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Billie Ricks

Age: 46


Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas

Sailing Date: March 5th, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This is long and I cover a lot of items from a nearing 50’s, non partying point of view.

I have nothing to compare our latest RC cruise to but our Alaska Inside Passage on Celebrity Infinity a few years ago. (flawless) We enjoyed ourselves, but when we go again, we will most likely go back to Celebrity.

Getting on went fairly easy with all the paper filled out online. Let the workers take your luggage, we tried to take our own (like the airport) before I realized we didn’t have a choice, eventually I asked and they helped me. Parking is very costly.

The ship was nice, cabin adequate (we had outside level 2 last room in the back and were happy to have no traffic and less movement), food was acceptable to great. After eating at the buffet for a few lunches we realized the best food was in the dining room, so we ate all our meals there. (You also eat less that way) For dinner, I had requested a small table at late seating. We were assigned a table for four, #170. Location was very private and whoever was assigned with us never showed so we ate every meal alone. Our great water mentioned we should have had candles. Our waiters Johnny and Alexis were fabulous. They saw to all our needs, treated us like we were visiting family, and made dinnertime very enjoyable for us. We also appreciated the menu recommendations for the evening. During the breakfast and lunch meals it seemed the waiters were being trained as there were errors and not as friendly or polished, (maybe concentrating too hard) but acceptable. We enjoyed mixing with other passengers.
I do have complaints, again comparing the ship/line to Celebrity.

We do not drink alcohol or caffeine, nor smoke. Without buying the soft drinks, we were basically out of luck. At breakfast we were given many choices of beverages. Lunch and dinner offered only water in the dining room (although we were nicely accommodated for dinner when I asked about sprite). In the buffet lemonade is also available but only during the serving hours. The smaller pizza, hot dog area also only had water. Coffee and hot/cold tea were available throughout the ship for free, including meals. There were two kinds of herb tea and hot chocolate once I discovered the hot water dispenser in the coffee machine. Makes no sense to me because soft drinks cost less than coffee or tea, other ships offer it at dinner.

The other far worse problem was the smoking. We couldn’t get away from it. Only the dining room, show room, and our cabin were safe. No matter where we went we were surrounded. We eventually discovered a deck on one side that had a small typed sign saying it was designated non smoking, but we weren’t the only ones that had missed the sign….the smokers did too. Although we thoroughly loved being on the ship with 95% Texans and their fun and friendly ways, we knew we were not in California anymore. On the Celebrity ship one side was smoking, the other was non. In the front and back the wind blew so it wasn’t bad. We basically never saw a cigarette unless we passed through the casino. A big reason to go back to Celebrity although you do risk having a smokey cabin, as they aren’t designated.

The shipboard activities and contests were fun, but a bit colorful at times. We aren’t prudes, but we won’t remove our pants or bra for points in a game. It was funny watching others do it. Beware and just join a big group. Brush up on your trivia and have fun, again with a larger group. The ships entertainers were very good and the guests were fabulous. Do not miss the entertainment. I wanted to watch one a second time and skip dinner.

We had disappointments with the port experiences. We walked off the ship at Key West, so it wasn’t a problem, but the tendering was a nightmare. Key West was not at all what I had expected. Maybe it was hurricane damage, but it wasn’t the quaint beach homes I thought it would be. Because we got there late afternoon there weren’t too many options for excursions with everything closing by 5 pm. I had 3 things on my must do list…southernmost point which we walked to and from (it is a fair distance), see the sunset at Mallory Square (we were back in time to get a great seat right up front), and Pie at the Blond Giraffe factory (I had researched online where to go and it was the best I had ever had). Otherwise, once the sun went down there wasn’t much to do since we do not do the bar scene. We wandered around awhile then went back to the ship for a nice dinner.

