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Royal Caribbean International: Rhapsody of the Seas

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Oct 3, 2015

Greek isles

I would like to thank all the guest services staff, and specifically C. Silva, D. Laguna, E. Abreu de Souza for being very helpful and attentive to our needs after having missed the boarding and our luggage due to airline delays. It helped make the rest of our cruise so much more enjoyable. Our room cabin attendant was also very attentive and pleasant...loved his special touches in making up our cabin and helping us with laundry, luggage etc. Last

but not least, our dinning room experience was wonderful and our waiter, and his assistant gave us excellent service and we're very attentive, accommodating and friendly. Thanks to all. Very nicely done cuisine and presented well....lovely selections, portions small but delicious and desserts lavish. Comfortable and clean cabin. Mattresses could be a little firmer or plumper...could feel slats or boards underneath a little. Shower and bath in good order and clean. Although entertaining, the poolside entertainment was too loud and overwhelming for too much of the day! Often the music was so loud I could barely hear my audible book on lap top and conversation was difficult....the solarium was quieter but a little warm and humid for lounging. The activities in the central lounge were good, not great, and difficult to get seats if you were in the early dinner seating. The dance performances were very nice and the special solo acts were good. The movie choices were not inspired! The adult game shows were entertaining and upbeat but the band was too loud and caustic while waiting for the game. The excursions to the antiquities were wonderful and several of the guides were excellent. Athens Acropolis tour was a bit of a disappointment and we didn't appreciate the extended forced souvenir shopping in some of the overpriced venues. Also, the tour operators should put a warning about bringing rain weather gear. They have nothing on board and we got soaked when our Athens and Pompei tours got rained on. Our trip overall was wonderful. We had some very bad travel delays when we missed our connection in Rome to board the cruise due to a major delay with USAirways and they also managed to delay our luggage for 5 days because they didn't transfer our luggage when they transferred us to another flight. We utilized the choice air emergency day of travel phone # given in our cruise papers and an agent by the name of Alex was extremely helpful. She made all kinds of arrangements for us and they all worked perfectly. The shore agent in Crete also took great care of us so we were able to enjoy our cruise as soon as possible.

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Apr 28, 2014

Review of Rhapsody of the Seas

Isabelle norvil Age: 68 Occupation:Retired administrator Number of Cruises: 1 Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean Ship: Rhapsody of the Seas Sailing Date: 2015-09-15 Itinerary: Greek isles I would like to thank all the guest services staff, and specifically C. Silva, D. Laguna, E. Abreu de Souza for being very helpful and attentive to our needs after having missed the boarding and our luggage due to airline delays. It helped make the rest of our cruise so

much more enjoyable. Our room cabin attendant was also very attentive and pleasant...loved his special touches in making up our cabin and helping us with laundry, luggage etc. Last but not least, our dinning room experience was wonderful and our waiter, and his assistant gave us excellent service and we're very attentive, accommodating and friendly. Thanks to all. Very nicely done cuisine and presented well....lovely selections, portions small but delicious and desserts lavish. Comfortable and clean cabin. Mattresses could be a little firmer or plumper...could feel slats or boards underneath a little. Shower and bath in good order and clean. Although entertaining, the poolside entertainment was too loud and overwhelming for too much of the day! Often the music was so loud I could barely hear my audible book on lap top and conversation was difficult....the solarium was quieter but a little warm and humid for lounging. The activities in the central lounge were good, not great, and difficult to get seats if you were in the early dinner seating. The dance performances were very nice and the special solo acts were good. The movie choices were not inspired! The adult game shows were entertaining and upbeat but the band was too loud and caustic while waiting for the game. The excursions to the antiquities were wonderful and several of the guides were excellent. Athens Acropolis tour was a bit of a disappointment and we didn't appreciate the extended forced souvenir shopping in some of the overpriced venues. Also, the tour operators should put a warning about bringing rain weather gear. They have nothing on board and we got soaked when our Athens and Pompei tours got rained on. Our trip overall was wonderful. We had some very bad travel delays when we missed our connection in Rome to board the cruise due to a major delay with USAirways and they also managed to delay our luggage for 5 days because they didn't transfer our luggage when they transferred us to another flight. We utilized the choice air emergency day of travel phone # given in our cruise papers and an agent by the name of Alex was extremely helpful. She made all kinds of arrangements for us and they all worked perfectly. The shore agent in Crete also took great care of us so we were able to enjoy our cruise as soon as possible.

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Aug 7, 2013

Alaska

This cruise exceeded my expectations. I was not excited about being on a ship with 1800 people (we prefer smaller ships), but we took our daughter, son-in-law and 10 year old grandson and it was important for him to have activities to keep him busy. This is a wonderful ship for families with children traveling with them. My grandson loved the place for the 9 - 11 year olds. He spent a great deal of time there which then gave his mother and father

a real vacation. Depends on the venue. The three speciality restaurants - Chops, Izumi and Giovanni's Table were excellent. We even went back to Chops on our last night we liked it so much. We did not eat breakfast or lunch in the dining room. We had dinner there one night and it was average - very slow service, not a great table and food was OK. We did enjoy our meals in the Windjammer Cafe - lots of variety and it was fresh. Also can get Starbucks pastries for free if you buy a Starbucks. Stateroom was very nice. We had starboard side verandah - this is best side as we had a wonderful sunset in Juneau and were away from the dock in Skagway. I would highly recommend a verandah due to the two days of cruising and also the best spot for the iceberg viewing. Beds were comfortable. There was a couch and desk area. Shower was pretty good sized with good water pressure. Also lots of storage. AS I said our grandson loved the kids club. We enjoyed the pre dinner music in the Centrum. Also the rock and roll show with Bowser and the Stingrays and the evening we spent in the Schooner Bar listening to Derek Lewis and his bawdy songs. We did not like either of the two speakers - one on glaciers and one who was a retired Royal Mounted Police. The woman who spoke on glaciers was too detailed and her power point slides were impossible to read. Also she gave lots of information about glaciers we were not going to visit so it was probably a canned speech. The retiree spoke a lot about himself and other stories rather than about the organization and its workings. We were very disappointed with the aerial shows. The first one was cancelled after 10 minutes due to some technical problems and not rescheduled. The second one was only 10 minutes and not very exciting. We did a whale watching with Marv and Harv rather than through the ship as it allowed us to have our own boat instead of being on a large boat with lots of people. I would highly recommend taking a whale watching trip. The Yukon Pass Railway which we did do through the boat was OK. It's an hour up and an hour down on a small gauge railway. The cars are comfortable, but it's hard to get good pictures when the train is moving. Due to fog we did not get off at the top as there was no view. I would not recommend eating or visiting the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau - hot, crowded, a real tourist joint. Also disappointed with shopping in Juneau - mostly tacky souvenier shops. Butchart Gardens in Victoria was wonderful - again we booked our own transportation as we wanted to spend as much time as we could. This is a must see if you're a garden buff.

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Jul 19, 2012

Alaska Inside Passage

This cruise was very good - our best ever. We have sailed with Royal Caribbean 6 times now, but this is our last. I would gladly recommend the ship, the itinerary, the staff, the food - but NOT Royal Caribbean's Customer service. This is the first time anything has gone wrong. I have complained in writing 3 times and they just ignore me - does anyone know how to get them to respond? Alaska was an amazing experience. We expected this to

be a "once in a lifetime", but we are already considering returning - with anyone but Royal Caribbean. We did get a bit fed up with the penny pinching and the need to pay the staff more in tips than I earn. We have previously only been on the bigger ships - Freedom and Voyager class, but this smaller ship was very good. It is a shame that so much was made of a multimillion dollar refurbishment, because it was hard to see where all the money was spent. Even so, it was very nice. Food was quite good. Mainly we ate in the main restaurant - we don't like the buffet race, although from what we saw, Rhapsody was more organized, cleaner and less busy than others we have sailed with. We were on Liberty in May 2012 and did notice that the menus were very similar, but good meals every night, with plenty to choose from. Wine and drinks were fine - not too pricey - wine served at perfect temperatures. The Waiting Staff - Vicky and Lester were absolutely fabulous - probably the first time we had tipped "recommended amounts". Stateroom (eventually) was very good - see my rant later on. We had a Junior Suite with balcony. "Refurbished" apparently. I think this applied only to the bathroom, the rest looked a little tired, but beds were comfortable, rooms were quiet, air con seemed to keep the temperature nice - once we had fiddled with it a bit. The Cruise director on Rhapsody was brilliant - loads of fun and had whipped the staff into great shape. The skits she put on were mostly better than the "broadway" style singers and dancers. Shows were a little lackluster otherwise. The special guests were fun. We took a helicopter flight onto Mendenhall Glacier - WOW! and hiked with crampons and icepicks - WOW!. This was so good! (There are no toilets on a glacier - not good for some). We also went to see the sled dogs - also good fun. Both a bit pricey - but reassurance of having booked and that they would get us back to the ship on time made it worth it now the rant: We booked this cruise whilst on Independence of the Seas in March 2011. We wanted the rear corner junior suite - because of the better balcony - "not a problem" - Fernando took the deposit and booked it. In March 2012 we had an e-mail to advise us of a "change of state room". The corner suite was no longer available they said, because we are refurbishing the ship - choose another they said - so we did. I e-mailed immediately Royal Caribbean and asked if we could have the suite if it became available - we got a reply - "we'll get back to you", but they didn't. I emailed gain in May 2012 - they completely ignored that one. We complained on the ship - "tough" (Although I have to say that Guest Services on the ship seemed to want to help and were very pleasant but RCI did not want to get our suite back or offer any compensation). Other people on our table had been moved suites and were given $200 compensation - and they were moved like-for-like. They were US Citizens - more important that us Brits. I had the survey when I got home - told them again - "If you would like a reply give us your e-mail and telephone number" - done that - completely ignored. What a load of rude people RCI must be for no one to bother to reply to 3 complaints. I have seen other similar complaints/reviews - please don't reply and explain to me that it was a "mix-up" with cabin numbers - we've heard this excuse, I want to know why can't the staff of RCI respond to our complaints? I can't book with them again - this was our 6th cruise with them of 7 total cruises. Our understanding of this is that if a US citizen wants your cabin, they can have it and you will be moved. Tough! Beware. They like your sterling, but they don't like you Brits.

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Jul 15, 2012

Alaska

This was a gorgeous cruise, with overwhelming scenery every day (best seen from the Viking Lounge on deck 11). The food is wonderful, and the crew go out of their way to make you feel special. Just be wary of beverage packages offered online pre check-in. The food was wonderful. The main dining room's selections for dinner were exquisite. The buffet dining room offered a ton of choices for breakfast and lunch; we didn't use it for dinner.

Very small (compared to Disney), but immaculate and well taken-care of. Our room steward was wonderful. Those that I attended were fantastic. The cruise director, Anna Bass, is enchanting and always entertaining. This isn't an excursion, but don't miss the galley tour. It's impressive. Definitely see the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. The room staff were wonderful and attentive; it was hard to get dining room and bar staff to attend to you. Crew took a lot of care to remember names and preferences, and asked often about my younger son by name, who had been seasick during the first days. It was a wonderful touch. HOWEVER, we feel we were duped in two ways: 1) during online check-in, cruisers are offered a chance to pre-purchase beverage packages. The water package says only 24 bottles will be delivered to your stateroom, without specifying the volume. We assumed the standard 500ml size, and ordered two cases. Turned out the bottles were 1.05L bottles. We were unable to drink 50L of water during 7 days, and since the bottles were delivered to the stateroom loose, (not in a plastic-covered case) I can only assume those we left would be sent to another stateroom that ordered them on the next cruise, allowing RC to sell them twice. This seems underhanded. 2) Also offered was a soda package, offering unlimited soda refills for $50 for the week. Turned out you needed to get refills from the bartenders, who served refills last or not at all since no chit was handed over and their chance of a tip was lower. We did NOT drink our money's worth of soda, not even close. We feel ripped off. Also, having our waiter openly solicit tips on the last night in the main dining room made me sort of regret having tipped him earlier that day.

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Jan 9, 2012

Soyth Pacific

Exceeded my expectations in all respects - totally wonderful. Beautiful ship. Excellent crew and staff who couldnt do enough to help. Boarding was rather lengthy, and due to a particularly cold summer it wasnt very pleasant waiting outside on the quay...but all staff exceptionally pleasant and made the wait bearable. Sadly, my neither my elderly parents nor myself and brother were able to make use of our balconies at all during the

10 day trip due to being down wind and next door to two very heavy smokers...even at 04.30h in the morning....so breakfast on the balcony, reading quietly or having a glass of wine were all not to be. Had a major and detrimental effect on our holiday, and of course the expense of paying for a balcony stateroom which I had paid for the 4 of us - we could have had the same holiday in a low deck cabin with a sealed window, as that is exactly what we ended up with. Departure from ship was excellent - off and luggage collected with minutes. Very good indeed. Only used Windjammers at lunch time and formal dining room Eldelwiess in the evening. Very good selection in the Windjammer at all times, clean. Staff helpful. Lovely to relax there and enjoy the amazing views. Evening meals were superb, and our waiter Ganash and assistant waiter Shanshan were brilliant. The shows they put on for us with the singing firstly with all the chefs, and later in the week all the waiters was wonderful....and made a hugely enjoyable evening. Were clean and kept that way all during our cruise. Our cabin person Adi was brilliant - he couldnt do enough to help and was kindness itself to my elderly parents. Well done to him - he and Shanshan really made our holiday. Only fault I could find was the shower curtain which showed mould and could have been changed at little cost - but towels were always spotless and bedding too. As mentioned booked these mid-ship staterooms particularly for the balconies - but unable to use at all. Good to be able to make your own tea or coffee, and the mini fridge a real bonus - I had pre ordered water so always had a bottle chilling. Plenty of space for clothes and suitcases to be put out of sight. Good lighting - flat screen TV though very very limited viewing - unless you want to watch the cruise director chatting on endlessly! The entertainments director did not appeal - we dont like being called "luvvies" at our age....and it was a bit low brow. However, many many others seemed to enjoy her activities so can only speak for ourselves. Disappointed in the theatre productions, though a totally beautiful theatre - wasted really I feel. There seemed a lot to do at all times - and probably something for everyone, though we like a bit of peace and quiet (hence the balconies)! Noummea - we did the day trip to Amadee Lighthouse 45 minutes by fast ferry. Fabulous and very underrated. Food and dancing Polynesian style was just amazing - and the island is absolutely lovely. Not to be missed! Vanuatu - apart from arriving late in port, and pouring with rain, and due to the loud speakers not be transmitted into the staterooms, just in the corriders, we missed out on our booked trip so decided we would get off any way to at least stretch our legs, even though it really was pouring with (warm) rain! Found the taxi drivers shouting at you (long lines of them gripping on to the fence that separates the dock area from the "road") very intimidating. I was with my elderly mother and unfortunately and as mentioned by someone else, even if you negotiate once you get in the car (and ours was a death trap - should not have got in but my Mum was so enthusiastic to see something) they persist in wanting to take you somewhere you dont want to go.....and our trip turned from 10 dollars into 50 dollars - and it was quite frightening actually. Wouldnt go there again in a hurry and its their wet season so dont really know why its included in the itinerary! Lifou - just loved. Lots of confusion at the the market area as no one clearly explained or understood the car rental or private taxi driver system and no one seemed to speak English - so brush up on your French. We had a 2 hour trip which cost 30 dollars a head - it turned into 3 hours, we were shown around the island with Henri (fantastic) and then taken to a wonderful beach to swim....getting back into his car wet and covered in sand to no complaint and no hurry to get us back inside his 2 hours time slot. Totally wonderful island and fantastic experience. Isles of Pines - lived up to its name, and it just perfect. Greeted by islanders with head dresses of flowers for each of us and dancing by the local tribespeople. Beaches superb. Local bus for 45 min trip around - really good trip and value for money. ** Note: its much easier on these islands if you take the local currency. They do accept Australian dollars...but the local money makes things like postcards so much easier to buy. ** Note: if you want a permanent memento of your island visit you can pay a few dollars to have your passport stamped. Wish we had known before we disembarked! Mystery Island - interesting watching the locals arrive with their wares in their little boats. Islanders very quiet, but friendly if spoken to. All sell the same kind of thing, pareos, grass skirts, fresh coconuts - which they cut the top off for you and give you a straw to drink from, LOVELY, but the island itself is lovely and the swimming fantastic. No food there though, but the tenders are running back and forth to the ship all day long so its easy to go back for lunch and come out again if you want to. It was our first time cruising, and it was my treat to my family - so cant tell you how disappointed I was that we were not able to make use of the balconies. I can understand that people want to smoke - but it should be kept to decks only and comepletely banned from cabins. Smoke coming into your balcony and apartments is unavoidable if you are down wind from smokers as it gets sucked in by the forward motion of the ship. If you suffer with seasickness even the slight smell of cigarette smoke is enough to set you off - and once in your cabin it gets in your hair and clothes and is highly unpleasant. Other than that, it really was the most beautiful ship with fantastic crew and great food and really if it hadnt been for the loss of our balconies it would have been perfect. We would definately go again, but next time will book low decks with just a port hole - cheaper and guaranteed smoke free!

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Jan 1, 2012

South Pacific

As a first time cruiser I was hesitant about cruising instead of going on a 'normal' holiday to a specific location. We used this as a family Xmas for the whole family to get together(3 families). To my surprise this was one of the best holidays I have experienced and would recommend it to others. The Cruise was fantastic from the friendly crew, great food to the varied and many activities on board. We could do as much as we wanted or as little and

also could spend time with family without having to live in each others pockets as happens at Xmas time when families get together. We went on the 10 night South Pacific Cruise and the port stops were good. There was a good variety of food from the Wind Jammer buffet which we had brekky and lunch as it met our varied eating times. Dinner sitting was very good with a different menu each night with plenty of variety. There is also the burger, pizza & hot dog bar open for snacks all the time. Plenty of variety for everyone. Excellent waiter service from Bozi & Claudio. Thanks if you ever read this. Very clean and extremely well maintained morning and night, Thanks Michael for all the towel animals, my wife loved them. Apart from sleeping and changing clothes did not spend much time in the room. Plenty of activities on board with something happening at all hours to suit all ages. Cruise director has planned all activities to keep everyone amused... or just laze about the pool having a few cold ones. Pre-book your shore trips before departure to avoid missing out. Once on the islands it becomes limited to what you can experience and they book out quickly once on board. Islands: Noumea - Polenesians welcoming, remainder rude. Avoid cafe/takeaway shop near market as owner extremely rude. Noumea Least desired location. Next time I would remain on board. Villa - Unfortunately it rained when we were there and a lot of tours cancelled. Nice place, get bombarded by taxis when depart ship. negotiate price first. They will offer you tours to other areas as soon as you get in the cab. Mystery Is. - Small island with snorkelling, take some gear with you on the ship or buy it in Villa for $12 AUD. Take some cash as locals do offer reef trips etc from as little as $30 PP,which was not detailed on board as it is not part of liners shore excursions. Very nice people with some interesting photo opportunities. Lifou - Fantastic snorkelling about 15 min walk from where dropped off, lots of coral, clams, turtles and varieties of colourful fish. Local dancers and food good. Isle of Pines - Very picturesque with fantastic beaches and swimming. Boarding/Departing - Boarding took a little while approx 1.5 hrs but most of this was the line up through Australian customs. Registering to get on the ship took about 15 minutes, departing was less than 20 minutes. Overall, rate it has one of our best holiday experiences and suffering from PCD "Post Cruise Depression" as we get back home to normal daily life. Already looking in to cruise for next year with Royal Carribean. Thoroughly recommend it.

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Dec 29, 2011

Pacific islands

This was a Christmas Cruise to New Calednia and Pacific Islands. A cruise very suitable to those wishing to snorkel and swim in the clear waters. Not a lot in the form of shore excursions but to just stay on the ship or wander around the islands was sufficient. Christmas day at sea was a very memorable event and the ship's crew were so friendly and helpful even though they were away from their own families. I have cruised with other

shipping lines and put Rhapsody of the Seas in the "GREAT" scale Excellent and plentyful Very clean and comfortable. Lots to keep everyone busy. Only took one excursion and it was good. Exceeded my expectations.What more can I say ???

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Oct 21, 2011

Honolulu to Auckland

Rhapsody of the Seas-Hawaii to Auckland September 21-October 6, 2011. 7 nights pre cruise Hawaii Flew Auckland to Hawaii on Air New Zealand, Pacific Economy class. A 9 hour flight, which left on time, 11am NZ and arrived Hawaii at 9.45pm, USA time, and gained a day as crossing the dateline. Nice flight. No problems getting through Security etc at Hawaii and Waikiki bus shuttle ($9 one way) to Waikiki Ohana West hotel. The hotel was well

located, Tourist standard, excellent air conditioning, pleasant pool, and big Supermarket across the road. Two blocks back from beach, lots of restaurants, but only High end or tourist shops in this part of Waikiki-very similar where ever you went. The Waikiki Beach, Zoo, Diamond Head all very accessible from this location. Nice visit. Like Surfers Paradise in Australia, don't feel any compulsion to return, but its very pleasant and also an entry point to further USA travel. Did a couple of bus Tours, both with pick ups from the Hotel, Pearl Harbour, Aviation Museum, and Mini Island Circle Tour, both good value, and musts for 1st time to Hawaii visitors . Embarkation Ship departed from Terminal 2, Ala Moana Building, ($20 US, taxi from our Hotel) and virtually no queue. Full marks . Royal Caribbean very strict on no alcohol in either your carry bags or luggage, many had their luggage delayed, due to alcohol within the bag. Long delays in getting bags delivered to room due to security approach The ship in general Rhapsody of the Seas built in 1997, refitted in 2007, is again going into refit 2012, getting 3 specialty restaurants in the area of the current Schooner bar. For the age of the ship it was in excellent condition,. 78,491 tons, 2000 passengers with 750 crew, and last yr it won the Royal Caribbean internal award for best ship. With lots of newer ships in their fleet, some feat. We are Princess Cruisers, and with this ship and a repositioning cruise, my expectations were not high, but I was pleasantly surprised, a nice ship, very well set out, and spit polish clean with lots of glass, the Broadway Melody Theatre was a lovely venue , the Atrium area impressive, spanning 6 decks, with spiral affect and glass window view lifts, and the Two tier Edelweiss dining room elegantly furbished. There was a well stocked and large Library, a smaller internet Cafe, a stand alone card room, and late release movies played each day in various locations. The ship Dancers and Singers Group were solid, without the X factor of a number of recent Princess Cruise shows that I have seen, but the quality of the individual entertainers headlined each night e.g. Singers, Comedians, etc was as high as any I have experienced on any other previous cruises. Excellent formal lectures, on this trip with a Pacific, with reputable United States University lecturers doing the presentations Royal Caribbean cruises, like others add a US 10.50 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with you on the ship can also receive something. If you don't like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish, and envelopes for tips are available. In this instance we prepaid, took any emotion out of the issue. The bars and public seating areas of the Rhapsody of the seas were excellent, roomy and stylish e.g. Navigator Bar, excellent piano playing throughout and a piano/violin father and son combination, played wonderful music in the atrium area. Gym was well equipped, with nice outside sea views, and the Viking Crown lounge at the top of the ship, quiet in the day, and wonderful place to grab a book and soak up the sea view, as the ship proceeds at about 17 knots. The quality of formal lectures/presentation was excellent. I missed wine appreciation and tasting on this ship, Princess does that very well, but not available on this cruise. I did not climb the rock wall, they are a feature on all the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but many did. No art auctions either, thank goodness; Princess Art auctions have their place, but be wary of their claims and values! The cruise was calm throughout; with a small increase in swell motion as New Zealand got closer I have in previous reports mentioned weather motion sickness is a real issue on NZ/Aussie cruises and up the Pacific Rim area. This can be managed by good planning, patches/tablets if one is prone. The reality is cruises in this part of the world are often not calm, and I continue to be surprised at the passengers who do not understand that reality and are not prepared or ill advised. Dining Traditional 1st or second sitting evening dining room sitting versus My Time dining are great options. I found the Royal Caribbean My time dining option somewhat complicated to understand in practice. I had requested a table for 2 1st sitting Traditional dining, but was given seating at 1st sitting at a table of ten, so switched to my preferred option at the 2nd sitting. It worked well for us, often the Headline shows were 7pm for the 2nd sitting customers, followed by dinner, and those in 1st sitting had their dinner first and then went to the 9pm show. Due to age of ship Rhapsody of the Sea principally had only two substantial dining venues, the Traditional dining room Edelweiss for meals or the Windjammer Buffet. Room service with a pleasant set menu, was also available and excellent, and there were a couple of limited menu cafes and Burger joints. The formal dining room quality was better than Princess, seemed to have more taste, the buffet on par. Lots of choice at the Buffet, once you learn to select carefully, you can enjoy very good food. Royal Caribbean room service was also more extensive than Princess, who has a poor reputation for the limited menu they provide for room service, but even so it's nice to have an ordered meal, delivered in style to your room, day or night. Celebrity provides the best room service menu, followed by Royal Caribbean, and Princess at the rear. Personally I am a breakfast addict, and both venues above, served comprehensive stylish breakfasts. It is nice to sit at the table, nice table cloth and appointments, and the staff serving you egg benedict, followed by peach slices and oatmeal, followed by prunes, a choice of breads, lots of fruit, squeezed orange juice, coffee of choice, muffins galore, dainty jams and assortments all personalized to you. The evening menu in the Edelweiss was very comprehensive, excellent service and style right up there with any international hotel, one of the obvious delights of cruising. Our cabin We had a 7th floor interior stateroom Number 7145, which exceeded my expectations. As this was principally a sea voyage, with only 3 Ports in 14 days, I decided a Balcony was not justified, and our room was spacious, and pleasant, and the air conditioning excellent The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximize space. The open space wardrobes provided plenty of hanging and excellent storage space for our requirements. Small TV, but excellently positioned. The room configuration made it seem very spacious. Nice soft armchair too. Our main cases fitted side by side quite comfortably. Bathroom shower pressure excellent. There is a safe in every room. . PORTS OF CALL- Only 3 on this repositioning cruise Rhapsody of the Seas like all cruise lines formal ship tours at each Port of Call, they are well organized, and lots of options, they are costly, but the premium you pay, is perhaps made up for by the convenience? Papeete-Tahiti. Ship moors in the City Centre proper, which is great, and a lovely Boardwalk Promenade with Parks reaches out from the wharf gates. The City itself is seedy, very much 3rd world, and like all of French Polynesia pricey. Don't look for shopping value here. Pearl Museum near to ship was interesting. We did not do a tour here, just strolled around, and took lots of photos, when hungry back to the ship? Moorea A lovely Tahitian Island. Ship tenders of the Island, but the view is magnificent and the tender ride to the small wharf also lovely. Nice welcome by locals. Bora Bora Another island paradise lives up to its reputation. Ship tenders off the wharf, coral reef nearby, wonderful views. Did a coral reef, glass bottom viewing tour here. Lots of fish, plenty of time, simple and effective. The small boat ride (20 passengers) took about 30 minutes to get out to reef, and pleasant commentary, which could have been improved by guide using a mike or similar. Alec Waugh

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By ED_CR

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Aug 15, 2011

Alaska

This is second cruise to Alaska and Rhapsody of the Seas, even though not a young ship, is in excellent condition. Her crew is very professional and the hotel staff, dining room staff, cooks, entertainment were first class. The captain makes the entire trip very rewarding and the views in Tracy Arms Fiord are amazing. Boarding and departure on the ship was the best so far. Very well organized and supervised. Ship was very clean at all times and

crew worked very hard to keep her that way. Very friendly crew. Met and talked with staff from all over world. Solarium is a wonderful place for relaxing inside out of the weather. Spa features numerous capabilities and is very professional. Ate most meals in dining room and was pleased with variety and size of portions. Staff was very, very helpful and a joy to be with each day. Salad bar at lunch time was great. Service was excellent. Had an outside stateroom which was perfect for Alaska cruise. Very comfortable and roomy for two people. Best evening was at the end of cruise when show team came onboard and presented their new performance for the first time. Was excellent. singers were best so far and show was well received by everyone. Would have enjoyed more dancing in Shall We Dance Lounge as small floor in centrum became very crowded. Took three excursions. In Juneau took tram ride to top of mountain for spectacular view of Juneau and harbor. In Skagway took City tour on old yellow bus and learned about skagway history. In Victoria took city tour and visit to Buchart Gardens. Wow, what a sight. Best I have ever seen. Very relaxing, wonderful crew and ship, good food, best embarkation and debarkation of all of my cruises. Good size ship without being overcrowded.

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Aug 6, 2011

Alaska

As a first time cruiser I had no expectations and was blown away by the personal service given by every worker on the ship. There was plenty to do and see. Just fantastic! The whole experience felt like a pampered retreat. Junea was a bit rainy, but we didn't care- it's amazingly charming. Rode the Roberts tram and saw gorgeous scenery down below. in Skagway, take the bus tour to Carcross to have a BBQ and interact with husky puppies. Then ride the

train back down - you can go outside the train on the platform to get gorgeous pictures of the trail of '98. Our bus driver, Tomas, was excellent!! Tracy Arms Fjord was a spiritual experience for me- the glaciers and mountains were undescrible with ice bergs and seals floating along. I looked down and saw the captain walking around his station, navigating us through the icebergs- very impressive! Victioria BC were full of breathtaking scenery and things to do! I've never seen so many gorgeous flowers in my life! Tips: 1. Be prepared for the ship to rock and roll quite a bit in the open sea. We had to take our time walking down the stairs in the theater. I could picture a frail person falling very easily. 2. The shows are professional and fun- Tony Tillman had us rolling on the floor with laughter. 3. Do bring the suggested amount of formal wear - people really do get dressed up for dinner- shorts are never allowed in the dining room (they are allowed in the Windjammer though). 4. Go to the sales in the ships stores- they're worth it! 5. You don't have to spend a lot of money onboard to have fun- there are plenty of free things to do. Your seapass account can add up quick, so use discretionary buying. You can prepay with cash on your seapass at the pursers desk if you're worried about running up a huge tab. 6.Internet access and cell phone use was advertised but wouldn't work. my cell phone worked at the ports (I didn't bother to try the internet again). 7. The food was outstanding, with the best attention to service I've ever experienced- order the wild Alaskan salmon and butterfish! Wish I had some right now! 8. At dinner, you will be at a table with other guests the entire time- getting to know them was fun and we plan on keeping in touch. 9. Smile- there should be no stress on a cruise! The food was fine restaurant quality with lots of choices, plus you can order as much as you want. I didn't have one bad meal and our waiter and assistant were outstanding! The fish was always fresh and delicious! Our stateroom was wonderful. Two twin beds were pushed together. I was shocked that I slept like a baby (slight rocking of the ship through the night). The room was soundproof, except I could here the live music on the ship once in awhile. Fernando kept our room clean and was available to help whenever we needed it. Loved the Bingo, Casino, Solarium Pool (adults only), all kinds of shows, karaoke, live music, dancing, lectures, captains welcome with free glass of champagne, etc, etc, etc. Don't miss the motorcoach/railroad tour from skagway to the Canadian Yukon and back down! Don't miss the trails once you get off the Roberts tram- note that the tram is about a 5 minute ride - not an extensive scenic tour of the coast

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Jan 14, 2011

Tasmania

Wonderful ship, which has seen better days and needs refurbishing. The on board service is excellent and the eye for detail amazing. Both boarding the ship and disembarkation was managed extremely well. I have no criticism of the ship other than refurbishment is required. Our suite groaned and creaked with the movement of the ship waking us up regularly during the night. The analogue TV in our suite was not the best and made watching TV pointless

due to the poor image quality. The intercom system in our cabin didn't work hence we had to open the door to hear any announcements. Would I travel again on this ship? Probably not, for the amount I paid I believe I can obtain a better quality ship. Unfortunately Australia usually gets the ships, which no longer meet or satisfy the expectations of northern cruisers in the USA or Europe. I believe this will change as our expectations evolve. The food is excellent in terms of quality and variety. There was a great selection of hot and cold foods as well as Asian cuisine. Our suite was spacious but old and needs refurbishing. The cupboards etc creaked and popped all night with movement of the ship, which repeatedly woke us during sleep. There were many activities to choose from ranging from treasure hunts to bingo or meditation classes etc. Most of the shore excursions were great with the exception of the Cradle Mountain excursion, which was appalling and filled with inane comments from the tour guide. I would strongly suggest this tour be avoided! We didn't have a toilet break between 8am till 3pm in the afternoon making it very uncomfortable for senior citizens and children. We only stayed at Cradle Mountain for 20 minutes after traveling more than 2 hours to get there.Followed by more hours of traveling back to the ship and arriving at the pier at the same time that the ship was due to depart!! I had booked an 8 days cruise from Sydney Australia to Tasmania stopping at Melbourne, Burnie and Hobart. Australia is an amazing country!!

