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

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