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Copyright © 1995-2005 
Linda Coffman

 


Rhapsody of the Seas
Cruise Review - Western Caribbean
May 2005

by Susan Roberts 

We are currently 39 and 40. This is a review of our second cruise—both have been with Royal Caribbean. We booked through an Internet agency both times. 

 

Getting there: We drove approximately 3½ hours to Galveston and crossed the Bolivar Ferry after only a 5 minute wait. We drove directly to EZ Cruise parking (about 2 p.m.), handed the attendant our confirmation Email, parked, they loaded our luggage onto the shuttle, and we were at the cruise ship terminal in just a few minutes. After the porter checked our luggage, we walked into the terminal and waited one minute (not even a line, really—just walked up to the front and stood) until we were helped with our boarding process. 

 

Onboard: In less than five minutes we were onboard the ship and we immediately went to eat a very good lunch in the Windjammer. The muster drill was around 4:15. 

 

Sailing away: We went to the poolside deck to listen to Pandigenous (good Caribbean music) while we sailed away. Later, we went to deck 4 and listened to Rosario Strings (in the centrum area) and they were excellent! This same duo (guitar and violin) performed on several evenings in the dining room, and they were supreme at many different types of music. Went back to the room, unpacked two of our four luggage—two were missing, so we went to the purser’s desk to fill out a form (and of course one luggage contained scuba gear and the other was mainly camera and video equipment), but thankfully they were both in our room by the time we returned from dinner. First night’s dinner was delicious. 

 

Entertainment: First night was comedy of Carl Banks—he was funny, did very good impressions and could sing like Nat King Cole and Sinatra (among others). Night two was also comedy and another impressionist—very funny, also. Night three was the production show of the RC Singers and Dancers, but we did not attend this, as we left the ship at 3:00 and returned around 11:00). Night four was Haines Magic and we really enjoyed this show—excellent illusions. Night five was another production show of the RC Singers and Dancers, which was entitled “Rock on Broadway.” This was okay, and the singing was very good… but some of the dancers were not very good. Night six was Kenny James (13 time Star Search winner—male vocalist) and he put on a very good show. I don’t know how he keeps going—he was constant motion. Night seven was juggling and comedy by the Hill Brothers and they were excellent. All of these shows were in the Broadway Melodies Theater—we sat in different areas each evening, and all of our seats were good.  This large theater is very nicely designed and decorated. Bar service is before the shows.

 

Activities: We participated in a few… I used the ship shape center three times during the cruise—the Early Morning Stretch was a really good stretch—and after that I used various equipment. It was pretty busy most of the time, but I had the whole place to myself at 2:30 on our day in Cozumel. The captain’s welcome aboard reception was well attended and we laughed a lot at the captain—he was really quite humorous. We enjoyed the Majority Rules game at 10:15 on day two, caught a few minutes of Derek Lewis in the Schooner Bar (we did this on all but two nights), and on day two we went to bed just after midnight. We played win a cruise bingo on day three—we didn’t win, but we later met the couple who did, the art auction was well attended, but we didn’t go to it, and we watched the ice carving demonstration on the pool deck (“don’t ask them what it is—it’s bad luck”). Day four was a little hazy to see much of Cuba as we passed, but we did use our binoculars and looked anyway. We watched the Belly Flop Competition (all contestants got a prize of some kind), sat in the hot tub for a while, and played The Quest late that night. Day five we were off the ship mostly, but we did watch the hilarious Love and Marriage game show and stayed up late enough to take pictures of the absolutely beautiful food/art at the Gala Buffet. Day six we gathered with quite a few of the other passengers (get there early if you want to video or take photos) and watched the Friendship Celebration Parade. Day seven we played Texas 42 in the card room, hung out with friends in the Schooner bar, looked at art, picked up the newspaper in the library when I returned a book I had borrowed, and watched the adult guest talent show on the television, because we had missed seeing it in the theater.

 

“Friendliest Ship”: Yes, the crew members were all quite friendly. They all seemed to enjoy their work. Cruise director is from Britain, he is humorous. The staff is hardworking and fun. Maintenance and repairs were done onboard throughout the trip, but never were a problem for getting around. The ship was clean, in very good shape, and very attractively decorated. Spills were wiped up quickly, and empty glasses were removed expediently. 

 

Food: We were second seating (by choice), and we ate every evening in the Edelweiss Dining Room (except for Key West—we were off the ship until around 11 pm). We were at table 160—this was in the center of the lower floor of the dining room—excellent table. Everything we ate was very, very good! We also ate almost all our breakfasts in the dining room and ate most lunches in the Windjammer. 