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By Jan_CR

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Aug 21, 2010

Alaska

With the exception of Marko, the waiter, and Igor, assistant waiter, who were excellent, the cruise was the worst we have been on! No soap for two days despite repeatedly asking for some. A broken hairdryer and a call the guest services to have it fixed was ignored. Kids allowed in the adult pool to splash and kick even though the weather in the kids' pool was gorgeous. The farewell show had people on stage grabbing the person of the other sex

next to them. The food to purchase in the room was expired; one box had been previously opened then scotch taped shut. Room service took away a couple of the expired boxes and then tried to charge us for them before we left the ship. One of the mattresses was so used it was lopsided leading the rolling off the bed twice. When we reported it to the room attendant, she found it amusing. We did not receive a guest survey. Stood in a line to ask for one for 20 minutes only to be told housekeeping would bring it. The housekeeper came down and said she couldn't give us one. Had to go to guest services again. Asked to speak to head housekeeper and was connected with another guest in room 2602 or something like that. Except for about six or seven total appetizers, main entrees, and desserts, the food was just average. Not nearly the level of Carnivals'. The stateroom was clean. The mattress on one of the beds was so worn, it was rolled out of twice. We were missing a blanket on the first night. We had to borrow toilet paper from another room at one point and we were out of soap in the shower for 48 hours despite repeated calls and face to face requests for it to be filled up. The hair dryer didn't work and guest services did not send a new one down like they said they would making us miss having our family picture taken as we had planned. 'Where's the fun??' To quote another passenger and her teenage daughter. Opt for the excursions off the ship. Much cheaper and better!! Five of us went to the Mendelhall Glacier and whale watching for $270 total by going to town and paying for the excursions. Do not miss the Sawyer Glacier at Tracy Arm Fjord or the Mendelhall Glacier. The whale watching was awesome! Alaska was wonderful can't wait to go back!!! Royal Caribbean was sub par or as another guest told us, 'It is underwelming!'

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By Mary_CR

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Jun 23, 2010

Alaska

I would go on this cruise again, although I would probably leave from Vancouver and take the longer one through the passage avoiding the Pacific Ocean. . The food was pretty good. No complaints about the quality. It was often hard to find seating in the Windjammer so that was frustrating. The food was fairly consistent with buffet styles and there was always a choice of some kind of Indian food both on the menu in the dining room as well as

in the Windjammer. Not sure why. Dinner was always good. We stayed in the Royal Family Suite which was on the 8th floor on the starboard (right) side. It was a little smaller than we thought it was going to be. The second bedroom was like a closet with no tv or anything. The sofabed turned into a type of pullout bed but was VERY hard. We asked for additional comforters to put on the bed to make it sleepable. The main bedroom was very nice. The chairs on the balcony were nice wickerstyle and were comfortable. The activities were somewhat lame-o. I guess as I was one of like 4 single people on the cruise that has some effect There was a good amount of younger people but most were in couples or married- literally no single people. The dancing at night would have been more fun. Most areas were cleared out early leaving us trolling about trying to find something to do. Many of the activities that I wanted to do were weirdly during port times. We went to the line dance lessons and the wine tasting(paid extra for it). There always seemed to be an art auction going on but whatever. Seattle- do the Ducks tour. We stayed at the Mayflower Park hotel right in the middle of downtown. We took the light rail straight to the hotel. From that area, you can walk to the Public Market or take the Monorail to the Space Needle. I would advise eating at the restaurant in the Needle. You have to order $25 worth of food but you get free admission to the observation deck. A trip just to the top is $17 so it is well worth it. It was a perfect location and awesome historic hotel. Juneau- We took a cab to the Mendenhall Glacier. We were able to stay on our own time and not feel rushed. Definitely walk to the waterfall (mostly flat) as it is well worth it. There is a saloon in town that is full of cruisers so I wanted to avoid the tourist traps at all costs. Next to a parking garage across from the saloon is a crab shack (it is a shack with outside tables). We ate the most delicious crab bisque. It was well worth us freezing as we devoured and licked our bowls. There is also a crepe stand- We got one with Nutella and strawberries. Delish! Most of the stores were crap and had crap in them. Very hard to find authentic things. Skagway- We took a bus ride on White Pass. Great scenery and we had a great driver. Lots of opportunities to get off and take pictures. The town is very small and again filled with crap stores. Do go to the brewery and try the Pine Spruce Tip beer. Very good and cool atmosphere. Victoria- We did the Butchart Gardens, wine and chocolate tour. Oh my gosh- words cannot express how beautiful the gardens were. I have never seen anything like it. We were there for 2 hours and had to run back to the bus to make it on time. You have to go there. From the gardens, we went to a local winery and did a wine tasting matching it with chocolates. We were given a voucher to try another glass of any of the wines. The winery was awesome and was one of the favorite things we did. We left Seattle with great weather. Sometime during that first night we started hearing horrendous banging in the second bedroom with the pulldown bed really vibrating from the motion. We hit VERY rough seas- actually we were just going against the wind. By the time I got out of bed, I was sick as were lots of other people. They installed barf bags on all the stairwells and there was a barf patrol cleaning up puke all day. There was also a lot of puke in the public bathrooms. Doors would not stay open and would slam. It was also the first formal night- they took waiters off dining room duty to serve room service because it was pretty empty. We didn't really dress up. Dishes were falling over and crashing. I have been on other cruises, but never experienced anything like that. Once we hit the Inside Passage about 24 hours later- everything was fine from there on in. The captain was great and very personable. The entertainment was good- thoroughly enjoyed the last night- not for kids FYI. Our dining room staff was amazing. The waiters and room attendants were amazing- probably the best I have experienced. It was interesting talking to them and finding out about their lives. The Sawyer Glacier was beautiful. Get up and get outside to see it. Our room was on the starboard side so as the ship rotated to exit the fjord we had a full on view from our balcony of the glacier. Debarkation was a bit of a nightmare. The have the express time but it wasn't really express since like 900 people were trying to leave with all their luggage. There was not a single employee found to expedite or explain where to go or line up. My friend had an early flight so she asked about it and was told to go to another line. If she hadn't asked, she never would have made it. We waited for about 30 min past our call time in our designated spot and decided to leave- gettng lucky as they had just unloaded our luggage. Despite the one truly awful sea day, we had a great time. The sights are amazing and well worth the trip. The staff was fabulous as well and made everything run smoothly.

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Jun 1, 2010

Inside passage of Alaska

We enjoyed our Rc experience very much.. The service was exceptional in every area.... Dining room, Windjammer, cabin, guest relation desk, check-in, etc.. It spoils us to have people watching for ways to anticipate our every need or wish. I appreciated the reasonable bargains in the gift shops. I picked up some inexpensive gifts for friends because of that that normally would have only seen our pictures.. The food was very good. I love

to try new dishes and didn't try anything that wasn't good, including the escargo. My husband is diabetic and although he didn't say that to our servers they made sure he was given sugar-free choices each evening in the dining room. I wasn't particularly impressed with the lobster as it seemed tasteless to me. But I was told by other passengers that the lobster was warm water instead of the more flavorful cold water lobster. Everything else was delicious. Especially the venisen. The coffee was heavenly. The balcony stateroom was well worth the extra money for the Alaskan cruise because we sat on our balcony and took great pictures of the Tracy De Arms Glacier and other sites. However, there were several things that could have been better.in the cabin, But we still enjoyed our cabin very much. The bed appeared to almost be worn out. The announcement speaker wasn't working. Neither was the hair dryer. (Fortunenately for me, I brought my own). We could only use our balcony when our neighbor wasn't using his because he used his to smoke. If we left our door to the balcony open our room fillled with cigarette smoke. We checked the rules and he was within his rights to do this. We were glad to learn one side of the ship was disignated for smokers and the other for clean air enthusiasts. That worked for all of us. We only used the jogging track which we appreciated. Very easy on the joints. Butchart Gardens and the Butterfly Garden was stunningly beautiful. We were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary with a Gospel Jubilee group where the gospel singing each night was our fantastic entertainment . Our travel agent was on the trip with us and made the cruise very special by the little treats she had delivered each evening to our cabin. Since I had just come through a battle with two kinds of cancer within 6 months we were cautious about booking tours that took a lot of energy. but we saw and experienced enough.to make it the wonderful vacation we expected. Thank you, Royal Caribbean for making it memorable for us. If I could make a suggestion that would help organize the transportation by taxis it would be to make it impossible for any but the people at the head of the line to get to a taxi. We finally had to insist on the taxi being ours as we had been shoved out of the way for at least 15 minutes by others who were behind us in the line. Those who have manners or concerns for others could stand there until the last rude person was gone if it was left to those who were supposed to be controlling the situation.. It was a bad end to a good vacation. All that would need to be done is put a rail up at the edge of the sidewalk. (The same principle as when we checked in.) Then we could all make our connections without feeling so frustrated.

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May 30, 2010

Alaska

Overall, the cruise was very enjoyable. This cruise was our attempt at a family outing and we managed to reconnect and have some very enjoyable moments that will be cropping up at family gatherings for a long time. The dining room meals were great. Our waiters kept us going with entertaining brain teasers that are so easy once you know the secret. Well most of them are. However the Windjammer buffet, had some low points. For breakfast they would

put out a selection of cold cuts, but only a dry/genoa salami for lunch. Not sure who was making sandwiches for breakfast, but I could have used a few more selections for lunch. Then one night the main choices were Sushi bar, Salmon and another fish. Guess on a cruise to Alaska they think everyone will like fish. I had to wait until 9:00 pm for the burger bar to open. What they make is good, but based on this experience I will not likely cruise on a ship this size again. The last ship I was on had 3 buffet lines and numerous smaller locations open during normal meal times. We don't spend much time in the stateroom except for sleeping. Our stateroom was fine. We were in a standard interior room so I wasn't expecting much. It was well attended and plenty big enough for our needs. The TV was a little old. Some of the pixels were permanently red. Of course they were dead center of the screen. Looked like a kid had scribbled in the middle of the screen. All of the onboard activities we participated in were excellent. And we heard many people raving about the activities we were unable to attend. The only gripe I would have is that during days at sea the afternoon activities could be beefed up. There was very little to do unless you were into scrapbooking or wanted to watch a pitch to sell you more services. I wondered if this wasn't intentional to get people into the casino. Actually watched three movies in the afternoons just because there was not really anything else to do. Here is were they really fell on their face. We signed up for a Zip Line tour they had listed as a "mild" activity. I did this in Jamaica and it was really fun. There it was, ride a tram up to the top and zip your way down. Which I would give a mild rating. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Skagway. You get dropped off at the bottom and have to climb up the hill. If it was a finely done path this might not be so bad, but it is not. You have to climb up a very steep windy path through the trees stepping over roots and trying not to slide back down. Based on my experience in Jamaica and their rating, we took our father... He only made it half way up before he called it a day and went back down with me and a staff member holding him up. Now my dad is in his 70's, but he hikes often to birdwatch and completed all the other "mild" excursions. This really put a damper on our having a good time attitude. And they weren't done yet. On Day 6 we find out that our excursion for Day 7 in Victoria has been canceled due to lack of participation. That's understandable. By why wait until the last minute to tell us? By the time we got the message on the answering machine, the excursion desk was closed for the afternoon and would only be open in the evening during the time we were scheduled to be in the dining room. We managed to speak with them briefly, but they were not very apologetic about the late notice. I'm sure they knew when we left port that this might be an issue and could have warned us a day or two earlier so we could plan for it. We flew over glaciers, went to salmon hatcheries, mushed with sled dogs, and saw a LOT of good shows. Beyond the disappointing excursions we all had a great time. And since all four of us were declared "Superstars" I cannot leave out Derek Lewis and his tireless efforts to keep us laughing and enjoying ourselves. Kamakazee Karaokee was one of the best shows on the ship. The experience was "priceless". I got the ring, you know you want it..... As I live a long way from the rest of my family this was meant as sort of a mini family reunion and it was great for that. We all had a great time aboard the ship. The entertainment was excellent. We have many memories that will last a lifetime and a few recordings that we will probably regret making. But I'm sure when we hear them it will bring a smile to our face.

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Jun 25, 2009

Alaska

This review is based less on the entire cruise experience, and unfortunately, primarily on one negative, but exremely disturbing experience. I took my mother on this cruise for her 80th birthday. She is in good health and was very much looking forward to the trip. We were having a very nice time, but on Wednesday evening (we were due back in Seattle on Friday), she took a very nasty fall down a couple of steps in the theater. She missed a step

and really went flying. When she landed, she hit her head on the floor, and I think to many people's surprise she was not knocked unconscious and she was able to sit up. She was in pain on one side; from her chest area down her leg. A few of the ship's crew who attended the show, and several of the passengers were extremely helpful and kind. When the nurse (I assume that's what she was) arrived for us, my mother was placed in a wheelchair and we were taken to the medical bay. The first thing we were told when we arrived there, by the nurse, was the price of the visit. While I agree that it is a good thing to be told that a visit with the ship's MD will cost $175.00, at the same time I believe that when you have an 80 year old woman who took a very hard fall, it also would have been the responsible thing for the nurse to encourage the patient to be looked over by the doctor. The knock on the head, which the nurse knew about, should have been reason enough to encourage being examined. This never happened, but of course I was not leaving until she was seen. The doctor was nice, but both he and the nurse seemed more concerned that we fully completed our paperwork than with anyone else. He asked my mother questions and looked her over; he had her lift her arms over her head, and when she could do that, he stated that her ribs could not be fractured since she could perform this exercise. He seemed very unconcerned about the knock on head, asked a few questions but that was pretty much it. One of the passengers who witnessed the fall and helped us was a nurse. She gave me some directions in terms of watching my mother that night, making sure she could be awakened from sleep, etc. She told me that she was sure the Dr. would give me the same instructions, but felt that she needed to tell me as well; the Dr. never said a word about anything to watch out for in terms of her head. He listened to her lungs, declared them clear, gave my mother tylenol and some ointment for pain, and told us to come in the next day if things got worse. He never suggested that she come in to be looked over again, etc. The next day was Victoria, and my mother was on the ship all day resting. She was in pain, but as she knew her ribs were bruised, she knew it was to be expected. On Friday we were at the airport together, but she made the flight from Seattle to NY on her own, where she was met by brother who took her home. When I spoke to her on Saturday she sounded ok, but on Sunday she said she was feeling worse. I spoke to a friend who is a nurse and she suggested a trip to the ERjust to be on safe side. We were all shocked to find out that she had 3 fractured ribs, and a small spot on her brain. They told my mother and my brother that had she walked in 3 days earlier, they would have hospitalized her immediately. One has to wonder what the Dr. on the boat was thinking when he treated my mother's fall so lightly. I am particularly amazed given that so many older people travel to AK on these cruises, I would have thought that any ship MD would be more aware, more sensitive, and more concerned re: issues regarding the elderly. A fall for an 80 year old is not the same as a fall taken by a 40 year old; to dismiss it so lightly is really inexcusable. We have been told several times that we are very lucky that things did not get worse, for example, punctured lungs on the plane ride home. While the ship's crew sent someone down to the sick bay immediately after the fall to interview us and make sure that we were not saying the fall was the "fault" of the ship, they have been less than responsive re: the email I sent after our return. My email is now in the hands of "risk management'", and I received an email back that a full response will take 4-6 weeks so that a full investigation can be done. I guess when it was important for them to get it documented that the fall wasn't their fault, they had someone in touch with us immediately for 5 minutes of questions. When we have a concern like this, it takes 4-6 weeks to look into, without much in the way of concern for my mother's current health, etc. A note or call expressing some concern would have gone a long way. As I've said, the overall cruise was very nice. At the same time, I would have many concerns about doing something like this again, if the above experience is any indication of the type of medical concern and care that is typical of Royal Carribean or any other cruise line. Plentiful...not great in terms of quality. Good. Did not participate in all that manner. Enjoyed some, but found them to be very expensive (Bingo, massages, etc.) Enjoyed both..whale watching in Juneau and the train ride in Skagway.

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Mar 9, 2008

Western Caribbean

Year: 2003 This is a review of a Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas. This seven day cruise embarked @ the port of Galveston, Texas. This is important information in that the vast majority of the passengers on the ship are Texans. No, I don’t hold a grudge against the fine people of Texas, my wife and I are Texans but it’s important to note if your looking to explore the Caribbean and meet people from

outside the Lone Star state. My first recommendation for you first timers is find a travel agency that sells lots of cruises on the particular line you’re sailing. This is very important in that a travel agency that sells high volumes of a cruise lines staterooms is much more likely to get a better deal and upgrades. Shop around! You’ll be happy and richer for it. Our stateroom was a deluxe ocean view located on the fail tail (7660) and had a wonderful view and large balcony. If you can afford it or shop for a bargain I highly recommend you get a balcony. Unless you’re the type of person that wants to be pool side the entire trip to enjoy the sights and fresh air you’ll find the sanctuary of you’re balcony well worth the extra cash for the trip. The Rhapsody of the Seas is a nice ship with pleasant amenities and art to enjoy when walking the corridors. You’ll be surprised just how much art adorns the walls and various locations on the ship. The art auction is well worth registering for and participating in. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything it’s one of the few endeavors on the ship that are free and provide champagne and free art. The entertainment is, well, entertaining. It’s not Broadway but enjoyable and something the entire family can do together. The comedian on our cruise was very good and had some “Texas” specific humor that may not strike the funny bone of someone from the north. Meals were generous and very tasteful. We enjoyed wonderful service and were lucky enough to have delightful dinner company also. Not to worry, if you’re stuck with someone who you just don’t “jive” with the staff will accommodate a move to another table. Dinner seating is broken into early and late. I would suggest the second seating for anyone who doesn’t need to be in bed by 9 p.m. If you’re planning on going ashore for an excursion the last thing you want to do is hurry back to the ship just for dinner. Not to mention, one of our formal nights was after a day in Belize. Which brings me to our two excursions. We did the jungle bike and cave tour in Belize and the Discover Scuba diving in Cozemel. I highly recommend both to anyone wanting to escape the excursion crowds and enjoy the best each location has to offer. Raymond, our Belizian tour guide, and his family really showed us a wonderful time riding the somewhat challenging trails of the forest and showing us some really cool caves! The diving in Cozemel was well worth the price. Just make sure that you want to do it, no refunds for those not completing the dive as a young girl in our group discovered. Some thing to look out for on the ship. The only drink that are free are coffee, juice, water and tea. They sell soda stickers ($30 all you can drink) but it’s only for fountain drinks at the bars. Alcohol is pricey so if you’re a drinker plan accordingly. The cruise line will let you carry on bottled water and sodas but no alcohol. We brought an extra bag filled with water and soda. We saved $ and had a bag to bring home gifts in. Coffee is only available in one location and it’s on the 9th deck. I recommend you take room service the first morning (it’s free) and order coffee. Hide the carafe and use it to shuttle coffee to the room as needed. The ship has a adults only area with a pool and hot tubs so if you’re traveling sans children as we were (15th wedding anniversary) you’ll be able to have some fun in the pool without the kids. I can only hope you enjoy your cruise as much as we did. Be prepared to have a rough week upon your return though as it’s hard getting back into the “real world” once you’ve had a week at sea.

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Aug 19, 2007

Western Caribbean

This was the 2nd cruise for me and my husband, but the 1st with our children (Girl age 10 and Boy age 7). We had a fabulous time. Oh – where to start. Departed from Galveston. Very smooth. No problems at all. We parked at the Easy parking lot (cheapest and most convenient around). We got there about 2 hours earlier than they said to but they were already letting people onboard. The entire process took about 30 minutes. We had

had lunch in the Windjammer and the kids were swimming before we were even supposed to be allowed on the ship. Room – we had an inside cabin on deck 7. There were some benefits to being on deck 7 such as we hardly ever had to take the elevator. We were only one floor up or one floor down from almost everything (restaurants, pool, shows, etc.) I have heard people on decks 2-4 spent a lot of time waiting on elevators. But the downside was we were way too close to a late night club on deck 6. We heard the music every night until about 12:30 when they shut down. We typically didn’t come to bed ourselves until 11 – 12 so it wasn’t that huge of a deal but for those who go to sleep early – I can see it would be an issue. Next time I would stay on deck 7 or 8 again, but make sure we are further away from the clubs. The room it’s self was spacious enough and the kids loved seeing what animal the hand towels would be made into each evening. Food – Windjammer was good. Some things better than other but it seems that by the end of the week it kind of all started to taste the same. We ate every breakfast but one there and all lunches when we were not in ports. Lots to choose from and it was pretty good. The food in the main dining room was great. Had a beautiful table right by a window and nice people at our table. We enjoyed it a lot but think one formal night would be enough. We did try out the dining room for breakfast one time and felt that the food was about the same as you would get from the Windjammer (they have awesome omelets). Entertainment – We thought the shows were very good. Some better than others but there was not one time when I thought I wasted my time by going. The cruise director Eric was very funny and we enjoyed him. The singers and dancers did well (except the male singers on country night – not good) but overall, they were all good. Kids Club - My seven year old son LOVED it. He loved all games and was so proud of the bronze medal he won at dodge ball. He wanted to wear it every time he went back. The only complaint I have about it was that they would try and get them all excited while the parents were at the show to stay for the late night session (which is $5.00 an hour). Doesn’t seem like a lot but it’s up to 3 hours a night for a week – just so they can keep playing. Made you feel like a heel to say no when the staff works to hard to convince them how fun it will be if they stay and tells them all the cool things they would miss if there were not there. Anyway – my son ended up staying for at least 1 – 2 hours 4 or 5 of the nights. My ten year old daughter was not quite as impressed as my son, but there were parts she liked. We signed her up for self checkout which made her feel quite grown up. I was nervous about it a little at 1st – but every kid in the 9-11 age groups did it and there were no issues. It was good because she met some girls the 1st few days in the kid’s area and was able to play with them all week. She would just check the schedule each night and go to the things she wanted to. For example – she loved all the scavenger hunts. Complaints - I don’t have too many, but nothing is perfect. 1. BINGO – way too expensive. Granted they had good prizes (free cruise, room upgrade, etc.) but for $50 a person each time. They need to offer more family type bingo sessions. Smaller prizes would be fine, but make it so families can play together. My kids were excited to play before we go on board and when we showed up for the 1st session and found out how much it cost we were all disappointed. We left and never did play. 2. Pictures – also expensive. Again – granted there for the most part did a good job, I just feel that $16.95 - $19.95 per picture is so high. You can choose not to purchase them, which we did for the most part – but if they lowered the price some I know we would have bought more. 3. Room – mentioned above (too close to the late night club). 4. Kid’s area – mentioned above (pushing the kids to stay for the late night time then charging $5.00 an hour to do). Ports – 1. We were supposed to go to Jamaica. Due to Hurricane Dean we went to Key West instead. Now I had everything planned for Jamaica and no idea what to do in Key West. We thought we would just walk around and take it easy, maybe do some shopping. It was so HOT that we were miserable. There was a cool butterfly deal that we walked through – kids loved it. But other than that it was just HOT. If I had it to do over we would have rented one of the golf cart/car deals they had and seen a lot more of the area. We missing the Hemingway House and most Southern Point of the US which would have been cool – but we didn’t even know to look for them until after we were back on board. Since it was so last minute of a change you just really didn’t have the chance to research it. 2. Cayman Islands. This was the one we were looking most forward to and it was a great time. We booked a snorkel / sting ray swim excursion through Captain Marvin’s and it was great. Very smooth and our boat was much less crowded than those that the people who booked through the cruise was. We also added on the Turtle Farm visit and that was my son’s favorite part of the entire cruise. 3. Cozumel. This turned out to be the best port of all. After what we went through in Key West when we go off the ship they had motor bikes for rental. $50.00 each for the day. We got 2 of them and had so much fun. We drove ourselves to Paradise beach and the kids had a blast. They have huge trampolines and rock walls that the kids can climb in the ocean. My daughter got her hair braided and we had a great time. Then we motor biked to some shops downtown and found some great deals. SO MUCH FUN!!!! Over all, this cruise was awesome. Would recommend 95%.

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Nov 19, 2006

Western Caribbean

This review will focus entirely on family cruising because most of the reviews I read before cruising did not tell me what I wanted to know about what things would be like for our family. I hope this will be helpful to people traveling with young children. This was our family's first cruise, and Royal Caribbean did not disappoint us. Our party included two adults (late 30's) and 3 kids (ages 11, 8 and 4). Because we have three kids, we

had two staterooms with a connecting door between which we left open. I highly recommend Royal Caribbean for family cruising! The Rhapsody of the Seas, although not a mega ship, still had plenty of great things to do. Since it was a Thanksgiving holiday cruise, there were over 600 kids on the ship. I know that sounds like way too many, but I would say that 99% of the kids were very well behaved. The Ocean Adventures kids program was great! Our 8 year old and 4 year old absolutely loved it. Our 8 year old would have spent the entire cruise in the kid's program if she could have. The kids' staff was superb. Our four year old's counselor "Pineapple" was awesome! All of the kids' staff showed a true love for children and made things fun for the little kids. They had a different activity every 15 minutes so the kids were never bored. One night the 3-5 year olds took a walk on the deck with the counselors to look for the moon. The moon was behind the clouds so they all starting blowing trying to blow the clouds away. The clouds moved, and the saw the moon! Amazing! Royal Caribbean also has a program for toddlers called Aquatots. Apparently for a few hours a day parents and counselors meet in a room and play with Fisher Price toys. I don’t know much about it since my kids are older, but it was listed on the daily Compass of activities. The first night of the cruise, the kids’ program wasn’t open, but the staff provided a program for families that explained all of the details (times, activities) of the kids’ program. Then the families went to the program location, filled out forms to sign the kids’ up, and the kids got a free toy from Royal Caribbean. Times for the kids’ activities were 9:00 a.m.-noon, 2-5:00 p.m. and them 7:00-10:00. us to let her participate in late night, and we did let her stay up late one night. She loved it! We did notice, however, that older kids did not participate as much in the kids' programming. Our 11 year old checked it out a few times but chose to spend most of his time with other kids he met on the ship. I know some readers are probably groaning thinking that kids were running wild, but it really wasn't like that at all. Since many of the older kids didn’t participate in the kids' program one of their counselors basically followed my son and his group of friends around and kept an eye on them. They thought he was “hanging out” with them. There were a lot of teenagers on this cruise, and they seemed to spend a lot of time together and looked like they were having fun. They were also well behaved. We had early dinner seating and the food was excellent. However, sitting through dinner was a little difficult for our 4 year old. Her brother and sister did just fine. One thing we might do on a future cruise is book the late seating, then take the kids to the Windjammer early and let them go the kids’ program after their dinner so the adults can enjoy a nice dinner. If you do eat with your kids, they do have a nice children’s menu, and the wait staff is very accommodating to children. For example, they’ll bring the kids’ food early and let the kids have more than one entrée if they desire. If kids try something and don’t like it, they are more than happy to replace the food with something the kids like. Our waiter was from Romania, and when we told him our son was doing a project on Romania for school, he went out of his way to provide us with several websites about his country and even had one of his friends on the ship burn a DVD about Romania for our son. Our assistant waiter was from Peru and was really just a kid himself and a sweet kid at that! Our head waiter stopped by to visit our daughters every night and even remembered the names of the stuffed animals our little one carried around. Overall, all service was outstanding from our cabin steward to bartenders to wait staff. The Rhapsody went to Key West, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. In Key West, we didn’t do much as a family because it was way too cold and rainy to bring the kids off the ship. Also, the Rhapsody arrived late due to an emergency evacuation of a passenger the night before which delayed us (we sure hope whoever it was is all right!) Any kind of family activities in Key West were already closed. In Grand Cayman, we swam with the stingrays (the kids were scared so maybe it’s something you’ll want to do with older kids) and went to the turtle farm (the kids loved it!). Book excursions through Captain Marvin’s, not the cruise line. It’s less expensive, and, even though we had some tendering problems, Captain Marvin’s staff was waiting for us as soon as we got off the tender. In Cozumel we went to Playa San Francisco. My advice is not to book an excursion in Cozumel. Just get a taxi and go to one of the beaches. We did talk to another family who did a swim with the dolphins excursion through RCL, and they said it was amazing. I guess it depends on how much money you want to spend. As for cruise programming, our 11 year old enjoyed the magician and juggler shows. He also loved bingo. Our daughters had fun participating in the pirate parade. There are lots of great activities for kids. One day they showed “Over the Hedge” in the theatre for the kids.Our kids didn’t spend all of their time in the kids’ program. The girls probably went once or twice a day. Just sign your kids in and out when they want to go. If you want to just hang out at the pool or do other family things, that’s great too. There are of course several great things for adults to do without the kids. Don’t miss the Cocktail Seminar ($10/person) and the Adult Scavenger Hunt. Both are really fun! The ship never feels crowded. Even though there are over 2000 passengers, everyone is doing their own thing so there aren’t huge crowds anywhere. Our family takes a vacation every year. We’ve been to Disney World twice, to the Smoky Mountains, to Branson, and to several different beaches in Florida. We all agreed that this Rhapsody of the Seas cruise was the best vacation we’ve ever had!

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Sep 24, 2006

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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Sep 17, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was our 5th cruise, 2nd with RCCL. Every cruise we have taken was from a different port. This time we left from Galveston. It is about a 5-hour drive from our home in Bossier City, Louisiana. We read on a forum to park at EZ Parking. We paid for parking online. It was cheaper than the parking lots offered by the cruise line. This was our first time to book a suite. It paid off in several ways. The line to get on the ship (1:30 p.m.)

was very long. We just walked right up to the front and were on the ship in less than 10 minutes because there was a special line for those that booked a suite. It also allowed us to get off the ship earlier because they debark starting from the upper levels. The Rhapsody is an older ship but is in very good condition. We had a few minor problems with water pressure and the air conditioning, but it was remedied very quickly. We had previously been on the Mariner of the Seas, so we missed some of the features such as the ice-skating rink, miniature golf, and Johnny Rockets. But the Rhapsody is a beautiful ship and has it’s own charm. Of 2500 passengers, 1700 were Texans. They were a very friendly bunch, especially our tablemates. After having been on several cruises, we seem to be somewhat discriminating. However, the Rhapsody met or exceeded our expectations. We had read reviews of this ship about the food. Let me just say I thought it was great. The dining room food was outstanding as was the service. Our cabin steward did an excellent job on the room also. We may have made a mistake at booking a balcony room, because now we do not want to downgrade to a regular room. It’s wonderful just sitting out watching the beautiful water with the wind gently blowing. One morning we woke up early and sat outside just to watch to sunrise. It makes for some good photo opportunities. The ports of call were Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We had not planned on getting off in Jamaica, but changed our minds at the last minute and did some shopping close to the pier. We experienced the same atmosphere in Ocho Rios as we did in Montego Bay on a previous cruise. Everybody wants to sell you something or just down right beg for money. Needless to say we did not tarry in Ocho Rios. We had heard great things about Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman. It was all that and more. Even though the wife and stepdaughter were too scared to get off the boat, I had a blast. Also got some great shots of fish and stingrays while snorkeling on that same excursion. Last stop that day was 7-mile beach. We swam and sunbathed that afternoon. We booked the excursion that included lunch. That was a mistake. You are better off eating a big breakfast and waiting for dinner on the ship. The buffet on the beach consisted of hot dogs and hamburgers. We were expecting a bit more for the $95.00 we paid for the excursion. Cozumel excursion consisted of riding a taxi to Playa Mia beach resort. Actually better than 7 mile beach in Grand Cayman. The highlight of the day was renting jet skis for the 3 of us. Had a blast. Prices were reasonable, $60.00 per half hour. We paid $90.00 for a half hour on our last cruise in Labadee. We read on some websites to book excursions not connected to the cruise line, but we felt more secure knowing they would get us back to the ship on time. The entertainment on board was very good. We did not make every show, but the ones we attended were great. The cruise director, Dan Dan the Party Man, was fantastic. He kept everything lively and fun. “ The Quest” had to be the funniest thing I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The music was varied to suit most any taste. We have cruised on Carnival in the past and their entertainment was good, but Royal Caribbean is just a notch above. They are professional all the way. Hard to find anything negative about this cruise. Of course, some people look for things to gripe about. To me a cruise is about relaxing and having fun and that’s exactly what we did. A few side notes, weather was perfect, ship was very smooth (although we wanted a little rocking motion to let us know we are on a ship). All in all a wonderful vacation. I would recommend the Rhapsody to anyone who is considering a cruise.

