Monday, November 6, 2017

Rhapsody of the Seas - Transatlantic Cruise - November 2017

Just the Facts:
Captain:  Juan Caranti from Argentina
Cruise Director:  Graham Seymour from England
Embarkation: Barcelona, Spain November 5, 2017
Ports: Lanzarote, Canary Islands; Gran Canaria, Canary Islands; La Palma, Canary Islands; and private island CocoCay, Bahama Islands

This is my 27th Royal Caribbean cruise, sixth time on the Rhapsody of the Seas, and my 133rd cruise overall.  I am sailing with my Dear Wife and this is the final leg of a European adventure.

Day One  -  Travel / Barcelona  -  Embarkation  -  Sunday - November 5th

View of our cruise ship from arriving flight
We had an early 6:00 am Lufthansa flight so met our driver before 4:00 am for the drive to the Munich airport.  It was a completely automated process at the airport.  We got our boarding passes from a kiosk, then found the auto baggage check-in.  We loaded each bag onto a conveyor that displayed the weight, then scanned the boarding passes on computer screen, answered questions, then baggage tags were printed.  We place the tags on the luggage, it scans them then the conveyor takes them away.  Glad we were able to do it as a live check-in agent wouldn’t be available until later in morning and we had a 5:30 deadline to check bags and boarding began at 5:50 am.  We enjoyed Lufthansa and the flight crew were very friendly,  we even had a choice of a Danish or small egg sandwich.  I had a nice view of the cruise ships in the Barcelona harbor as we landed about 8:00 am.  Once we retrieved our bags we found the Royal Caribbean airport representatives and were scheduled on the first shuttle to the ship at 10:00 am.  They even take your luggage to be delivered to your cabin.  An hour wait was fine with free WiFi and soon we were on our way to the ship arriving about 11:00 am.  We went straight through security and priority check-in and I expected another wait before boarding, but we went directly on board the ship.  Nice and easy we even had to wait a few minutes before the Windjammer opened at 11:30 am.  DW was very pleased with the better salad choices for vegetarians on the salad bar and I usually always enjoy the Windjammer, they had Roast Beef on the carving station as usual on embarkation day.  Cabins were opened at 1:00 pm and I found my two bags on the way to our cabin on deck four forward.  I began unpacking and cabin set-up then tried to take a nap.  DW retrieved her bags an hour later and did the same.  Boat / Safety Drill was held at 4:30 pm and following that we went to the Diamond Lounge that took up all of the Shall we Dance lounge on deck six aft.  It was really packed with guests.  We enjoyed two cocktails then went up to the Concierge Lounge on deck eleven…also packed completely including the overflow into the Viking Crown Lounge so we went to the Pool Bar and used our Diamond drinks vouchers on our card to get cokes to take to the cabin.  We went to the Windjammer for dinner then retired to the cabin after this early beginning day.  We are glad to be in the same bed for 14 days following our European travels.  It was a smooth and easy day of traveling and embarking the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Two  - at Sea -  Monday - November 6th
Shall We Dance Lounge
I slept very well and it was nice to sleep until 8:00 am.  We will enjoy having no schedule while on this cruise.  I did go to the MDR for breakfast and DW ordered Room Service which is our usual cruising morning ritual.  The cabin steward, Samson, made the changes to the cabin as we requested yesterday…we had the bed split to allow more floor and window access in our extended ocean view cabin.  We relaxed most of the day only taking a break for lunch in the Windjammer.  They had a nice Pork Cutlet and Roast Pork on the carving station.  Cookies and Bread Pudding were good too.  Lot’s of activities on the ship and the weather is warm enough for full deck activities as well.  Yes there are lifeguards on duty at the pools.  The aft pool in the Solarium is reserved for guests above the age of 16…that’s nice to have a pool safe for older guests.  Not many children on this cruise though. This was the Captains Formal evening so there was a Captains Reception where you can get a photo with the Master of the Ship.  Also entertainment begins in the Broadway Melodies Theater and tonight was Motown Music with William Hicks.  Our cabin is directly above the stage of the theater and we can certainly hear the show, I picked the cabin knowing this but wanted the larger cabin; however, it is more noise than I anticipated.  I went up to the Windjammer for a great freshly thick sliced Sirloin Steak that was delicious.  DW skipped dinner so we have yet to get to table 48 in the MDR for dinner.  We made an unscheduled brief stop in the port Gibraltar about 10:30 pm due to a medical emergency, those wanting a closer look at the ‘Rock’ got their wish.  It was a very restful recover day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Three  - at Sea -  Tuesday - November 7th
