen
Cruise Director: Abe Hughes
Ports: Galveston-Key West-Grand Cayman-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather: Excellent all week

This cruise was booked while on board last year. This was our third time on the Rhapsody which is DW’s favorite ship.

Day Zero--Saturday--Travel
Usually we drive down to Galveston on the day of debarkation; however, there is an ice storm forecast for our area and ice has begun to form on the trees by our house. (We do live on a mountain). We quickly finished packing and left for Galveston just after 1:00 pm. We got out of ice danger by Waco, but it did rain the entire way to Houston. The temperature got warmer the further south we went. We had a great Mexican dinner at Mary’s Alamo Cafe in Hearne, Texas. We arrived at the LaQuinta in the west beach area of Galveston just after 6:00 pm. The room was a very large suite. No Gaidos because of the big late lunch. We did enjoy the movie, Wedding Crashers, which was featured that night. Following the movie I went to get a snack and there was a wedding party staying on our floor. Interesting.

Day One--Sunday--Embarkation
We enjoyed a casual morning especially knowing we were already in Galveston. It is very foggy, but the Galveston harbor web cam showed the ships already in port so there was no fear about delays. We dropped our bags off at terminal two about 10:45 am and drove to EZCruise parking. We walked back to the terminal and was checked in by 11:25 am. A short wait and they began boarding at 11:35 (scheduled for 11:45 on sign). We were on board by 11:40 waiting for the Windjammer to open at noon. The Windjammer buffet is again very good, especially the roast beef. Our cabin was late being ready so we toured the ship. We noticed our bags in the elevator area of our deck and helped by taking them to our cabin which was now ready. Nice to be unpacked and settled before muster drill.

Our C-C group had prearranged to wear mardi gras beads so it was easy to find our new friends following muster drill. We sailed just a bit late and the dolphins did put on a show.

The Welcome Aboard Show was good. The new CD is Abe Hughes and the comedian for the welcome show was Ralph Achilles. We have late seating in the dining room as requested. They announced dinner would be delayed by 15 minutes tonight due to late bag distribution and departure. Dinner was very good. The Vidalia onion tart and Tuscan soup were best. I had the steak from the alternative menu. (BTW-the real reason for delaying dinner is so that they can serve/sell wine at the first dinner seating without paying Texas taxes.)

Day Two--Monday--at Sea
We slept in this morning then had breakfast in the Windjammer. Relaxed until the scheduled C-C meeting in the Moonlight Lounge. Our cruise director, Abe Hughes, even stopped by to say hello. RCL provided canapés, a gift (note pad) for everyone, and a several raffle prizes. The weather and seas have been fantastic much better than our previous several cruises. We skipped the Captains reception which was held in the Shall We Dance Lounge as we watched a movie in the cabin. 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
The weather is again very nice. Calm seas, fair winds. We began with room service breakfast and slept most of the morning. One of the advantages of an inside cabin. Resting up for Key West night. DW spent most of the rest of the day in the Solarium swimming and relaxing. They served southern style pork chops & potatoes with onions in the Windjammer. I was looking forward to this lunch since last Rhapsody trip. 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 and acknowledge with the horns. A lot of traffic as there was a regatta ending a sail and we were all heading into port at the same time. Key West: The weather was much better (cooler) than our previous trips to Key West so we thought we walk the entire length of Duvall street to the Southern Most Point marker. A nice walk and on the way we stopped for chocolate dipped key lime pie at the Blond Giraffe. Heading back up Duvall we stopped for drinks at a couple places and ended up at Sloppy Joe’s for a while. Wanting to do something different and unique to Key West, we attended a Drag Queen Show at the Aquabar club. (The 801 and LaTeDa were the other choices) It was different and unique all right. Who knew Dolly Parton, Liza Minelli, Karen Walker, and Madonna were all going to be in Key West? We returned to the ship about 11:00 and had a late snack. We were too tired from the walking to stay up for the sail away buffet on deck and retired.

Day Four--Wednesday--at Sea
Room service breakfast works very well so we did it once again. We had purchased tickets to the Cocktail Seminar at Sea which was at 12:15. This was entertaining, but they have one fewer drink than we had in September. They passed out samples of: Cosmopolitans, Bahama Mamas, Yellow Birds, & BBC’s (Baileys-Bananna-Coloda mix). Also they passed out four coupons when they collected the tickets so no extra samples this time. Lunch in Windjammer which I have found has very good lunch selections. I had the roast beef. They don’t do a formal tea on Rhapsody, but they have light snacks, similar to tea, in the Windjammer. I did sample the scones and bread pudding. They did have some meats and cheeses as well. Dinner was good. Maryland Crab cake, New England clam chowder, Pork chop, and Baked Alaska were my selections. When not eating today we enjoyed the ship especially the Solarium.