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By Amy_CR

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Sep 3, 2006

Western Caribbean

Rhapsody Pros: 1.Bigger and newer ship 2.Preferred dinner seating accommodated for our family of 9, professional wait staff 3.My mother had no trouble getting around in her scooter – almost the whole ship was accessible 4.Very friendly staff (if you do enough activities, you can really get to know them (British Becky)) 5.The food in the Edelweiss was absolutely wonderful (try the Scallop Risotto) 6.Numerous activities to choose from

(including, greeting card and scrap booking workshops that they provide to you) 7.The trivia and name that tune were FUN, FUN, FUN and fair for everyone 8.Easy ship to navigate 9.Adult only pool and hot tubs 10.Many lifts (nominal wait time, unless the teenagers get in and press every floor) 11.Our mini fridges were not waiting in the room as I had ordered, but one quick call and they were down well within a 30 minute window 12.We had them take out the chair and small round coffee table, so we could have more room (they accommodated this request promptly and with courtesy) 13.Perhaps it was the time of year and even though we provided 3 of them, there were not a lot of children scurrying about. 14.We had inside staterooms on deck 3, all I can say is that is the best sleep I’ve had in I don’t know when. When I sleep I like it dark and cold and that’s just what I got. I kept the air conditioner on the lowest setting and brought my small fan for white noise. It was pitch dark and I slept a lot on this cruise, usually at least one 2-4 hour nap per day. The stateroom was small but well appointed. 15.They had a very good selection on the TV (first run movies and old TV like, I Dream of Jeanie and Gilligan’s Island). 16.In the Edelweiss, you could get 2 different entrees if you so desired. Our family ordered pretty much one of everything and passed it around; if we really liked something we’d order more (Scallop Risotto). 17.Excellent choice of excursions. 18.Park at the EZ Cruise Parking Lot on Santa Fe (you can Google the name and find the URL). Rhapsody Cons: 1.The entire 3rd deck smelled of raw sewage, it got better as the cruise went along, but my mother’s stateroom and my stateroom bathroom smelled almost entirely of raw sewage for days. They did come to fix it but the smell came back so I decided not to ask again. This was a MAJOR deal for me (I’m very sensitive to smells); I did leave this information on their guest satisfaction survey. 2.The food in the Windjammer was the quality of The Golden Corral, at best. To be honest I was a little frightened of some of the selections and somehow I only ate French fries and bread…not my idea a balanced meal. 3.I also noticed that they recycled the desserts: for instance, one day for lunch they served a chocolate pecan pie and a cheesecake with orange flavoring on the top for dessert in the Windjammer, the next evening in the Edelweiss they had a sampler dessert plate and one of samples was the orange cheesecake and the other was the chocolate pecan pie in a mold. All they did was rename them and try to pass them off as fresh desserts. I don’t blame them for trying to utilize all of the food stuffs, but to insult the diner’s intelligence, well it irked me. 4.One day in the Edelweiss for open seating lunch, they refused (yes I said refused) to accommodate our family. Some family members got down a tad before the others and like I said we’re a family of 9, so we need a whole table to ourselves. Well they had seated 2 other couples at this table and then sat down 3 of our family members with them, I explained that the others were on their way down right then and that we needed a larger table and asked very nicely if we could just move to an open table right beside the one they wanted to seat us at. Their idea of accommodating was to move one of the couples and squeeze 2 more chairs in at the already cramped table because of my mother’s wheelchair scooter. I asked kindly again if we could just move to the next table and I was told that they have a process and we couldn’t be moved. I along with several family members simply walked out and went up to the Windjammer. 5. Very slow debarkation (but that’s normal I think).

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Aug 27, 2006

Western Caribbean

My husband and I chose Rhapsody of the Seas for our honeymoon mainly because the price was so reasonable. Unfortunately, hurricane Ernesto was heading towards the ports of call that we were scheduled to visit, Key West, Grand Caymans and Cozumel. We set sail with the itinerary still up in the air. We eventually were scheduled to visit Belize and Costa Maya, as well as Cozumel. The ship was beautiful, but we had problems right off the

bat. First, we were encouraged by the woman at the check-in to establish a cash account, even though we both had credit cards. She told us that cash accounts were easier, and that there were ample opportunities to access ATMs. Moments later as we boarded the ship we realized that the onboard ATM was broken. We immediately set up a credit account, but we had no cash to use while in port. We were told at the purser’s desk to use the ATMs on port. We tried - they are in local currency and were in Spanish. Despite this problem, we had a great time. The food in the Windjammer was so-so, but in the formal dining room the food was wonderful. We were seated with two other honeymoon couples, and had a wonderful time with them. Our wait staff was outstanding - Suparti from Indonesia, Beni from India and head waiter Ernesto from the Philippines. They were one of the highlights of our trip. When we said goodbye, we all were crying. Belize City was dirty and scary. We spent most of the time dodging the hustlers trying to sell us things. My husband and I wanted to get our hair braided, and we found two women to do this. They told us that one of the men in the tourist area took all their money, so thus were charging us double. We did not enjoy our time in Belize. Costa Maya was a lot of fun, however. We walked through the shopping area and ate lunch at Banditos. It was a lot of fun. In Cozumel, we took a ferry to Playa De Carmen, where we went to the Tulum Mayan ruins and the Xel-Ha water park. Although we had a blast at the ruins, I would recommend that people spend all day at Xel-Ha. There is so much to do and not enough day. We could have stayed for days. All of the tour guides were very friendly and professional. Our bus broke down on the way back to the ferry, but the tour guide stayed calm and relaxed and we made it back just in time to catch the tender to the cruise ship. Totally worth it. Most of the people on board were Texans, and everyone was very friendly. Los Pampas Gauchos was awesome. All in all, it was an incredible experience and we had a wonderful honeymoon. My only regret is not bringing more cash!!

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Jul 2, 2006

Western Caribbean

Our history: This was my fourth cruise with Royal Caribbean and my wife's first cruise at all. I am a Royal Caribbean fan, having previously been on the Empress to the Bahamas, the Radiance to Alaska and the Monarch to Mexico. We're off to Alaska on the Radiance (different itinerary) next year and the Panama Canal a year after that. Trip Prep: We chose to have our ticket paperwork sent electronically and while it was nice to be able to

download everything to our printer, it becomes difficult in trying to "tear out" the vouchers and coupons for transfers. In the future for us, and our recommendation is to get the tickets printed and sent to you by RC. As usual (for me at least) we let RC make all of our plane reservations and transfer arrangements. I've found, unless you have frequent flyer miles to cash in or you get a screaming deal on airfare, there isn't but a few dollars difference in doing it yourself and letting RC work it for you. The earlier you book, the better your flight/connection times will be. We also read a lot of on-line reviews on the Rhapsody and most were very helpful. Trip to the ship: We flew into Houston from Phoenix (with a stop in Dallas) and were met by the RC rep at baggage claim. We immediately started getting questioned about how many folks were in our party based on my wife's total pieces of luggage. We boarded a shuttle bus to the Doubletree Hotel at the Houston Airport where our reservations were waiting for us, I even got us a room upgrade at no charge by presenting my Hilton Honors card. We got RC bag tags for our many suitcases from the bellman (here's another reason why you want to get the ticket package sent to you, the tags are in the package, I had to write out all the ship and cabin info on ours) Knowing we had a busy day in front of us and after traveling by plane all day, we ordered room service (you pay for that yourself, meals are not included in the overnight hotel stay set up by RC) and then went to sleep. The next morning, we called the bellman who took our bags off to a holding area for RC passengers; he said we'll see them next on the ship. That was great not to have to worry about them anymore for a while. Next we met with the RC rep in the hotel lobby, got a check-in number for the shuttle to the Galveston port and then we had breakfast while waiting. The shuttle bus takes a little over an hour. The check-in at the port was smooth and fast. We had our passports, credit card and sea pass in hand and it took less than 5 minutes and we were on the Rhapsody; absolutely, hands down the quickest and smoothest I've seen yet. The cruise starts: I liked that my sea pass card said "Gold Member" for the Crown and Anchor society on it, everywhere I went for the length of the cruise I was "welcomed back" by crew members. We got a ocean view room with a small balcony on deck seven and it was the way to go. In the days we were at sea, my wife spent a great deal of time out on the balcony just relaxing. We got the Coca-Cola stickers on our cards, despite what others may say, I still think this is a good deal. We hit the Windjammer for lunch and then relaxed in our cabin as our suitcases arrived one by one (by one by one). The cabin was spacious with a good size bathroom, a valuables safe and stocked (careful the stuff is expensive) mini refrigerator. After the mandatory lifeboat drill, we went up to the deck for the departure. It was very windy and a little drizzly (rain-wise) but all in all pretty smooth as we headed out to sea that night. We got dressed for our dinner, since it's just us we chose late seating. Our table mates were all from Texas as was a vast majority of the other passengers. We lost Dave and MJ who had previously arranged for a private table, so it was me and my wife Debi, joined by Barbara and Jim from San Antonio after the first night at our table. We had fun all week at dinner and seeing them in shipboard activities. The Rhapsody is not too big, you'll see folks all week long. At sea and Key West: Absolutely love the days at sea to relax and unwind. We explored and just kicked back on day two. We attended the "shopping" briefing in the theater and made our list of places to go in each port. Just a lot of souvenir stuff, no big ticket items planned. Key West was fun, but really humid for us desert dwellers from Arizona. We bought tickets for the Hemingway House tour and it was great.... a lot of local Key West history is covered in the walk to the house from the ship. Being a big fan of James Bond movies, I wanted to see some of the sites where they had filmed parts of the 007 movies and we did (poor Debi had to watch the movies with me when we got home so I could show her the scenes in the movies). It was 4th of July, but except for some cool fireworks we saw later from our balcony on the ship, it seemed like just another night in Key West to us. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe after making the rounds at the shops recommended by RC. We pulled out of Key West later that night and headed for Grand Cayman. At Sea and Grand Cayman: More relaxation at sea and formal night brought out my wife in a killer dress and me putting on the tuxedo I own which pretty much only gets used on cruises now. Everyone looked great. We posed for formal pictures and met the captain at his reception. Grand Cayman started out ominously for us. The ship "parks" off-shore and you tender in to the island. It was raining steady when we first got on the tender and was pouring by the time we hit the shore. We booked the Stingray City and Turtle farm tour and our bus was waiting for us when we got off the tender, we shivered as we dried out in the air conditioned bus. You get a brief guided tour of Grand Cayman on the way, some hurricane damage from last year is still evident. We got to a dock and boarded a catamaran to Stingray City, eventually ending up at a pair of anchored catamarans in the Caribbean. The tour takes in a semi-submersible to see the stingrays and even a barracuda named "Chili", definitely worth the trip and the time, even with the rainy weather. We headed for the turtle hatchery stopping off in "Hell". It is a spot with a lot of strange rock formations that were named Hell. You can send a post card with the "Hell postmark on it and they play up the "How the Hell are you" and "What the hell can I do for you" aspects. The turtle hatchery is recovering from hurricane damage, but even then it wasn't very interesting for us; someone with children would love it. You even get to pick up and hold the baby sea turtles. Cozumel: They've got the dock fixed for ships the Rhapsody's size, so no tendering. Great weather and a lot of sun! Trust me, a lot of sun. I missed a few spots of applying sunscreen (no less than SPF45) on the tops of my feet and my shoulders and paid for it for 3 weeks (seriously)! We got the "beach party" tour that included transportation, drinks and food. The beach is great and the Playa Mia facility itself is wonderful. You can rent jet-skis (bring a photo ID) or just relax and bake. All drinks, yes all drinks, are included and that's good, the food was nothing to write home about, a Mexican buffet but then again we got spoiled on the ship. Still a lot of hurricane damage in Cozumel, it's really overwhelming in some places, but will not affect any excursions. The last day at sea/disembark: More relaxation at sea, another formal night; just a suit this time, put the tux away. Spent the day sort of packing and one last bit of shopping on board and even attending one of the art auctions (they're fun and informative, please try one of them). The packing can be tricky. You have to place your suitcases outside the cabin no later than midnight the last night, which means you have to have carry on bags to hold your night clothes, toiletries and stuff the next day. We got up, went to our appointed meeting place and waited for our group to be called. We got off the ship, grabbed a porter for 10 bucks and got through customs with no issues. On the shuttle to Houston airport and back to the Arizona desert with a lot of great memories. Inputs to our traveling partners: A great suggestion was to get a plastic over the door shoe holder. Debi was able to put most of her shoes there and we had room for other stuff, toiletries and things. Don't forget chargers for digital cameras and cell phones (you can use them in Key West to call friends and relatives). They have wireless capability for computers in some parts of the ship, but it is pricey. The food on the Rhapsody was great in quality; I'd complain about the portion of some items being a little small, but you could always ask for seconds. We had great service from our cabin attendant as well as our waiter and asst waiter who was surprised and happy when I spoke a little Turkish to him (from my military travels). The ride on the Rhapsody stays pretty smooth. We had great weather area for the most part and with only one exception, there weren't any "whoa, did you feel that" moments.

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Apr 16, 2006

Western Caribbean

Since there are many who wonder the difference between Carnival and Royal Caribbean, I will try to compare the two here. I just returned home yesterday from my cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas out of Galveston. Our ports of call were Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Overall, I had a great time and would do it again. I decided to finally do a review since I get alot out of these reviews when I read them. My girlfriend and I have

been on two previous cruises together, both aboard Carnival ships, one of them the Conquest which is also in Galveston (we were on it out of New Orleans in May 2005). This was my first Royal Caribbean cruise. We got our cruise for $499 plus tax, oceanview. This price raised quickly soon after we booked ours. I'm used to seeing 7 day RC cruises running about $200 more than Carnival in the $800 range for oceanview in the Western Caribbean. Maybe RC is having some bad press lately with the Brilliance ship and running specials? I don't know. I had always heard RC was better and I wanted to see for myself. What is better than Carnival Conquest? Embarkation and the food. We arrived at 11 at the EZ cruise parking lot and were told it would be til 11:45 til they started taking passengers. We loaded up on the shuttle at noon, went to the port, got processed (do the online process beforehand) and were walking on board about 12:30. Incredibly fast compared to Carnival and their yellow chairs process. We weren't even forced to take pictures before going on, but we did anyways. The food was great. No complaints. Everything was very good. On Carnival at times I'd be at the buffet and not see anything I liked. Carnival had more to choose from, but the Rhapsody had better quality. Period. Carnival also seems afraid to put any spice in their food. I also believe it is hard to compare the staff, but the staff seemed more professional. None of that dancing on the tables, making fools of themselves for little pay that Carnival makes their employees do. Good, polite service. I have heard that RC has a better "class" of passengers. I think this is true to some extent. I felt OK on Carnival though that doesn't bother me. The Viking Crown Lounge was fun on 70s and 80s night. However, I guess the DJ doesn't get the concept. 70s night is disco. That's fine, but alot of folks wanted to hear some 70s rock. 80s night they played a few 80s songs, then went back to playing 70s disco! That's fine too, but people wanted to hear more 80s. At 1am or so when they start playing the modern techno stuff, the place clears out. There are two formal dining nights. Food was good on these nights. I tried escargot for the first time. The 3 other couples at our table were all nice. It is OK to order two entrees if you can't decide, and they have a standard alternative menu so you can always get a steak if you'd like. What isn't better than Carnival? One thing that surprised me though was I thought Carnival was the ship for families. Well, everywhere I looked on the Rhapsody there were kids and teenagers. Mostly they congregated around deck 10 forward playing ping pong. There is an indoor swimming pool at a place called the Solarium where adults only can go swim, but they let kids in to come get hamburgers and hot dogs. This makes no sense. Someone else on this board also mentioned this. What are all these kids doing out of school in April? If Carnival has more families and kids, they did a better job of keeping them out of the way. My suggestion to RC is to put the kids area in the cargo hold. I really expected alot more 30s-40s people. I guess alot of people got in on this good deal. Also, overall the shows aren't better than Carnival, from what I saw or heard. Rhapsody had one comedian who was good the first night that I saw, and he did an adult show later in the week that I missed. There was one show, a Beatles tribute band called Revolution, that was great. I would like to see them again and would have liked another hour. The rest of the shows I was mildly entertained or skipped because they didn't sound interesting. The cabin seemed a lot smaller on the Rhapsody than on the Conquest. Also, the beds were more like cots. It wasn't too bad really, but not great. I heard a story that RC plans to revamp their bedding fleetwide. This would be a good thing. The Cruise Director, Dan, does an adequate job and is like about every other director on ships I suppose. However, Todd on the Conquest when I was on it was great and reminds me a bit of Greg Kinnear. In case you are wondering about beer/liquor. All liquor is automatically charged a 15% gratuity. Beer is $3.00 (not bad), mixed drinks $5.95 (I think Carnival was cheaper, especially with their $2.95 drink of the day). Then it goes up. A glass of wine about $8, and something like a glass of Hennessey Cognac is $12. I don't know what a bottle of wine for dinner costs, but I bet it was ridiculous. We were able to sneak on several bottles of liquor in plastic bottles (so they wouldn't break) in a suitcase and had no problem. This saved alot of money. Unfortunately, after 9pm, you can't get any juice from the cafe. So you need to bring your own stuff to mix it with. One of the busy spots on the ship at night was the Schooner Bar where they did kamikaze kareoke. Don't walk through this area if you are passing through to the Shall We Dance Lounge, because the host Derek will stop you and mess with you like he did me. I didn't like that too much. He did this to many people. Still, the folks there looked like they were having fun and I went back and watched later. Destinations and Excursions: Galveston - This place might have been nice in the 60s. It's kind of run down in parts. Grey water, not that pretty. It's good if you're in Texas and just want to run down to the ocean. However, they have their act together as far as getting to and from parking lots from the pier. We parked at EZ Cruise that I recommend. ($50 for 7 days). They handled the luggage decently. Much smoother than our shuttle to the port in New Orleans last year. Key West - Arrive at 3pm, left at midnight. Mostly a tourist town. Lots of stores. We tried to book the Sunset Sail Schooner for $56 on the ship, but it was sold out. When we got off the ship, right there at the pier is a booth for the Liberty Schooner for $49. We went out 6:30. All the beer, champagne, or cokes you want. It wasn't a wild party like you'd think. Pretty relaxing. You get to take the wheel if you want. We went out a ways and came back, about 2 hours long. Seeing the sunset and coming back in quietly in the dusk was pretty cool. Grand Cayman - Arrive 7, left at 4. We'd done the Stingray thing before (I recommend that), so this time we just hit the 7 Mile Beach excursion we booked through the ship. This is a place where they dump all the cruise ship guests onto one beach packed with chairs. There isn't much to see for snorkeling unless you go way out to the markers. I did see a stingray (and snorkeling is good on the Stingray tour). If you know of another way to get into a hotel beach, then do that if you are wanting to just go to the beach. This is supposed to be the 4th best beach in the Caribbean I heard? I wasn't impressed. Still, I made the best of it, and hit some shops and bought a Cuban cigar for later. Even a so-so beach is still pretty fun compared to being at work. This is a tendering port, and it went pretty smooth, although a long line on the way back. Cozumel - Arrive at 9, left at 6. Cozumel is still tendering since the hurricane. It's a hassle. They need to learn a thing or to from the Caymans. Also, from the time you get on the ship, there are local dealers trying to get you to buy some junk. They can't even wait til you hit the shore! Our excursion booked through the ship was the Dune Buggy, Beach, and Snorkel tour. One of my bests excursions yet. Riding a dune buggy through town was interesting and around the eastern part of the island was very pretty over there. Nice big waves. We did some snorkeling close to town and it had pretty good scenery, but it's a big group so not really good for soloists. We then drove to a secluded beach on the eastern side, passing by alot of scenery. That was a really nice place. Big waves, blue water, and snacks served. Then we drove back to town and had an hour to pass. We got the last tender to the ship. CHAOS. It took forever to load. Overall, it was a good trip. The Rhapsody is still a very nice ship. It was a very wobbly trip though. I have always gone in May and maybe April it is still a little rougher. I don't get seasick, but the turning is annoying. My next trip will depend on the price and destinations. Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are fine by me, with each having their advantages and disadvantages.

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Apr 3, 2006

Western Caribbean

We had A WONDERFUL cruise. We just returned Sunday April 9th from a great cruise aboard the "Rhapsody of the Seas" We were a party of eight from Memphis, TN. that flew into Houston on Saturday April 2nd, and enjoyed a wonderful night at the Harbor House Hotel near the cruise ship pier in Galveston. We arrived a day and was able to explore this neat island city of Galveston. You can do so much in just a short walking distance from the downtown

hotels. Lots shops, restaurants, is all right there. We even rode the trolley car from downtown to the beach area alone the Gulf of Mexico. We should have stayed in Galveston on our return, just so we could walk off all the great food aboard the ship. If you ever cruise out of Galveston and need transportation from Houston airport or hotels, contact this man by the name of L J Cormier, his toll free number is 1 866 642 3155, he will not only transport you there, he'll show you around before letting you off at your hotel or the ship. He is very, very informative. Beth and Aaron Rose Memphis, Tennessee

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Apr 2, 2006

Western Caribbean

We just returned from our first cruise on Royal Caribbean cruises and in retrospect there is not one single item to fault them on. The bus ride from Houston Hobby Airport to and from was easy, Checking in, boarding and leaving was fast and efficient. While embarking we went thru only one(!) security check point compared to six in Ft. Lauderdale in the past. We boarded at noon, had lunch and when we came down the luggage was outside the

cabin. The cabin itself was large enough for two people with plenty of storage space plus a lovely balcony to have an early cup of coffee on to watch the sunrise or a cocktail when the sun was over the yardarm. Our cabin steward created new pillow-sculptures every night, we were all wondering what the new sculpture would be. Out steward Anthony from Trinidad was a jewel. The food was excellent, the waitress urged us to have seconds even on lobster or steak, the dining room service was very gracious, efficient and friendly. There was plenty of organized activity for children, so they were no underfoot and the nightclub shows for the older shows were very good. We can only recommend sailing out of Galveston on Royal Caribbean Cruises.

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Mar 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

I read every review I could find before sailing so I was the resident expert among our cruising companions. We flew into Houston Saturday and spent the night. We RENTED a car from ENTERPRISE car rental, call the local office in Houston so you don't get charged the one way fee. We got a van and it was only $65 after taxes. When we got to Galveston my husband returned the car after dropping my 2 daughters(12 and 15) and I off at the ship.

We waited about 20 minutes for his return. We had done all our paperwork online for Royal Caribbean and sailed through the line. By noon we were onboard eating lunch. We learned right away in the Windjammer Restaurant that you don't have to eat the first things in the line, in the middle of the restaurant is more food, ie, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc and the DESSERTS (they were so terrific). They also have sugar free desserts all the time which is great for us diabetics. We were allowed into our rooms at 1p.m. We always book inside rooms since we are never in them. Oh, we are non-drinking, non-smoking plain people in our 40's. This cruise had more activities going on daily than any cruise(7) we have ever been on. We decided to do all the shuffleboard, shuffle golf, rock climbing, ping pong activities. You got a "ship shape dollar" for every activity you did, I got 22 and my husband earned 18. At the end of the week we traded them in for t-shirts, towels, visors, etc. All the contests had medals to earn, too, and I earned 3 bronze, never got that ellusive gold. We made LOTS of friends doing these activities. We ate in the dining room every evening, great food and service. For lunch we sometimes did buffet, sometimes main dining room. Food in both was great. Got room service for breakfast a few days, always a treat to have someone bring you your breakfast! We always get 2 rooms and the girls get one and we get the other. You have to book them with one adult in each room but when you get onboard they are fine with the kids getting one and the adults the other. So the weather was great, hot and humid. Wear lots of lotion. People got their skin fried, including us, by not being careful enough. The ports: Key West: We got off to find the key lime pie store and had key lime pie on a stick and bought some key lime candy. Then we wanted some sundries so found the Walgreens as had been recommended on another persons review. It is on the main bar street in the 500 block. Not far at all. Since we don't drink we went back to the ship. Grand Cayman: We got off and wanted to snorkel. There were 6 ships there, 12,000 people we decided. Very zoo like! Dozens of people trying to sell us excursions but we asked where EDEN ROCK was, as I had read about it on an earlier review. It was about 1/4 mile to the right as you leave the ship, a VERY short walk. Just a very small sandy place with about 20 beach chairs for rent and snorkels for rent for $12 per person. The fish here were AWESOME. It was the very best tip I got off this board!!! Although there were 12,000 people roaming the stores we felt very at ease. I guess the other 11,980 people went to the beach the people trying to sell tours to! When we returned to the ship everyone was complaining about not seeing any fish, we felt bad for them. Oh well. Didn't do the stingray excursion but people either loved it or hated it. Heard there were alot of children screaming and not wanting to get in the water to be with them so I didn't feel we missed anything. Cozumel: We got off the ship around 11:00 with no tender problem. Shopped a bit, prices were GREAT. Got lots of nice $5 t-shirts right on the tender boat! Prices were better once you got past the main street. Didn't do much there since we got fried snorkling so we didn't want to go to the beach again. Shows were great, 2 broadway type, 2 comedians, 1 juggler, one indescribable group from Venuzuela or something like that but they were fantastic and of course the welcome aboard show with the cruise director. We had a great time. The 12 year old was bored with her program so never went, the 15 year old did stuff at night with her group. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Coming bad we opted to take our own luggage off at 7a.m. If you can and don't have too much stuff, DO THIS. We were in a cab(Enterprise was sold out so we couldn't rent a car)$135, by 7:45 and on our way to Houston. Took 1 hour to get to George Bush Airport. It was much nicer hanging around the airport til our 11:30 flight rather than sitting on the ship waiting to be called only to get in line, get off and try to find our luggage and then get through customs. This is a nice feature they offer. If you do this don't bother waiting on the 6th floor where they say to wait, people were on the 5th and 4th(the gangway is on the 4th) and the announcements are made all over this ship announcing when to go so you don't have to worry about it by not being in the lounge on the 6th floor. Have a great vacation!

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Mar 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

I just got back from my cruise! I took mom on a 7 day cruise last week and we had such a great time. We left out of Galveston, Texas and went to Key West, Fl; Georgetown, Grand ayman Islands; and then to Cozumel, Mexico. I was a little afraid I might get seasick and would have been so embarrassed if I had (since I’d spent so much time in the Navy), but there were no problems in that area. It took a few days to get my 'sea legs' back

and soon the ship was gently rocking us to sleep at night. I'd open the door to the balcony and listen to the waves splashing and drift off to 'Never-land'. Lol! First the good: The ship's crew gave us exemplary service and always had a smile for us. They work so hard and I'm sure I wouldn’t have the ability (or patience) to do that. They made little animals for us each night out of the towels in our room, and cleaned the room and turned down our beds. Little mints were placed on the pillows and we had 24 hour complimentary room service too! The waiters carried huge trays piled high with dinners (often 16 at a time) and I could tell they were very heavy. Our waiters had some problems with the language barrier (and seemed to be preoccupied at times), but they were polished and very attentive. We met some nice folks at dinner and had 2 formal evenings where everyone dressed for dinner. There was also a large buffet area and we could dress casual for that. The frozen daiquiris tasted great! I had fun in the casino too. I’d never played slots before and won a little (then promptly lost it all plus a few more dollars). Lol! It was fun though. Key West was neat and I wish I'd had more time there. Mom and I went to a museum where they'd recovered a sunken Spanish Galleon and they showed us all this gold and silver they'd brought up. Mom bought a silver coin made into a pendant and it is pretty. We shopped for gold and silver in Georgetown and mom bought a gold cross. Not sure if she plans to give it to someone as a present of if she plans to keep it. I wanted to buy some black coral there, but it was so expensive! The duty free shopping was terrific! I got a $500 gold Citizen watch for 44% off! Its the new 'Eco-Drive' watch that doesn't need a battery. It’s run by solar power. I also bought some liquor (Bailey's Irish Creme) for approximately half price as well. I love that stuff! Then mom bought a very beautiful emerald and diamond ring! I dunno how much she actually paid, but I did see the price tag and it was around $900. She probably got it for half-price though because everything was marked down. We pulled into Cozumel, but neither mom, nor myself had the energy to go ashore there. We sort of lay around on the ship all day and relaxed. Also...I I fell in love a couple of times on the ship. Lol! (Well, maybe a slight crush is a better word). *Chuckle* I met two girls in the store from the UK. Ok, I admit it…I fell in love with their British accent and just hung on every word. Lol! (I think she knew it too because she's the one who sold me the watch). I dunno how I am going to manage it, but I just have to find me a lovely Brit girl for my very own. Lol! Now the bad: In Georgetown we took a tender over to the shore and we went shopping. They wouldn’t let mom take her motorized wheelchair, so I had to push her around in a normal chair. We talked to 2 or 3 people about this and got different excuses as to why we couldn’t use mom’s chair. First, it was too heavy (I can pick it up by myself). Then it was too wide. (It actually is no wider than the ship’s own wheelchair that they lent us). It was hot and Georgetown apparently doesn’t have laws to support the handicapped there, but we still got to see some things. Some of the stores didn’t have ramps for handicapped access and some sites were upstairs. Thank God for the ADA. Our room was…not good. It was large, but that is its only saving grace. The furniture was old and shabby looking. There was plastic falling from the headboards and from over the window. There was a tear, or seam that was ripped in the carpet and the carpet was old and needed replacing. The beds were rock-hard and mom asked the steward to bring in another mattress to place atop her own (which they did). I didn’t want to cause problems (or play the arrogant, rude American), so I just slept on my own thin mattress. The bathroom shower was awkward. There was a hand-held shower head that hug on an adjustable hook. That was fine except that the hook kept falling. Our tv wasn’t working at all until we called for help. The entrées in the Windjammer was just not good at all. I can’t stress this enough. It was not good. Hamburger buns were hard and dissolved into a fine crunchy powder when you bit into them. The breakfast hash brown potatoes literally exploded when I cut them with my fork. The eggs were often watery and mushy. (The ham was good though as were many of the desserts). The macaroni was tasteless and cold. Much of the food was cold. The dinners in main dining were of better quality, but only just. My Prime Rib dinner was overcooked and tough. The fish was soggy. The veggies were often undercooked. The rolls were hard as rocks. The steak was…ok. Not great, but ok. And the grilled Shrimp was pretty good, but I only had that one night. The ugly: In Georgetown I had to get mom a manual wheelchair from the Purser’s desk. Those guys (all except for the lady Purser) had the personalities of a fish. I got the impression that they were being put out by my asking for help. They made me sign a ticket for a wheelchair and then promptly told me that if I stole it, they would charge me $150. (Like I wanted to steal their chair). I signed the ticket and then waited and waited. Our tender ticket number was called and still we waited. I asked the purser again about the chair and he acted as if he’d forgotten about it. Finally they brought us a chair. I went back up to our room to get my mom, took her down to get in line for the tender. They pulled us aside and told us that they were going to let everyone else on and we would go on last because it would be easier. That made sense and a few other handicapped people joined us in line. I know probably a hundred people went by us and then when we tried to board, some blonde girl stopped us and told the security above we’d have to wait for the next tender. She wouldn’t even talk to us…it was as if we were cattle being loaded up in a chute and were unworthy of her attention. We waited for the next tender and then learned the girl didn’t know how to operate the handicapped access lift that would bring mom down the steps. She kept yelling for ‘Serge’ and I ended up having to load mom up myself. The girl brusquely told me to stand to one side and mom was lowered down the steps. Then she couldn’t figure out how to drop the ramp on the lift to let mom off. Another girl stepped up and couldn’t figure it out either and they both began yelling for ‘Serge” again. (There’s a pin that had to be pulled on a chain and that dropped the ramp). I made the mistake of pointing at the pin and my finger accidentally bumped it. It must have been barely holding the ramp because at that moment the ramp fell, slamming to metal deck. One of the girls said “You’re not Serge are you!” in the snottiest tone she could muster. I didn’t say anything and mom and I boarded the tender. My question was…if these people can’t operate the equipment (or deal with the public) why are they there at all? As I have said though….most of the service was outstanding. But I was disappointed in the state of our room, the quality of the food, the Pursers and the snotty attitude of a couple of college age girls working with the tenders. Everyone else was very nice. We do plan to cruise again next year…but we’ll be taking a different cruise line.

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Mar 12, 2006

Western Caribbean

I have a couple of things to say and will make it short and sweet for the other stay at home moms out there that are looking for a relaxing vacation with kids in tow. DO NOT DO IT! the railing are spaced so that any child of active nature could go right between the bars. There are no facilities for toddlers under two to play safely. we were uninformed about food on the ship and were told there would be baby food, no such thing. I wish

I could say that I came back relaxed and renewed but that did not happen either. My advice is stay on the land, go someplace nice that is really all inclusive. These cruises are not . there are so many hidden costs it would make your head spin. As for excursions, Excaret was pretty cool but it would take three days to get through it. And if you are afraid of large dangerous underwater creatures swimming at you at untold speeds with six inch stingers full of venom, do not talk yourself into going on a adventure to swim with stingrays. I'm pretty brave but after our tour guide explained the puncture wound full of Seritonin I was a little freaked out. But hey, what's another $120.00. Look on the bright side I could be hanging out with a bunch of drunk, half naked teenagers on the ship.