Tendering into Grand Cayman wasn’t bad, but we had group 2. Cayman was also hurricane damaged (which I can look past) and had severe devastation. We had booked a tour on our own with Moby Dick to Stingray City and snorkeling, then planed to find Eden Rock and snorkel more. (We hauled our own gear). Stingray city was a definite do not miss, rare opportunity. Bring your underwater camera. The snorkeling after was Ok, not great. After our adventure filled ride on the bus back to Georgetown we started walking toward Eden Rock and were shocked it was right there. We quickly ate at the little café (I had conch fritters, Yum!), then my husband went back into the water. I was still chilled from the previous swim and not ready to get wet again. The water was even colder at Eden, BUT the fish were fabulous and well worth the cold, so I was told. There was a tiny beach, chairs and a little shower to rinse afterward. Not enough time to see more.

We got to Cozumel late and the captain said that the water was rough causing us to slow down. Later they said we were late because of engine trouble and we had to slow down while repairs were being done. Time lost. Customs and more time lost because it took longer. People that had ship paid shore excursions were allowed off first. The rest of us had to wait. More time lost. We had group four and by the time we got off we had already lost about 3 hours of shore time…someone else had group 12. This was our long shore day. We had planned on visiting 2 snorkel spots, eat lunch, relax on the beach and time was cut short. Those that had planned their own shore excursions either missed them, or ????. After part of the passengers were off an announcement was made that the departure time was extended 45 minutes. It didn’t help those that didn’t know. We had time to get a taxi and get to DzulHa to snorkel. The Beaches are gone on that side of the island (counterclockwise) and we later found out that all the sand was deposited on the other (clockwise) side where the locals go. DzulHa did have rentable lockers for valuables which worked well for us and our expensive camera and wallets. We then caught a cab asking where to go to eat and were taken to Mr. Sanchos. The food was great. Nice small beach. Some shopping. Showers, lockers. It was fixed up more than most places. Again, the hurricane damage was vast, but we had a taxi driver that explained everything to us and it was very educational. He spoke English, but it helped that my husband spoke Spanish, getting more information. That was all we had time for and it was disappointing. Once back to the ship and showered, it was announced that we were waiting for the Tulum tour because they were late. NOT FARE. If they were going to wait for their groups anyway, they could have let those with non ship tours off first! So little time for the rest of us. We don’t begrudge the other tours, and highly recommend seeing Tulum, we did it on our own 4 years ago. I don’t see why we just couldn’t extend the stay for everyone.

A previous write up mentioned getting off on an early tender, but that wasn’t announced to us.

Getting off the ship the last day. We signed up for early departure. We had our luggage the whole night rather than having to put it out after dinner- I also don’t like it out for anyone else to help themselves to. We got off early. BUT…why in the world would they have a hundred plus passengers and their luggage go all the way up to the 6th floor (our cabin was on 2), to sit and wait …crowded all over each other, with another delay, only to be told when to pile into the few elevators with all of our luggage and go back down to level 4 into the already crowded hallways. We couldn’t get out (thus the elevator couldn’t go back up!). Why couldn’t we wait on level 4 and have those getting off later without luggage wait on level 6? Totally inefficient. We could have even waited inside our own cabins for that matter.

I do want to mention we had a great time but It could have been better with a few simple changes. The crew was great. The company was great. We met a lot of nice people. We managed to get off the ship only owing tips, $20 for a photo, and a disputed charge on my seapass that I didn’t make…my seapass was missing sometime after the Cozumel stop. We tried to check out the last night, but after 3 stops (they kept telling us to come back) to the pursers desk and a phone call, we left the ship still not knowing if we would be charged or not because they hadn’t gotten around to looking at the paperwork. I kept my seapass in the safe unless we were onshore, but must have dropped it upon returning.

On another note: We left kids home. I called our cell phone company and discussed communication options. We set up temporary text messaging on the phones at a per message fee. I was able to text from Cayman and Cozumel to touch base. Some ships actually have cell towers for use on the sea, but this one doesn't. Far cheaper than a phone call just so say "are you OK?" and a "were fine" back. Worked for us.

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