Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas
Sailing Date: December 11th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Traveling to Galveston, TX (Pre-Cruise)
My family traveled down driving from Michigan to Louisiana to pick me up, then we proceeded to Galveston, TX Saturday December 10. We researched many different hotels available to us in Galveston. After reading a review for the Holiday Inn on the Beach, and their offering of free parking all week and free shuttle to and from the cruise terminal, we decided to stay there. We opted to spend the extra $10 - $20 for the night to have an ocean view room. We were on the 4th floor and had a beautiful view of the ocean from our room. There was a beautiful pier across the road with a sandy beach full of sea shells. We got to watch the sunrise from the Balcony of our room. The Holiday Inn on the Beach has a restaurant and a gift shop. There is also an Outdoor pool which was closed for repairs while we were there. They did however tell us that at any time we could go to the Hotel next door and swim in their pool. They are both owned by the same people. You had to sign up for a Shuttle time to be taken over to the cruise terminal and had to state how many bags you had to be shuttled. You were given a parking tag to hang in your window and parked in a parking lot behind the hotel by a playground and tennis court.
The morning of the cruise there were many people in the lobby waiting for their cruises. We opted to eat breakfast in their restaurant. They had a breakfast buffet with many options (Scrambled Eggs, Fresh Fruit, Pastries, Potatoes, Bacon, Sausage, Grits, Cereals, Pancakes) When it was time for our shuttle we moved all our luggage to the entrance of the building and the porter proceeded to pack everyone's luggage into the shuttle bus. It was a pretty big shuttle bus, it did not take long to get to the terminal. Once we arrived in the terminal the porter again proceeded to unpack the shuttle bus with everyone's luggage. We had to confirm that the luggage was all there and then proceed into the terminal building. Once inside, seeing as we have a suite, were able to go into a shorter line for people with Suites. We then had to show our drivers license and birth certificates/passports. After he took down the information he issued us our sea pass cards and we then entered another line to enter the ship. The check in process went very smoothly and fast. While we were standing in line there were two photographers taking Welcome Aboard pictures. Each one had a different background. After we had our Welcome Aboard picture taken, we then had our sea pass cards scanned and got our individual pictures taken for security reasons. We then went up the escalator and entered the ship. We were greeted by the Royal Caribbean crew instructing us that our staterooms would not be ready until 1:30 pm. and that the Windjammer was serving lunch. We then made our way to the Windjammer for lunch. There was quite a selection of food and beverages. After we finished lunch we made our way to our Stateroom to dispose of our carry on luggage and explore the ship. After checking out or room, we collected our life vests and proceeded to our muster station. During the muster drill they sounded the Emergency alarm, and everyone made their way to their assigned muster stations. They then took roll of who was at the drill. A crew member then demonstrated how to properly put on the life vest. After the drill was finished we made our way back to our stateroom to drop of the life vest. After dropping off the life vest we made our way to the 10th floor to was the ship depart the port. The Carnival Conquest was in Galveston at the terminal and everyone waved to the other ship as we departed.
Our stateroom was a Junior Suite and was located on Deck 8, cabin 8562. It had two twin beds (which were pushed together to form a queen bed), and sofa which pulled out to become another bed. It also had two chairs, a refrigerator, vanity, closets, and a balcony. Our bathroom featured a spacious bathtub. Our cabin was about 240 square feet. Our balcony had a sliding glass door and three chairs and a table. There was enough space and drawers in the room to fit all 4 of our luggage. We bought one of those over the door shoe hangers but did not really need it, there was enough space without it. There were shelves and drawers located above and below the television and vanity, there were also floor to ceiling shelves by the door and two drawers in the closet. There were a few stand alone drawers on each side of the queen bed. We also had ample storage for our luggage in the closet and under the bed. There were also two small round footstools near the couch that the tops could be removed to allow for storage within the stool.