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Mar 5, 2006

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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Mar 5, 2006

Western Caribbean

First of all, let me say that I HIGHLY recommend a cruise as a desirable vacation. Everything was absolutely awesome and we had a blast! We got to Galveston Island, Texas on Saturday the 4th and stayed at the Howard Johnson. I do not recommend this hotel, but it served it's purpose. We had rented a car from IAH (definitely recommend that route as opposed to taking a shuttle. It's much cheaper and you can get around Galveston the next day

to sightsee). That night we drove around the island, mostly to find something to eat. We ate at the Fishermans Wharf restaurant. It was very good. Large portions and not that expensive. The next morning the fun really started. We drove to the pier to familiarize ourselves with the area, but, since we couldn't board for another few hours, we drove around until we found a nice beach to stop at. It was a nice day and the beach was very good. After a while we needed to return the car and get to the dock. We went with Enterprise, and they shuttled us to the dock for free. After we did that, we were impressed at the efficiency of how things worked at the dock. Our luggage was swiftly carted away and we were ushered into the check-in area where we waited to board. We recommend getting there by 11am to beat the main rush, as we did. This being our first cruise, I was very easy to please, and the first time we boarded the ship was a highlight. The grandeur and majesty of going onto such a large ship was wonderful. I know there are much larger ships, but we were impressed nonetheless. We immediately went up to the Windjammer Café, where a lunch buffet was waiting for us. We boarded at noon, but the staterooms weren't ready until 1pm. While we waited, we wandered around and checked out the ship. We would become very familiar with it by weeks end. Since departure wasn't until 5pm, we had an opportunity to get settled in our room and check out the activities and such. The room was small, but very comfortable. It was an interior room, and were very satisfied with it, especially since we were almost never in it. We slept well on the bed all week. Our "stateroom attendant" kept it clean and also made several "towel animals", creatively placed on our bed during the week. Departure from Galveston was another highlight. The feeling of "we're actually leaving" was awesome, and it was great as we "shoved off" into the sea. Obviously on future cruises I won't have such an "in awe" newbie feeling, but I enjoyed all aspects of this cruise. Now about the food: The dinners were VERY good. You could eat as much as you wanted. There was a specific menu for each day. If you wanted 2 entrees, you ordered it. 3 appetizers, no problem. It was a food-lovers dream. I actually ate escargot (it was good) for the first time. Service was superb, and they were always there to help. I could go on and on about the food, but you get the idea. We had lobster (I ordered 2 tails) on Thursday night. I wanted to order the prime rib as well, but a person can only eat so much at one time. Commenting on Billie Ricks' comments about the smoking: I agree for the most part. We are also non-smokers/drinkers/gamblers, and we don't drink coffee or tea, but I'm always satisfied with just water. The smoke was irritating to us as well, but was definitely not a show-stopper. Having lived in California most of my life, one does tend to get spoiled with the anti-smoking laws in effect there. We just ignored it and enjoyed the many other wonderful things about the ship. We departed Galveston at 5pm on Sunday, but didn't get to Key West until 3pm on Tuesday, so we were at sea for almost 2 full days at the start. It was great. The seas were calm and the weather noticeably got warmer and the waters bluer as we headed Southwest. It was amazing looking at the vast expanse of ocean we were in. Beautiful. We enjoyed the onboard activites during this time, including shuffleboard, the exercize room, broadway-type shows, comedy, FOOD, crafts, on-board shopping, lounging about and reading, lying by the pool (there were 2 pools: one outside and one in a solarium inside), and many other things. If you drink, the crew is always wandering around with trays of pre-made drinks for you to purchase. And, they do not accept cash. Everything goes on your Sea pass card. Of course, the casino is always willing to accept your donations as well. The "formal nights" were fun. We got dressed up and the dinners were especially good. By the way, you don't sit alone for dinner. We sat at a table with 7 other people. I read that sometimes these can be unpleasant experiences and you can ask to be re-seated elsewhere, but it was not a problem for us. Just the opposite, we became good friends with all the folks, and we hung out together during several shows and such, and everyone exchanged contact info at the end. Key West, Florida was our first stop. It was very windy, but nice. We had signed up for a tour, "Taste of Key West", and we sampled foods from 5 different restaurants. I had a great time during this tour, eating and learning some local history, and of course having some genuine Key Lime pie. We also sampled conch fritters (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/conch and http://www.bahamas-travel.info/recipes/conch-fritters.htm), fried mahi-mahi, a sampling of local hot sauces, and coconut shrimp (to die for). Key West is a party town. There are more bars per capita there than any city in the US. Duval Street, where over half the bars are, is dirty, smelly, and riddled with drunk folks, but also strangely enchanting. I wanted to stick around and check it out some more. Shopping was fun there and we found some very cool shops. I have "good feelings" when I think about Key West. I did not feel unsafe, and watching interesting people in interesting states of mind is always fun. Then it was off to sea again at midnight. We headed south, around Cuba (we could see it from the ship), to the Cayman Islands. Tendering was smooth for us. We started early with a 7:30 am parasailing excursion. This was another highlight. The feeling at liftoff was a rush! I was surprised at the calmness and quietness when we were up in the air, though. Afterwards, however, my wife had some motion problems and "gave a little gift" to the ocean. After that, we had some time for shopping before snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays (do not miss Stingray City when you're there). Grand Cayman is a British island so everyone drives on the left side of the road. There were a lot of cool shops. At 10:30, we met up with our tour group, took a bus to the other side of the island, and took a boat to the reef where we went snorkeling. My wife had a bit of a bad experience because she swallowed a lot of salt water by the time she got the hang of it, and ended up not feeling well. If you have never snorkeled before, make sure to get some basic instruction before getting in the water. It's against the law to touch the reef in any way, so it was difficult to stay up in the water and get the hang of snorkeling. Still, we were able to get in some very good time looking at the reef life. I should mention that it was in the 80's both in Cayman and Cozumel, and humid, so we were plenty hot. After the reef, we went a few hundred yards to "Stingray City". The rays are obviously used to humans being around. They're like kittens, brushing up against you and looking for food. You could even hold them. They're remarkably soft on the underside. The water was only a few feet deep there with soft sand, so we just stood there and played with them. We were very tired when we got back to the ship, but quickly showered and got ready for dinner (you don't want to miss dinner in the dining room if you can avoid it…it's just too good). We may have watched a Broadway show that evening as well (we saw several). I can honestly say that there was never a moment during the whole trip that I felt bored and was wondering what to do. Friday was Cozumel, Mexico. Some minor engine trouble brought us in about an hour late, and it took a long time to get to shore. At first they said it was "high winds" that delayed us, but I knew that was a crock when they first said it. I figured it was the Mexican authorities holding us up. Hurricane Wilma pretty much wiped out Cozumel last year including the ship dock, so we were tendered in by smaller boats. Fortunately, we were on Tender #2 (make sure you get your tender tickets early, like as soon as they open, which was 8am for us), so we were only about 1 1/2 hours behind schedule. And, when we got off at Cozumel, workers there made sure we knew that the last tender would leave 45 minutes later than planned. We shopped for a long time there. The Mexican merchants are VERY aggressive in trying to get you into their shops. It was humorous. After shopping we took a taxi to Paradise Beach, where we originally intended to catch a snorkeling tour from. We ended up just hanging out on the beach. On the taxi ride, it was very apparent that the damage from the hurricane was widespread. Stripped trees. Demolished buildings. We then took another taxi back to the dock and shopped for a while longer before heading back to the ship, totally exhausted, but again hurrying to get ready for dinner. After dinner we planned on taking a very quick cat nap before the show. We never made it to the show. We crashed at 8pm. The whole next day (Saturday) was at sea so we took it easy, read, and did various activities to occupy the day. Since we have 4 young children which we left at home (woo hoo!), we were able to maintain contact using the ships email system for 50 cents a minute. That worked out nicely for us. It was mildly depressing to get back to Galveston Sunday morning. I could have easily got right back on the ship and done it all again. Disembarkation, however, was again incredibly smooth. We did not do "early departure", and we're glad we chose not to. For one, we got to sleep in. We were also one hour late getting to the port, which I believe was announced that morning. We were able to have a leisurely morning, reading and eating, while we waited for our color to be called, which it was exactly on time (1 hour behind). Our luggage was waiting for us and and we were shuttled to our rental car, drove through Houston to the airport, and made it home safely at about midnight Sunday night. All our planes were on time, which was nice. I'm sure there's a lot that I missed, but hopefully you get the general idea what it was like on this cruise. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

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Jan 29, 2006

Western Caribbean

The check in for the ship was very smooth and efficient. There were no lines and check in took only a few minutes. That was the good part. The departure was a nightmare. This was the 436th cruise for the Rhapsody so you would think they would have this down pat. We were taking Royal Caribbean's bus transfer to IAH (about a 1.5 hour ride) and had a flight at 1:30 PM. This would seem to be no problem as our color luggage tags was scheduled

off the ship at 8:10 AM. Our departure off the ship was delayed about 45 minutes due to a late arrival of the ship due to weather (understandable). Once our color was called at 8:55 we did not get through the entire offloading procedure until 10:15. It was standing around and waiting in line on the exit ramp. It was chaos trying to find out which bus we would suppose to get on. We just missed one, and were redirected to get on another. The bus was half full and after waiting for another 15 minutes we asked the RCCL rep when we were leaving. She said she was waiting for 20 more people. This seemed unlikely since we were the last group called with luggage tags for transfers. We told her we have a flt. at 1:30 and she said we would make it. There was another couple with a flt. at 1:00 who were getting very nervous. They finally found a supervisor who blamed them for getting off the boat late!!! All of us on the bus also started a revolt and demanded that the bus be released as it was unlikely that there were still 20 people for the bus (this was already after 11:00. Once at IAH, it was 12:30 when we arrived, it was too full at Continental to pull in the bus so we were redirected to the intl. terminal. We checked in there and then had to take the terminal tram to the correct terminal. After the line for security we barely made our flt. This was after being ready to leave the ship before 8:00. I was so stressed the entire day from this experience.

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Jan 22, 2006

Western Caribbean

I will begin by saying that I would definitely recommend this cruise ship and itinerary. I would also start by saying that my husband and I took our 4 kids on the Grand Princess (Princess Cruise Line) out of Galveston, TX in December 2004, so when I evaluate the different things on the Rhapsody of the Seas and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, it’s primarily with respect to how it compares to our previous cruise with Princess. I’ll start

with my biggest complaint which was that there are NO LAUNDRY FACILITIES on board! This really is a bummer if you plan to exercise everyday, like I did. I mention this first because I read MANY reviews before we left, but nobody mentioned the lack of laundry facilities, if I had known in advance I just would have packed differently. When we went on the Grand Princess, I did laundry ATLEAST 3 times during the week! So when I packed for this cruise, I packed just one “carry on” suitcase, assuming that I could do laundry. . .We did finally use the laundry facilities at a resort in Grand Cayman (and their pool while we waited for the laundry), so I did get a few things washed (not dried). The other drawback was that there was very little area for drying things in your room, and with the humidity and lack of air flow, it took nearly 24 hours to dry even small items. All that being said, there are many pluses about this cruise, and really the laundry thing was my ONLY complaint (not bad as far as I’m concerned). The EMBARKATION process was SO FAST and EASY! We filled out our stuff online and had our paper ready to go when we got there with our passports in hand. The whole process (including going through the security screen) took about 5 minutes (if that)! This was a huge plus considering when we went on the Grand Princess, we had to wait in a phenomenally long line, and the whole process took 1 ½ hours to board! My one recommendation for boarding the ship is to keep as much luggage with you as possible, since we were erroneously planning on doing laundry on the cruise, my husband and I packed a “carry on” suitcase each, which worked out REALLY well for embarkation and debarkation. When we got on the ship and down to our floor where our stateroom was, the halls were FILLED top to bottom with luggage, and it was well into the evening before the other couples traveling with us got their luggage! I must say that the biggest two highlights of the cruise were the dining room service and the entertainment. We had table #72, second seating, and our waiters were Leo (from the Philippines) and Alexis (he looked just like the former quarterback, Warren Moon, he was from Costa Rica), they were the BEST waiters we’ve had out of our 4 cruises (FAR surpassed the service we received on the Grand Princess with personal choice dining)! The first night we asked for lemons for our water, and I asked for toothpicks, that was the last night we had to ask for either thing because the rest of the nights they always had the lemons and the toothpicks waiting on our table before we even sat down! One day for lunch (which is open seating, so you never know what waiter you’re going to get) we got Alexis for our assistant waiter, and when he saw us sitting down he immediately brought out our lemons and toothpicks without us even asking! That was really impressive! The food quality was very good as well, and they were always encouraging you to order as much as you want, if you want two entrees, order two entrees (even when they had their lobster and shrimp)! This was very different from Princess Cruise line where they made it clear you couldn’t order more than one entrée, appetizer, dessert, etc. The entertainment was top notch. We personally don’t care for the typical “Vegas” type, nearly naked, dancing girls shows, so we really appreciated the variety of shows they had on the cruise! There was a “magician” who was funnier than any comedian I’ve ever heard, and we are STILL baffled by his magic tricks, it was without a doubt the best show I’ve ever seen! The last night they had a two time gold medal gymnast who was incredibly good too! We were wondering how they could possibly have a gymnastics show, what could they possibly do on a moving ship?!? He did a lot of tricks with the silks (which would be similar to the ring event in gymnastics), but he also was a funny comedian and an excellent juggler and piano player in addition to his gymnastics! They also had a highly talented set of musicians called “Metroline” they were 3 Polish guys playing “big band” style music, and they were GREAT! The flute/saxophone player was especially talented (maybe I appreciated it more because I am a novice flute player, and I have an appreciation for how difficult it is to play the instrument clearly, and fluently, much less for 45 minutes as this guy was doing). Anyhow, they were a great group. They also had another really talented group, the Diezsels, but we didn’t hear them as much because they usually played later at night in the dance lounge, and I was always tired by that point. I would say the two fortes of this ship are that it’s small enough to easily get around and to learn its layout quickly (but it’s not a tiny ship by ANY means) and it also had many relaxing sitting areas and lounges, much more so than the very large Grand Princess. The sitting areas were nice for us because we liked to just sit and relax and play cards with the other couples we were cruising with, so it was nice to have areas we could go to and look out at the sea and relax. The ship also had four shuffleboards on deck 10 which we enjoyed playing while we soaked up the sun. There was also a great area called the Solarium which was an Egyptian themed 16 and older area to relax with a pool and two hot tubs. Although, the only time that I attempted to get into the pool or hot tub, I thought the pool was too cold, and the hot tub too hot (and I like hot water, but that was too hot even for me!) But the area in general was very nice and enjoyable. I thought the room layouts were nice with plenty of space for unpacking and putting things away. We had an interior room at the front of the ship, 3013. The little “half couch” as I called it, was nice and kind of opened up the area a bit, helped it not feel so small. We did have one issue the first night, when we arrived at our room our bed had about 4 comforters on it! It looked like a big patchwork of quilts!! I asked our room attendant about it, and she said they didn’t have anymore quilts that would cover the whole bed!!! I was dumbfounded at such a thing! So the first night, needless to say, was bad as far as the comforter went because we had one across the top and another one across our legs. . .it didn’t work out well at all. Luckily they found a bigger quilt the next day! Each room had a safe that was free to use. It was easy to use, you set your own password, and we just kept our passports and cash in there so we didn’t have to worry about losing them, etc. My one opinion on the room attendants was that I didn’t think they came in and cleaned enough, just once in the morning and then once while we were at dinner. I guess that’s where we got spoiled on the Grand Princess, because on that ship the room steward was straightening the room at LEAST three times a day, he was constantly in the halls if we needed anything he was right there, always available from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed! As soon as he saw us leave, he would go in and cleanup! But on this ship, our room steward was rarely around, we’d maybe see her twice a day, and often times if I needed anything, I would just grab it off the cart myself since it was just sitting in the hall. I will say that she was very nice and very friendly when we did see her though. One other item of note on the rooms is, beware of the “ocean view” rooms in the front of the ship. . . they’re a BIG disappointment. Our friends had room 3014, and there was platform about 5 feet deep by the head of their bed, and if you climbed in to the platform you could see through port holes that were about 2 feet deep!! Not what they expected for the extra $160 they paid for the “ocean view!” As I mentioned, we didn’t have our kids on this cruise with us, so I can’t give any good details on the kid’s program, except that there were probably about 40+ kids in the program, and the directors actually appeared to be engaging the kids in fun activities that the kids seemed to be enjoying. This was in contrast to the kids program on the Grand Princess where the kids were put in a room with board games and supervisors basically, very minimal. If you’re into the future cruise promotions, Royal Caribbean is very weak in this department. They had their “future cruise ambassador” onboard, available to help you book a future cruise, but there was always a long line of people, and the wait was generally 30 minutes to talk to her. Ultimately 90% of the people she spoke with didn’t book anything because very few people are ready to actually book their next cruise while they’re just in the middle of their current cruise, and very little got accomplished for the time you’d spend waiting. Royal Caribbean requires a $250 deposit per person (refundable up to 70 days prior to sailing), and they do allow you to make changes to your reservation, but you must book it directly through them. All that got you on a 7 day cruise was a free $100 onboard credit. My next cruise I want to take my kids, and to book a cruise in advance and have to put down $1,250 deposit was outlandish just to get $100 credit! Princess Cruise line had a much better program where you just fill out a form and put down a $200 deposit (refundable) that you use towards any booking with them in the future 4 years, and then you would receive a free $100 onboard credit. With Princess you can use whatever travel agent/method you want to book your cruise, your money was just basically in a savings account with your name on it. As for the ports, we enjoyed all of them very much! We didn’t go on any shore excursions, instead we just got our own transportation when we got off the ship, and toured the islands on our own. In Key West it was nice because they dock there, so it’s easy to get on and off the ship. We rented scooters from a local down on the West end of Duval Street, and we bargained for 3 double scooters from 3:30 p.m. until as late as we wanted (as long as they were locked up back on his “lot” when he returned in the morning), we paid $35/scooter! We thought this was a good deal since the “standard” rate on the island was $35 for 2 hours, $70 for 4 hours, etc. This way we were nearly the only ones still riding scooters at 10:00 p.m.!! Everyone else had to return theirs by 6:00 p.m. or so! One note on the tendering into Grand Cayman, if you’re ready by 7:00 – 7:30 a.m. you can take the tender over without a tender ticket, this is a good option, and I’d highly recommend doing it because the tender tickets are a time consuming process. The nice thing is that the tenders are quite large – two decks, and they’re open so they don’t get all stuffy and uncomfortable. The currency exchange rate in Grand Cayman is $.80 on the dollar, so in general, things in Cayman are more expensive. We took a taxi $4/person (plus tip) to the beach, however she dropped us off at the nearest beach, and it wasn’t the nicest one, a ton of shells on the shoreline and for the first 8 feet of water, so it made it painful to get into the ocean (this was also the case in Cozumel, so I think it may be a result of the hurricanes). Anyhow, the beach we were at, had ball rentals for $2 (and a deposit consisting of your cruise card – I guess they REALLY want to make sure you return their football to them), they also boasted to have volleyball, but when we inquired about the volleyball, they said, “No, it takes up too much beach area.” Jet Ski rentals were something like $70/ ½ hour?!? One of the other couples we were traveling with ended up walking down the street and renting a SUV for $80 so we took it up to Morritt’s Resort on the North East coast in search of windsurfing because on the internet it had said that was the only place on the island that had windsurfing, but after a 1 hour drive up to the resort, we were told they don’t have windsurfing anymore. It was an interesting drive (kind of rough roads and slow going though), we stopped at a tasty little restaurant on the side of the road called “Chesters” for jerk chicken and rice. Cozumel also had tendering, but they didn’t offer the early tendering without a ticket, which was a bummer. We did manage to get on one of the first tenders into the island, but it still took about 1 hour to go through the process, kind of a chaotic, unorganized process with a rush of people trying to get downstairs to the tender. The nice thing on this tender was that they had a rental car representative (Executive Car Rental) on the tender, so we were able to make our rental car arrangements before we got to the island. This worked well for us since we knew that we wanted to rent a car and drive around ourselves. We got a 7 passenger van for $75. We were able to drive to the beach, after stopping at numerous beaches and reviewing their options, we decided on (Playa Palancar) which I would highly recommend. You could use the chairs, restrooms, etc. for no charge. The food there was VERY good (beef tacos ($6.50) were made from steak, not hamburger), my husband and our friend each ordered a different kind of fish ($11 each), and they were excellent! Pop (or Soda, for the Southerners) was a little more expensive, $2/can. We played volleyball (free), the net was very worn, and we had to draw our own boundaries in the sand, but we had fun and got some exercise. They had snorkel equipment there for $10, or they’d take you out in a boat for $14, we didn’t go because we ran out of time, but I really wish we had. We talked with a guy who went and he said it was beautiful snorkeling, he highly recommended it. After the beach we drove around the island, it’s amazing how undeveloped it really is! It’s a pretty drive up the coast, rustic and rocky. Debarkation was not nearly as smooth as embarkation! We had signed up for the “Express Debarkation” which meant that you’re the first ones to get off the ship, but you MUST carry off all of your own luggage! We were supposed to be able to start getting off at 7:00 a.m., but we didn’t end up getting into port until 7:45 a.m.! So it actually ended up being 8:00 a.m. before we were off the ship and out to our friend’s car, which I guess is still not too bad. One thing to note is that they tell you to meet in the “Shall We Dance Lounge,” but there isn’t anybody there overseeing the process or directing people, so you just end up sitting there with everyone else and nobody knows what’s going on. My suggestion is to go to the fourth floor atrium area and wait because this is where you’ll be exiting anyhow, and the stairs and elevator become incredibly crowded when they start calling group colors. (Of course they don’t want you waiting on the fourth floor, which is why they tell you to go to the different lounges on the ship instead). You go through Customs AFTER you get off the ship, so ultimately you don’t have to do anything in the lounges they send you to, except sit and wait. I didn’t know this because when we went on the Princess cruise they actually had customs come on board and we had to process through the main theatre, so I thought that’s what we’d be doing when they directed us to the lounge, but I was wrong. If you go through their normal debarkation process, you have to put your luggage out in front of your stateroom door on Saturday evening and then Sunday morning you have to wait until your “color” tag is called before you can get off the ship, which can be a couple of hours. They request that you completely vacate your stateroom by 8:00 a.m. which means that you may end up with two or more hours of sitting around on the ship until you can finally get off.

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Dec 23, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise. We were at sea for the first two days and I had a hard time getting acclimated. Only after I got home someone told me to go out on the deck and look at the horizon and that will help with any sickness. Guess I'll have to remember that next time. Our first port of call was Costa Maya. We did the Catamaran Experience. And what an experience it was! We went out on a catamaran out to a reef and snorkeled for about

an hour. Saw lots of the reef , but very few fish. There was beer and soda's on the boat for everyone to enjoy at no cost. Our guides were very nice and fun. You have to catch a taxi (5.00) back to the main area and that in and of itself was an excursion! We drove 80 MPH around scooters, people walking and other cars just to get back. I guess the faster they got us there the more money they would make. The shopping was an experience as well. You can talk alot of the prices down. Remember, they start high, so you can talk down almost anything. Our next stop was Cozumel. We did the Dune Buggy & Snorkel Combo. AWESOME!!! Our guides Edwardo and Andres were the best ! First you are assigned a dune buggy and you drive a short drive to the snorkel stop. There we were introduced to our dive master Andy. We went out and snorkeled for about 45 minutes and saw LOTS of fish. Andy was great pointing things out for us. Well back in our dune buggy and off to the other side of the island we went. Through town, residential areas and all. Got to see lots of things you probably wouldn't see otherwise. When we got to the other side of the island, we drove up to a secluded beach with 12 umbrellas , and one volleyball court. One umbrella for each buggy. While there we had lunch. Good Food !! And cold drinks as well. You could eat all you wanted. We stayed on the beach for about an hour then drove back to town for some shopping.Again, lots of cheap buys. Talk em down. Our next stop was the Grand Cayman. HATED IT!! They gave you a map to find your way around but there are no street signs there so pretty much you are on your own. And the shop keepers are not in a big hurry to help you either. Lots of rich , rude people here. Move On..... Our next stop was Montego Bay Jamaica ! AWESOME!!!! Here we did the Canopy Tours and loved it !! OMG what an adventure ! Our guides Waldy and Kim were awesome. If you have ever wanted to do this this is the place. Ate some jerk chicken while we were up in the jungle. MMMMMMmmmm. After we were done with the canopy tour we did some shopping. Now if you are shopping for jewelry, this is the place. We bought 2 Movado watches valued at 649.00 per watch for 299.00!! Beautiful watches !An I have since checked with Movado and they are real. The shop we bought them in (Royal Jewelers?) is a certified Movado dealer. Everything here is reasonable when it comes to price. Esp the liquor! Our last stop was Key West. We parasailed in Key West. This was just okay. I am more for fast moving adventures. this you kind of sailed through the sky. Hence the name. Not bad , but not in a hurry to do it again. That pretty sums up our ports of call and our excursions. Now the Boat !! DunDunDunnnnnn Actually the ship and its staff was really nice. EXCEPT!~ DO NOT BUY MARKS PLATINUM PASSPORT BOOK!! It is a total rip-off! He will tell you you can get 300.00 worth of free stuff in all these ports of call with coupons in the book. Well pretty much they are all JUNK! I would not give any of these items as gifts. The passport book is 20.00 and if you hurry you can get one of only 200 available ! BS!! People bought them long after the first set ran out. The food was okay. Never really hot. But for the most part it was good. Our wait staff was awesome! Imdat from Turkey was our waiter. Malbert was the guy that cleaned our room and he was awesome as well. They will all (except Mark) go our of their way to help you. The one complaint I had about the ship was the pools. One was and all adult pool (The Solarium) but had a burger, hotdog, pizza and fries stand at it. The other pool had adult beverages at it. Somehow that makes no sense to me . Switch it already ! We had a great time and Im sure you will as well! Feel free to email me with any questions ! Bon Voyage !

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Dec 11, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise. I chose this cruise after researching different cruise lines and looking at reviews on Cruise Critic and CruiseReviews. I then looked at pricing on the different cruise lines and the different cabin options for our family of 4. After much research we found a great price on the Grandeur of the Seas sailing out of New Orleans, LA. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and washed out much of the city. The cruise

was moved to Miami and canceled the original cruise and replaced it with 2 different ones, a 3 night and a 4 night cruise. Royal Caribbean never informed us of the cancellation or the change in ports. I just happened to have moved and had to update my address information. When I went on the site to change the information there was no longer a cruise to choose. We then called Royal Caribbean and found out about the port changes and the cruise cancellation. After much thought we chose to switch out cruise from the 2 different sailings to one 7 night sailing going out of Galveston, TX on the Rhapsody of the Seas. We originally booked a Grand Suite on the Grandeur but when we switched over to the Rhapsody there were no Grand Suites left and were placed in a Junior Suite. We were told we would be placed on a waiting list for both the Grand Suite and the First Dining Seating seeing as that was also full. We were given $200 on board credit for having to switch ports. We were not however given any compensation for the price difference between the two different suites, seeing as we were on a wait list and were told there was a good chance we would get the suite. After weeks went by and no luck getting into a bigger suite we began calling Royal Caribbean about being compensated for the price difference between the suites. We had to go through much hassle to get any money back. We did not have our documentation from the Grandeur and but knew how much we paid. We compared the prices for a Grand Suite and Junior Suite with the 2006 cruises and the Grand Suite pricing matched what we paid for our Grand Suite. However Royal Caribbean stated we could not compare 2006 pricing with 2005 pricing even though they were the same as what we paid. We talked to many different Royal Caribbean representatives to try to get our $400 compensation. After much hassle we finally got them to agree to reimburse us $200, even though we were told “You either want the cruise or you don't, you can take it or leave it”. Royal Caribbeans customer service has much to be desired. But with 3 of us already having vacations scheduled with our workplace to go on the cruise we figured $200 was better than nothing. It was not the $400 we were owed but it was more than nothing. 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. Embarkation 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. Stateroom 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. Centrum 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. Windjammer 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. Shops 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. Bars 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 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. Pool 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. Solarium 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. Spa 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. Activities 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. Service 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. Weather 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. Shore Excursions 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. Key West 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. Grand Cayman 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. Cozumel 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. Final Thoughts 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 [email protected] and I have placed my cruise pictures on line at http://jodee.shutterfly.com

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Nov 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

To sum up RCL, I would have to say that the food is reasonably good, the staff is good, the organization is TERRIBLE. Embarking was easy. We were to sail at 5:00. We showed up at 1:30 and didn't have to wait very long at all to get onboard. Driving up and unloading your luggage is a bit chaotic, but not too terrible. The ship, although worn in places, seemed to be very well maintained. This was our first cruise, so we were not sure

what to expect in reality, although I had read a lot of reviews about the ship and ports. The bartenders are wonderful. I cannot say enough about how friendly and helpful they were. The daily specials were all very good. Unfortunately, we happened to be pulling out of Galveston during unusually cold weather. It followed us for the first three days. Which kept us from docking in Key West. Our Captain made the decision not to dock there, based on wind speed at the time. The cold weather also kept us from enjoying any kind of "sun and fun" type of activities on the pool deck. We ended up at sea for four days. All of them were cloudy days. We ate in the large dining room four times during the trip. We were asked by the head waiter if we would mind moving to another table that first night, so that he could seat a large family together. No big deal to us. Unfortunately, our waiter was not very personable or enthusiastic about serving us. He was very proper, but showed very little character. The assistant waiter forgot to bring our bread after the first few nights. The quality of the food seemed comparable to maybe a high-end chain sit-down restaurant such as Outback Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse, etc. The food was good. It was not excellent. My husband's steak was overcooked the last night we ate in the dining room, but once he pointed it out, it seemed to be replaced right away. Dessert had a lot left to be desired. The only desert on board that I really enjoyed was the strawberry cheesecake served in the main dining room one night. I was disappointed by the lack of choice of selections in there as well. I expected much more as far as the food taste and selection. The Windjammer (up by the pool) basically resembles a medium-class casino buffet. Some of the dishes are excellent. Some are dry or cold or bland or all three. There is a little snack-type bar inside the solarium where you can get some really decent pepperoni pizza. We took advantage of this twice. My husband and I are both smokers and were concerned that there were be nowhere to smoke once onboard, but were surprised to find that you can smoke in the Schooner Bar (our favorite) as well as all along the port side of deck 5 and in parts of the casino. Activities: We went to three shows. The first was Broadway-type production based roughly on Mardi Gras. We were very impressed with the talent of the performers themselves. The composition left must to be desired, but overall it was a good show. We saw a magic show as well that we both really liked. There was also a great comedian on the very first night who was really fantastic. We played bingo three different times. Even though we didn't win, it was still a fund way to pass the time. People were starting to get desperate. We did okay in the casino in the first few days. The slots were paying out really well the first night. Then it started going downhill again. My husband played 3-card poker as well as craps for several nights. Grand Cayman - Georgetown - My advice? DON'T GO THERE. Not Yet. Give them about 10 or 12 years to clean things up and get the place running again. I'm not sure why the cruise company planners thought that the island could handle that many tourists in about an 8-hour span of time. IT DOES NOT WORK. The city of Georgetown has a LONG way to go before it will be able to bring real enjoyment to the cruise set. Their hurricane happened a year ago. And it seems like it happened only a few months ago. We had to use births to get from the ship to the chain-link fence rocky area (looks like a prisoner camp of some kind). Then the waiting began. Our excursions was called the "Rays, Reef, and lunch Combo." We were loaded onto some old shuttle buses, driven for about 30 minutes, taken to a small pier where we were greeted by a somewhat friendly staff on a double-decker old boat. We were taken to what looked to be a sliver of a coral reef, and dumped in the water after being given mediocre snorkeling equipment and a short, but intelligent lecture on the animal life and precautions to take, such as not touching the coral. After everyone had a chance to snorkel for a while near the reef, we got back onto the boat and moved out away from the reef about 400 to 500 yards and suddenly were told we had just arrived in Stingray City. Which did not look like any of the pictures we'd seen. The staff were the only ones allowed to feed the rays, which was find with me. But I personally would have rather to have the introduction to them be on the beach or sandbar instead of in 12-14 feet of water. Anyway, I tried to get some pics on one of those disposable underwater cameras (not sure yet how they turned out.) After we all got back on board the shuttle bus, it started to rain. Once at dock, we had to board another shuttle bus to take us to what was called the "Beach Club and Resort". Apparently, our on group wasn't the only outside group expected for this thing. There were HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE THERE. Very little shelter from the rain. My husband and I were both starving, but didn't feel like waiting in line forever, so thought we could get somebody to take us downtown to look around and get some food. It is $4.00 cash per person. To get back to the ship it was $5.00 per person. Nearly all of the shuttle drivers charged the same to take you back and forth. The problem is that they WILL NOT leave until the bus is TOTALLY FULL. Possibly even with people standing up inside the bus. So if you need one, grab one that is almost complete filled so you won't have to sit forever for the driver to fill the bus. The fiasco of getting back onto the ship from Georgetown was just unbelievably ridiculous. The guys driving the boats kept edging our berths out of the way (high school crap). So the line leading to the place to actually get back onboard the Rhapsody was at last 3/4 mile long and did not move for a VERY long time. Cozumel was the most wonderful part of our trip. We did the Party Boat and Beach Break Excursion (open bar). Everybody know what they were supposed to be doing. There was plenty to drink onboard, even for the kids. Lots of great live music and games on the lower level. But it that was too much for you, you could stay up on top and catch some rays or just have a quite conversation if you wanted. We rode wave runners at the beach they stopped at. There were games on the beach for the whole family, music, free rum punch for Party Boat Guests, lots of big-kid type jumping things, a banana boat you could rent, and all that great stuff. otherwise, Cozumel still has a long way to go to rebuild from the hurricane. We have made the decision to fly down there instead of cruise next time. My wrap-up.... If you REALLY want to go to the Caribbean via a cruise, check out Princess. Royal Caribbean has a LOT to be desired as far as food, service, entertainment, boat layout, port arrival/departure, etc. Save up for a flight to your favorite destination and miss the headaches and lines. That's what we plan to do next time.