 

Room service: We had it once—on the Georgetown, Cayman Islands day—I put the card out on the door the night before and circled 7:00. At 6:50, they called to say they were bringing our breakfast. We requested extra coffee and they brought two carafes. Both of us ordered omelettes and there was also an assortment of danishes. All of this was very good, and all of it was very warm, except for the coffee, which was very hot.

 

Edelweiss dining room: Breakfasts were all very good—fun to eat with and converse with such a variety of people from all over the country. We ate eggs several times, I had the French toast once, hubby had the blueberry pancakes once, we each had omelettes also. All of the aforementioned items were all very good, served promptly, and always with our choice of breakfast pastries or toast. The waiters also always inquired if we would like to add bacon or sausage, and offered juices if we failed to order them. They were always friendly and efficient and refilled our coffee cups as we emptied them. Excellent service and delicious food.

 

I am sorry to say the only lunch we ate in the dining room was on day seven. We ate with some of our new friends and we had the baby back ribs. They were awesome. Dessert was superb—banana caramel split. We opted for the Windjammer for lunch each of the other days because of activities that we were involved in, but I really prefer the dining room—the service is terrific and I enjoy meeting people, and you are more or less on your own in the Windjammer.

 

Dinners were all wonderful. We had a table for six, and as I said, second seating. We had very friendly and enjoyable table mates… one couple from Oklahoma City and the other from Texas. Our waiter was Baris and assistant was Allan. Both were very efficient and friendly. The first night was delicious rib eye steaks and dessert was white chocolate (ivory) fondue with fresh berries and it was a wonderful desert. I only had to ask for iced tea on the first two nights, then Allan brought it each evening thereafter. Night two, hubby had duck a la orange—he said it was good—and I had a Cajun pasta dish that was outstanding. (We are from LA, so my expectations were high.) Both of us had cheesecake for dessert and it was delicious. Night three we ate in Key West. Night four hubby had the sea bass—it was very good but rather small, so he opted for a second entrée-pork chop-which was very good. I had the ravioli and it was terrific. Night five hubby had three lobster tails with shrimp (that tells you how much he loved it, huh?) and I had the Prime Rib. Delicious! This was the night of the flourless royal chocolate cake and it was very rich and everyone at the table loved it. Night six was Italian night; we had some really great bread, tasty minestrone soup, and hubby told Baris to “surprise him” at dinner and he did very well—he brought the shrimp scampi—excellent, I had rigatoni—also excellent. Dessert was chocolate cake and Baris recommended eating it with ice cream, and we all really enjoyed it. Night seven was a steak and ice cream for dessert. All the food was terrific. Waiter and assistant worked hard but seemed to enjoy it. I would say that they worked to be as unobtrusive as possible. They sang, of course, on two evenings, plus we saw them again for the Friendship Celebration. Dining room attire varied… all of the passengers who ate on formal nights were dressed very nicely.

 

Windjammer: We ate most of our lunches here and found it to be quick and tasty. As you walk in the doors, note the card on the buffet—it will tell what is being served in the center area of the buffet area. Desserts are also located in this center area—and you can (of course) have as many as you want. I tried many of them, and they were all terrific. (I only gained 5 pounds on this trip!) We both thought the Mexican buffet was really good—fajitas were well seasoned. Barbecue chicken on day six was also very good… we never had a bad meal—everything was tasty and the wait staff here was very helpful. We always tried to sit near the front windows—even  saw a huge number of dolphins one day—and a very friendly waitress named Nuran from Turkey always spoke to us and kept our iced tea filled. The only time I ever encountered a line on this ship was in the dessert line at the Windjammer one day, but I sacrificed the wait so I could try a few of the desserts.

 

Room: We had room 3142 which is a large ocean view room and it was just what we expected, as we had the same category on Splendour last year (although we had been on deck two). Upon arrival, there was a listing of the movies played for every day of the cruise along with the channels they could be found on. I think there were 5 international channels (same movie in different languages). On this same listing—on the back—was a list of the “highlights” of each day. Upon arrival, our excursion tickets were on the bed along with a listing of other available excursions and the large towels to use on excursions or at the pool. The room was checked and cleaned and organized at least twice a day. Our steward, Bertram, even stowed our luggage away under the bed for us. We had the towel animals beginning on night two, and Bertram made a few new ones that I had not seen before. 

