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Age: 30


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas

Sailing Date: September 24th, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

I took the cruise that leaves from Galveston, which visited Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. The ship is nicely decorated but will be refurbished in 2007. My husband and I really liked the Egyptian-themed Solarium. The wood-work in the library and Shall We Dance bar is elegant.

My husband and I stayed in a cabin w/ no windows. The air was quite dry. I brought Visine, but it really didn't help that much. Other than that complaint, the cabin was very nicely decorated. The shower was unbelievably small, but we're not big people so it's not a problem.

Gym, food, and service are all good. The gym, which is small, is mostly empty except in the mornings. I give the food a good rating. I'm a vegetarian who's lactose intolerant. There were enough options except for 2 days when the food was repetitious. The two best vegetarian dishes were eggplant parmesan and vegetable risotto. There was only one night when they served a dish with tofu. It was ok. It seems like it should have been better because some of the kitchen staff are Asian.

Sugar-free peanut butter cookies were hard to stop eating. Also they had whole-grained rolls and bread if you don't eat white bread. The warm chocolate cake on the last night's dinner menu was the best dessert! The biggest problem with the food is that you won't want to stop eating it.

The waiters and cabin stewards work very hard to please you. Our cabin steward, Cecil from Jamaica, always greeted us and was so cheerful. The Edelweiss dining staff are exceptional. Neophus from India and Senol from Turkey were awesome waiters! (They also had some very sharp hair cuts!) They kept our glasses full. They got a little annoyed at one couple who ordered 8 servings of lobster. The problem was that there's a 2nd seating so if you think you'll be ordering lots of food, you might want 2nd seating so the waiters won't be in a rush to have you leave. The head waiter had a good attitude and was always on top of things.

Oh, yes, apparently we learned from other cruisers that the workers' contract with RC is not a good deal. I wasn't surprised as I had a distant relative who worked on a Carnival ship that went to St. Thomas. He declared it the worst experience ever. He literally jumped off the ship in the middle of the night (kind of a dramatic way to break your contract).

Anyway, some of the RC staff survive on tips so don't forget to bring some extra dollars. However, I don't believe tips are mandatory. I have additional family members in the beautician trade and even an aunt who ran a successful hair and spa salon in upscale Bethesda, Maryland. Half the people in the US don't tip their hair stylists; sometimes they don't even pay for their hair cuts if they are unhappy. Tipping is always optional, whether in the US or at sea.

If tipping's mandatory, it's not tipping. It's just a way for employers not to pay their workers. My husband and I were so annoyed at the 15% mandatory surcharge on alcoholic drinks, we refused to buy any on the ship. Why would I pay $8 (plus 15%) for a glass of so-so wine when I can get a good bottle of wine from Whole Foods for the same price?

I didn't tip everyone; just the ones who made the extra effort. RC makes a killing on the casinos, spa services, art auctions, gift store, and alcoholic beverages, not to mention coffee and Ben & Jerry ice cream. I met several people who had blown at least $300 in the casino. I believe it's RC's duty to see that their employees are fairly paid.

Another annoyance was that half the "events" are sales related. They try to sale you everything. It's annoying because vendors in Cozumel are already trying to hawk their stuff to tourists. But you get back on the ship, and there's more sales people. It makes the cruise feel like an infomercial. Be careful of the spa where they will try to sale you $600 products while you are trapped in the chair. There has to be a more discreet way to do this. IF RC wants to improve, they should work on this. I'm not saying that the products they sell are bad products, but people on cruises want to feel relax or they won't come back for another cruise.

I went to the spa because I was bored plus I wanted to compare it to other spa services since I have family members who are in this business. The spa is ridiculously overpriced (by 50%). If you've never visited a spa before, visit one in your town so you can compare the prices and service. I think the spa services are average, not excellent, but not bad either. Also I took the $30 body composition analysis. I felt it was way over priced, also. I expected something more than a little slip of paper.

I found some of the older cruisers inspirational. They were in their 60's and knew how to have fun. While my husband and I were playing ping-pong, this group of wild senior citizens showed up. They were an awesome bunch! I won't forget you guys!

The entertainment the last night of the cruise was very good. The singers and dancers did a cute skit. We watched an Argentine group, Los Pampas Gauchos, perform. They were awesome. Unfortunately, we had to sit through the Cruise-in-Review DVD infomercial before we got to watch the main entertainment.

The ocean is beautiful and has to be the highlight of the whole trip. We had mostly good weather although there was a thunder storm the 1st night, and it rained in Grand Cayman. Some people's cell phones got waterlogged on the beach, so bring a plastic bag in case it rains.

My husband and I took the butterfly express tour in Grand Cayman. It was a nice, little place. We like the stuff they sold in their shop. It had cute stuff. The Cayman people have great manners!

In Key West we visited Ernest Hemingway's house. It was also small but nice to visit. It has a lush garden, and you can get married there! Then we went to El Siboney, a Cuban restaurant that was recommended by a friend who's a motorcycle enthusiast. It was about $9 a dish, and the food was plentiful. The sangrias were great and cheap. It really is a local's place and like a greasy diner. We got a little lost trying to find the place, but it gave us a chance to see the neighborhood. The botanicals in people's yards were pretty.

Cozumel, of course, is beautiful. There's a new pier right in downtown San Miguel so you don't have to tender. Also they built a shopping plaza right next to the pier. Everyone loved the layout! From what I understand RC has a contract for that pier. We saw that the people on the Carnival Conquest all had to tender.

Our Muyil excursion got cancelled so we went to the Cozumel Island Museum. It's very good, and not too large. You could spend an hour there. $3 admission, and there's a very cheap restaurant on the 2nd floor that overlooks the sea and has a nice breeze! The watermelon fruit water was great! My husband and I were the only Americans at the museum, which was rather sad. I recommend the museum as a great value!

In conclusion, I probably won't take another cruise in the next couple of years, simply because it wasn't as relaxing as I thought it would be. I would rate this cruise as having better service than an all-inclusive, like the Palace Resorts in Mexico. However, there's more things to do at the all-inclusive, the spa is priced better without people trying to sell you stuff, and the alcohol is included in the pricing! An all-inclusive ends up costing you less. The main reason I chose this cruise was that it seemed cheaper than flying to Key West and staying at a hotel. I recommend this cruise to people who haven't cruised before and to those who want to visit Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.

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