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By Bob_CR

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Nov 20, 2005

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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By Bob_CR

  • New

Nov 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

Overall, my family and I had a fantastic cruise. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not on our side, but you can't blame Royal Caribbean for that. I heard several folks complain about the number of kids (over 600 of the 2400 were kids), but hey, it was Thanksgiving weekend, and we expected a lot of kids. We just couldn't believe the number of kids under the age of 1, though. Just crazy parents, I guess (haha). They weren't a bother, though.

The food and sevice was great. If you go to the pool-side bar, make sure you say hello to Thompson. He has been on the ship for 4 yrs. Very friendly and poors a great drink! Our first planned stop, Key West, was canceled due to the winds and waves. We saw Key West dead ahead, then it went to our left and we just kept going. Quickly, the captain came on and told us the winds and waves were too rough. Well, as soon as we headed away from Key West, we found out what he was talking about. It was a very rough night for a lot of people. We would see several folks leave, one-by-one, from the dining room table, and heading toward their room with motion sickness. Our dinner mates introduced us to Bonine (has Mecklazine). Luckily, I didn't get sick, but my wife and daughter did. They took the Bonine and felt better within 1-2 hours. The Purser's desk gives free Mecklazine tablets, but have Bonine onhand. Highly recommended. Doesn't make your drowsy like dramamine does. Finally hit Grand Cayman on Thursday. It was great to get on land for a change. However, Grand Cayman is not like it used to be just a few years ago. Of course, it didn't help that there were 5 other ships there. Man, was it chaotic! I don't think anyone from our ship, nor anyone from the other ships, was prepared for it. Due to the seas and damage received from the hurricanes, we were not able to dock to land. Instead, we had to anchor and be tendered ashore in small boats. It was half-way quick getting to shore, but when it was time to come back, it took over 2 hours standing in line to get on the tender that brought us back. Just too many people in 1 spot. The weather was not on our side, either, It poured! I went diving while my wife and daughter went to swim with the stingrays. Let me give some advice here. Do not book the excursion that has the Swim with Stingrays, snorkling and lunch as a package. The stingray and snorkling portion was great, but the luch was god awful, plus you had to stand in line over an hour to get the food. You can take cabs to get places, but they charge from $5-$8 a person, each way. So, that's $25 each way for a family of 5, making it a total of $50. Some cabs tried to charge $8, but I think $5 is the going rate. Just be careful. Anyway, you will love the stingray place. My 9 yr old daughter had a blast and even kissed 3 stingrays! Oh, another something to watch out for. Depending on the weather, the water at the stingray place can be a little deep and very choppy. On a nice day, it is pretty shallow and very calm. It was pretty high and very choppy when my daughter was there, but she loved it very much, non-the-less. I don't know who talked with all the other ships, but someone got with all the ships in Grand Cayman, and asked all the ships "Who had gone where and how many stops have you made". I guess some of the other ships had made stops before Grand Cayman, as they were asked not to go to Cozumel, to lighten traffic. This was great because there was only 1 other ship besides ours at Cozumel. Cozumel was our favorite stop. 2 places I recommend are the Delexe Beach Break and the Palancar snorkling. The Deluxe Beach Break took you to Play Mia beach where it was all you can eat and all you can drink, plus it was a blast for our daughter. They had a water trampoline, a floating wall to climb, kayaks, peddle boats, etc. Very clean and a lot of fun. They had another area where you could meet some of the beach chefs and cook your own feast on a grill, then eat it while you drank beer and/or wine. I think this was a different packege, but everyone, and I mean everyone, who did it had the time of their life! The Palancar snorkling was fun, then on the way back, they just told you they would open up the refreshment stand on the boat trip home. It was open-bar, from what I heare, and there were a lot of happy people coming off this adventure!!!! They all had a blast, they said. Now, back to the Rhapsody of the Seas. I heard so much talk about the fries in the Solarium (back of deck 9). They were very good, I must admit. However, they are similar to the fries you get at Burger King, but better. They serve pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries back there. The fries were good, so try them. One thing they do not tell you about the Solarium pools in any brochure, is that you have to be 16 or over to use the pools. Anyone can go to get the food or play ping pong, but you just have to be over 16 to use the pool and hot tubs. Not a bad thing, because sometimes us grown-ups want a little place to ourselves, but my 9 yr old was a little disappointed. But, hey, there is a pool and 4 hot tubs just outside for her! We only ate in the dining room for dinner. Breakfast and luch was spent at the Windjammer Cafe, at the front of Deck 9. Food, food, and more food! The view was great, too. The only minor complaint was they tried to make a plain chocolate cake and a plane cheese cake too fancy, which ruined them. They put 2-layers of chocolate cake that had some terrible jelly or something in the middle. I wish they had just plain chocolate cake! Oh well, there was plenty of other desserts to choose from. If you didn't like that, all you had to do was go to the Ben and Jerry's ice cream on deck 6. You had to pay for it, but the homemade waffle cone and great ice cream was welcomed treat! Highly suggested. Evey now and then, I wanted just a few minutes to myself. A great place to get away from it all during the day is the Viking Crown at the back of the ship, on deck 11. It was so relaxing to just sit there and watch the open sea from the top of the ship. I guarantee you will forget about any worries up there. Quiet and relaxing! The ship has plenty to do. They teach different types of dancing every day, from country, hip hop, classical, etc. I heard this was a blast, too. We also met some very nice people and met up with a wonderful family who had a daughter the same age as our's. They were inseparable and are keeping in regular contact! That's what friends are for. I hope we can all keep in touch through the years. The only other advice with those with younger children is to take the Early Seating during dinner. We had the late seating, which started at 8:30pm. Our daugher went 90-to-nothing the entire day and didn't have much energy come dinner time. She passed out every nite at the end of dinner. She had no problems sleeping hahahahaha. I highly recommend this ship and think you will have a great time. Just remember, not everything goes perfect, but just about everything did. Oh, a great place to park and leave your car is EZ Cruise. It is on Rosenburg (25th) and Sante Fe Place, about 2 blocks form the terminal. They charge $55 for the week. Worked out great for us. It was fairly within walking distance, so I went and got the car while my family was getting the luggage. Hope this helps

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Nov 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

My first 3 cruises were with Carnival...the way my parents were always raving about RC convinced me to give it a try. EZ Cruise was great, took all our luggage and was much cheaper than other parking facilities!! By far the fastest disembarkment I have been a part of. Got to EZ cruise at 11:30 and we were on the boat at the latest 12:30. Rooms were to be ready by 1:00, so we went to the buffet to buy coke cards and eat lunch to pass

the time. Rooms were ready as they said...much smaller than the Carnival rooms I might add, and I had an Oceanview this time!! Muster is mandatory, so be prepared. It is not the most exciting part of the trip, but you are on vacation. Make the best of it, they do check on lists if you don't show. Stops: Key West - didn't happen, too much wind from a cold front and rough seas! Never got sick, it was like riding a rolling coaster. My kids 11 and 13 didn't seem to be bothered by it too much either, some people did look a little green though... Grand Cayman - Tendering nightmare!! 5 ships in at the same time is craziness at best. Went to 7 mile beach and had about 2 hours good weather, and then the skies opened. Be prepared to fork out big money for cab rides. Beach is very nice, you will have to rent your beach chairs - $5 I think. Food, drinks and bathrooms close by. Again Grand Cayman is a little expensive, but a beautiful place. Looking forward to trying it again soon. Tried to go downtown for shopping afterwards, but it was far too crowded with all the ships there. Managed to get to Del Sol which has some cool sun changing shirts, so my kids were thrilled. Cozumel - Had to do tenders here for the first time due to the hurricane taking out the port. Went much smoother, Carnival Conquest the only other ship here that day. Things are a mess in town, but the trip to Paradise Beach was awesome. For an $8 bracelet the kids could use kayaks, snorkel gear, water trampoline and climbing glacier. Had some great food too. Shopping was good, got a $350.00 tanzanite ring for $80.00 - just keep saying NO :) Can't help feel bad for the people trying to rebuild their lives, but everyone was very friendly and glad to see us. I always have the most fun on this stop. Tip well here folks!! Food: Not so great...with the exception of the flourless cake which is to die for. I have always enjoyed the Carnival food, and thought sometimes the food on RC was a little too extravagant for my taste. I can say now though that I have tried Escargot! Service: Go see Levi from Nicuaragua in the Viking Crown and tell him I said Hi!! I was a single mom traveling w/ my kids and would go up to the Viking Crown at night to meet people my age. When alone he would always make sure to check on me, and talk to me. He made my trip awesome! I knew I had a friend up there everyday because of him. Crasto was our waiter from India, and he was so nice. Always remembered what we wanted each night, and was great about recommending things if we weren't sure. Thanks! Cecil our room steward took great care of our room, which is hard to do with kids along. Always had a smile on his face, and made us feel great. Disembarking: Is it really that hard to get people off a boat? Good grief, this has just never been a good experience. Maybe I am just grumpy because my trip is over?? Entertainment: Comedians were awesome, kids loved the magic show, and I can't say enough about the dancers - so fun to watch. Great job! Must attend the Quest Adult scavenger hunt with Drew your cruise director - unless you are easily offended, you will have the best time at this event. Suggestions: -take an alarm clock, no clocks in your room -walkie talkies work great if you have older kids -make sure you have shampoo in your shower dispenser BEFORE you start taking the shower -bring wire hangers to leave behind after the trip -bring an empty bottle to put water in. Unpack, spray your clothes and hang. You will NEVER have to iron them. Overall I had a great time, and met some wonderful people. I still prefer Carnival over RC, but I would travel with them again. The biggest disappointment for me was not being given any kind of credit for missing Key West. This is something that Carnival is very good about, and is better customer service in my opinion. And finally - hi to all the friends I made....Rudy and Jessie, LeeAnn and dad, Roy and Michelle (congrats on engagement), Mike and Melissa, Zack, Thomas, April and Melynee, and Jordan. Thanks, Kerry

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Nov 13, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise and we had heard so many different stories about cruises in general. Some of the stories were great and some pretty horrible. First we had set up our ship board account (SeaPass) through our travel agent months prior to our departure. We made regular “deposits” to the travel agent and once we boarded our money was there in the form of ship board credits. This saved us from using cash or credit cards to set up

our onboard account. What we had left in our account was returned in cash at the end of the cruise prior to leaving the ship. We still had the option to use a credit card or cash for the on board account SeaPass if we went over our pre set limit. This is an excellent idea if you want to stick to a budget while on vacation. Once on the ship I purchased the soda pass that allows you to get unlimited soda and various juices for the entire cruise. It is worth the $43.00 and you get a souvenir cup. Simply bring the cup or show your SeaPass with the Coke sticker to a any bar and you get the soda or juice for free. We had an inside cabin that was perfect for my wife and I. I can’t see spending the extra money to have a cabin with a view considering the amount of time we spent in the cabin. I know others disagree and want a suite or view but for the value an inside cabin is perfect. The cabin was clean and the stateroom staff kept did an excellent job on the cabin during the cruise. I recommend reading and the Cruise Compass which is placed in your cabin every night. It gives a complete list of activities for the next day, drink specials and various important pieces of information. Pick what you want to do and go for it. This really helps plan your day and ensure you don’t miss anything. Remember you can’t do it all so pick what you really want to do. We are not big drinkers but I do recommend the “Cocktail Seminar” held on one of the sea days. It cost $9.95 a person and you get four drinks. They teach you how to make different drinks plus it is loaded with entertainment. Lots of interaction is involved so if you embarrass easily don’t sit near the front! Key West – We had a good time here. We chose the glass bottom boat for our excursion but that turned out to be a poor choice because of the weather. The weather was windy and rained a little bit at the start of our excursion so that prevented us from doing what the glass bottom boat excursion advertised. We wrote a review of the excursion on the ship and did receive a credit for half the cost of the excursion. The next cruise we will do Key West on our own and skip the excursions. It is small enough to walk (We Think) and everything is pretty centralized. If you see an excursion you want to do book it through the cruise line. I say this because, as in our case we received some credit for a poor excursion. Grand Cayman- We booked the Stingray City Swim and Snorkel (No Lunch) as our excursion. We definitely recommend this! It was a once in a lifetime experience and the water is beautiful. The problem with Grand Cayman is there were a total of six cruise ships there at once. It was so crowded and made getting around difficult. The cruise lines need to do something about this!!! Our excursion departed the ship a little after 7AM which left little time to sit down and eat breakfast beforehand. I recommend room service for breakfast so you don’t go hungry while on your excursion. Cozumel – We entered Cozumel harbor but were unable to tender due to Tropical Storm Gamma. The piers in Cozumel are destroyed due to a hurricane and tendering is required. This was disappointing but the weather is out of everyone’s control. We spent an extra day at sea which allowed us to relax more. Overall we had a fantastic time. We are hooked on cruising as way to vacation. I don’t think we will book another cruise during hurricane season though. We thought we were pretty safe in late November but Gamma proved us wrong. Plus from what I see you can get some pretty good deals in the “Off-Season”. The treatment we received from the Royal Caribbean staff was excellent. The ship was clean and stayed clean throughout the cruise. There were about 180 kids on board and they never bothered us. Honestly some of the adults on board were far worse than the kids. Don’t let the idea of kids on a cruise bother you. The ship is large enough that we found areas that we had to ourselves when we wanted to. Enjoy yourself and we definitely recommed Royal Caribbean to anyone considering a cruise.

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Nov 6, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise and included our family of five ages 11-49. We loved it and will definitely do it again. Not really knowing what to expect, it will be hard to compare so I will just state how it was for us. Embarkation was okay. We drove to the port, dropped our luggage with a porter, my husband parked and met us back in the terminal. The wait in line was not that long. There were employees in the lines that reminded us what

documentation to have handy so that probably sped things up a bit. We found our stateroom and settled in then went exploring and getting ready for the muster drill. We were satisfied with the food and variety. We did dress for the formal nights and posed for pictures. This was a big deal to us!! We had late seating for dinner and next time will probably opt for the early. It's my thought that if you're going to be up late doing something, then the late seating is probably a good thing but eating and then calling it a night by 11pm is just too much!! It was neat to see all of the people dressed up! It was so glamorous! We never had a problem finding a lounge chair anywhere. We preferred the upper deck for sunbathing and watching some of the poolside activities. The Solarium was a nice break from the noise and was relaxing. Our stateroom attendant was wonderful and attentive. We always had fresh towels and if we needed anything, he knew how to get it or helped. We loved the towel animals and went to a class that taught us how to make them and we turned the tables and left animals for HIM!! Of course he had to guess at what a couple of them were (our version of an octopus and turtle!) but he enjoyed them just the same! We found all of the staff extremely helpful, hardworking, and friendly. The only downside to the ship itself, and it's so minor but still worth mentioning, is that the library is for smokers. We went there one day to tutor our son and couldn't stand it. We're non-smokers so it was very unpleasant. I guess they have the cigar aficionado’s activity there, which seemed unfair to me. But, we just avoided it and found another quiet spot to study. I had to purchase hairspray while on board and I about had a cow!! An $.89 bottle of White Rain hairspray was $4.99!! A can of Pringles was $3.99!! I just thought, "What a gouge!" I did pay for the hairspray because I had no choice but made a mental note to make sure not to leave home without the necessities again!! I would suggest the lanyards they sell and have your Seapass card put on it. It was an easy way to keep up with it and have it handy. They will punch holes in the card for you too. J Speaking of necessities, I had done a little homework on the net before cruising to make sure I would have everything I needed. My top picks that worked out best for us are: a nightlight, a glow in the dark travel clock, an over the door shoe hanger with several pockets for hanging on the bathroom door, some kind of deodorizer for the moldy/sour smell in the bathroom, and highlighter pens. There was an abundance of hangers in the closet so next time I won't bring my own. Our room was fine for the four of us and the luggage stored perfectly under the beds. We didn’t need a power strip or extension cord, even though I brought both! The walkie-talkies we brought were virtually useless since there was always a stranger on our channel! We just agreed to check in somewhere and kept up that way. Our stop in Key West was fast! It seemed like we had just gotten off the ship and it got dark. We rented an electric car and explored as much as we could before dark then walked Duval Street. It hadn’t been that long since Wilma had blown through there and in the residential areas we saw refrigerators and brush piled up at the curbs in several places. The beach was closed. At Grand Cayman we had booked an excursion on our own with Captain Marvin’s for snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays. We enjoyed that but it left little time for anything else. Make sure if shopping here, that you ask if the price is US dollars or Grand Cayman. Costa Maya, again not knowing what to expect, was different. The excursions had all been booked up so we strolled the little shopping area and went back to the ship. It reminded me of a small Juarez, Mexico because some of the vendors were aggressive and because of some of the touristy junk in the shops. There was a beach area that looked inviting but it wasn’t open. The only area near the ship that we saw open to the public was just rocks so that you couldn’t even get to the water. I would not deliberately book a cruise with this place on the itinerary. We will cruise the Rhapsody again. Now that we have a better idea of what there is to do onboard and onshore, I know we’ll get more out of it. For a first cruise, this was a successful journey.

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Oct 16, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was second time cruising on board the MS Rhapsody of the Seas out of Galveston, I live in Houston. I am a cruise ship fanatic and have been fascinated with British liners and modern day cruise ships since I was 6 years old. Pretty rare for a lady huh? Well, the first time I sailed on Rhapsody was July 14-21st 2002. It was my first cruise and a dream cruise, I would never have ever recommended mediocre Carnival to anyone. Sadly, this

is probably my last time on board Rhapsody due to a bad experience. She (how we refer to ships) has begun to take a beating. Her floors no longer sparkle and shine as before. The service in the dining room was not what I anticipated, especially from my beloved Royal Caribbean International; who in my book could do no wrong. The wait staff were not friendly as before, and the pursers are very rude on this ship. One purser from Mexico was rude to me. I asked her which floor the Viking Crown Lounge was on and she told me “11, but its not for you anyway!”. I said but I’m 18, and I had checked with the other pursers before to make sure I was not going to get kicked out like I did when I was 15 the first time. She told me I had to be 21 and not go to up there, I even offered to show her proof the rules were 18, and even to show her my drivers license but she refused. This led me to complain to the children’s activities manager up on 10 and they told me that I was right. My mom went back and “had a little discussion” with the head purser about this. The one last straw with this ship, which even led to our complaints being filed with corporate offices in Miami were that there was no planning in our ports of call. I understand that the onset of hurricane Wilma in the Gulf, was an act of God; however I believe that thorough planning should have been utilized in this situation. I was working hard this summer to afford the $550.00+ fare in order to go to my favorite island Georgetown, Grand Cayman in the British West Indies. This ship also was going to Jamaica, and we had already booked the Bob Marley Zion tour, we later learned it would be Rhapsody’s last voyage to Jamaica. The storm came and the captain started freaking out, I would too. However, we ended up in Tampa Bay, Florida dropped off in a makeshift dirt mound at the port authority headquarters. We had no transportation to town, and no knowledge of how to get there. My mom and I shared a cab with a married couple and rode a few miles to the bar district. It was extremely hot, and even through this I would choose Tampa ANY DAY over Key West, I promised myself I would never step foot in rotten, boring, sauna-like Key West ever again. Cozumel was normal. The dress code was not enforced in the dining room or in Windjammer. I always dressed up, which I do for the formal sit down dinner, other people wore shorts, tank-tops, and totally inappropriate clothing into the dining room; not a word was said about this. I wear a bikini with a cover over my bikini bottom to the relaxed Windjammer and I was asked to leave and go change. I cant believe this from Royal Caribbean, my mom and I are considering going to Spain on one of their upscale ships, Voyager of the Seas. I just don’t suggest you go on Rhapsody of the Seas, my opinion of it is now up there with Carnival, and to me Carnival is trash.

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Sep 18, 2005

Western Caribbean

My husband and I decided to take our first vacation/cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas. We have heard wonderful things about the ship and the cruise line, so we decided to give it a try. I thought the ship was neat and clean. Parking & Boarding Finding a place to park was not a problem. I found a discount online www.ezcruiseparking.com and they offered a discount for online reservations $45 for 7 days. It seemed very reasonable so I made

the reservation online. Plenty of barbed wire and razor wire around the top of the rod iron fence, so I knew my vehicle would be safe. Parking was not a problem, but we did wait quite a while for the shuttle (approx 45 minutes). We were told it was because the Carnival Cruise Ship forgot to disembark two decks and starting doing so around 1pm. I don’t know if this is actually what happened, it was the rumor around the terminal. Boarding the ship was a very smooth process, (approx. 15 minutes) of course if you have your set sail pass (which I did) at hand, it made things much easier and you get on the ship much faster. Cabin We had a large interior stateroom, it was a little smaller than what I expected, but of course I had never been on a cruise before, so I was expecting a hotel size room even though I was told it wouldn’t be that big. The cabin attendant was very nice once he got used to seeing us go in and out of the room, but seemed a little shy and was not well informed of the many questions we had. We were told to call the Purser’s desk for just about every question we had. We just figured he would know a little more about the ship and the activities that were aboard the ship. Activities Our itineraries were on our bed daily after breakfast. We were well informed of the times and locations of the functions, and announcements were made for bingo daily (very fun, but didn’t win any money). Ports of Call We were really looking forward to seeing Cayman and Cozumel, but our trip was cut short because of Hurricane Rita. We opted to come home (Houston) and try to salvage our belongings, and then evacuate. We did although, have a chance to visit Jamaica. Personally, I think it’s too much hype. Dunn’s River Falls is wonderful and the climb is a little challenging, but overall, I would go back just to go to the water fall and the beach. We took a small route that lead us away from the tourist area (big mistake) and I was a little afraid of the atmosphere. I would have really enjoyed getting braids in my hair, but for $2 a braid seemed a little expensive, so shop around if you want braids in your hair. We were told “no pressure mon” to visit the shops, but there was plenty of pressure around us. It was a little spooky at times, but it was not as big as a deal as I thought it would be. We shopped around a bit, but no big purchases. I really enjoyed seeing the hand crafted items. Detour Home Royal Caribbean offered passengers to fly home on Wednesday a little before leaving Jamaica. The captain gave an announcement that they would be in Montego Bay, Jamaica because of the weather conditions and not being able to return to Galveston on Sunday as planned. Those who got to stay……..fun fun fun!! Maybe next time I can choose to stay. The offered the option of flying to Dallas/Ft. Worth or San Antonio. We were unsure about the conditions at home, but after speaking to a few family members, we were told it was best for us to head back home. Royal Caribbean flew us from Jamaica to Miami, Miami to Dallas. They paid for the air fare, but to return home to Houston was at our expense. I recommend to purchase insurance for the cruise. I am in the process of filing a claim to get a Travel Delay refund. Hopefully all goes well with that. As for Cayman and Cozumel, maybe next year and not during Hurricane Season.

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Jul 17, 2005

Western Caribbean

I have just read a really bad review about Rhapsody, and I have to say I totally disagree! Some people have to realise that cruising is not all about the food or about dumping your kids off to have a good time! People who I have met cruising seem to think that you can define a cruise by it's food...get a life, did you not notice all the shows, games, karaokee, the spa, the gym, the pool...and of course the ports of call! I have spent a

long time sailing Rhapsody and I have to say, it was the best time of my life, the staff were amazing, the hygine of the ship was outstanding, the service and tolarance these staff had shown should have been awarded. Rhapsody of the sea..really is the friendliest ship of the seas. SAVE THE WAVES!

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Jul 16, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I have enjoyed the Rhapsody of the Seas four times in the past 18 months. Every visit has been amazing! The ship, the food, the ports of call and the staff have always been wonderful. The Ship The Rhapsody is a wonderful ship. It’s clean and up to date. The crew is in constant motion to keep paint fresh, carpets immaculate and windows sparkling. All of the facilities are first class. The Food Given that we have

been on the ship four times, it is safe to say that we have eaten in every facility on the ship. The Windjammer is the place to go for breakfast and lunch. The quality and number of choices are excellent. Each day has a different theme for how the scrambled eggs are prepared. It may sound strange but it is really wonderful to have a variety like that. They also offer a wide variety of fresh fruits. They make it easy to have some healthy items while still being able to indulge if you choose. The Solarium Snack Bar fills the gap between lunch and the late seating for the dining room very nicely. My family, as well as others that have been on The Rhapsody, love the French fries. I am not sure what they do to make them different than the normal fry but they have an addicting quality about them. It’s amazing to see adults belly up and ask for just a plate of fries. They also serve burgers, hot dogs and pizza. Each day they offer a different theme pizza, along with the standard pepperoni and the standard cheese pizza. The Edelweiss Dining Room is wonderful. Each night offers a different theme; however, if you choose to eat steak every night, you have that option too. The desserts are awesome! In fact, we normally take one back to our cabin to enjoy later in the evening. On our most recent visit to the Rhapsody, during a discussion about cuisine, our head waiter asked us if we enjoyed Indian Cuisine. It happens to be a favorite of ours. The next evening, he surprised up by serving us a shrimp curry that he made especially for us. IT WAS AWESOME! After having been on the ship 4 times, it normally takes us 30 minutes to say all of our goodbyes each evening to all the staff that we have met in the dining room. The Ports of Call Key West is beautiful. We normally walk around a bit. We stop at the Starbucks downtown. This is your last opportunity to have Starbucks until arriving in Galveston on Sunday morning. We have done the pub crawls, rented scooters and visited the butterfly exhibit. It’s a fun place to visit. DO NOT MISS THE SUNSET! It is one of the most beautiful things that you will ever see. Ocho Rios is a shoppers dream. This is the first stop on the cruise and shop owners tend to give good prices to entice you to buy there rather that later on the cruise. They will also serve you a Red Stripe while you shop. There is nothing like a cold beer in a hot steamy place to make shopping a pleasurable experience. We left Ocho Rios about 6:00 PM. It was so beautiful to sit on the deck as we cruised down the coast. Jamaica is very beautiful at sunset. Grand Cayman is my favorite port. The water is beautiful, there are wonderful attractions and the shopping is great. We have swum with the sting rays, visited Hell and the turtle farm and snorkeled a ship wreck. The water, regardless of time of year, is always comfortable to swim in. Hurricane Ivan hit the island pretty hard last year, but they are doing a great job of getting it back together. Cozumel, bring your rain slicker. Every time we have visited there, it has rained. The rain normally only lasts for a short amount of time; however, I’d still rather be dry. The shopping area is huge, and it’s inexpensive to take a taxi from the pier to the main shopping area. The shop owners are courteous and will negotiate with you on prices. It’s very important to stay at the RCI approved shops to make sure you get good quality and are treated well. Costa Maya is a new port. We visited there in November of 2004 in place of Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman was still trying to recover from Ivan and was unable to accept ships. My wife and I chose to visit the Chakchoben Mayan ruins. It was a wonderful experience. These ruins are a relatively new find and they are very early in the excavation. Our tour guide was Mayan. He gave us quite a bit of good information on the bus ride to the ruins. The shopping area at Costa Maya is quite small. They are in process of building a huge shopping area for future cruise ship use. The Staff Rhapsody’s staff is second to none. If you need something, ask and it will be done courteously and promptly. Cabin staff members are thorough and efficient. Every night brings a different towel animal, and mint on the pillow. Dining staff members work very hard to make your dining experiences memorable. Constant refilling of beverages, checking to make sure everything on your plates is of your liking and taking the extra step to keep you happy, they will blow you away. After the first meal with them, they know your name, and what beverages you prefer. The Rhapsody of the Seas is an awesome cruise experience. Some suggestions that I have is that you bring a small kit with Tylenol or Advil. If you drink a lot of water, bring a case of bottles with you. The cost on the ship is pretty high. My wife and I also bring trail mix and other snacks with us. It’s also a good idea to bring your own shampoo and soap or body wash. They do provide it; however, we prefer to bring our own. I wish you all smooth sailing and I highly recommend you try The Rhapsody of the Seas.

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Jun 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

As a 16 year-old girl, I was going on this cruise to meet new people and to have fun. The first day I got on board, I walked around the ship and saw a lot of teens, but not as many as I had expected. I saw some guys in the hot tub so I jumped in and before I knew it, I had many friends. That night, we decided to try out the teen club. There were not many people there and only a few were dancing. So we left and did what most of the other

teens were doing: walking around, hanging out, and getting to know each other even better. This was a trend that continued throughout the remainder of the cruise as the teen club attracted fewer and fewer people. We would hang out on deck, in the hot tubs, and in people’s cabins. Every day I would receive a schedule for the next day’s activities in the teen club. They had things such as: hottie hunt, scavenger hunts, trivia games, name that tune, ping pong tournaments, prom night, and college night complete with chugging contests (non-alcoholic beverages of course). Some things sounded pretty lame, but others caught my attention. During the day I would meet up with my friends, lose track of time, and completely forget about going. So by the end of the cruise, I only went to one teen activity. Well food in the windjammer was not that great, but in the dining room it was sooo good. Try the chilled strawberry soup as your appetizer, its good! The food in the solarium is awesome (the fries especially). The service is really good. Every time I saw the cabin attendant in the hall he would greet me with a smile. So all in all, it was a great cruise and a perfect vacation for any teen!

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May 29, 2005

Western Caribbean

My family of 2 adults and 2 girls ages 12 and 14 just completed our first cruise with kids on Rhapsody of the Seas. It exceeded all our expectations. The ship was beautiful and immaculately maintained. Our balcony stateroom on deck 7, while not exceptionally spacious, worked out just fine for the 4 of us, with the girls using the fold-out couch. Service in the dining room, Windjammer, and stateroom was first class. We used L.J. Cormier

to transfer us from Houston to Galveston on the morning of the cruise, and boarding at about 11:00 AM was very quick and easy. Lunch was available in the Windjammer until the stateroom was ready at 1:00 PM. The first two days were underway en route Jamaica. The days were full of activities for the kids, which they enjoyed very much. In Jamaica we had a beautiful day in Ocho Rios, where we booked tours through an independent operator (Barrett Adventures). We climbed Dunn’s Falls first thing in the morning, ahead of the crowds; tubed down the White River, and spent the afternoon at a secluded beach with only a handful of other people. Thursday’s stop in Grand Cayman was challenged by weather. It rained all day. We were, however, able to visit Stingray City and do some reef snorkeling with Captain Marvin. All of the ship’s shore excursions for snorkeling and Stingray City were cancelled due to weather. I was a little nervous as we were riding out to Stingray City in Captain Marvin’s boat, because a squall passed over, tossing up some pretty confused seas. By the time we got to the sand bar, things had settled down – and the experience with the stingrays was “once in a lifetime”. Grand Cayman itself is still in pretty bad shape from last year’s hurricane, with debris everywhere and lots of building damage still in evidence. Friday we were in Cozumel, a gorgeous day. We took the ship sponsored excursion to Tulum and Xel Ha, which involved a 40 minute ride to Playa del Carmen on a ferry – but in spite of concerns about how rough that trip can be, it was not bad for us. Tulum and Xel Ha is too much to cover comfortably in 8 hours, we were pretty rushed and never had time to shop. They are both beautiful attractions, though. When the ship left Cozumel Friday evening we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, over the Yucatan. Saturday was a relaxing day at sea, the kids were busy with activities, and I enjoyed reading on the balcony. Disembarking on Sunday was very smooth. We used express departure (meaning carry your own bags and get off first). We were off the ship and through customs in less than 45 minutes. Overall, highly recommended – there is nothing I would change about the trip (except the size of my SeaPass bill).

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May 8, 2005

Western Caribbean

Magnificent ship and service oriented staff. We had a junior suite on the 8th floor and our attendant (Dean) kept us tidy, informed and happy. We ate most of our dinners in the main dining room and the food was always superb. Our waiter was Evelyn (table 234) and I wanted to take her home with me! My only complaint is that we got into Key West late (due to another docked ship having mechanical problems) and by the time we disembarked

at 5:30, it was too late to see Hemingway's house.