Each night during dinner our stateroom attendant would come in and turn down the beds. She would pull our the sofa bed and make it each night. She would also make a different pillow animal or towel animal along with mints on the pillows. I thought this was a very nice touch and made us feel very good. There would always be beach towels waiting for us to use around the ship or in the ports and fresh ice in our ice bucket each day. A new Cruise Compass was also sitting on our bed each night for the next day.
Areas of the Ship
Shall We Dance Lounge
The Shall We Dance lounge is located on Deck 6. There was a lot of seating in this room and a small stage and dance floor. I never went here during any of the dancing or bands playing, but visited the room a lot during Bingo and Shopping seminars. Bingo was always held in either the Shall We Dance lounge or Broadway Melodies Theater. They put the bingo cards on sale about ½ hour before the game would start and there were three different packages you could purchase. A kid's pack ($10) which consisted of one block, A ($25) pack which consisted of 3 blocks to play on, and a ($35) pack which had 6 blocks to play. You were allowed to share bingo cards but you could not tear them apart. Mo' Money Marnie would run the Bingo games and did a very good job with this. There were also usually 3 other helpers walking around. The shopping seminar's here were run by the Shopping Guide, he would have a seminar before each port. During the seminars he would give you great tips of where to buy the best jewelry and would give you a map for each port. There was also a $20 guide that you could purchase with coupons to get free things at the different ports. There were also coupons for ports that the boat did not sail to in case you went on another cruise and could use them then. Some of the free things available in the book were gemstones, pirate coins, water wallets, jewelry. There were also discount coupons on different items.
Broadway Melodies Theater
The Broadway Melodies Theater was located on decks 5 and 6. It was a very big theater where they would have the live entertainment every night. There was a variety of entertainment on the ship. The first night they featured a Comedian named John Wing. They had one show for him. John Wing has been featured on VH1, A&E, and other cable networks. He was quite funny. The second night they had Herb Reed from the original Platters and his new band. They were also quite good, they had 2 shows for them, one for early seating diners and one for late seating diners. The third night they featured the jugglers The Hill Brothers. They were quite funny and had a good show. The fourth night there was a Magician named David Haines and his assistant. His show was ok, I think it would have been more enjoyable for children. The fifth night of the cruise the cruise crew singers and dancers had a Mardi Gras show. This show seemed to be enjoyed by most of the people. It was not my favorite, but they did a good job. The sixth night they featured two different acts, first was a singer named Dolores Park, and the second was a ventriloquist named Brad Cummings. Dolores Park seemed to favor Patsy Cline songs, and did a very good job with them. Brad Cummings was a great act, he was one of the most entertaining people on the whole ship. The seventh day was suppose to feature the Cruise crew dancer and singers again but the show was canceled due to the rough seas. The Broadway Melodies Theater was a great place for entertainment. The bar staff was always around to provide drinks if you desired. The seats in the Theater were very comfortable and spacious, there were drink holders in each seat. The Broadway Melodies Theater also was the spot for anyone who had shore excursions on a day of port to meet and be taken down to the tender boats. This process seemed very organized and efficient. Everyone who had early excursions took the first tenders.
This was located in the middle of the ship. It accompanied floors 4 – 8 in the center of the ship. The elevators were located in this area. On deck 4 in the Centrium there was the Champagne bar and the Main entrances to the ship. Also a lot of the Art Auctions and Seminars were located on decks 4 & 5 in the Centrum. On deck 5 there were the pursers desk and shore excursion desk. Right outside the purser's desk you could always pick up extra copies of the cruise compass. The pursers staff always seemed very pleasant and helpful. With the few issues we had they were glad to help and very speedy with a response. There was also seating areas. On deck 6 there was the the Gift Shops, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream stand, Lattitude's Coffee stand, Photo shoppe, and Photo Gallery. The photo shoppe is where all the pictures that were taken on you on the ship were located. You could go through it each day and see the different pictures. Towards the end of the cruise you could purchase a cruise in review dvd/vhs. There was a videographer walking around the ship taking videos of the different activities going on around the ship. Deck 7 featured the card room and library. I however never entered either of these rooms. Deck 8 featured the Computer lounge, and crown anchor lounge. I did not enter either of these as well.