Another good nights sleep and an extra hour as we set our clocks back one hour for the first time this cruise.  It should happen 4-5 more times before we reach Tampa.  I went to the MDR for another great breakfast, so nice to have good service and nice table cloths.  We got a table on Lido deck near the pool for some nice fresh sea air.  We enjoyed the poolside entertainment with the Black & White Dance Band.  Lunch in the Windjammer, they had a meatloaf with egg in the center…similar to a Scotch egg.  Also some nice Veal Scallopini.  Cabin time the rest of the day as we are still in rest and recovery mode.  Nice to have a selection of TV channels in English as we didn’t in Germany.  We did go to the Diamond lounge about 5:30 and ending up staying until almost 8:00 pm.  Enjoyed too many cocktails and hors d’oeuvres so we missed dinner again.  We did meet some nice people and we will make it to MDR for dinner eventually.  It was a nice restful day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Four  - Lanzarote, Canary Islands -  Wednesday - November 8th
Arrecife Policeman
Slept well overnight and again went to the MDR for breakfast.  It’s very convenient as our cabin is on the same deck as the MDR.  We arrived at our first port today Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote a part of the Canary Islands.  We took a taxi into town (€5) then boarded a little Hop-on Hop-off train (€4 pp) that took us by the sites of the small port town of Arrecife.  We saw the beach, Castillo, parks, and public art.  We walked the pedestrian shopping area and they actually had some fashionable names as well as local businesses.  We taxied back to the ship early and had the ship to ourselves for a while.  I took advantage by taking some photographs of the ship.  We had a late lunch in the Windjammer, they had Roast Beef at carving station and some great pork cutlets.  I happened to mention that I was disappointed that hey didn’t have any mashed potatoes today.  Soon a chef was bring a bowl of nice hot mashed potatoes to my table.  Wow, some impressive service. We watched some vintage TV shows on this afternoon until sail away at sunset from Lanzarote.  DW has sore throat so we skipped the Diamond clubs this evening although I used my D+ card to get cans of Ginger Ale for the cabin.  I did go to the MDR for the first time tonight,  Table 48 is all the way in the back of the Edelweiss Restaurant, the waiter Vladimir from Ukraine was good.  Dinner was excellent, the menu was one only used on longer cruises.  I ordered Mulligatawny soup, Baked Cheese Cannelloni with beef Mushroom Ragout (my pasta as starter tradition), the Pan Fried Pork Medallions entree, and Creme Brulee for dessert.  I retired after dinner.  An interesting day on shore and on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Five  - Gran Canaria, Canary Islands -  Thursday - November 9th
Sidewalk Cafe / Bar DaVinci
Some rolling seas overnight and I slept very well.  This is my third visit to Gran Canaria and previously I have rented a vehicle and also done a private excursion so I have seen the very beautiful island.  Our plan is to stay in Las Palmas and have an easy day so no rush to get off even though we were cleared by 7:30 am.  Since I filled out the breakfast room service menu for the DW last evening I had also decided to also have a continental breakfast this morning.  It was delivered just after 8:00 am d the oatmeal was nice as they sent brown sugar and raisins.  Fruit Plate, Muffin, and Donut as well as juice.  We left the ship about 10:00 and walked into town.  DW wanted to visit the nice Department Store El Corte Ingles to purchase her favorite Jo Malone perfume to replace her purchase made in Barcelona  last year.  Very nice European style boulevard at the store location and nice shops and stores.  We then walked some pedestrian streets and really lucked into finding a wonderful bar, Bar Da Vinci Las Palmas, where we sat on the sidewalk enjoying the scenes and weather.  I had the local Canary Island draft beer and DW had an Iced Coffee.  We stayed for a second round and light snack before walking back through the park to the cruise pier.  We went up to the Windjammer before most returned to the ship for a nice lunch.  They had Turkey meatloaf at carving station (new to me…just fair) and very nice breaded pork chops.  I was able to enjoy a nice nap in the afternoon…a very restful afternoon following the walk around town. Sail away was an hour + late so the lights of the city were nice as we sailed from the harbor.  DW still a bit under the weather so I went to Windjammer for dinner.  A lot of guests eat there every night and the selections are very good.  Tonight they had Pork Roast on the carving station and several other meat entrees.  You can get a variety of wines as well.  A good option to the MDR.  The featured entertainment was Tracey Shields a vocalist who covers Celine Dion and others.  Only fair entertainment so far…IMHO.  It was an enjoyable day in Las Palmas today.