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May 1, 2005

Western Caribbean

Denice Tally and Family WOW! We had a great family cruise. With three children ages 14, 11, and 9. I was expecting to be exhausted by the time we got back, but instead I am rested and had the best vacation of my life. My husband and I had taken this cruise last year, and I thought it had been great, but this year, with the kids in tow, we had the most amazing vacation ever. The Ocean Adventure teams became the most talked about people

in our staterooms at night. My kids loved their counselors and cried as we left them. In this day and age, especially in Phoenix, my kids get very little freedom to roam, and even less time to do exactly as each of them wants to, usually we have to compromise because I don't let them out of my sight often. This cruise was a real treat for all of them. We all got the vacation we wanted, and did the things we wanted to do. I highly recommend the Rhapsody to all families! We didn't do the ships excursions, I hired guides in each port, and that seemed to work best, we were in much smaller groups (10 - 25) as opposed to the 100+ on the ships excursions. In Jamaica, I highly recommend Phil at www.phil-lafayette-tours.com , and in Grand Cayman, I recommend Mark at www.mobydicktours.com , they were great! Also, I recommend www.towncarconnection.com  to get to and from the ship. Get your family and GET OUT THERE!

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Apr 17, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I (Linda) live in Dallas, TX and this was our 6th cruise and third on RCL. We decide to fly to Houston and took a taxi to Galveston. I do not recommend letting RCL make air arrangements as they will fly you into Houston Intercontinental which is very inconvenient and time consuming. We went into Hobby, took a taxi and it worked out great on both ends. We liked the ship very much and had a Junior Suite on Deck 8...it was worth

every penny and we used our large deck a lot for relaxing, coffee and a late night drink. I'm a religious jogger and the running/walking deck was large and uncluttered...terrific early in the morning with the sun coming up. Our cabin was quite large by cruise standards and very comfortable. Our steward, Dean, was friendly and efficient and a great and funny guy. We are pool people and liked that part of ship because of ample chairs and plenty of room although the music was pretty uninspiring. Overall, the food was very good, especially in the casual Windjammer restaurant. The formal dining room is beautiful but the food was just okay...that's not meant to be negative but for some reason we like the casual area better. The ship itself is very clean and well decorated and all of the staff are just what you would expect; courteous, professional and friendly. We love Key West and were delighted to spend an afternoon and evening hanging out in our old stomping grounds. Grand Cayman was also very nice and we enjoyed the atmosphere and shopping. For us, Cozumel was a waste of time with the vendors and shop keepers so aggressive as to be distracting. We had a great time and any minor complaints we had really aren't worth mentioning. It was particularly fascinating to cruise through the Gulf of Mexico and see all the oil rigs at night...quite a sight. One last thing, the Port of Galveston was very fast and efficient and we boarded and exited with zero hassle. Great job!  

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Apr 17, 2005

Western Caribbean

We have just returned from a wonderful cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas out of Galveston, Texas. This is a great seven day Western Caribbean cruise that goes from Galveston, Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel. This was the second cruise for my husband and I. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and we flew into Houston's International in Houston on the day of our cruise. We has prearranged for ground transportation from

information we got from a Galveston web site. When our flight arrived in Houston at 12:15 pm, we were told that our limousine service would be awaiting us just outside baggage claim. After claiming our bags we walked outside as instructed, to meet our limo. But nothing. We had arrange for a service by the name of the Galveston Limousine Service to pick us up and transfer us directly to the ship. We had been told that it was a 90 minute ride from International Airport to the cruise docks in Galveston. After waiting and pacing, a dirty white van with dents missing hub cups, pulled next to where we were waiting. The sign on this van read "Galveston Limousine Service". At this point my husband and I were very disappointed. We were expecting a nice sedan. After we loaded, we sat in this van and waited for twenty minutes. The driver said we were waiting for another person. So at 1:15 pm we left the airport, now we are finely on our way to the cruise ship. But oh no, 30 miles from the first airport we made a stop at a second airport, to pick up some 5 more people going to Galveston. We leave this airport at 2:15 pm . Twenty minute from the second airport the van pulls off the freeway and pulls up at a Motel 6 in some small town between Houston and Galveston and discharges one of the passengers. Now we are on our way again. We finally arrived in Galveston thirty minutes after stopping at Motel 6, then the driver starts dropping the other passengers off at various hotels and motels before driving us to the cruise ship terminal. And once we reach the terminal, he drops us off at the wrong terminal with our bags. After yelling and waving at him to stop. we reloaded our bags and then drove to the "Rhapsody". It took almost two hours and thirty minutes to get from our airport to our ship. And to think of how uncomfortable this ride was, one man was loud and very obnoxious, another had a bad body odor, and the woman sitting next to me smacked her chewing gum to the entire trip. We made a big mistake taking this form of transportation. Van service is fine as long as your sharing it with your family or friends. If its a van service fine, tell us. This is a not a the Galveston Limousine (Limo) Service, is not a "LIMOUSINE SERVICE" ! There is NO luxury or comfort about this service. And it take to long to get there. This it just a cheap, this is a low class way to get there. I look at it this way, if you have to ride this cheap, you probably can't even afford the cruise. Needless to say we didn't ride back to the airport with them. One of the porters at the ship give us the telephone number of a driver with a Lincoln Towncar for just a few dollars more. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 3:30 pm and by this time the check-in was light at the terminal. A porter met us and took our checked baggage. Once in the terminal we walked straight through and were in our stateroom by 4:00 pm. On-line embarkation forms, passports, and having everything ready to hand over made it go really fast. We were excited, we had heard that a lot about this cruise from reading review and commends of others. The "Rhapsody" is a very nice ship. Every lounge, the theater, dining room, Windjammer cafe, very comfortable and well decorated. Our favorite places on the ship was our balcony We enjoyed the Windjammer, the Centrum with the music, the Schooner Lounge, the Dining Room. We rarely used the pools, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying them. I don't think I ever saw a problem with a lack of deck chairs, there were always some available. We did spend some time in the casino. I heard about lots of people winning in the first few days of the cruise. Our statement was great. it was corner aft cabin with a huge wrap around balcony. We had plenty of room and never felt crowded. There was plenty of room for everything. Everything was handy. The cabin attendant was great, he kept the room neat at all times, he took very good care of us. We ate most of our evening meals in the Dining Room . The food was excellent! My favorites here were the lobster, prime rib, all the appetizers and the chocolate cake for dessert. Service was top rate, the head waiter even stopped by a few times to check on us. It was very regimented, we were they seated at a large table with some very nice people from San Antonio, Texas, they seem to know each other. Most of our lunches were at the Windjammer. The pasta was always my good, a new dish every day and very tasty. They also had lots of fresh fruits. We always enjoyed our meals there. Most mornings we ate breakfast in our room. Room service was always prompt and the food arrived as ordered. Room Service coffee were very good. Entertainment was always good, The singers and dancers are very talented professionals. The comedians were great. The games onboard the ship were a fun way to meet people. We managed to get together with the same group for many of these and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is amazing what the crew can get ordinary people to do. I had heard so many horror stories about disembarkation in Galveston, we braced myself for the worst. Actually it wasn't bad. We had breakfast around 7, were called to immigration check-out about 8:45 then we went back to the stateroom. Our cabin attendant let us stay in the room until they called us to leave the ship. We went down when they called us, found our luggage, my husband called the driver that we had arranged for, and in less than five minutes, we were loaded into this nice comfortable town car and headed to the Houston International Airport. It took half the time to get there than the dirty, ugly dented van, that took us to Galveston. Let Galveston Limousine (van) Service be your last choice. This was a great vacation cruise. Great weather for the entire cruise. We highly recommend the "Rhapsody of he Seas" Don't let a bad ground transportation service spoil your cruise. Be smart in your selection. Betty and Ben Levitz Phoenix, Arizona

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By Luke_CR

  • New

Apr 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I absolutely loved our 7 day cruise on Rhapsody. We cruised on Carnival’s Jubilee several years ago, so that is all I had to compare it to. In my opinion, Royal Caribbean is so much better than Carnival after cruising with both. But I will use the two cruises as a comparison. Keep in mind that the Carnival Jubilee was build in 1987 I think, and actually haven’t seen it on any travel sites recently, so it is probably retired

or getting a major overhaul. Price/Value We paid about $500/person to get on the ship. WOW! That is such an awesome deal for the level of pampering and service we received on this 7 day cruise. We stayed on level 4 in one of the larger inside staterooms. Ship The ship is very nice. It was actually nicer that what I anticipated for a ship that was built in 1997. I looked just a few years old to me. Carpets looked new, no weird smells, everything seemed shiny. The atrium is beautiful. There is this huge ornamental piece of art that hangs from the ceiling of the atrium and glass elevators coming through so you could watch people scurry all over the ship. Pool Pool is great. Weren’t a ton of kids, but that’s where they all were. I wasn’t really annoyed by any of the kids, they all behaved pretty well. There was a solarium which is adults only and has another pool and 2 more hot tubs. We spent a lot of time at the pool. You will never go thirsty with the pool bar runners walking by constantly. Food Food was good. I had read some reviews that said the food was average, and some that said it was horrible. I think the food was great. Just remember that if you don’t like something, send it back and order something else!! I never had to do that because I really enjoyed everything I ordered, (except the Tiramisu). Two most delicious entrees were the steak and the lobster. I had to order another lobster! The desserts are great in the dining room (again, except the Triamisu). We ate all of our dinners in the dining room because the food was so good AND because we immediately made friends with our whole table. It’s funny how cruise lines are so good at putting people together at dinner tables. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer every day. It is right by the pool, so easy to run in and grab a bite after you have been chillin at the pool. Food was pretty good. Much better than Carnival windjammer – MUCH. The décor was actually very nice in Windjammer as well. It was at the front of the ship at the highest point with floor to ceiling windows all around. Very nice to go in and relax while eating and look at the ocean or watch other cruise ships as you pull in or out of a port. There was always a buffet with great food and also burgers/ hot dogs, mac and cheese and sandwich station. Oh.. and TONS of dessert to choose from. There was also pizza and hamburgers all day available in the solarium. I have to say Carnival’s pizza is much better though, that is one place they excelled over RCI. Service The service was great. Our waitress, Glenda, was such a fun part of our evening every night. She learned our names the first night and learned what we liked (rolls, a scoop of ice cream with EVERY dessert) and would bring to us without even asking. Jonas was our assistant waiter. He made sure the rolls kept coming and our glass was never empty. Our stateroom attendant, Daniel, was great as well. Every time we came back, the bed had been made up and we had fresh towels. Every night we came in to a new towel animal and one night he even made it look like there was a person laying in our bed (with pillows, towels, one of my shirts and my sunglasses). We had chocolates on our pillow every night. I love that. Since we made such good friends with our buds at table 30, we decided to all go to the beach together in Cozumel. Since we had already booked another excursion, I was afraid that RCI would not want to credit our account so we could do this. I went and asked at the activities desk and no questions asked, it was great. All of the ship staff was great. Entertainment I have to say it was pretty mediocre. What do you expect from a cruise though? I don’t think you are ever going to see a true Broadway show in the middle of the ocean. I will say that I enjoyed the entertainment every night. We decided to attend the show every night before dinner (we had late seating). My favorite shows were the magician and the juggler – both really good actually. The Rhapsody singers and dancers were nothing to talk about, but I think they all really enjoy what they do. The newlywed show was fun. We went to a late-night game show and everyone that went was broken into teams and played (hundreds of people). It is funny what people will do for a stinking key chain…. I ended up on stage with my shirt off a woman’s bra on (yes, she took it off right there along with a ton of other women), women’s earrings and lipstick on. The nightclub on the 11th floor is a fun place to hang out late at night, but it wasn’t really jamming most nights. It probably was during Spring Break, but we had a lot of blue hairs on this cruise. We did Bingo on the last day as the pot was up to over $7K. It was fun, and everyone was playing since the pot was so big, but some woman won and had no expression whatsoever after winning.. pissed me off. Had friends that loved the casino. I hate casinos since every time I have gone, I lose a ton of money in no time flat, so I steered clear. The Gym is nice, I worked out every day after waking up, and before going to the pool. Stateroom Like I said, we got one of the larger inner staterooms – 4055 (on level 4). It was just as I expected, small. But as far as comparing to our last cruise, it was similar, but the room was less outdated. The rooms are nice, lots of storage, so pack plenty and then just unpack your bags into all the drawers and there is plenty of space in the closet for hang-up clothes. We don’t spend a lot of time in the room, so a window room or a suite would just be a waste of money to me since they were so much more expensive. (Suite would have been over twice as much) Drinks I went ahead and got the soda card on the first day. It was about $50, but worth it I guess as they would charge you about $3 for a soda if you did not have one of these. I got all I could drink, and the pool bar runners just kept bringing them for me when I was at the pool without me having to sign with my seapass (this is your room key and card to purchase anything on the ship). Beers were about $3.50 for domestic. You could get a bucket of beer at the pool (buy 5, get the 6th free). Drinks of the day were around $6-7. My wife is pregnant, so she stuck with the virgin pina coladas and there were about $5.50. We are not big drinkers, so we didn’t end up spending much on alcohol, but I saw some peoples 4 page long seapass bills (come on the last morning) and they were regretting that they drank it up all week. It can really add up quickly. Excursions/Ports Key West – nice port, just as I imagined it. Not a ton to do there really. We just got off of the boat and shopped awhile before eating some good seafood. The good thing about this stop is that you are there from about 3PM to midnight. My wife is pregnant, so we didn’t go out and do the clubs, but those who enjoy that get to stay and party until midnight. But you better stumble back on the ship because they will leave you! I think we left someone in Key West. I wish we had taken the little trolly tour of Key West as I heard that is actually kinda fun. Grand Cayman – You have to take the little tender boats over to the pier in Cayman. This was an easy process.. those with early morning excursions got to go first, and then after that others had to go pick up a tender ticket from one of the bars. We got on a tender boat about 30 min after picking up our ticket, so it moved very quickly. There were about 6 other ships in the port when we pulled in. It was quite a site to see them all anchored there. We had scheduled an excursion to go snorkel at 7 mile beach and they kayak 3 miles down the beach, but it got cancelled because the ship had to leave early from the port (2 hours early) because a storm was coming in and the Cayman “port authority” wanted all ships out by 3PM. So all afternoon excursions were cancelled and refunds were given. We really didn’t mind that much because we decided to take a taxi to the beach and we ran into our friends from our dinner table and hung with them on the beach. 7 mile beach is beautiful. Cozumel – We went with all of our friends from table 30 to Chankonaab beach. It was a nice beach, and a great place to snorkel. It would not be a great place to go if you want to swim a lot because it was all reef for snorkeling, but we had a blast. You can swim with the dolphins there for about $100 and one of our friends did that and really enjoyed it. We just paid about $12 person to get into the park and a $12 cab fair from the ship terminal. (this was a rip-off since it was only about 2 miles from the ship) Overall Experience Like I said before, we ended up making friends with our dinner table crew immediately. That was so awesome since we had not come on the cruise with any friends. We hung out with them at the pool, in the nightclubs and we even did our beach excursions with them in Cayman and Cozumel. One of our friends from the dinner table, Richie, proposed to his girlfriend, Hilary at the newlywed show. He had it all planned out with the cruise director, Peter, and it was awesome. Our whole table was there to support Richie, take photos and then go celebrate with the newly-engaged couple afterwards. I feel lucky to have such great new friends. I would book this cruise again in a heartbeat. Since my wife is 3 months pregnant, this was our last cruise without kids. It was such a relaxing week for both of us since we both have demanding jobs and just needed a week to kick back and relax. I am not kidding when I tell you it was very difficult to come back to reality. The value of the cruise to so incredibly awesome if you are able to find a deal like I did. I can’t believe the week we had for $500/person. RCI is the way to go. Don’t think we will book a carnival cruise again.

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  • New

Apr 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

Cruise  Line: Royal Caribbean International This was my fourth cruise. I have sailed the Seabreeze on Premiere Line (now at the bottom of the Atlantic!), The Inspiration on Carnival, Staatendam on Holland American and now have added The Rhapsody of the Seas on Royal Carribean. Wow what a difference in all these ships! The Rhapsody was definitely the best of the ships I have been on. Here’s why: 1. The food. The dining room food

was excellent and the waiter did a great job of picking out those menu items that were a ‘sure bet’ and he was 100% correct. The steak (NY Strip) was a little tough but cooked to perfection (medium rare). The dining room staff was impeccable. No flames on the baked Alaska anymore...that was disappointing but understandable. Aside from the steak mentioned above, everything else in the dining room was great. They really, really do have the best key lime pie I have ever tasted and it happens to be my very favorite dessert. Please try the flourless chocolate cake. It will give you a chocolate overload! The buffet in lieu of dining room was very nice. The breads were all hand made and excellent. The soups were perfect and hot: cr. of asparagus, cr. of broccoli, black bean, minestrone, chicken, etc. are examples. The salad bar was small but very complete: bacon, ham, olives, and at least three types of prepared salad, too, like potato, waldorf (to DIE for!). The buffet also has hamburgers, hot dogs and most excellent and a surprise was the mac and cheese. It was done with different pasta almost every night: tri-color, rigatoni, elbow, etc. They always had a hunk of meet to slice, too: corned beef (with cabbage), roast beef (rare if you want it), pork roast, etc. Please also note that there are plenty of sugar free desserts both in the dining room and in the buffet. I tried them all and aisde from some lime pudding, they were all excellent! Some sugar free dessert: peanut butter pie, Key Lime, berry torte, pistachio cookies, chocolate mousse, straberry mouse, etc. Don’t miss the ice cream machine if you are not on a diet! 2. The drinks. The free drinks at meal times are lemonade, iced tea, hot tea, coffee and water. You have to buy your own soda even at meal times. The soda card was $6 for adults and $4 for children. You get a free soda sipper (metal!) for signing up. The ship is a ‘Coca Cola’ ship and they do have Diet Sprite for those of you who are Diet Sprite lovers like me. Wine: there are three tiers (I think only three) of the wine ‘club’. As the price goes up, so does your selection. The lowest selection is adequate. We chose the next one ‘up’ (the platinum package) so we could enjoy our favorite wine, Beringer White Zinfandel. It was not on the cheapest package. The platinum also has two sparkling wine selections (Korbel and Argyle) whearas the lowest only had one (Korbel Brut). The Argyle sparkling wine was divine and much better than Korbel in my honest opinion. We got the 10 bottle package which was $250. The packages range from 5 bottles on the lowest package for about $125 up to 10 or more on the upper package for over $400. I’m glad we did the middle of the road only because we are wine drinkers and enjoyed the Footprint Sharaz (which remarkably was NOT from Australia!!!) and the Beringer White Zin and Cabernet Sauvignon. All excellent. The drinks at the bars are all around $6 apiece unless you want the really cool hand blown glass that you can keep....that was $10. I have a set of EIGHT of those glasses because they were so awesome looking. 3. The kids. Not a problem...and I am a crotchety old 45 single women who doesn’t care for kids. There weren’t that many of them and when you did see them, they were mainly at the pool. the closed ‘solarium’ pool with two hot tubs was adults only and very, very nice and soothing. Kids...no problem! AND plenty to do to keep them busy...the staff does a great job with that! 4. The entertainment. Lame-o. middle of the road and not too interesting except for the juggler guy. don’t bother going to any of the audience participation shows such as the love and marriage (newlywed game wanna-be) or the talent show. They are all broadcast over and over and over on the television. So are the shopping seminars. The shows were all alright but nothing WOW really. You will get more entertainment out of the poolside events such as the belly flop contest, horse racing, sexiest men’s legs contest, and the pool Olympics. Bing-o? GO TO IT! But beware of all the walkers and canes....walk slowly and be prepared to dodge them...but Bingo is always pretty neat-o. The Music everywhere was pretty exceptional and nice to listen to...very calming. The funniest was the 2-piece orchestra that tried to play ‘Devil went down to Georgia’ on ‘Cowboy night’ in the dining room. There are two formal nights in addition to cowboy night, but no other ‘theme’ nights. Guys were wearing short sleeve Izod shirts and Dockers to formal night. Not a problem...just don’t try and wear shorts to the dining room (gasp!!!). 5. The cabins. Spacious cabins with lots of hanging space and hangers and lots of drawers. I bought two over-the-door plastic shoe organizers from Target for $5.88 each and they worked like a charm: one on the inside of the bath door for toiletries and one on the outside of the bath door for cords, electronics, misc. Great investment. 6. Things to remember to bring: Extension cord, duct tape (I never leave home without it!), power strip with built in circuit breaker so if you blow a circuit you can reset at the power strip and not have to wait an hour for an electrian to set your cabin breaker, zip lock bags for packing wet things on the way from the beach and on the way home, extra wire hangers that you can just throw away or leave there after the cruise (yes, they will fit in the closet), a room deodorizer (I brought my small Lah-ti dah...similar to a Lamp Berge), night light especially if you have a very dark inside cabin, and a really great book to read because there is nothing but time! 7. The Ship. Devine!!! The best I have been on yet. The starboard (right side facing forward) is where you can smoke. This includes the deck area just outside of the buffet. You can also smoke in the casino. They have two $5 black jack tables: one multi-deck and one single-deck. There is also a $10 multi-deck black-jack table. There is a craps table, 3-card poker and carribean stud. Oh yeah, and a very lonely dealer at the Roulette table. There are also 5 cent slots, 25 cent, dollar and five dollar slots...and plenty of them! They have a black jack and slot tournament ($20 entry fee). There are two ‘Wheel of Fortune’ dollar slots but none at the 25 cent level. One progressive 25 cent slot area and a small area designated non-smoking slots. They also have a few of those machines that you drop quarters into and you try and make the quarters fall off the ledge. If you’ve played one at a carnival or casino, you will know what I am talking about. In addition, there is also a Ben and Jerry’s on board that costs extra if you are missing your favorite weird-named ice cream! The shops aboard are very nice and even have toiletries and OTC drugs. There are great bargains later in the cruise, esp. on the last day. There is a libary and decks of cards/games for you to enjoy anytime you feel the urge. 8. The good, the bad, the ugly. The good: The centrum (ship’s atrium) and the solarium are the best spots to relax. The flourless chocolate cake, key lime pie, Tango Mango frozen drink and lobster are the best edibles. The Stingray Swim in Cayman Islands is the best Cayman Is. excursion (even handicap accessible). Paradise Island is the best Cozumel excursion. The Conch Train is the Best Key West Excursion. Senor Frogs ½ in Cozumel is the best on land party bar. The Bad: Not all stateroom attendants are good at making towel animals every night. The elevators are slow esp on the the first and last day due to the enormous load of people trying to use them. Steer clear of the chicken and shrimp salad in the buffet and the chocolate brownie dessert in the dining room...yuck! The ugly: The floor in the solarium is super slippery when wet and I saw an elderly couple slip and fall right in front of me there...it was scary. They were both hurt. I almost slipped twice in the same spot. Overall rating: A!!!  

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  • New

Apr 3, 2005

Western Caribbean

What an amazing experience. This was a first cruise for my husband and I and we had a wonderful time. We had an inside cabin, which turned out to be just fine. Well worth the savings that you get from not having a window...my only advice, bring a nightlight, so that you don't have to sleep with the bathroom light on for the entire cruise. Those rooms get DARK. Great for sleeping in and catching up on rest, but if you have to get to

the bathroom in the middle of the night, a serious toe-stubber. Our cabin steward did a fine job of keeping up with our constantly unmade bed. One more piece of advice...bring a plastic over-the-door shoe rack. It takes very little space, and when hung in the bathroom, it provides several pockets for toiletries, curling irons, make up, jewelry, etc. This was my sister's advice to us and we were so glad to have taken it. We had the second seating for dinner, which at first we thought would be way too late, but especially on port days, it was nice to be able to return to the ship and leisurely get ready for dinner. Those on the first seating really had to rush. About half of the shows for the second seating dinner happened before dinner, so there weren't that many late nights. We were at a ten seater table at first, but asked to be moved when 4 complete drunks joined us on the first night. They had been drinking for hours and continued to be served shots over and over again at dinner. I thought that the ship should have cut them off or at least asked them to leave the dining room, when their extremely loud profanity was clearly bothering not only those at our table, but several tables away. After that, we were very efficiently moved to a great table by the head-waiter, Tolga. He was absolutely outstanding. Doing everything in his power to make up for the first night with the drunks. Forget about all of those reviews saying that the food is not the best on Royal Caribbean. We thought it was terrific. My husband has worked in high-end restaurants forever and he was very very pleased with not only the quality of the food, but the portions and most of all, the service. If you travel on the Rhapsody, get Slobodon and Janush as your serving team. Fight for them, they are outstanding. We made several meal requests: seconds, change of side dishes, specially prepared meat selections, etc. and every single one was granted without an error. I will agree with many, that the ship photographers do sometimes become a nuisance. I could have saved them a lot of time, knowing that I would not pay $20 for any single photo. I'll take my own thanks. There were lots of people willing to take photos for you.   We took advantage of a lot of the free activates on board, such as Name that Tune, the Olympics, the Talent Show (both my husband and I performed) and opted out of all of those that suck away your money: the casino, bingo, horse betting, etc. We are not gamblers at all, and chose to spend our money on either the ports or extra tips at the end of the cruise for the staff. As far as the ports go... Key West---good thing it was first. If it had been at any other time, we would have absolutely hated it. It is a town of Profane T-shirts and bars. If you like to drink and watch out for drag queens, you would probably have a good time. We are not drinkers, so we opted to rent an electric car and cruise the island. Two-hours is plenty of time to rent the car, and don't get it through the ship. There are plenty available when you arrive, and we paid $68 for 3 hours ( a 4-seater car). These guys definately bargain with you. Grand Cayman--They are still recovering from the hurricane season, but they are close to being ready. We took the Stingray City swim and Snorkel tour, which turned out to be great. The sting-rays were awesome and the boat trip out was good. If you choose this tour, expect what we did not....that after the 15 minute drive and then 40 minute boat ride out to the sand bar, they will then give you another 20 minutes of very verbose instructions. We wondered why they couldn't do that on the boat and then let you get in the water as soon as you docked. After being on the ship for the day Sunday, Monday and then Key West tuesday, which really has no beach, & then another day at sea on Wednesday you just can hardly wait to get in the water. Standing for another 20 minutes with all of your gear, while the guide tells stupid jokes, was no fun. I did really like the fact that this tour does not require life-vests, when almost every other group was out there standing in waist-deep water with their life vests on. It was nice to be free from that. As far as the rest of Grand Cayman goes...there was a great FREE snorkeling spot very close to the boat dock site. If you get off the tender and go right, about a 1/8 mile down the beach is an area called Eden's Rock. There are steps down to the water, great snorkeling, and even a fresh-water shower there for when you get out. This was a great tip that we took and were glad that we did. Cozumel---Could we have just docked there every day? We took that side trip to end all side trips. PLease please take our advice and go to XCARET.. It was amazing. We could have stayed for a week. Well worth the money. Great beaches, great food, tons to do, not crowded, very authentically mexican, nice people, great tour guide, etc. Please expect though, that the tour guide will expect a tip. We didn't even stay with the tour and still felt pressured to tip. We would have been o.k. with it, but we had hardly any cash with us. Don't let this deter you however, and please don't let the cost of this trip decide for you. It is worth every penny, especially if you like to swim and snorkel. For our next trip, we want to take the kids and stay there for a week. In addition to all that I said before, we also want to add that we went during Spring break and there were NO college partiers, hardly any noisy kids (those that were there were extremely well behaved) and although we were nervous that it said expect 80% of the cruisers to be Texans, we found them to be extremely kind, gracious, and friendly. Take this advice.....TAKE this cruise. You will not be sorry. Hope you have as much fun as we did.  

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  • New

Apr 1, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my fourth cruise. I have sailed the Seabreeze on Premiere Line (now at the bottom of the Atlantic!), The Inspiration on Carnival, Statendam on Holland American and now have added The Rhapsody of the Seas on Royal Caribbean. Wow what a difference in all these ships! The Rhapsody was definitely the best of the ships I have been on. Here’s why: 1. The food. The dining room food was excellent and the waiter did a great job of

picking out those menu items that were a ‘sure bet’ and he was 100% correct. The steak (NY Strip) was a little tough but cooked to perfection (medium rare). The dining room staff was impeccable. No flames on the baked Alaska anymore...that was disappointing but understandable. Aside from the steak mentioned above, everything else in the dining room was great. They really, really do have the best key lime pie I have ever tasted and it happens to be my very favorite dessert. Please try the flourless chocolate cake. It will give you a chocolate overload! The buffet in lieu of dining room was very nice. The breads were all hand made and excellent. The soups were perfect and hot: cr. of asparagus, cr. of broccoli, black bean, minestrone, chicken, etc. are examples. The salad bar was small but very complete: bacon, ham, olives, and at least three types of prepared salad, too, like potato, waldorf (to DIE for!). The buffet also has hamburgers, hot dogs and most excellent and a surprise was the mac and cheese. It was done with different pasta almost every night: tri-color, rigatoni, elbow, etc. They always had a hunk of meet to slice, too: corned beef (with cabbage), roast beef (rare if you want it), pork roast, etc. Please also note that there are plenty of sugar free desserts both in the dining room and in the buffet. I tried them all and aside from some lime pudding, they were all excellent! Some sugar free dessert: peanut butter pie, Key Lime, berry torte, pistachio cookies, chocolate mousse, strawberry mouse, etc. Don’t miss the ice cream machine if you are not on a diet! 2. The drinks. The free drinks at meal times are lemonade, iced tea, hot tea, coffee and water. You have to buy your own soda even at meal times. The soda card was $6 for adults and $4 for children. You get a free soda sipper (metal!) for signing up. The ship is a ‘Coca Cola’ ship and they do have Diet Sprite for those of you who are Diet Sprite lovers like me. Wine: there are three tiers (I think only three) of the wine ‘club’. As the price goes up, so does your selection. The lowest selection is adequate. We chose the next one ‘up’ (the platinum package) so we could enjoy our favorite wine, Beringer White Zinfandel. It was not on the cheapest package. The platinum also has two sparkling wine selections (Korbel and Argyle) whereas the lowest only had one (Korbel Brut). The Argyle sparkling wine was divine and much better than Korbel in my honest opinion. We got the 10 bottle package which was $250. The packages range from 5 bottles on the lowest package for about $125 up to 10 or more on the upper package for over $400. I’m glad we did the middle of the road only because we are wine drinkers and enjoyed the Footprint Shiraz (which remarkably was NOT from Australia!!!) and the Beringer White Zin and Cabernet Sauvignon. All excellent. The drinks at the bars are all around $6 apiece unless you want the really cool hand blown glass that you can keep....that was $10. I have a set of EIGHT of those glasses because they were so awesome looking. 3. The kids. Not a problem...and I am a crotchety old 45 single women who doesn’t care for kids. There weren’t that many of them and when you did see them, they were mainly at the pool. the closed ‘solarium’ pool with two hot tubs was adults only and very, very nice and soothing. Kids...no problem! AND plenty to do to keep them busy...the staff does a great job with that! 4. The entertainment. Lame-o. middle of the road and not too interesting except for the juggler guy. don’t bother going to any of the audience participation shows such as the love and marriage (newlywed game wanna-be) or the talent show. They are all broadcast over and over and over on the television. So are the shopping seminars. The shows were all alright but nothing WOW really. You will get more entertainment out of the poolside events such as the belly flop contest, horse racing, sexiest men’s legs contest, and the pool Olympics. Bing-o? GO TO IT! But beware of all the walkers and canes....walk slowly and be prepared to dodge them...but Bingo is always pretty neat-o. The Music everywhere was pretty exceptional and nice to listen to...very calming. The funniest was the 2-piece orchestra that tried to play ‘Devil went down to Georgia’ on ‘Cowboy night’ in the dining room. There are two formal nights in addition to cowboy night, but no other ‘theme’ nights. Guys were wearing short sleeve Izod shirts and Dockers to formal night. Not a problem...just don’t try and wear shorts to the dining room (gasp!!!). 5. The cabins. Spacious cabins with lots of hanging space and hangers and lots of drawers. I bought two over-the-door plastic shoe organizers from Target for $5.88 each and they worked like a charm: one on the inside of the bath door for toiletries and one on the outside of the bath door for cords, electronics, misc. Great investment. 6. Things to remember to bring: Extension cord, duct tape (I never leave home without it!), power strip with built in circuit breaker so if you blow a circuit you can reset at the power strip and not have to wait an hour for an electrician to set your cabin breaker, zip lock bags for packing wet things on the way from the beach and on the way home, extra wire hangers that you can just throw away or leave there after the cruise (yes, they will fit in the closet), a room deodorizer (I brought my small Lah-ti dah...similar to a Lamp Berge), night light especially if you have a very dark inside cabin, and a really great book to read because there is nothing but time! 7. The Ship. Devine!!! The best I have been on yet. The starboard (right side facing forward) is where you can smoke. This includes the deck area just outside of the buffet. You can also smoke in the casino. They have two $5 black jack tables: one multi-deck and one single-deck. There is also a $10 multi-deck black-jack table. There is a craps table, 3-card poker and Caribbean stud. Oh yeah, and a very lonely dealer at the Roulette table. There are also 5 cent slots, 25 cent, dollar and five dollar slots...and plenty of them! They have a black jack and slot tournament ($20 entry fee). There are two ‘Wheel of Fortune’ dollar slots but none at the 25 cent level. One progressive 25 cent slot area and a small area designated non-smoking slots. They also have a few of those machines that you drop quarters into and you try and make the quarters fall off the ledge. If you’ve played one at a carnival or casino, you will know what I am talking about. In addition, there is also a Ben and Jerry’s on board that costs extra if you are missing your favorite weird-named ice cream! The shops aboard are very nice and even have toiletries and OTC drugs. There are great bargains later in the cruise, esp. on the last day. There is a library and decks of cards/games for you to enjoy anytime you feel the urge. 8. The good, the bad, the ugly. The good: The Centrum (ship’s atrium) and the solarium are the best spots to relax. The flourless chocolate cake, key lime pie, Tango Mango frozen drink and lobster are the best edibles. The Stingray Swim in Cayman Islands is the best Cayman Is. excursion (even handicap accessible). Paradise Island is the best Cozumel excursion. The Conch Train is the Best Key West Excursion. Senor Frogs ½ in Cozumel is the best on land party bar. The Bad: Not all stateroom attendants are good at making towel animals every night. The elevators are slow esp. on the first and last day due to the enormous load of people trying to use them. Steer clear of the chicken and shrimp salad in the buffet and the chocolate brownie dessert in the dining room...yuck! The ugly: The floor in the solarium is super slippery when wet and I saw an elderly couple slip and fall right in front of me there...it was scary. They were both hurt. I almost slipped twice in the same spot.

