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Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 20th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This was the Thanksgiving cruise and we had a great time. Heard a few folks complain about the number of kids on board (out of 2000+ passengers, there were over 600 kids), but what do you expect, it's Thanksgiving and you should expect that.

The food and service was wonderful. If you go to the bar right by the pool, make sure you see Thompson. He was an excellent bartender and very courteous.

The only thing I wish they would do during lunches in the Windjammer Cafe is have some simple desserts like just plain chocolate cake or plain cheesecake. They try to make it too fancy and put some jelly, or whatever it was, between layers of chocolate cake. Ruined it, in my opinion. However, the food was very plentiful and very enjoyable. Gained 6 lbs over the week. Food everywhere.

I read a couple of reviews about the fries in the Solarium, so I had to try them. Someone said they were their favorites. Well, they are good, but then it hit me. The only place I have seen these fries is Burger King. However, these are better! The Solarium is in the back of the ship on deck 9, and serves pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs.

The one thing to know about the pool and hot tubs in the Solarium that you won't find is that you have to be at least 16 to use them. Kids can still play ping pong and enjoy the food, but just can't swim. Not all bad.

The only downfall of the cruise was the weather, and you can't blame the ship for this. Only had 1 day of sun, and that was the last day. I guess you can say it kept people from getting fried the entire week.

Our first port, Key West, was canceled at the last minute due to high winds. Boy, as soon as we headed due south, we found out why. Very rough night at sea. We had a family introduce us to Bodine, which is a chewable pill to help sea sickness. I never got sick, but my wife and daughter took them and about an hour or so later, they were up and running, feeling much better. Bodine doesn't make you tired. My thanks to the family from Austin, who were our dinner mates.

Our first port that we got to stop at was Grand Cayman. What a mess. Grand Cayman used to be a wonderful place to visit, but things have changed in 10 yrs, in my eyes. There were about 5 other cruise ships at this port. The ships couldn't park at the docks. Instead, you had to be tendered (get on small boats and be taken) to shore. With 5 other ships, you can imagine the number of people being tendered, but you would never believe the lines to get back on you ship. I don't think anybody, not even Carnival (which had the Conquest and Victory, each carrying almost 3,000 passengers), NCL, and there was another Royal Caribbean ship that was bigger, were prepared for the chaos and lines. Just too many people to hit 1 island at once. The ships did the best they could, but wow, what a mess. Somehow, the cruise ships were all asked who had been where, and those ships that had had multiple stops already, they didn't go to Cozumel. This helped tremendously as there were only 2 ships in Cozumel! Much better.

Grand Cayman, itself, has its ups and downs. Rain poured down like nobody's business, which put a damper on things. Again, you can't blame the ship on Mother Nature.

If you purchase a tour package to go see the stingrays, make sure you get the one that only goes there and not the one that includes another stop for lunch. The place that served lunch was terrible and it took over an hour to get your food. I took the diving tour, which was very nice, but my wife and daughter, along with friends we had made during the cruise, took the other trip. Again, the stingray visit piece was great. Also, depending on the weather, the water can be a little rough at the stingray park as my daughter got a few scrapes, but it was worth it!

If you decide to do things on your own in Grand Cayman, be prepared to spend $5-$8 per person, each way, for a cab. That can be over $50 for a family of 5 round-trip. I heard they are supposed to only charge $5 per person, but some were trying to charge up to $8. Everyone was glad to leave Grand Cayman, including the staff of the ship.

Cozumel was a fantastic stop. Here they are, the ones that probably got hit the hardest, but what became the best stop. There is still a tremendous amount of damage, wow!

Because of the hurricanes, we couldn't swim with the dolphins. But the diving was great and we heard nothing but wonderful reviews on the Deluxe Beach Break excursion that took you to Playa Mia private beach and the Palancar trip, or something like that (I can't remember the correct spelling). At the Deluxe Beach Break, you could get a package that included all you can eat and all you can drink. You could even sign up for a cooking class where you had the natives help you cook a wonderful meal on a grill, drink all the wine you want, then enjoy the meal you just cooked. Everyone said they really had a blast doing it, too. The beach was great for adults, especially if you have kids as they have a water trampoline, a blow-up rock wall to climb in the water, peddle boats, small kayaks, etc. The Palancar, or whatever it is called, had a great snorkeling trip. Then, on the way back, they opened up the bar. Don't worry, they had plenty of soft drinks, juice and stuff for kids. Very kid friendly, too, I heard. Good tequila, though hahaha.

Well, we had a wonderful time. I would definitely recommend this cruise ship. We made some fantastic friends and just had a heck of a good time.

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