Day Six  - La Palma, Canary Islands -  Friday - November 10th
Typical Santa Cruz de la Palma architecture
Really rolling seas overnight but I enjoy that when sleeping.  We arrived early and were cleared by 7:30 am in San Miguel de La Palma, the most north-westerly island of the Canary Islands, Spain.  I have visited five of the seven primary Canary Islands.  Overcast today so no tours, but we did go into the town of Santa Cruz de Palma.  We really enjoyed the old cobblestone 'high' streets of the town and the very unique architecture. Many buildings also reminded us of Havana with the 18-19th century Spanish Colonial architecture.  Most of the old buildings contained modern shops and businesses.  Very pleasant browsing the streets and area.  We had a nice stop at La Placeta for drinks.  This was DW's favorite of the three Canary Islands we visited, I prefer Gran Caneria, but the town was most interesting.  I would not bother with an ship excursion here.  We returned to the ship for a late lunch in the Windjammer Cafe then rested from the walk. Cabin time primarily the rest of the day and just a light snack for dinner.  It was a new experience on the island today.

Day Seven  - at Sea -  Saturday - November 11th
Rolling seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and ordered an Eggs Benedict + extras...all very good.  We had a lazy morning then went up to the Lido deck to enjoy the sea breezes and the Hott Sands Caribbean Band…they played for several hours...longer than the other groups that have played on Lido, but the Lido is their ‘home’ stage.  I thought it was perfect weather, but DW felt cool as did some leaving the pool…it was partly sunny to cloudy all day.  A Windjammer lunch then NCAA football all afternoon and evening.  I’m able to stream the games so it’s great on this sea day.  It was formal night tonight, but we quit doing formal many cruises ago, especially on a long adventure…not packing extra clothes.  The feature entertainment was male vocalist Jimmy Hopper and a Game Show.  It was German night in the Windjammer buffet tonight, they had Red Cabbage, Potato Pancakes, Pork Cutlets, Sauerkraut, Sausages, and other Germain dishes as well as the usual food items.  My alma mater Oklahoma has a late feature game (7:00 pm CST) at home so it’s not shown until 1:00 am Sunday on the ship.  No sports bar on the Rhapsody but I created one with my computer, Rhapsody cookies & snacks, and complementary drinks...a nice long sports day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Eight  - at Sea -  Sunday - November 12th
Salad Bar
Still rolling seas but calming a little.  We turned our time back an hour but I still slept until 10:40 am since I was up watching live football most of the night.  I had a sweet plum and cookie for breakfast and decided to wait until the MDR opened for lunch to really eat.  I had a nice salad from the salad line that was set-up.  Since the Rhapsody is a smaller ship the salad area was not as large as I am used to on most RCCL ships, but it had most of the usual salad items offered.  I also ordered the Fish & Chips from the menu.  We had our deck time by the pool after lunch.  In the late afternoon it began to rain so we retired to the cabin to try and watch a new Television series,  Good Behavior, that we discovered.  It took a while to stream but watched the premier episode.  We were off our eating schedule so actually went to the Windjammer close to opening time of 6:00 pm.  I enjoyed the Pork from the carving station with Mashed Potatoes, and various Vegetables.  Good basic food.  Didn’t attend the entertainment of a Hypnotist this evening. I actually retired early since I didn’t have much sleep that lead to both of us waking in the night.  We watched two episodes of Good Behavior as the steaming was perfect in the middle of the night with no guests online and better weather.  We're going to try to binge watch the show before end of cruise.  A nice easy and unusual day/night on the Rhapsody.