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Mar 6, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I had a wonderful time just relaxing on this cruise. We were celebrating our February birthdays, our March anniversary, and my March retirement, which all came within a week of the cruise. This was our first cruise and we have booked another one for December 2005. Additionally, we are looking at another cruise in Sep/Oct 2005 time period. We left from Galveston, Texas on March 6, 2005. The embarkation and disembarkation

was very smooth and seemed to be very well organized. We understood that being on Deck 2 would provide less motion than decks above, which turned out to be true during a few storms. However, when the time comes for disembarkation we were among the last to leave the ship. On our next cruise we will again be on Deck 2 because we were in no hurry to leaving the ship. Everything is so well organized that finding luggage was no more difficult than at most airports. I would rate this as a “B+”. We had an outside stateroom and the window made the nice size cabin appear even larger. The bathroom was small but put together wonderfully. The rounded shower was just a perfect size for my wife and I. Behind the mirror was a large storage area for our necessary items. The stateroom had a great number of drawers and an adequate closet. The small couch was perfect for just relaxing, but we did not stay in the cabin choosing to relax on other decks. Our stateroom attendant “Derek” was just fantastic and always seemed to have a smile on his face. His towel creations were very creative and he seemed to enjoy doing those little things to help make our trip fun. I would give this an “A.” The food can be hard to judge since this was our first cruise. We loved the evening meals, at the Edelweiss Restaurant” because we were fortunate enough to be seated with a wonderful couple (Donnie & Barbara) and their two teenage children (Matt & Mollie). You will not find better prime ribs and steaks . I am not a seafood eater but my wife loved the lobster, as did our fellow diners. The salads were good but limited, as was the appetizers. The deserts did not turn us on, except for one chocolate cake that was the best I have ever eaten. Our waitress was Josephine (from India) and her assistant was Sergio (from Chile) and they were “Excellent” with a big “E.” During the evening meals the “Rosario Strings” played for our enjoyment. Rate the evening dining experience an “A-” and maybe a “B+” with another wait staff. Remember, if you do not like the food ask for something else. As for the Windjammer, it is simple a buffet. Breakfast had fruits, cheeses, sliced deli type of ham, several different types of sausages, scrambled eggs, and potatoes. They had someone slicing wonder ham for each meal. The omelet station was great but sometimes the lines would be long and caused a small delay, which always proved to be worth the wait. Then we had the cereal and “other” area. They had biscuits with gravy, oatmeal, grits, pancakes, waffles, French toast, and sweet rolls. They also provided a large variety of boxed cereals. The lunch meals offered a variety of foods and the omelet station served one of the best ham sandwiches that I have ever eaten. The station had other sandwiches and pizza. The cereal area became the “desert” area and at least 6 or 8 different deserts were served, as well as a fantastic taco mixture. Fresh fruit (Bananas, apples, plums, etc) was available for all meals. We always attended the evening meals because of Donnie & Barbara and their children. However, I did make the Windjammer a few late evenings. The ship also has pizza and hamburgers in the Solarium Café, which we understood from others to be good. I would give the Windjammer food a solid “B” because you can always find something that you enjoy eating. You must pay for soft drinks and juices during the day, however, for a small fee ($42 for 7 nights) you get all of the soft drinks and juice you want. Juice is free at breakfast and you can get a soft drink free at the evening meals. As a child my father came to America, from Romania, and I had wonderful visits with three of the Romanian staff workers. Since returning home we have been exchanging e-mails. I would rate the staff on the Rhapsody as exceptional from the cruise director to the workers cleaning tables. Definitely an “A”. The shows were as good as some we have paid to see in Branson but were not exceptional. I would rate the shows as a “B”. There was a constant stream of activities from bingo to dancing or rock climbing. We were impressed that the ship had a section of the ship devoted to children, where they were entertained and kept busy. As for the ports they can keep Key West. I talked with a large number of people and visited with people cruising from another ship and had maybe 1% tell me they like Key West. As seems to be the case on a regular basis, we were unable to see the Grand Caymans due to the weather. We were taken to a small new port “Costa Maya” which has only had electricity for 3 months. We were impressed with the beautiful new shopping plaza and enjoyed our stay. It seems this port is getting a push by Royal Caribbean and will probably be the next Cozumel. In summary our trip was just what I wanted, relaxing and fun. Nice people, wonderful staff, very good food, and just a very nice relaxing vacation.

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Feb 13, 2005

Western Caribbean

Galveston is NOT an easy port to reach. Flying in/out of Houston (nearest airport) is 75 miles away and expensive transit. Shuttle bus by RC is $39 each way. We had just cruised in the fall to Alaska on Celebrity. Everything up-to-date and clean and sharp. This ship, however, was in DESPERATE need of refurbishing of cabins, both furniture and permanent fixtures. Very shabby and dirty feeling all over the deck and public areas (except

both restaurants which were spotless). Rate a "C+". Food was a step up from Carnival type, but with small portions and a VERY LIMITED menu. Odd compared to other cruises, and parallel to recent cutbacks in Princess (our favorite line). It lacked variety and quality of most was like Outback, NOT the fanciest gourmet place in our town. Rate "B". Entertainment was acceptable, although stage productions were limited. Special groups and small ensemble entertainment was excellent. Rate "B" Very noisy ship. Not just the creaks and groans and banging of metal-on-metal, from cleaning the Promenade or balconies, but more ambient noise from other cabins. Rate "B-" Two banks of elevators instead of three (no rear bank) and that made much more walking (I have to use a cane and feel every step). Many areas are not conveniently laid out - although we loved the buffet dining in the FRONT of the ship instead of the rear. Rate "B-" Big complaint was shore excursions. We had two and they were both CANCELLED by Royal Caribbean. With just a one-day notice while we were on board; no time to find another. Their shore excursion desk on board confided that these were almost ALWAYS cancelled due to lack of numbers; that is just not right! Rate an "F" and that is generous!! Key West was a good stop, as most 7-10 day trips out of Florida do NOT stop there. And cruising the Gulf of Mexico is calmer and eye-opening to see the vast numbers of oil rigs, etc., that are not witnessed on the Baja or off Florida cruises. Grand Cayman was limited because of hurricane damage and because we were #6 ship in port and at 2000+ people, the smallest! Cozumel was, well, Cozumel. Itinerary rates a "B+" It was a moderate vacation. Not great but not horrible. Restful, with some good activities and group games, etc., that were fun to join in. But I did feel like a "foreigner", as 1750 of the 2050 on board were Texans. And acted like it!! Overall rating? "B-"

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Feb 6, 2005

Western Caribbean

I am a salesman who entertains customers in various ways. In November I went on a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise with my partner and our two twins. We had a wonderful time I decided it was a good way to entertain so I invited four customers and my assistant to go on the Rhapsody Of The Seas. The following review will discuss a number of different facets of the cruise experience. In many places I will compare this cruise with the other cruise

I went on which was on the Norwegian Star in November of 2004. The embarkation and disembarkation of the Rhapsody was very smooth. I took the advice of other cruise reviewers and did not show up until 2:00 PM and the line was very short. It took a total of forty-five minutes to get on. To get off of the boat we waited on the pool deck and visited until our color was called. Our color was called forty-five minutes later than scheduled, but once we were called it was only twenty minutes until we were in our limousine. Both getting on and off the Rhapsody was far quicker and less painful than the Norwegian Star. The room I stayed in was an outside room with a window. The room was 151 square feet. It was put together wonderfully. It had lots of drawers and plenty of closet space. My roommate and I had extra storage space even after we put every thing out of our suitcases. The bathroom was small, (as was expected), but well put together. The shower had a circular curtain so it gave plenty of space even for a big person, I am 6’2” and 270 pounds. The window was real big and made the room seem less small. There was one 110 plug and that was at the table in the sitting area. The room even had a small couch. There was no small refrigerator, which I would have really liked. I got tired of asking for ice and waiting for it so I started going up to the restaurant and getting it out of their machine. Overall the room was really put together wonderfully, I would say it was a better room than I had on the Norwegian Star even tough it was 35% smaller. The staff on the Rhapsody was wonderful. They seemed to be genuinely nice. They kept the rooms clean. Always did their best to smile. Dan the cruise director worked tirelessly and was truly funny. Several of my customers fell in love with Alley the bingo lady. The purser’s desk staff was always helpful and friendly. Toward the end of the week some of the staff looked a little tired, (not surprisingly), but they always kept professional and friendly. The staff on the Norwegian Star was good but just a notch below the staff on the Rhapsody. If I had never been on a cruise before I would have given the food an A. Since I have been on the Norwegian Star I can compare the food and can give a fairer rating in comparison. The Windjammer buffet had good food but not much variety. The Edelweiss Restaurant was good but again not much variety or flair. One thing that was interesting about the Edelweiss is that they did not really enforce the formal rule on formal nights. If you dress in slacks and a collared shirt you were welcome to come. That made it nice for several of my customers who would not wear a suit. The deserts were enjoyable but again not much variety or flair. You won’t feel cheated by the food on the Rhapsody, but if you had been on a different cruise line where the food was truly superb you would know the difference. I would give the food a B. I would not choose this cruise for the food, but I would not rule it out for that reason either. It was very good, not great! The Norwegian Star had spectacular food in every way, variety, quality and flair. The shows and activities were good. They were enjoyable, but again not great. I enjoyed them all but they could have been better. A little more money, dancers and singers for the productions shows would have helped. I did enjoy the shows but I would give them a B. The ports were nice. At all of the ports we docked. This is real nice because it is so easy to get on and off when you don’t have to take a tender boat. Key West was fun it is a wild little town with lots of fun bars and very neat shopping. A very clean American town. If you absolutely want to go to Grand Cayman Island you should probably not take this cruise. In reading the other cruise reviews it seems like half of the time this ship does not go to Grand Cayman. Because I had read the other reviews I was prepared when two days before we left I got an email saying we were not going to Grand Cayman, no explanation given. Costa Maya was the replacement port. I enjoyed it. I t is a very small Mexican town. It is a $3 cab ride their and a $2 cab ride back. We snorkeled there and it was fun but not nearly as good as snorkeling in Hawaii. The last stop was Cozumel. We shopped in the morning in town, which was a $6.00 cab ride away. In the afternoon we paid a van to drive us around the island. We saw Mayan ruins and nice beaches and beach bars, very fun. Overall I would give this cruise a B to a B+. It got an A for value for the dollar.  

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Jan 23, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my 1st cruise ever and I have to say the most fun I have ever had on any vacation. My wife and I live in the Dallas area and decided to drive down the night before. That night just happened to be the 1st night that Galveston celebrated Mardi Gras and our hotel room faced the street where they had a large parade. We got to watch all the fun from a heated hotel room and didn't have to freeze our rear-ends off. The drive

to the port was a little cumbersome since they block off many of the streets leading to the ports for the Mardi Gras celebration, but not bad overall. I dropped my wife and our luggage at the RCI port and parked in their secure lot about 1/2 a mile away. It costs about $70 for the week, but again, it is a secure lot and everything was right where I had left it the previous Sunday (I've heard of people paying ove $100 a week at some airports for parking). We did have a slight problem at the check-in area (credit card problem), but it was taken care of very quickly at the Purser's Desk on-board. This being our honeymoon, we went "all out" and got a suite on deck 8, 8014 Grand Suite, and LOVED it!! Our stateroom attendant was wonderful and fulfilled any request we made. I'm not used to that type of service and it totally blew me away!! The first night on board we ate in the formal dining room and we seated with some great folks from Minnesota. The food selection seemed ok, but I'm a simple "meat and potatoes" guy, so I went the conservative way and got the steak. It was cooked perfectly and the service was outstanding. Believe the other reviews when they say the key lime pie is TO DIE FOR, that is my favorite dessert and they have by far the best I have ever tasted. (Sorry, Mom). The other 6 nights my wife and I ate at the Windjammer buffet mainly because we had so much we wanted to do, we didn't care if we made back to the boat at a specific time. And our room was 1 floor below the Windjammer and right next to the elevators so it was much more convenient. Not to mention the food was excellent!! The ports were alright. Having never been to any of these places or traveling much at all, I can say I enjoyed them very much. Key West was fun to walk around, but it's a much "different" atmosphere than what I'm used to around home. Not that it's bad, just "different". My wife and I got to do alot of souvenir shopping at each of the ports, but I liked Cozumel the best. For a fun time, make sure you stop by Carlos N Charlie's and get yourself a yard! I'm sure on our next cruise my wife and I will book a few shore excursions, but this being our honeymoon we just wanted to go around the ports at our own pace and see what we wanted to see. The staff on board were excellent, there was always so much to do. Dan the Party Man was our cruise director and it would be wrong if I didn't mention Bingo Ali, since we were part of her Bingo family. I even won a trivia contest on board, it's kinda neat the things you can find to use a luggage lock for...hahahaha. The shows were good, we especially liked the comedian David Orion and the juggling comedian as well, though I forget his name. My wife and I were almost picked to be in the ship's version of the Newlywed Game, but were beat out by a 20 yr old couple who had their own family cheering section. I can say we would have been SO much more fun, but I'm not bitter. No....really!! All in all it was a great experience, and we're planning an anniversary cruise for next January as well. If you get the chance, go with Royal Caribbean and the Rhapsody of the Seas...you'll LOVE it!!

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Jan 23, 2005

Western Caribbean

The sailing date didn't appear on the confirmation page, it was Jan 23, 2005. My wife and I had a marvelous experience aboard the Rhapsody. It was our first voyage and we were glad we went with some friends of ours who could show us the ropes. Our interior stateroom (the oddball 4451) was tiny, but we knew that going in. A window would've been nice, I suppose, but we enjoyed the complete darkness (and I mean complete!) and slept

great. The hum from the fan room next door provided just the right amount of white noise and there was absolutely no foot traffic outside due to our location. Our attendants were very good, and the towel creations are very cute. We looked forward each evening to discovering what creature would be waiting for us in our room. We really liked the layout of the ship. There are plenty of nooks and cranies to read in. We especially enjoyed the Moonlight Bay lounge. There is very little sound leakage from one section of the ship to another. There is also always more than one way of getting from one end of the ship to the other, so everyone isn't forced to squeeze through one hallway to get somewhere. The food was quite good (six pound gain for me!). Our waiters, Albert and Candice, were great. My wife got her diet coke every night without asking. The omelet station in the Windjammer is definitely the way to go at breakfast. The pizza and burgers at the Solarium Cafe are passable. The entertainment was hit-and-miss. We really liked the magician/comedian and the jugglers (the Hill Brothers, I think?). David Orion, however, is a complete buffoon and we didn't laugh once during his routine. Inexplicably, lots of other people seemd to like him and gave him a standing ovation. Go figure. The production shows were just okay. The excursions were also hit-and-miss. They could've left Key West off the itinerary and we wouldn't have missed it at all. It's just an excuse to send people bar hopping. Our Cayman stop was changed to Costa Maya due to reduced traffic at Georgetown because of the hurricane cleanup. Costa Maya is a very young port and probably looks like Cozumel when it was only three years old. We took a Mayan ruin tour and that was fun. Afterwards we ate lunch at the touristy taqueria in the port. Get the fried whole fish, it was very good. Everything is toned way down in spiciness, though. Then we took a cab to Mayahual and sat on the beach and had a beer. A very sedate port-of-call. Cozumel is a bit more exciting. If you want to try scuba diving, contact Eduardo at http://www.cozumel-diving.net/cozumelsports/ . He's an awesome instructor. We took two 45-min dives ($180/person with all gear including wet suits) and it was only myself, my friend Bob, Eduardo and the captain on the boat. I can't recommend him enough. The wives went to the coastal park that's close by and had a good time there walking around. All in all a very enjoyable cruise for us first-timers. We would definitely sail on the Rhapsody again.

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Dec 26, 2004

Western Caribbean

I have cruised three times, twice with Celebrity and this last time with Royal Caribbean. I could not have been more disappointed with my Royal Caribbean cruise. To start with, we were scheduled to visit the Grand Cayman - about one week before departure, we were told that the Grand Cayman port was cancelled and we've instead visit Costa Maya (a very lame substitute for the Grand Cayman). Second, I feel the ship's service was second-class.

Mainly, the dining room experience felt more like eating at Denny's rather than a luxury cruise liner. The entertainment and on-board activities were well planned out and executed, however the icing on the cake was our late arrival back into port the final day. We were delayed 7 hours due to fog, the debarkation was absolute chaos, and a large majority of passengers (myself included) missed flights home with no assistance or retribution provided. I will not be cruising Royal Caribbean again.

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Dec 26, 2004

Western Caribbean

I had a very bad experience with Royal Caribbean and missed my Cruise. I had booked a Western Caribbean cruise on the Rhapsody that departed Galveston on the Dec. 26th. I booked directly with Royal Caribbean and had them take care of the air. I could have booked the air cheaper myself but I always thought that when the cruise line took care of air it was their responsibility to get you to the ship. I also bought trip insurance from Royal

Caribbean. We arrived at Buffalo airport to find our flight on Delta was really a Comair flight to Atlanta and it had been canceled. They had notified Royal Caribbean the day before. Royal Caribbean did not bother to notify us of the cancellation. If they had, we could have tried to make alternate arrangements, even if we had to drive though the night to make the Atlanta connection. We tried to make alternate arrangements to fly out of Buffalo to get to any hub, but everything was booked up because of the Comair shut down. We called Royal Caribbean and advised them of our situation. We asked if they could try to get us a flight out of a major airport that we could drive to and still get us to Galveston. Sandra from operations told me that it wasn’t Royal Caribbean’s responsibility to check other airports. I was shocked with the apathetic, if not mean attitude she had. She had time to argue with me, at length, but later told her supervisor that she was too busy to check on other flights. I was also advised that we could not pick up the cruise at the first port of Key West. When we got back home we tried to salvage our vacation by booking another cruse on the Royal Caribbean web site for the following day. We just had enough time to drive to Miami so we called customer service to advise them of our alternate plans. Customer service advised us that they could not authorize the transfer of our monies paid to the new ship and they would have the executive office call with a decision. When the executive office finally called it was five hours later, too late to drive to Miami. I was then advised that there would be no refund of the cruise and they took no responsibility for all the errors they made with our flight. They said as a customer courtesy they would give us a credit for another cruise but it was only good for a year and couldn’t be used on Celebrity their sister company. Our schedule does not permit us to go on another cruise this year. After arguing at length with Jason Maltais of the executive office he said if I don’t take their offer by the following Monday Jan 3rd he would withdraw the offer. They also said the trip insurance did not apply because we never started the trip. We have taken six cruises on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. I am shocked and appalled at the attitude of customer service and the hostile strong arm tactics of the executive office. If you were like me and thought if you booked air fare through Royal Caribbean and got their insurance, you were protected, think again. If you think customer service would be helpful if thing went wrong, you’re in for a surprise. Rich Milazzo [email protected]

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Dec 12, 2004

Western Caribbean

Beccy C. The cruise was amazing. We went on a cruise because my mother has a fatal illness and wanted me to enjoy what could possibly be our last vacation. We had the junior suite which was really nice and had a great view of the ocean. My friend, however, had a stateroom on deck 3 and despite the lack of space which the junior suites had, it was very nice as well. The view from there is great, too. The activities were great, especially

the adventure ocean activities for the kids. They have directors that make the cruise as fun as possible for the kids. They have theme parties as well, and while I only went to the country dance with my father, that alone was wicked cool. The events in the Broadway theatre were just as good. I, myself, only went to the magic and grand illusions show and the rock and roll Broadway show, but they were wicked cool as well. The magicians, Larry and Rafael (LaRaf), were the coolest. The food was amazing, whether you went to the solarium for fries and pizza, the windjammer for an all-you-can-eat buffet, or the edelweiss dining hall for fancy dining and things like escargot. In the edelweiss dining hall, the waiters and waitresses were amazing. They would go completely out of their way to please you. My family made personal friends with our waiters Camen (head waiter), Rock (waiter), and Linette (assistant waitress). I was impressed with the way the cabin boys made a new design with the bedding every evening. My family made friends with our cabin boy, Dwight, as well. I was overall pleased with this cruise and I sincerely hope that you have as much of a good time as us.

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Nov 14, 2004

Western Caribbean

Although my husband and I have 33-ft. sailboat, we have never taken a real cruise before. We chose this one because we could leave from Galveston (we live in Austin) and we wanted to see Key West and Cozamel. The ship was really like a good hotel. We had a private balcony and if you can possibly handle the cost (we got a good deal the week before Thanksgiving), get a balcony. We slept with the door open most of the time and the sound

of the wind and waves is amazing. We ate a lot of room service meals in our "private piece of the ocean" and the food was excellent. BTW, room service calls before delivering the morning tray; great idea! I fell off the low-carb wagon deliberately and had no qualms at all about eating such delicious and varied kinds of bread. This was one reason we ate most of our meals in the Windjammer cafe; we love trying different kinds of things and the buffet offered more choices. And the desserts were fantastic too. They offer several no sugar desserts that were delicious too. HINT: There is no coffee maker in the room. If you require coffee (or tea, as I do) as soon as you wake up, then you need to plan for that. I'll bring a 2-cup electric kettle with me next time. The room was attractive; bed comfy; storage ample. Anthony Thomas from Trinidad was our Attendant and you'll be lucky to have him. He was on the job all the time, very pleasant, answered a lot of first-time cruiser questions. He also makes great "towel art"...we had something different to greet us each day. He gets to go see his family on 6 month rotation; I hope that you think of his hard work when tipping... HINT: The only complaint I have about the accomodations is no good light for reading in bed. You may want to bring along a battery powered booklight. The first day at sea, going across the Gulf, was extremely rough. I;ve been sailing in Galveston Bay during the tailend of a tropical storm and never got sea sick before. However, there were 13 foot seas on this trip and I got sick. The cafe is at the front of the ship, which has the most motion. Our room was towards the middle rear, which had a lot less action, being closer to the fulcrum. The rest of the voyage was generally calm. HINT: Start seasick remedy before you get on the boat. Even if you think you will not get sick, don't take the chance. And try to get a cabin towards the center rear (aft) of the ship. The time in Key West was short; we chose to just sightsee. The sunset there is famous; you can see it from where the ship is docked. we're amateur photographers; got some great photos of the three-masted schooner against the setting sun. Costa Maya literally is an invention for tourists. It was built soley to accomodate shopping. We're not into that much, and elected to take a kayak trip a little bit down the coast in Mahahaul (sometimes spelled Mayahaul). The weather was not cooperative so we walked the beach there instead. Mahahaul is the real deal; it's a genuine fishing village, with many native Indian inhabitants. If you are looking for luxury, this is not the place for you. However, if you want to meet some very nice people who speak amazingly good English in spite of their isolation, then you may like it as much as we did. The people are genuine; they are friendly as well as dignified. I especially want to recommend that you visit El Sabor de mi Tierra, a little place on the right down the main street from the big yellow hotel. There are tables at El Sabor on the beach, with welcoming shady umbrellas. The waiter there will greet you with a smile and perfect English; the beer is ice cold; the chips are homemade and delicious. The chips are served with a mild sour-cream duip as well as a green sauce made by the owner that is not for sissies. If you go there, tell the nice young man that you read about the restaurant on the Internet; I promised him I would post this review. We also chatted with a vendor who looked as though he had stepped right out of a Mayan stone carving. Again, he spoke English flawlessly. Look for the stand with the brightly colored string hammocks and the vendor who looks like a Mayan king. We took some very colorful photos here. (This is not Miami Beach; do not expect American "standards" of beach upkeep.) Cozamel: We took the BOND Adventure excursion. We snorkled and did the underwater motor scooter. Spend the extra $33 for the scooter. If I can do it, anyone can. It was a blast! Gorgeous clear water.Recommend this +++. There was a free luncheon and free bar on baord; good guacamole and margaritas. Nice open deck, with more fine photo possibilities. Finally, the ship was lovely,as well as perfectly clean and maintained. The staff were all pleasant, smiling, cooperative. The Solarium was our favorite space; adults only hot tub and wave pool, with salt water. IT's decorated like an Egyptian Temple, which could have looked cheesy, but it was done so well that it all seemd to work. The gym is fantastic; located at the rear of the ship with sweeping ocean views. HINT: I had a personal training session with Damjan (pronounced "Damyun")Canzek, from Slovenia. This may have been the best single investment I could have made. I wish I'd been able to work with him everyday, instead of scheduling on the last day of the trip. After all those meals, it was satisfying to do some physical exercise, too. LAST HINT: Although we're not big shoppers, we bought our share of stuff. One of the best bargains on the ship is the rolling bag (navy blue with logo) for $29.99. You can get one of these to haul your loot home; it has a handy side pocket to put all those documents you need to have while disembarking. OH, that leads to LAST HINT #2: The Harbor House Hotel is literally walking distance to the terminal. You can spend the night there and it makes dealing with the whole thing easier. We will sail again on this ship; soon I hope!  

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Oct 31, 2004

Western Caribbean

Me and My husband went on this cruise in October 2004. This was my second cruise (previous one was Carnival Jubilee) and my husbands first cruise. I would highly recommend this cruise, I would say it was a 100 times better than the carnival ship I had been on before (however it was an older ship). The ship was absolutely beautiful, I can not say enough good things about it. The food was tereffic and there was always something to eat.

We only ate in the main dining room twice but I would suggest to do that every night. We ordered room service pretty often. The ship does appear a little faded, but nothing to noticeable. We stayed in the Junior Suite which was very nice but I was disappointed with the size and I think if we had to do it over again we would have just got a room with a balcony instead. The best part of the suite was that we had VIP Check In and Check off---we got to the port and were able to use a VIP check in line which we were on the ship within 20 min. The getting off was a little congested, but what can you say when you have 2000 people wanting to get off. Another plus about being in a suite was that we had a refrigerator and a bathtub. I brought several bottled drinks on board (water, Gatorade, coke) and no one said anything about it. One person even had a small ice chest. The internet cafe was a very nice way to keep in touch with your family for a low cost (.50 cents a min--but compared to a phone call $8.95 cents a min. I would consider it cheap). For shore excursions: In Costa Maya, we didn't realize that it was going to be so small, or we would have done a shore excursion. We ended up laying on the beach and relaxing. Once in Cozumel we did the Hideaway boat adventure ($89 a person) and you get to drive a private speed boat (two to a boat) and follow the director to a secluded part of the beach (the boat drive was about 45 min. and it was great!!!) once you get to the beach you are able to snorkel, play volleyball, lay out under the large umbrellas and there is a Mexican buffet. I highly recommend this excursion it was worth the money. I would tell anyone that is taking this cruise that is it well worth the money, the service was wonderful!! Everyone where on the ship. Also just a tip to remember, your tipping is automatically billed to your sail account if you sign a paper the night before the end of the cruise and they tip a certain percentage. Me and my husband decided to tip on our own since most of the time we didn't eat in the main dinning and I didn't think we should tip for 5 nights when we only ate in their 2 nights, so this was a nice option.

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Oct 24, 2004

Western Caribbean

I thought I would never cruise again, but I heard that Royal Caribbean’s ships were much nicer with better service and excellent food. They were right. In October 2004, I decided to try out Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas with ports of call to Key West, Cozumel, and Costa Maya (original port of call, Grand Cayman, too damaged due to recent hurricane). I would compare Carnival to a mediocre motel like Motel 6 and compare Royal

Caribbean closer to the Hyatt or a nice hotel (in service, quality of food, activities and overall appearance). There was a BIG difference. I look forward to cruising again with Royal Caribbean. Day 1: Galveston/ At Sea Drink of the day: Pina Colada with souvenir glass Embark 12 PM – 4 PM Buffet in Windjammer 12 PM – 4 PM 24 hour room service Leave Galveston @ 5 PM Fine Dinning 6:30 for main seating, 8:30 for late seating (Casual) Welcome Aboard Show in Melodies Theatre Glenn Hirsh Comedian Casino Late night dance club and lounges Broadcast Television: CNN, ESPN, TNT, two different movies each day, various other sitcoms repeated Day 2: At Sea Drink of the Day: Blue Monday Breakfast buffet 7 AM – 11 AM; dining room 730 AM – 930 AM Lunch buffet 12 PM – 230 PM; dining room 1130 AM – 130 PM Snack buffet 330 PM – 5 PM Dinner buffet 630 PM – 9 PM; dining room 630 or 830 seating (FORMAL Captain’s Gala Dinner) Late night snacks (pizza, hamburgers, fries, and hot dogs) 9PM – 2 AM Many activities available throughout the day- Various fitness related classes (yoga, step, move & groove, rock wall, spinning, and more) Spa related activities (hair clinic, eat more to weigh less, cellulite secrets, five steps to flawless skin) Men’s Belly Flop Contest Singles Meet Dance Lessons Art Auction Bingo (of course) Ping pong and shuffleboard contests Blackjack tournaments Trivia Challenge & Name that Tune games Wine tasting Welcome Aboard Reception 70’s Disco Inferno Gameshow Comedian Ralph Harris – funny guy Day 3: Key West, Florida (3PM – 1130 PM) Drink of the Day: Melon Cooler Breakfast buffet 7 AM – 11 AM; dining room 730 AM – 930 AM Lunch buffet 12 PM – 230 PM; dining room 1130 AM – 130 PM Dinner buffet 630 PM – 9 PM; dining room 630 – 845 PM (Casual) Midnight Poolside buffet 1130 PM – 1230 AM Fitness Activities – Pilates, Circuit Training, Aerobics, Rock Wall, Walk-a-Mile, Aquadynamics Spa/Beauty – Tooth Whitening, Flatter Stomach Secrets, Facial Perfection, Color Me Beautiful, Power Nap Line Dancing Lessons Discovery Shopping Sports Trivia Movie Night Karaoke Night Broadway Show Night Club Dancing Moonlight Madness Pool Party Day 4: At Sea Drink of the Day: Vodka Collins Breakfast buffet 7 AM – 11 AM; dining room 730 AM – 930 AM Lunch buffet 12 PM – 230 PM; dining room 1130 AM – 130 PM Snack buffet 330 PM – 5 PM Dinner buffet 630 PM – 9 PM; dining room 630 or 830 seating (Casual) Late night snacks (pizza, hamburgers, fries, and hot dogs) 9PM – 2 AM Fitness activities – Yoga, Rock Wall Climbing, ShipShape Spa/Beauty – Detox for Weight Loss, Healing of Aromatherapy, Partner Massage Men’s Sexy Legs Competition Dance Lessons Backstage Tour Ice Carving Demo Pool Games Arts & Crafts Honeymooner’s Get-together Shop On Board Digital Camera Seminar Poolside Horse Racing Slot Tournament Country Dance Party Magic Show – (LaRaf is a wannabe Siegfried & Roy) Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico (8 AM – 530 PM) Original port of call: Grand Caymen, but hurricane damage Drink of the day: Mai Tai Breakfast buffet 6 AM – 11 AM; dining room 7 AM – 9 AM Lunch buffet 12 PM – 230 PM Snack buffet 330 PM – 5 PM Dinner buffet 630 PM – 9 PM; dining room 630 or 830 seating (FORMAL) Midnight Gala Buffet 12 AM – 115 AM Afternoon Movie Tribond & Texas Trivia Challenge Name That Tune Bingo Discover Shopping Guide Sailaway Party Ring Toss & Suffleboard Casino Sports Trivia Love & Marriage Gameshow – Hilarious show Corona Beach Party Late Night Jazz Broadway Show Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico (8 AM – 530 PM) Breakfast buffet 6 AM – 11 AM; dining room 7 AM – 9 AM Lunch buffet 12 PM – 230 PM Snack buffet 330 PM – 5 PM Dinner buffet 600 PM – 9 PM; dining room 630 or 830 seating (Business Casual) Midnight Snacks 1130 PM – 1230 AM Afternoon Movie Cards & Games Bean Bag Toss & Shufflegolf Trivia Challenge Martini Hour Shops On Board Casino Celebrity Showtime Salvador Dali Art Show Parade & Sing-a-long Slow Dance Hour The Quest – Adult Entertainment 50’s & 60’s Dance Party Day 7: At Sea Drink of the Day: Rum Punch Breakfast buffet 7 AM – 11 AM; dining room 730 AM – 930 AM Lunch buffet 12 PM – 230 PM; dining room 1130 AM – 130 PM Snack buffet 330 PM – 5 PM Dinner buffet 630 PM – 9 PM; dining room 630 or 830 seating (Casual) Midnight Snacks 1130 PM – 1230 AM Arts & Crafts Cooking Demonstration Talent Show Horse Racing Art Auction Yoga, Aerobics, Walk-a-Mile, Aquadynamics, Rock Climbing Shops on Board Casino Speed up your Metabolism Seminar Bingo Ping Pong Tournament Trivia Challenge Dance Lessons Secrets to a Flat Stomach 3 Minute Glamour Makeover Shuffleboard Tournament Farewell Show

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Oct 17, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my second cruise on The Rhapsody and once again, I really enjoyed myself. We had a group of 8 people, family and friends, and the Edelweiss was extremely helpful in getting all of us seated at the same table. Our waiter, Raymond, was absolutely excellent and his recommendations for dinner were always top notch, we couldn't have been more pleased. This is a great ship, and it's very convenient for those people who live in the

Southeast Texas area. We arrived at the port at 12:00 and were on board by 1:00, which really wasn't bad considering we were moving the whole time, the worst part was really getting to the port itself as we sat in traffic for a full 1/2 hour to go only a quarter of a mile or so. Our room was really nice, we opted for a suite this time and got room 8534, I was pleased with the size of the room and the size of the balcony. The shore excursions were great if you were able to book them, Costa Maya was all booked up, but we were able to book a BOND adventure on-line before we left. I couldn't say enough good things about this excursion, you got to go underwater in a personal water scooter, snorkel, ride on a glass bottom boat, and there was an open bar and buffet, well worth the price of the ticket! Key West was very pretty, it's a great place to do some shopping and take in the ambiance. Costa Maya was nice too, not very commercialized yet and the water was beautiful. We rented a golf cart for $15.00 per hour and drove around at our leisure, it was a lot of fun! Overall, this was an excellent trip, but I'll point out just a few of the drawbacks. As I stated earlier, the traffic can be very bad if you get to the port around noon, I would recommend trying to get there early, around 11:00 or so, or wait until just a bit later, perhaps around 2:00, but noon is very bad, try to avoid it. Also, I was a little dissapointed at how loud the deck above our room was, the pool is on that deck and people made a lot of noise moving lawn chairs and running around. I completely understand that it's not going to be as quiet as a room with a cabin deck above, but it doesn't make much sense to me that people pay more for the suite and then have to deal with thumping and pounding at all hours. I can safely say that I won't opt for the suite again, but it was nice to try. I think that a room with a window would be more that sufficient, unless you can get a really good deal on a balcony, which is how we got ours. Finally, and this is touchy, I was really bothered by the large amount and obtrusive actions of some of the same sex couples on the ship. Being that I had a balcony on deck 8, I found out early that unless I wanted to see groups of butt-naked men standing on the balconies below my own, I should either stay inside or look only directly out to sea, never down or in any other direction. I realize that a balcony is semi-private, but by no means are they completely private and I don't think other passengers should have to be subjected to the naked frolicking of couples in love, same sex or otherwise. I really felt for the families who had children as I imagine they must have been bombarded with questions about the photographs that had men in various states of hugging, kissing, canoodling, etc. At any rate, their is no way to control who your shipmates will be, and all in all, other than the traffic, same sex public pictures and balcony reviews, it really was a good trip. I would highly recommend Rhapsody and Royal Caribbean, they are a great line and go above and beyond to make sure you're happy with everything they have to offer.