Day Five--Thursday--Grand Cayman
I had my first dining room breakfast this morning. Good, but the room service and Windjammer breakfasts are equally as good. We did go ashore this time (we didn’t in September), but only long enough to get some liquor to take home, diet coke for the rest of the cruise, and some pirate items for DD at home feeding the animals. We were back on the Rhapsody before noon and enjoyed the Solarium for the rest of the day. I did have a steam in the sauna after lunch in the Windjammer. Corned beef & cabbage was very good. DW said the coconut surprise cookies were excellent. We used our C&A coupons for 2 for 1 Bahama mama’s and Cosmopolitans for the 4:00 sail away. Back to the solarium for a swim/hot tub. We ordered fruit and cheese plates to snack on before the Crown & Anchor get together. We had a glass of champagne at the C&W reception. Tonight is the second formal night. Lobster was the choice for most at dinner and yes a second lobster was available to those who wished. I thought the dinner was good, but not great. The production show was Pure Country and it was very good. Also later was the Gala Buffet at midnight. Didn’t make it after the lobster, but heard it was great.

Day Six--Friday--Cozumel
We docked at Punta Langosta with the Conquest across from us. The Mariner was at the International pier. Three ships in port are not bad at all. No too crowded in town. We have been to Cozumel more than 35 times and seven times in the past year so we 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 and got a haircut at Antonio's. We walked down to Havana Blue for a couple of mojitos, then some shopping on the way back. Everyone was back on the ship in good order and we actually pulled out a few minutes early. There was some friendly cheers between the Conquest and Rhapsody pax as we pulled away. There was only on production show and it was The Hughes Brothers from Branson, MO. The theater was packed-SRO and they were very good. Dinner was great, my favorite of the cruise. I ordered Shrimp cocktail, Onion soup, and the New York strip steak. The steak was perfect so I ordered a second just to make sure. It too was excellent. We did go to see Ralph Achilles late comedy show.

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea
Room service breakfast again this morning. Relaxing in the solarium pool area is again the agenda of the day. Another good location for relaxation and sun is on deck five (muster/lifeboat) deck. As the ship progresses the weather is getting cooler and cloudier the further north we go. The farewell production show was good and the International Parade between dinners was very good. The final dinner was as usual very good. I had the steak from the alternative menu, but probably should have gone with the chicken marsala. A final farewell to the waiters and new friends. We skipped the late shows in order to pack and be up early the next morning.

No room service on debarkation morning. We had some milk and snacks we had saved. We did the self assist debarkation and it went fairly well. There was a slight hold up because of rain. We did ride the EZCruise parking shuttle which took a bit longer than walking, but we were still off the island by 8:15 am. Brunch at Ana’s in Hearne, Texas, famous for great Miga's. Home by 1:00 p.m.

I do think that the Rhapsody does deserve its reputation as the friendliest ship on the seas. There were more non-Texans on board than my previous RH cruises. More bookings from cold states and Canada during winter is my guess. The ship itself does show some wear and needs the upcoming dry dock. Yes there was vibration, but less than in September. I only noticed it on deck 9 in the Solarium and usually while sailing slower or once still. The passageways are narrow on Rhapsody so be careful.

The staff and crew are very good. Our waiter Maximo from Chile and assistant waiter Kemper from St. Lucia were very good. Kemper especially was the best assistant waiter I have ever had. Never an empty glass. Always the correct condiment. Since announcing the move to Asia, they have been gradually changing the crew and staff nationalities. More from Asia, India, and the Philippines. Less from Europe, Caribbean, and Americas. I’m sure it will be more so when we return to the Rhapsody for the LAST sailing to/from Galveston in August. A note for Mrs. Hughes: This was our first cruise on RH that Dan Whitney was not the cruise director so we were really observing Abe all week. He did a great job. We saw him all over the ship including the Cruise Critic meeting. He refreshed the standard CD jokes and was very good with the passengers. He will do well with RCL.

We had originally booked this as an I/S cabin bargain fare while onboard the Rhapsody last year. Basically needing a few extra cruises to make Platinum before we have our Voyager b2b next year. We did later upgrade from deck 2 to far aft deck 7 last i/s-cabin 7653. We did try for a very late up-buy, but all the JS and balcony cabins were sold out. The cabin is located all the way aft in the area of the aft wraps which we love. Melene was our room steward and did a great job for us. We also saw Dale our room steward from September. The cabin is fine for two people. 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. There is also noise in the mornings from the laundry closet on the back wall of the cabin. The steward use these to access laundry and they do slam the doors. The cabin needs updating and It will be in February so we’ll have the new bedding, etc. on our Rhapsody cruise in August. We did enjoy this cabin. We will enjoy 7651 better.

The room service breakfast has more selections than most cruise lines, so it is a great option. Our two favorite room service items are the fruit plate and the cheese plate. They did not disappoint and were even better than we had them in September and 10 times better than on The Splendour of the Seas last month. The cheese plate consists of five different cheeses and garnished with a few strawberries, walnuts, and dried apricots. It is served with water biscuits or saltines. The fruit plate has grapes. pineapple, kiwi, melon, strawberry, and orange slice. It is garnished with mint. Both are great.

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 Windjammer buffet is also very good and better than other lines. There are ice creme and yogurt machines in the Windjammer. The steaks were the best food item and excellent on this cruise.
Needs Improvement
The water jets at the entry steps of the pool in the Solarium never worked. Smoking was much improved from previous RH cruise. New signs on port side decks reminded that it was nonsmoking. IMHO-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. Also the self-debarkation should be limited to one bag & one carry on per person.

We really enjoyed the cruise and met some very nice people including a good C-C group and excellent dinner table group. The weather was fantastic all week. Another great cruise!