Day Nine  - at Sea -  Monday - November 13th
Edelweiss Dining Room
Still a bit of rolling seas and I slept very well.  We again set our clocks back an hour that helped with sleep since we were up in the night.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast.  We had a relaxing morning, I went to Guest Services to check my bill as there is no app or access on the TV for accounting.  All well on the bill, in fact they refunded everyone a day’s charges on the internet for the day it was down for several hours.  They have been very fair in any and every circumstance I have heard about.  They have offered good pricing on several mini-packages on this long cruise for specialty dining, spa, and beverages.  All seemed to be good values.  We had another Windjammer lunch today.  I am spoiled by the wonderful buffet offerings.  I usually don’t gain weight on a cruise, but I know I am on this one.  After lunch we were able to stream another episode of our new show Good Behavior.  We had some deck time again on Lido then went to the Diamond Lounge about 7:00 pm.  It’s not been as crowded since first night, I was told there are over 800 Diamond (and above) guests on board and we met some nice people.  We did make it to the MDR for dinner, first time for DW.  The new table location is excellent, we had a six-top for just the two of us in the center and a personal waiter, we were his only table.  I even had Hearts of Palm delivered by the head waiter.  I ordered Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Garden Salad (with the Hearts of Palm), Singapore Noodles (pasta as starter), and the Mustard Crusted Roast Beef entree.  The Singapore Noodles was fabulous, the beef only fair so I was glad I was given the full portion of noodles.  Dinner was very good.  The primary entertainment tonight was country music by Pure Country, they sounded good, but we retired to the cabin for another episode of Good Behavior.  It was a good day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Ten  - at Sea -  Tuesday- November 14th
Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is brilliant.  We set time back for the third consecutive day, sleeping that extra hour a day.  I went to the MDR and ordered the Eggs Benedict, much better than previous order.  A relaxing breakfast and always an opportunity to visit with guests.  I spent some time online for Bosque Travel this morning then we went on a walkabout. Deck five is also a popular deck for guests to relax in loungers or chairs and enjoy the sea air.  We went up to decks 10 and 11 just exploring the ship before heading to the Windjammer for lunch.  Bandwidth too slow this afternoon to stream our TV show so relaxed and updated this and previous reviews for my blog.  We went to the Diamond Lounge for cocktails then to the Broadway Melodies Theater to see Craig Halliday the feature entertainer, it was an entertaining show with Halliday on violin/fiddle. We had time for another cocktail in the Diamond Lounge before our 8:30 dinner.  Our waiter was busier but we had good service and he brought a Cheese Plate to start.  I ordered the Tomato Seafood Risotto, the Four-Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce (pasta as starter), the Coq au vin entree, with Orange Almond Cake and Pistachio Ice Creme for dessert. After dinner we enjoyed two episodes of Good Behavior before sleep.  A busy day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Eleven  - at Sea -  Wednesday- November 15th

Fun in the Centrum
 Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is overcast.  We set time back for the forth consecutive day, and needed that hour as we watched TV late.  The MDR was very busy this morning, I think many thought it was the chocolate breakfast…it wasn’t, but I had Eggs Benedict for a nice breakfast.  Very few in the pool today and there was some scattered rain showers but we sat out on Lido for a while for the fresh air.  A nice Windjammer lunch today as usual, starting to get a bit bored with selections though.  An easy afternoon about the ship and cabin, the wifi was too slow for streaming for sure.  We were able to get streaming wifi at 6:00 pm the time when most guests are at dinner.  We watched the final two episodes of season one of Good Behavior.  Basically skipping dinner and cocktails to see the thrilling ending to the show.  I did sneak up to the Windjammer for a light late dinner, it was also Mexican night on the buffet.  Then a walk about on the ship.  When we don't go to the Diamond lounge we have been getting six cokes from the lido bar on our Diamond card for use during the day.  That's good and easy to do.  Another nice day on the Rhapsody of the seas.

