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!