Edelweiss Dining Room
The dining room was located on deck 4 and 5. Our table was located on deck 4. At the dining room they always had their menu for the evening posted. There were large windows along side each side of the dining room. There were a few different types of tables, some that seat 2 people up to tables that seat 10 passengers. There were different menus each night. Each menu featured appetizers, salad, main course, and dessert. There seemed to be something for everyone's tastes. There were always alternate selections featured in case you did not prefer anything on the menu. Our waiters Imhad and the assistant waiter Shenah were always there to cater to every need. They were constantly asking us if we needed more bread and filling our water. It took them 3 days to have what we wanted out on the table without having to ask. You could order coffee, tea, water, and juices for dinner at no charge, if you wanted soft drinks or alcoholic beverages you would be charged on your sea pass for the items. The waiters always made a recommendation for the meals and hit it right on with them. I did not have a bad meal in the dining room. If you did not like something (which was not the case with me, I enjoyed everything I chose) you could always get something else to eat. Most of the time for dessert if you could not decide what you wanted they would bring you multiple desserts. One night I could not decide what dessert I wanted so after I made up my mind he goes... ahh one of each, and he did bring me one of each. For dinner, there was assigned seating, we got very fortunate and got seated with a lovely couple from Texas. They made everything very pleasant. Our table was located next to the captains table and right by the piano where they played classical music each night. For breakfast and lunch in the dining room there was open seating. However when you arrived at the dining room they would ask you how many was at your party and would seat you with any open table that had enough spaces for your party. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending whom you were seated with. For breakfast we were seated with three different couples that cruised often and were fun to talk to. They gave us good tips for the rest of the cruise. However on the last day we were seated with a Mother and her children and they did not talk during the whole meal. So I guess it just depended on how lucky you were with seating. In the dining room the breakfast menu was the same the whole cruise. There were a few different options to choose from, there was eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruit, bagels and lox, etc. You were also given free juice at breakfast.
The Windjammer was located on deck 9 and was the main dining option for breakfast and lunch. The windjammer is a buffet style restaurant. For breakfast, they served different fruits, meats and cheeses, eggs, potatoes, different meats, omelets, cereals, pancakes, french toast, waffles, and other pastries. I preferred breakfasts in the Windjammer over the Edelweiss dining room. There was more to choose from and it was the same foods as was in the dining room, but you could get a little of everything. For breakfast there was a variety of juice offered. During lunch there was a salad bar items, also some type of rice or potatoes, different meats, sandwiches, taco fixings, some type of carved meats, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, soups, pasta entrees, vegetarian items, vegetables, and desserts. For lunch the beverages included were lemonade and ice tea. I thought overall the food in the Windjammer was good. Sometimes I would get some items that were cold by the time I got to the table but for being such a big buffet and feeding that many people I expected that.
There were a few different shops on board. There was a perfume shop, Liquor store, Photo Shop, Upscale jewelery and clothing, and a souvenir store. I did not do any shopping in the shops on board except for the Souvenir type store. I bought a couple post cards and t shirt from there. They also had a floating store that would show up on Deck 9 right outside the Windjammer which featured t shirts, bathing suites, gold and silver chains, magazines, and suntan lotions.
There were many different bar areas around the ship. There was the Schooner Bar, Pool Side bar, Casino bar, Viking Lounge bar, Champagne Bar and Solarium bar. The bar staff always seemed polite and willing to help. Other than just being a bar there was ample seating areas with large windows to provide you with a serene view of the ocean. The bar's also doubled as spots for different activities on the ship. The Schooner bar often was the spot for Trivia and Karaoke. There always seemed to be a large crowd for both of these activities. I never noticed anyone at the Champagne bar, but I did not spend much time at that part of the ship. The Viking Lounge also doubled for activities, it held all of the Art classes and also held the Horse Racing on the rainy day. The Viking Lounge had a wonderful view of the ship and beyond. It was located on deck 11.
