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Stephanie Wright

Age: 35

Occupation:Health Field

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 20th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

To sum up RCL, I would have to say that the food is reasonably good, the staff is good, the organization is TERRIBLE.

Embarking was easy. We were to sail at 5:00. We showed up at 1:30 and didn't have to wait very long at all to get onboard. Driving up and unloading your luggage is a bit chaotic, but not too terrible. The ship, although worn in places, seemed to be very well maintained. This was our first cruise, so we were not sure what to expect in reality, although I had read a lot of reviews about the ship and ports.

The bartenders are wonderful. I cannot say enough about how friendly and helpful they were. The daily specials were all very good.

Unfortunately, we happened to be pulling out of Galveston during unusually cold weather. It followed us for the first three days. Which kept us from docking in Key West. Our Captain made the decision not to dock there, based on wind speed at the time. The cold weather also kept us from enjoying any kind of "sun and fun" type of activities on the pool deck. We ended up at sea for four days. All of them were cloudy days.

We ate in the large dining room four times during the trip. We were asked by the head waiter if we would mind moving to another table that first night, so that he could seat a large family together. No big deal to us. Unfortunately, our waiter was not very personable or enthusiastic about serving us. He was very proper, but showed very little character. The assistant waiter forgot to bring our bread after the first few nights. The quality of the food seemed comparable to maybe a high-end chain sit-down restaurant such as Outback Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse, etc. The food was good. It was not excellent. My husband's steak was overcooked the last night we ate in the dining room, but once he pointed it out, it seemed to be replaced right away. Dessert had a lot left to be desired. The only desert on board that I really enjoyed was the strawberry cheesecake served in the main dining room one night. I was disappointed by the lack of choice of selections in there as well. I expected much more as far as the food taste and selection.

The Windjammer (up by the pool) basically resembles a medium-class casino buffet. Some of the dishes are excellent. Some are dry or cold or bland or all three. There is a little snack-type bar inside the solarium where you can get some really decent pepperoni pizza. We took advantage of this twice.

My husband and I are both smokers and were concerned that there were be nowhere to smoke once onboard, but were surprised to find that you can smoke in the Schooner Bar (our favorite) as well as all along the port side of deck 5 and in parts of the casino.

Activities: We went to three shows. The first was Broadway-type production based roughly on Mardi Gras. We were very impressed with the talent of the performers themselves. The composition left must to be desired, but overall it was a good show. We saw a magic show as well that we both really liked. There was also a great comedian on the very first night who was really fantastic. We played bingo three different times. Even though we didn't win, it was still a fund way to pass the time. People were starting to get desperate. We did okay in the casino in the first few days. The slots were paying out really well the first night. Then it started going downhill again. My husband played 3-card poker as well as craps for several nights.

Grand Cayman - Georgetown - My advice? DON'T GO THERE. Not Yet. Give them about 10 or 12 years to clean things up and get the place running again. I'm not sure why the cruise company planners thought that the island could handle that many tourists in about an 8-hour span of time. IT DOES NOT WORK. The city of Georgetown has a LONG way to go before it will be able to bring real enjoyment to the cruise set. Their hurricane happened a year ago. And it seems like it happened only a few months ago. We had to use births to get from the ship to the chain-link fence rocky area (looks like a prisoner camp of some kind). Then the waiting began. Our excursions was called the "Rays, Reef, and lunch Combo." We were loaded onto some old shuttle buses, driven for about 30 minutes, taken to a small pier where we were greeted by a somewhat friendly staff on a double-decker old boat. We were taken to what looked to be a sliver of a coral reef, and dumped in the water after being given mediocre snorkeling equipment and a short, but intelligent lecture on the animal life and precautions to take, such as not touching the coral. After everyone had a chance to snorkel for a while near the reef, we got back onto the boat and moved out away from the reef about 400 to 500 yards and suddenly were told we had just arrived in Stingray City. Which did not look like any of the pictures we'd seen. The staff were the only ones allowed to feed the rays, which was find with me. But I personally would have rather to have the introduction to them be on the beach or sandbar instead of in 12-14 feet of water. Anyway, I tried to get some pics on one of those disposable underwater cameras (not sure yet how they turned out.) After we all got back on board the shuttle bus, it started to rain. Once at dock, we had to board another shuttle bus to take us to what was called the "Beach Club and Resort". Apparently, our on group wasn't the only outside group expected for this thing. There were HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE THERE. Very little shelter from the rain. My husband and I were both starving, but didn't feel like waiting in line forever, so thought we could get somebody to take us downtown to look around and get some food. It is $4.00 cash per person. To get back to the ship it was $5.00 per person. Nearly all of the shuttle drivers charged the same to take you back and forth. The problem is that they WILL NOT leave until the bus is TOTALLY FULL. Possibly even with people standing up inside the bus. So if you need one, grab one that is almost complete filled so you won't have to sit forever for the driver to fill the bus.

The fiasco of getting back onto the ship from Georgetown was just unbelievably ridiculous. The guys driving the boats kept edging our berths out of the way (high school crap). So the line leading to the place to actually get back onboard the Rhapsody was at last 3/4 mile long and did not move for a VERY long time.

Cozumel was the most wonderful part of our trip. We did the Party Boat and Beach Break Excursion (open bar). Everybody know what they were supposed to be doing. There was plenty to drink onboard, even for the kids. Lots of great live music and games on the lower level. But it that was too much for you, you could stay up on top and catch some rays or just have a quite conversation if you wanted. We rode wave runners at the beach they stopped at. There were games on the beach for the whole family, music, free rum punch for Party Boat Guests, lots of big-kid type jumping things, a banana boat you could rent, and all that great stuff. otherwise, Cozumel still has a long way to go to rebuild from the hurricane. We have made the decision to fly down there instead of cruise next time.

My wrap-up.... If you REALLY want to go to the Caribbean via a cruise, check out Princess. Royal Caribbean has a LOT to be desired as far as food, service, entertainment, boat layout, port arrival/departure, etc. Save up for a flight to your favorite destination and miss the headaches and lines. That's what we plan to do next time.

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