Day Twelve  - at Sea -  Thursday- November 16th

Caribbean Music on Lido
 Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is beautiful and warmer.  We set time back for the fifth consecutive and final day, and we are now on Eastern Standard or Tampa time.  We went up to the Windjammer for breakfast as we were around early this morning.  I had Oatmeal just for something different.  Just the opposite of yesterday…many guests are in the pools, perhaps more than any day of the cruise.  Perfect day for it.  We listened to the Caribbean Band and enjoyed the sea breezes today.  DW went to the 1:00 pm movie and I had a Windjammer lunch.  We are also now getting some Florida TV stations so better local news and first sports reports.  I went to the Future Cruise Desk and booked another transatlantic cruise for 2018 on the Brilliance of the Seas, a 16-day from Amsterdam to Tampa on September.  This afternoon we watched the movie Frozen, I had never seen it before today.  This evening we took in the production show, Piano Man, in the Broadway Melodies Theater.  I’ve seen it on other Royal Caribbean ships and I can honestly say that this was by far the worst of any I have seen.  The saving grace is that you can use your Diamond cocktail benefits in the theater…that is a nice extra.  We listened to the resident Piano player in the Schooner Bar for a bit…he was good.  I had a beer at the Pool Bar before going to the Windjammer for a late snack.  They are open until 9:00 pm. although variety is less late.  It was a nice day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Thirteen  - CocoCay, Bahamas -  Friday- November 17th
The former TEXAS ship for RCCL
Again rolling seas overnight and I slept well.  Sunny and breezy today.  I went to the MDR just after 7:00 am as it opened early as it’s supposed to be a port day.  I had a very nice breakfast, but before it was over the Captain made an announcement that the seas were too high for tendering operations at CocoCay.  It didn’t surprise me a bit, I suspected that when the Captain gave his noon report on Thursday and mentioned possible high winds that we would not be tendering today.  We would not have gone ashore until after lunch for just for a couple of hours on the beach so not a big disappointment.We went on walkabout on the ship and found the Texas plaque (photo).  We sailed on the Rhapsody of the Seas several times out of Galveston when it was Royal Caribbean’s Texas ship.  In fact we were on the final Texas sailing in August of 2007 ten years ago.  DW attended the 1:00 pm movie again today in the theater, it was a full house for Logan Lucky.  I had a nice salad in the Windjammer for lunch then some computer time in the cabin.  The feature entertainment show tonight is Beatles-a Musical Celebration.  We both skipped dinner tonight, I had a few beers at the pool bar and then watched TV in the cabin.  A nice day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Fourteen  - at Sea -  Saturday- November 18th
Smoothest seas of the cruise overnight and I slept well although up early.  It’s a nice sunny day with a breeze.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast, both pancakes and Eggs Benedict since no dinner previous night.  We went up on deck a little earlier than usual for our sea air and deck time.  DW had her packing completed by mid-day, I had to have some NCAA football time.  And my OU football game streamed surprisingly well this afternoon.  DW even brought me beers so I wouldn’t miss any of the action.  We did visit the Diamond Lounge this evening and had good service from Mary and Fast Eddie.  After cocktails we then went to the MDR for our final dinner.  I had two pasta entrees as starters and the Chicken Marsala as main entree.  The service was very good.  We retired to the cabin after dinner to prepare for debark.  It was a very enjoyable final day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Fifteen -  Debarkation -  Tampa FL -  Sunday- November 19th

BettyJack's Food Shack
I was up early and about 6:00 am began packing as the ship  finalized its arrived in Tampa.  We are  doing self-debarkation and are supposed to go off about 7:30 am.  It was delayed that later cause a huge backlog of guests trying to disembark.  Full blame to U.S. Customs who only had three and occasionally four agents working to process the entire ship.  If you were in 1st group of self-debark you were in best position. Too many guests not following instructions and going down before luggage was opened didn’t help. The last 1/3 of the self-debark group got backed up due to lack of customs officials, then they allowed Gold cards, handicap, and porters to go to front of line creating bad feelings for many.  In line at Customs for well over an hour.  Worst debark I have seen in 133 cruises.  On the plus side our ride had time to scope out the situation so was able to pick us up almost as soon as we arrived in the passenger pick up area at 9:30 am.  We enjoyed a wonderful noon meal with DD and family at BettyJack’s Food Shack, a very cool kayaker’s hangout, in Weekie Wachee.   Following lunch we were on our way for the long drive home.  We stopped in DeFuniak Springs, FL on Sunday night.

We had cabin 4006 a cabin located far forward on deck four on the port side.  The room is the standard size for an O/V with large additional space at windows.  It has the following: key pad safe, hair dryer, small couch, vanity/desk, small standard shower, storage in cabinets and vanity, flat screen TV, and good lighting. Well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked only fair.  Excellent service from cabin steward Samson.  You will hear music from the theater located above. Also above the forward thrusters so noise when we dock at ports.  Close to forward elevators to get to Windjammer and the MDR is on same deck so that was nice.

All service people have been excellent, they have an obvious ‘guest first’ attitude and it shows in service and attitude. 

Food / Bar
Overall very good food, better than recent Mariner and Liberty cruises. Excellent: Cookies, Ice Creme, Breads, Rice, Mashed Potatoes and entrees in Windjammer.  The MDR dinners were very good although we only went a few times.  The Diamond Lounge was always busy but adequate number of bar servers for number of guests. 

General Comments
We really enjoyed the first three days of doing very little and relaxing after a busy fourteen days touring Europe.  The Windjammer food was excellent, really exceptional and much better than the Mariner of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas that I have recently sailed. It was a wonderful relaxing cruise.

~~ Click on photos to enlarge ~~