Casino Royale was located on deck 5. It was a small casino, but seemed to have quite a crowd each day. It seemed more lively at night. They had a board that showed all the big winners of the cruise and people seemed to be making a lot of money in the casino. My father was fortunate and won $2880 on a dollar slot machine on day. The casino featured slot machines, card tables for black jack and such and roulette table. The casino also featured a bar and was the nearest bar to the Broadway Melodies theater.
The outdoor pool and hot tubs were located on Deck 9. I did not see much use of the pool, other than a few children during the day. The hot tubs were very popular with everyone. I used them a few times during the cruise and they were nice and warm and very relaxing. On Day 4 they were suppose to hold the Men's International Belly Flop competition, but that was canceled due to an emergency pool drain to clean out the pool. The pool was refilled immediately after the cleaning and was able to be used within a few hours.
The Solarium was located on deck 9 and where I mostly used the hot tubs. They were less crowded. The Solarium is an adults only area, it had a saltwater exercise pool and two hot tubs. Even though this was an Adults only area children were allowed to use the area on rainy days. The solarium was also the place to get Hamburgers, Pizza, and Fries and Cookies. Also located within the Solarium is the Hair Salon and Spa. There were also changing rooms, with lockers, showers, a changing area, sauna, steam room. This was a great place to relax. The changing room and all it's amenities were available free of charge even though it was located within the spa area. It was very handy when you needed to get ready for dinner and there are 4 people in your stateroom trying to get ready at the same time. I would go down to the sauna and then take a shower down there. They provided towels and had a body wash/shampoo dispenser within the showers.
I never used any of the spa services on the ship, the only time I was near the spa was when I used the Solarium changing rooms for a sauna and shower. There were always specials in the Daily Compass for the spa, but none of them caught my eye. Every time I went by the Hair Salon there was always someone in there getting their hair done. In the spa there were stairs the went up to the 10th floor gym. The gym was free of use and consisted of a dance floor (used for aerobics), exercise machines, exercise bikes, treadmills, etc. There were always people in the gym. They had different classes available for a fee usually ($10). By going to the events that had a ship shape symbol you would receive ship shape dollars that you could turn in at the end of the cruise and get different products such as hats, shirts, etc. There was also a jogging track that went along deck 10. There were always people walking the track, they designated half the track for walking and half for running.
There were many activities on the ship here is a listing of some of the activities offered: Trivia, Karaoke, Art Seminars, Beauty Seminars, Shopping Seminars, cooking demonstration, towel folding demonstration, Men's Sexy leg competition, Men's international Belly Flop competition, exercise classes, Bingo, Rock Climbing competitions, etc. There was plenty to do on board, and even if you wanted to stay on the ship during a port day there was plenty of things to do. One of the main activities I participated in was Bingo. I also went to all the shopping seminars and most of the demonstrations. All of the activities I participated in was very pleasant and fun. It looked like everyone was having a great time on the ship.
For this being my first cruise I'm really not sure how to rate the service without having anything to compare it to. I however thought that the service we received was great. Our table waiters and assistant waiter was fantastic and made our cruise very enjoyable. They were both from Turkey, and were the nicest people you could ever want to meet. They catered to every need you had and if you did not like something they would bring you something else, they also helped with your selection if you did not know what to order. They kept our waters filled at all times and offered bread nonstop. By the third night they had our drink orders down pat and did not have to ask what we wanted to drink. Our stateroom attendant we hardly ever saw and did not talk to us much, like you hear in other reviews. She was from Jamaica and kept our room very clean and always stocked us with fresh towels and ice. The bar staff was always ready and willing to wait on you with a smile on their face. The windjammer service was also very good, there was someone around always to fill your drinks if you needed a refill and always kept everything very stocked. All in all I thought the service on the ship was very good.