 

Excursions:

In Key West, we did the Western Union Sunset Sail, and it was awesome.  The sunset was not great, but the trip was terrific anyway. Captain Lenn was very knowledgeable and informative and hubby helped hoist the sails on the way out. They served unlimited champagne, beer, and sodas. There was a very scrumptious conch chowder served, and I don’t even like seafood! The music onboard was a mixture of harp and something that I think was a bagpipe, and it was excellent. I highly recommend this excursion—it was something different and the history of the schooner was interesting. Very relaxing and special. Pictures were taken of all the passengers as we boarded, and these were shown to us as we got off at the end of the excursion. 

 

In Grand Cayman we did the stingray city trip—this was not through the cruise lines. We booked our cruise through an Internet agency and they offered a free shore excursion, and this is the one I selected. I am really glad we did it this way, because the majority of people were there with very large numbers of people in their groups, and our group of 30 was very enjoyable. Interestingly, five of us were from the RCCL ship and the rest were from a Carnival ship out of New Orleans. The company that took us out gave us a short “educational” talk about stingrays on the way, and they were very patient and persistent in helping us all to touch and hold the beautiful creatures. As we were about to leave, a rather large, overcrowded boat pulled in and the people were screaming and yelling as one of the workers intentionally chased them with stingrays in arms. It seemed rather chaotic, and I was glad that our experience had been so peaceful.

 

In Cozumel, hubby and three friends went scuba diving—they left around 12:30, so we had plenty of time early that morning to shop. We were at the International Pier, so this is not the busiest area of Cozumel, but we enjoyed the shopping and found several bargains—souvenirs. Back to the scuba, we all had booked through RCCL, and the company taking them out made a video that was ordered, and it will take about four weeks to receive. Hubby and friends all raved about this two tank dive, said the water was crystal clear and they saw all sorts of beauty under the sea.  Pictures from the dives are very beautiful!

 

Ports:

Key West: We docked at 3, and were off the ship shortly thereafter. We were the only cruise ship there—another one had left about 30 minutes ahead of our arrival. We walked Duval Street to see the clubs and whatnot. Key West was extremely clean, and there were some street performers around that were interesting to watch. We walked to Margaritaville to get our teenager a t-shirt and to make a note of where it is so we could go back later, which we did, to have a Cheeseburger in Paradise. Excellent band played that night—they were from Miami. Around 4:45 we went back to the ship to meet the man from the Western Union Schooner, and we were taken by shuttle to their dock. I would never go all the way down to Key West any other way—just too far—so I am glad we went on the cruise. There were lots of mopeds for rent and lots of things one could do on their own without taking an excursion. Two of our tablemates did the pub crawl and they had a good time… they also went to the state park beach, but they said it was not very nice. I am sure there is a nicer beach somewhere. Would we go to Key West again? Definitely—there is much to see and do—and if possible, we would like to have it on another itinerary.

 

Georgetown, Grand Cayman: We docked at 7 am—had been told we would have to have tender tickets, as our excursion was not booked through the ship, but when they called for early tendering, we finished our breakfast and hurried down. Tendering was very quick—we didn’t have any of the rough seas that I had read about—and we were on shore and looking around in less than 30 minutes. One other cruise ship was already there when we arrived and two others arrived later, although the Internet port authority had listed one other RC ship for arrival that day (it never came). We also heard that the US dollar would be accepted but no US change would be given, but we found that the dollar was accepted and we asked for US change and it was given to us. Georgetown was also very clean, the people were quite friendly, and although the hurricane damage was still evident, it was a beautiful place.  We will go there again if given a chance!

 

Cozumel: I think most people who cruise and travel have been to Cozumel, and it is very nice. The vendors can be a bit pushy, but that is the way they make their money. We will definitely go there again, and we are considering flying down to stay at an all-inclusive resort. The diving is terrific, the weather is outstanding, and there is a lot to see and do here. Fun to watch the late arrivals from the top deck—people were still coming down the pier to get back on the ship as late as 5:50, although “all aboard” time was 5:30. Most of them were staggering down the pier… also interesting to watch the crew take up the ropes before we set sail.

 

Departure: We had Green tags, so we were close to the end, but we knew this, and ate breakfast in the dining room at 8:00—8:30 and they didn’t seem to mind us staying around a few minutes later, drinking coffee. Then we made our way to the Broadway Melodies Theater, where we sat for a few minutes… when they called the color ahead of us, we waited for those people to exit, then we leisurely walked toward the middle of the ship. We sat in the Centrum a few minutes, they called our color, we walked out—customs lines looked long but the whole thing took under 20 minutes. We walked outside to find the sign for our parking area, the line looked long here, also, but we only waited 5 minutes, and we were on a shuttle and on our way. We were third in line for the ferry, and we drove home. 

 

It was a terrific vacation, and we highly recommend this ship and itinerary!

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