The weather during the cruise was great for the most part. The first day was a little cool but warmed up as the cruise went on. During the middle of the week the temperatures rose significantly. On Friday while we were in Cozumel we got the first rain of the cruise. It rained off and on most of the day. During that night the captain announced that we would be going through a storm and would have some rough seas. Saturday was a horrible day for weather. We went through a horrific storm which made many people seasick. While we were waiting for dinner the boat tilted to one side for about 3 – 5 minute and flashbacks of the titanic came to mind, but the captain got the boat level again. During the tilt they lost about 1000 dishes in the dining room and around the ship. There was also stories of lawn chairs going overboard. Some people went down to the medical area of the ship and got shots to help them sleep. It was very hard to walk around the ship on Saturday with such rough seas. The crew members said that this was the 2nd worst storm the ship has gone through and they went through 2 hurricanes. The winds on Friday/Saturday were around 80 mph when the boat tilted. Many people stayed in their cabins or somewhere where they could sit down. The outdoor pool was closed while it was storming and they canceled that nights show due to safety reasons. Other than the little rain on Friday and the horrible storm on Saturday we had beautiful weather for the whole cruise.
The Rhapsody of the Seas visited three ports during the 7 night cruise. We visited Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. I had not been to any of the ports before.
The first port of call was Key West. We opted to not purchase any shore excursions for this port. When we exited the ship we decided to go shopping around town using our Discover Shopping Guide that we purchased at the shopping seminar. I used the Internet for $5.00 for 20 minutes at a small shopping mall near the terminal. There was quite a bit of touristy souvenir stores located in Key West. We went down the famous Duval street and went into Sloppy Joe's bar to listen to the live band they featured. They were quite good. When sunset arrived we went to the Sunset Celebration located near where the cruise docked, there were a variety of vendors and a crowd of people watching the sunset. There was fire jugglers, tight rope walkers, unicyclists, and other actors around the area ready to entertain you. The sunset was beautiful, if your cruise makes a stop in Key West I would highly recommend stopping by the sunset celebration.
In Grand Cayman we chose to purchase the Stingray city Swim and Snorkel through the ship. We met in the Broadway Melodies theater in the morning to wait for our tender. After it was time for us to depart the ship, we were taken down to deck 1 and onto the tender boat, the tender was very smooth and speedy. There were 8 ships in Grand Cayman that day and made the island very crowded. After we got off the tender boat we made out way to an area where people were holding up signs with different shore excursions. We located our sign and waited for a bus. After the bus arrived we were all piled into a school bus and taken to the Stingray City boat. We got on the boat which had a small bar that sold beverages, t shirts, stuffed animals, and Christmas tree ornaments. There were two bathrooms on the boat for use. It was about a 30 minute boat ride out to the sandbar and was a very present ride, you could see the tops of many of the cruise ships over the island and was a great picture opportunity. The staff was very kind and went around making everyone feel comfortable. Once we arrived to the sandbar we were informed how to use the equipment and rules of the sandbar. We were told they would be taking our picture with a sting ray that we could purchase. After getting off the boat and onto the sandbar we immediately got our picture taken. We then went around and looked at the Stingrays. There was a bucket filled with squid that you could feed the stingrays with. They also gave a very informative demonstration in the water about stingrays. It was a little wavy and made it hard to stand in the sand, and if you were near the squid bucket it was very hard to walk with many stingrays around your feet. I accidentally stepped on a male sting ray and fortunately did not get stung. Once we returned to the boat we looked at the pictures that were taken of us, and chose to purchase them. The photographer was a very talented man, and took great pictures. With it being a high definition digital camera they send the pictures to your home and arrives at your house 4 – 6 weeks after the cruise. The boat ride back was also about a 30 minute ride. After getting back to the docks, you had to option of getting on the bus and be taken back to the docks or walk yourself to 7 mile beach (which you had to provide your own transportation back to the ship). We chose to take the bus back and do a little shopping. There was not as many touristy stores as there was in Key West. We went to a local bank and got some cayman money for a cheap souvenir. After a short shopping time we chose to go back to the ship and relax. Grand cayman was very crowded with having 8 boats in port, and was hard to go into the shops.
In Cozumel, we chose to do the Reef Snorkel and beach break. Hurricane Rita did major damage to the island and destroyed the docks, so now the cruise ships have to be tendered to the island. After we caught our tender we found the sign for our excursion. After about a 15 – 30 minute wait we were aboard our boat with the rest of our tour. This boat offered an open bar and most people really took advantage of this. They served Margaritas, Rum Punch and Tequila shots, they also had soft drinks for those of us who did not want to drink alcohol. It was about a 30 minute boat ride to the first reef, and during the ride they fitted us for our flippers and handed out all the equipment. They demonstrated how to use all the equipment so we would be ready to go when we arrived at the reef. When we arrived at the first reef a crew member went in first to check the currents. My mom and sister decided to stay on the boat for the first Snorkel. My mom cannot swim well so she stayed on the boat for both snorkels (she was mainly coming for the beach). After that everyone else jumped off the boat and started the Snorkel. The reef close to shore were destroyed during the hurricane so the first reef Snorkel we did was in 30-40 feet of water. You however could not tell it was that deep. The water was so clear and the fish were not shy. There were not very many fish however but it was still beautiful. There also was some Jellyfish located at this dive sight and I got stunk a few times. After about 30 minutes we got back on the boat and headed to our second Snorkel reef. When we arrived at the second reef we exited the boat and found an amazing reef. During this Snorkel I convinced my sister to come out and Snorkel, I think she had a great time. This reef had much more fish and coral. There were also different kinds of fish at this reef. The coral was amazing. This reef was also located in 30 – 50 feet deep water, and it was so clear it was like you were right at the bottom. There was a few small jellyfish located at this location but i did not hear of anyone getting stung like the first reef. After about another 30 minutes we got back on the boat and made our way to the beach. The beach they were taking us to was Playa Mia, and offered shopping area, food, beach chairs, paddle boats, jet skis, water trampoline, water iceberg, and bar. When we first got off the boat we were taken to the buffet which was included in the price of the tour, along with all the alcohol and soda you could drink. After eating we chose to do some shopping since we knew we would not have much time after we were taken back to the pier. There were many vendors at their shopping area all of which were hassling you to come into their stores and make deals with you. It was very hard to shop this way, but we really wanted to get some souvenir and knew we wouldn't be able to do it when we got back. We had to bargain with the shop owners, and many of them had very unreasonable prices to begin with. My sister was looking a a small silver type bracelet and one shop owner was going to charge her $5.00 and another was going to charge her $45. You had to be careful and shop around to make sure you got the correct price. We found a shop that was run by a very nice young couple and did most of our shopping with them. They were very reasonable and kind. They did not hassle you like all the other shop owners and made it very pleasurable. After we got done shopping it was time to get back on the boat and head back to the pier. This is when most of the tour got very drunk. By the time we were back to the pier we had some very drunk people. After we got back to the pier we rushed into town before making the tender boat to pick up our charms for the free diamond bracelet we got in key west. If you purchased the first charm for the bracelet in Key West ($10) you got a card with all the other ports of call their shops were located at and you would receive a free charm from each of those ports if you were wearing the bracelet. After then we ! rushed to make the tender back to the boat and did not really get to see any of the town. But we had a great time on the tour and would recommend snorkeling in Cozumel. You could however see the damage from the Hurricane. They are trying to get the port back to normal as fast as possible but you could really see the damage the island faced. Most of the foliage was dead and brown, many buildings destroyed, the dock was destroyed.
All in all I thought this was a wonderful experience and have grown to love cruising. I believe I am hooked. It was a very nice cruise and would recommend the Rhapsody to anyone looking for a quiet relaxing time. With it being a smaller ship I don't think it was quite as crowded and quieter than the big ships would be. I think this was the perfect size ship for us and will stick with a similar boat if not the Rhapsody in the future. We did have very rough seas on Saturday which got a lot of people sick, but they tried their best to keep everyone comfortable. The staff on this ship was very friendly and was always there to help with a smile on their face. I did notice some wear on the fabrics and carpeting but with it being an older ship that was expected. I would definitely go on this cruise again. Thanks for taking the time to read my review and if you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I have placed my cruise pictures on line at http://jodee.shutterfly.com