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Oct 10, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our first Cruise and we went with another couple. We flew from our home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and arrived in Houston at around 12:30 p.m. We were met by a Royal Caribbean rep and directed to our bus. We travelled to Galveston (about 90 mins). We then boarded the Rhapsody of the seas with absolutely no wait in lines. We set sail at 5:00 pm. sharp and began our sail to Key West. I am not going to go through the whole

itinerary, but I am going to review items by category: Stateroom (2116) - Outside with porthole - Excellent! Lots of storage space and quiet. The only noise we could hear was when we arrived at a port we could hear things being moved around below us. Meals: at the Eidelweiss Dining Room: FABULOUS!! I had read reviews before we left and could not understand why people complained about blande or ordinary food. It was always hot, tasty, well presented and our waiter and assistant waiter were very quick to serve, fill wine glasses, water, etc. We couldn't even pick up a pepper mill without one of them chastising us for lifting a finger. We always felt like royalty!! There was always a variety of choices (and I am a very picky eater). The Windjammer buffet was always good with a variety at all meals. We tended to eat breakfasts here. The Solarium cafe was good also - excellent specialty pizzas. The drinks were always excellent (even for the price). There was always someone around to get a drink for us. Ship Layout: It was a bit confusing at first, but once we got our bearing, we could travel around quite easily. Elevators were a bit slow, but hey, sometimes a walk on the stairs is just what we needed to work off some of the food! Entertainment: Excellent!! Some of the shows were a bit cheesy, but the Drifters were FANTASTIC and had everyone up and clapping along. Casino: Could get a bit smokey at night (even in the non-smoking section), but we had lots of fun here. Pool: We stuck to the Solarium Pool most of the time as the outdoor pool tended to be a bit noisy. Water was always great to cool off in. We never had a problem getting 4 chairs in a row here or on the decks. Ports: Key West - Okay, but not that many deals, would be great for bar-crowd, but we wandered in the "Garden Estate District" and enjoyed looking at the homes. Costa Maya - Great Shopping!! Got a great deal on jewelry. Sat under huts on beach and had a relaxing day. Cozumel - Went on the Tulum tour and it was very informative and interesting. Thanks to Hugo our tour operator!! The rest of Cozumel was a bit dirty, but we were tired and didn't explore too far. Disembarkation: Very smooth. As Canadians, we had to be in the lounge by 6:30 a.m. for Customs, but once this was done, we were sat for breakfast in the dining room and then we were called at 9:30 a.m. for disembarkation. We were the 3rd group to leave the ship. We collected our bags and the bus was waiting for us and we headed back to the Houston airport. VERY SMOOTH and efficient!! Areas for improvement: Photos on the ship were TERRIBLE. We tried on 6 nights to get our pictures done and only 1 picture turned out. The rest were off-centre, heads cut off, processing of film problems (shadows appeared on skin,etc). We tried to go to several different photographers, but it didn't help. I was very dissappointed not to be able to get some shots during the formal nights. There was a lot of rude passengers aboard. Some people treated the ship staff horribly. Some complained about service during dinner (they expected their meals to be served as soon as one course was done, another should have been right behind it), I even saw someone bang their glass on the table to get another glass of wine. People in the room next to our friends' room had a very loud fight one night which resulted in broken dishes and wine all over the room. They left the mess for their cabin steward to clean up. Several times when my husband was waiting to order a drink at the bar, people would push their way in and ignore others waiting patiently. When elevator lobbies were crowded, some people would rush to get into the elevator, leaving polite people in wheelchairs nowhere to go. Where did some of these people learn their manners?? I will finish up by saying that we had a great time and will be doing it again in the very near future!!

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Oct 3, 2004

Western Caribbean

To whom it may concern: Recently, me and my family were on the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise sailing out of Galveston on 10/03/04 – 10/10/04, and I can tell you never in the two times have I cruised prior to this cruise, have I ever experienced a big disappointment in a cruise or cruise line. There were over 600 kids on-board and their parents couldn’t or wouldn’t control them. The kids thought is would be fun to knock on cabin

doors while running down the hallways, change the tags in the doors to say Do Not Disturb to make up the room and vice-versa, cut in line at the buffets, talk during the shows and activities on board the ship, use the elevators as toys to go up and down, etc. This was only the beginning of a bad vacation. We have two people in our group that are in wheelchairs and at check-in we waited 20 minutes for a porter to help us onto the ship. He felt it was more important to talk to his girlfriend then to help us. When we finally get on ship, we find out that the seating arrangements for dinner have 4 members of my party sitting at one table and the other 4 at another table. We asked if we could have a table for 8 and we were told that we couldn’t and the tables couldn’t be moved because they were bolted to the floor. This was a lie because after the third day the tables were moved so we could all sit together. We booked this cruise 5 months prior to sailing, so I felt this should have been adequate time to arrange for 8 people at one table. Other parties of eight were seated together. To top it off, the fourth day at sea, the Rhapsody of the Sea decided it needed to have construction done. There was hammering, pounding, etc. right under my cabin window. I went to talk to the Purser about this, and his response was it had to be done. Why couldn’t the construction waited until it was in dry dock? I informed him that it was giving me a headache and his answer was to take some aspirin. The shows and activities on-board were not quality standard. They were out-dated or of poor quality. There were not enough on-board activities. You couldn’t get into the swimming pool because it was packed with kids. You either had to wait until very late at night or very early in the morning to go swimming. When it came time to the gratuities I went to put it on my sea pass card and I asked three times if the standard amount of $68.25 was for two people, I was told three times that it was. When I received the bill, there was a charge of $68.25 twice. I tried to talk to the Purser about this and his answer was that it couldn’t be removed from the bill and that whoever told me that $68.25 was for two people was wrong. Well guess who told me, a lady behind the Purser desk told me this. I felt $68.25 was too much gratuity for what my family and me had to experience on the cruise. My overall experience on the Royal Caribbean cruise line was not very impressive. I would not recommend your cruises to any of my friends or family. I have taken a cruise every year for three years and this is the first cruise that has been a huge disappointment. In the future, my family and me will be taking cruises on other cruise lines. This is just some of the things that I had to endure while on the cruise. Sincerely, Lori Heien

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By Phil_CR

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Sep 26, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our second cruise, the first being October 6, 2002. The first cruise we departed Galveston and stopped at Key West, then Belize and then Cozumel. Boarding on both cruises went quickly and efficiently. I should tell you that when we originally booked the 2002 trip, We upgraded to a balcony Junior Suite, 8040 to be exact. I dug myself a deep hole by doing that, cause once you've stayed in a balcony suite you are gonna be hard-pressed

to downgrade. Trust me I'm not complaining. When booking a suite you get priority boarding and having a balcony is well worth the extra bucks, sitting out on the patio and having a favorite drink while enjoying the private view with your sweetheart is something you'll remember. On the 2002 cruise, we were celebrating my retirement and both our birthdays so we wanted to have a table for two, and we actually got it. Keep in mind there are few tables for two available, and are usually gone very quick to the folks in the suites or RC's frequent cruisers. A short note on food. Bacon and suasage at breakfast is always a bit greasy, scratch that-just plain greasy so be prepared. For you folks that prefer eggs over easy (like myself), forget it, not happening. In the Windjammer you either get scrambled eggs or omelettes, all things considered, it's ok. The drinks, fruits, breads and such are pretty good and you can go back and get as much as you want. Lunchtime you also have a large selection. For dinner you have a choice of casual dining or the formal dining room (the Edelweiss). We prefer the late 8:30pm seating. My wife and I never had a complaint regarding the food or service. The wine list was fairly broad with some very good selections. Entertainment-there is always something going on or if you prefer to sit back and relax, you can do that too. The pool parties can get a little loud and wild, but it's always fun to join in or just "people watch". Do what you want, you're on a cruise to have fun. In the casino the slots are fairly tight, but some folks did walk out with some extra cash in hand. (not us). Enough on the 2002 cruise, now to 2004. After dropping my wife and our luggage at the pier I parked in the RC lot (lot A). I was back with her in about 25 minutes. We brought along a set of talk-about radios and they were very handy for crowded situations. You might want to consider taking a set. Again boarding went quickly and efficiently. We were through security and on our way to our cabin in a matter of minutes. Keep in mind that security is tight since 9-11 and they keep a wary eye out for anything or anyone unusual. That in itself made me feel a bit more relaxed. On the last cruise I told you I dug a hole for myself, well it's a little deeper now. I surprised my wife with another upgrade. This time to the Antigua Suite, cabin 8006. When we walked in I was blown away. The other suite was quite comfortable, but this one had a large bar, a large tub and more storage space then we could even think about using. The patio was twice the size of the junior suite and had a chaise lounge and table, and table with two chairs. We had breakfast out there on a regular basis. This itinerary was originally supposed to take us to Key West, Georgetown in the Caymans and then Cozumel, but due to the damage to Georgetown from the hurricane we went to Costa Mayo instead. (It's gonna take months to rebuild Georgetown by the way). As far as the cruise goes we had a blast. Service, food and entertainment was great. Met some great folks along the way, Jeff and Robin were a lot of fun, we hung out "a bit" at the Schooner Bar listening to the karaoke and the dj, Derrick (he was hilarious). I guess I've said about all I can. Both cruises were above our expectations, I've already booked another(same suite)for next year. The ship goes into dry dock in Alabama in November this year for three weeks. They will rip out all carpeting, drapery and furniture and will install new stuff. It should be great when they finish. Also, on our next Rhapsody cruise the itinerary will change, we'll be going to Montego Bay Jamaica, Georgetown Cayman Islands and then Cozumel. We are ready to pack. One last note, when packing try to mix some of your spouses clothes together with yours in different bags in case of a lost/misplaced bag one wont be totally without. A couple we met were missing a bag containing ALL of thier shoes except for what they were wearing. We never heard if the bag was found, but I wouldn't chance it. So, if you want to take a cruise make it Royal Caribbean and let the world go by. We've found our vacation paradise, goodbye Las Vegas, hello Caribbean......

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Sep 12, 2004

Western Caribbean

Ahh, Rhapsody of the Seas. Nothing sounds more enjoyable than a seven day cruise, with nothing but blue skies and sun to soak up. That is what I was expecting when I boarded the cruise ship; unfortunately I got very little of that and plenty of rocky seas, confrontations with drunks, and many uncomfortable situations. We loaded onto the ship on Sunday afternoon. We got there as close to the time as possible just to be faced with line

after endless line of others boarding. When getting onto these cruises, remember, they do not leave the port until late that afternoon, you do not need to be in a rush to board; all you will do is stand in lines. We left Galveston that afternoon and sailed for the high seas. That night we went to the introductory show and had dinner. Everyone is assigned tables to eat at in the main dining hall. Our table somehow was confused with another group’s, so we were reassigned to a different table. They food is very good in the Edelweiss dining hall, with four courses each night. The ship is set up with two swimming pools, one outdoor and one indoor. There is a fitness room, running track, shuffleboard, rock-climbing, and four ping-pong tables. There is also a casino, nightclubs, several bars, karaoke nights, and bingo. The bingo was very enjoyable and “Jackpot” Julie makes it memorable. The pools are saltwater, so do not open your eyes. It is also located right next to the bar, and believe me, there is plenty of beer served. Between the bar and the pool is a patio area for people to dance and congregate. As I said, I have not been on any other cruises to compare to, but one day while my family was lying by the swimming pools, several people were dancing and goofing off. This one guy decided it would be funny to run out onto the dance floor and pull his swimsuit off, revealing his more-than-revealing thong underneath. Needless to say, it was very awkward, especially since my ten and five year old sisters were right there watching it happen. Because of this man’s action, we were voluntarily forced to leave so that we would not be exposed to anymore exposés. Another thing that made this cruise rough was the fact that we had to go through the edge of hurricane Ivan to get to our ports. For one and half days we were going through rocky waters that made even the soberest of people walk like they were drunk. It was so bad that the pools were drained so that all the water was not sloshed out. Many people got sick and barf-bags were taped all along the handrails. At one point, we went through thirty foot waves with eighty mile an hour winds. When I signed up for a cruise, I did not know I would have to ride a rollercoaster with it. This made the trip very hard to enjoy, but many cruises do not have to go through a hurricane. As far as the ports go, we did not get to go to two of the three originally planned because of the hurricane. Instead of Key West, Florida and Grand Cayman, we went to Belize and Costa Maya. The other place we were scheduled to go was Cozemel. Belize was nothing more than an extremely hot mall, with many souvenirs to purchase. Other than that, Belize is really just a hovel of a city. It was still fun to get off the boat, especially since we had just survived a hurricane ourselves. Costa Maya was a lot cleaner and friendlier than Belize, but it was basically the same thing with a few significant exceptions. For one, there was a big pool in the middle of the shopping center, which for all practical purposes would seem like a great idea. It was very hot, so it was wonderfully refreshing to take a dip in the pool while shopping. Unfortunately for my family, there was a swim-up bar next to the pool. One girl had a few drinks and then decided it would be fun to stand up on the bar and take her top off. Of course most of the people started whistling, and when one does it, why not everyone? For the next two hours, women would periodically flash anybody who happened to be looking their way. Again, this was a very uncomfortable position to be in with little girls nearby. As if that was not enough, the bartender got people to come into the bar and he would mix drinks in their mouth. Then he would cover their face with a towel and literally “blend” the drink by vigorously shaking their head. Costa Maya was the closest thing to E! Entertainment’s “Wild On” show that I had ever been to. Cozemel was the last stop and it was very enjoyable. We went to a beach called Playa Mia, which was an all inclusive beach with an open bar. It also had a floating trampoline, inflatable “glacier” that could be climbed, kayaks, paddleboats, and even sailboats. It also has a small zoo with several exotic animals. It was very enjoyable to swim in the ocean and relax on the beach. Getting there, however, was a bigger proposition. You have to take a taxi, which we were told would cost about thirty dollars round trip. In reality it cost about double that. This made all of us a little agitated, but we had already booked the excursion, so we were forced to make the best of it. All in all, Rhapsody of the Seas was an adventure. I can not say that I enjoyed all of it, but it definitely made a memory. If you are going to book a cruise, try to make sure that you do not have to go through any kind of hurricanes. I was mainly disappointed at all the partying that went on, especially since this was supposed to be “family” cruise line. It made it awkward for my family and made us feel like outcasts. All I can say is, if you like nightclubs and partying, this cruise is for you; if you don’t, then as “Jackpot” Julie said, “…Not so much.”

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Sep 12, 2004

Western Caribbean

We had been saving for this cruise for a year and was very excited that it was finally time for us to board ship. My brother and his wife were going with us and they were also excited as they had never had a vacation without children before. When we got to our rooms we found a huge fan in our room. Our room had flooded and the carpets were soaked in our room and my brothers room. We lived with that fan in our room for two days. It took

up almost our whole floor. We couldn't walk around in socks as they would get soaked and we had to keep everything off the floor in the closet as it was also soaked. My brother had the fan in his room for a day also and finally got tired of the noise. We were never offered any other rooms. I was totally aggervated especially when trying to blow dry my hair in competition with the fan. Our steward was wonderful. He kept our wet room well straightened up. He was very friendly and always said hello. He made towel animals for us which kept us laughing. Our Wait Staff was exceptional. We wanted to take Kelly home with us and adopt her. The hurricane just added to the experience. Thankfully my husband and I do not get motion sickness and enjoyed the roller coaster ride. The ports were not what we expected. Belize was a filthy little town with nothing to offer. The people were rude and grabby at the shops. Costy Maya was no better. Cozumel was our favorite. The water was beautiful. We rented a car and drove all over the island. We met a lot of people that used the front of their homes for stores. After the shopping we went snorkling. My brother and his wife had never done anything like that before. They used a whole camera for pictures of fish. They had a blast. Cozumel is was a good port. Our most disappointing time happened at the pool. Several people were feeling pretty good by the time they got back on ship. They were very drunk. I was surprised that the ship personel let it continue on for so long. Two men thought how funny it would be to show everyone their backsides unclothed. One had a thong on and the other pulled his shorts and underwear down to his knees. This did not happen just once but three times. Once with the help of a woman. Familys were grabbing their children and trying to get them out of their before they saw anything else. The bartenders were laughing and encouraging it. I had to complain to three people before anything was done about it. We went to the pursers desk and he called security. We went down to see what security was going to do about it. They talked to them and afterward the male security gave the a high-five. I was very angry. They were allowed to stay with their drunk friends while the children had to leave with out any place to go because the other pool is adults only. If you are looking for a family cruise this is not it. They say in their rules "no nudity" but they do not uphold their rules. If had happened just once I know they could not have forseen that. But it happened three times. It should have been addressed after the first time not encouraged and high-fived. The ship was beautiful and the people that took care of us were wonderful. If you are looking for a family cruise I would look elsewhere.

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Aug 15, 2004

Western Caribbean

Becci Wells Nothing remarkable about embarkation. Went smoothly except for the crowds waiting to board the other cruise line’s boat. I think Royal Caribbean is better organized but that may be the fault of the port authorities. Made our way directly to Windjammer for lunch. Very good food, lots of variety and beautiful fruit and vegetable artistry on the buffet lines. Met up with our Meet and Mingle group (online chat group sponsored

by Royal Caribbean, they give a get-together with great o’rdourves and drinks for you on Wednesday afternoon). It was worth signing up for this group because we met many people online before the cruise and did quite a lot together during the voyage. It was great fun. We were all on deck for the sailing and it was quite a party atmosphere with the Caribbean drum band, which was a good one, around the pool. Our cabin was comfy and not too cramped (interior cabin on 3rd deck) and soon it was time for the dining experience. This was every bit as good as past cruisers tell you and didn’t disappoint. In my opinion, every meal was 5 star. I had Duck ala orange, rack of lamb, as many lobster tails as I could hold and many fabulous soups and stellar desserts. The bread is worth mentioning, the best I have ever eaten and was told it is all baked fresh aboard. There were 2 or 3 varieties of rolls and sliced breads each meal, in the dining room. We loved meeting our diner mates and made fast friends with several, exchanging email addresses, etc. The wait staff were superb, as were all the crew. Never ran into a sour face or nastiness of any kind. They were great. It was interesting to chat with them and they were ready to tell you anything you wanted to know about their backgrounds. One crew member revealed that most of the crew are internationals, work 6 to 8 month contracts and are paid only $50 per month, plus room and board and tips. So it became evident to us that a tip above and beyond the suggested $68.50 per person would be a great help to them as several intimated that they had family at home. We were glad to accommodate as all the service they provided was top notch! Our room steward, Richard was always ready to please and the little towel works of art he left in our room each day were amusing. The room was always spotless as was the rest of the ship. We looked for but never found a speck of rust anywhere. Someone was always polishing or cleaning wherever we went. The shows were Las Vegas quality and very good. Glen Smith and the Hill Brothers were fantastic. Never crowded at the first show for late diners. The cruise director, Peter Banfield was a hoot all the time and made sure there were plenty of activities. You could take your pick of laid back flaking or full steam ahead participant. I actually think we tried to do too much and wore ourselves out. Since are certified divers, we spent a lot of time in the water, both at Grand Cayman and Cozumel, but of course, Cozumel lives up to its reputation as the premier dive site in the Caribbean. We did Sloppy Joes at Key West and the sunset was spectacular but we viewed that from the deck of Rhapsody. Grand Cayman was very clean but mostly a shopping Mecca. We dove the wreck of the Calle 30 yards off the beach and saw barracuda, tarpon and loads of tropical fish, but missed the stingray city excursion. You need to book these early as they fill up quickly. Cozumel is a diver’s paradise. Saw lobster, star fish, spotted eel, dogfish, stonefish, stingray, flounder, seahorse, lots of different types of crabs along with the resident tropicals in every hue of the rainbow, all in an area about 400 or 500 yards square right in front of Place de las Glorias(hotel on the stip). And that’s not even a reef off the wall. Didn’t have time to dive those areas. My favorite area on the boat was the Solarium and its adults only pool and jacuzzi’s. This was a mini-paradise on its own. The sea water was great for my skin and I was in it everyday. We played Bingo and visited the casino, but we don’t part with money very easily and abandoned those activities soon on, although some lucky guy won the $9000(that’s right!) jackpot the last night of the cruise. Getting off the boat was more of a pain than getting on and took several hours. Add this to the fact that we did not want to get off the boat and you have some pretty unhappy campers. O, to win the lottery! However, it did go smoothly and the port authorities get you done as quickly as possible All in all, I couldn’t say one negative word about Royal Caribbean or our ship the Rhapsody. It was heaven. Book it, you won’t be disappointed. We are already saving for our next one with this line. Someday, we hope to be able to book Mariner or Voyager. We’re sold on Royal Caribbean. Bon Voyage!

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Aug 8, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our honeymoon and our first cruise all in one. I can not say enough about Rhapsody of the Seas. We were very surprised when we boarded the ship and say the interior for the first time. Boarding was not as troublesome as initially thought. We arrived around 1:00 pm, during peak check-in time. As we made our way through the check-in line, a kind older gentleman let us “cut” through the line and we completed our check-in in

less than 20 minutes. We received our sea-pass card and went straight to the gangway. Once we entered the ship, we immediately went to the room to drop our carry-on luggage. The “Centrum”, the center of the ship, is absolutely breathtaking. Picture a 7-story glass elevator with winding stair cases and a water fall at the base of the stair case, and you have the “Centrum”. We upgraded several times to a balcony room. To me, being my first cruise and a honeymoon, it was worth every penny. If I take another cruise, I will continue to get a balcony room. We used it every night, and had breakfast delivered to the room several times, taking in the views from the balcony. Our room was very spacious, offering plenty of storage and drawer space for our belongings. We did what every first-time cruiser does, we packed too much. But, the room was very nice and clean. I was surprised to see the bathroom was larger than I thought. It is amazing to see how much “space” they can put into a guest’s room. We unpacked, and made our way to the Windjammer Café for some lunch. I really did not know what to expect, but again, walking throughout the ship, it was easy to navigate and find your way around. The Windjammer Café was an open café style area where we had a great lunch buffet, with plenty of food to choose from. There is no excuse to say you could not find anything to eat—there is food everywhere on the ship. We had early sitting for dinner and found that when I made reservations, I had chosen a small table, which meant a table for two. This was really not what I wanted, but since we were honeymooners, I did not make the effort to move tables, but would recommend that you book a large table so that you can meet other guests. Again, for us, it was fine, but next time, I will make sure that I understand the “table arrangements”. I can not say enough about the dinners offered every night. A complete four-course meal. The selections were fantastic. The wait staff was at your beck and call and after the first night, remembered your choice of drinks, salads, etc. They were simply amazing. We had dinner in the Edelweiss Dining room almost every night. Our head waiter was “Allan” and our assistant waiter was “Fernindad”. They were very professional, courteous and always made sure we had everything we needed. We participated in several of the activities throughout the week. On the ship, there is always something going on and I recommend that you try everything. We played bingo, shuffleboard, the 70’s disco dancing to the Country and Western night. Each evening you will get a cruise compass brochure in your room that will advise you of the next day’s planned activities. It is never a dull moment. We booked two excursions through the ship and I would recommend that you do this on your own. We found out too late, that we could have found a better deal once we were on shore in the excursion choices we made. We visited three ports while on the cruise. On Tuesday, we were in Key West. I was disappointed in this port. We did not book any excursions, but choose to walk and shop (every woman’s passion). The prices at all the ports were high and shops were not really willing to negotiate on their prices. I would rather spend my time and money snorkeling or parasailing, etc. In the evening, Key West really comes alive with street dancers, shows, entertainers all found in Mallory Square. Duval Street is the main street where you will find shops, restaurants and plenty of entertainment. I had my picture taken with a snake, iguana and parrots for $30. Due to Hurricane Charley, we did not make it to Grand Cayman, which was a big disappointment for everyone on the ship. Never put all your eggs in one basket. We had planned to do most of our shopping there. We were detoured to Costa Maya. We were told that this port was nothing like Cozumel or Grand Cayman and to be prepared. I found it to be pleasant. Once you leave the ship, there are trolley cars that will take you to the end of the pier. There is a large Market Area where you can find many shops and restaurants. There is a large saltwater pool in the middle of the square with a swim-up bar. You can get massages, temporary henna tattoos; there was plenty to do. The water was unbelievable. I have never seen such blue water before. We chose to snorkel. And again, I would recommend scheduling excursions once you are on shore. We went about 15 miles from the ship and snorkeled for an hour or so. The water was a little murky due to the rough seas from the Hurricane, but we did enjoy ourselves. We were in port for about 8 hours, which seemed like it was 8 hours too short. I would have enjoyed spending more time in the Market Square. The next port was Cozumel. We have never traveled outside of the US, so both of these ports were a pleasant surprise to us. The water was out of this world. Crystal clear all the way to the bottom. With our balcony, we were able to watch ship dock, see the sights without ever leaving our room. I am spoiled to a balcony from this point forward. We had booked the dolphin-snorkel swim. We did not have a lot of time to shop as we needed to meet the tour group at noon. We took a taxi ride to town ($6), very reasonable. We found some bargains, but again, found for the most part, prices were set and not negotiable. I think that if we had more time and were able to get “off the beaten path”, we would have done better. Everyone was very nice and helpful and friendly. The dolphin swim was nice, but I would not do that again. The price was a little steep for the outcome. We were actually with the dolphins less than 30 minutes. They take your picture with every move and then try and sell it to you. With the water being so clear and beautiful, I would recommend other “water sports”. After the dolphin swim, we had some free time before we needed to get to the ship so we went to the beach next door and snorkeled. This was the highlight of the cruise. I can not say enough about the snorkeling in Cozumel. I wish I had been a certified diver as I would never had left the water. We saw stingray, barracuda, sergeant fish, and tons of others. As soon as you get in the water and swim 10 feet, the bottom drops and you are floating in crystal clear water. We ventured into a restricted area and was told to swim back into the park area. A employee of the park offered to take us on a guided snorkel tour. It was great. He took us out to where we saw lobster. He actually fed the fish and as the fish gathered around us, we were able to literally pet them. What a picture with your underwater camera. We traveled back to Galveston on Saturday. It was depressing knowing that we would soon be ending this venture. I would recommend a cruise and Rhapsody of the Seas to everyone. We had 63 honeymooners, 600+ children/teenagers on the ship. I believe the ship was completely booked. The cruise director (Peter Banfield) was a riot. He kept us laughing and entertained everytime we saw him. You can not go wrong if you choose this ship and this particular cruise. Only thing, watch out for Hurricanes. We are going to go again, just to be able to make it Grand Cayman.

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Jul 4, 2004

Western Caribbean

I sailed with the Rhapsody on July 4, as a present to my daughter for her high school graduation. I had done a lot of research, including this message board, in order to select a ship. I was not disappointed - this was a great experience. We actually drove down from Dallas on the day of the cruise, and used EZ Parking (it was $35 a week). We arrived at checkin at around 1:30pm, and went right in - no line (and this was a full ship!).

We found our cabin to be larger than we had expected - there was plenty of room for our hanging bag, "shoes" suitcase, two other bags and a collapsible cooler. Our cabin steward was immediately there, asking if we wanted our beds together (to form a queen) or separated. He separated our beds and throughout the trip, brought us ice and made animals out of towels. The room had no odor, was cleaned well everyday, and the shower was excellent - with good water pressure. We rarely heard noises from within our cabin on the 3rd Deck, and we also used room service coffee (nice and hot and strong) to wake me up every morning. Our spent Sunday and Monday at sea, and stopped Tuesday in Key West. Then we had Wednesday at sea, and stopped on Thursday at Grand Cayman and Friday at Cozumel. Saturday was a sea day and Sunday we arrived back at Galveston. During the sea days, Erin (my daughter) and I started our tans, explored the restaurants (the Windjammer and Solarium are casual; the Edelweiss is less casual). At first, we took part in every activity we could fit in - rock climbing (yes, me too - and I had surgery 4 weeks before!), line dancing, trivia contests, production shows, bingo, yoga. Our favorites were the trivia, the shows, and the yoga (you have to pay $10 for the yoga). We felt really let down after losing money at Bingo - that was no fun for us. We had asked for late seating (thinking there would be fewer kids - which was true) at Edelweiss dining room. We were at a table for six. We really enjoyed getting to know the other couples - one on a honeymoon and one for an 8th anniversary trip. We partnered later with the honeymoon couple at "Name that tune" and won the trivia contest!! We took turns buying bottles of wine for the table. The food was fine - some things were stellar - some things were not. As a rule, the beef is really well done - as in no pink (regardless of how it is ordered). One night the salmon or chicken would bee juicy and cooked just right - the next it would be overdone. The desserts were WONDERFUL. There was a man at our table that could really eat - he would order two or three entrees at a time, which was no problem for anyone. We researched and ordered our excursions online, and not through the ship. The advantage is that it is cheaper and less crowded. The disadvantage is that sometimes you do not have familiar faces around, and no one is watching every step you take to get you to the right place. At Grand Cayman, we booked Captain Bryan's catamaran for snorkeling and stingray city - it was small (20 people), relaxing, and wonderful. We then booked Honeysuckle Ranch for horseback riding by the ocean for the afternoon. In retrospect, we should have ridden the horses in the morning - it was too hot for them and us. Doing both of these left no time for shopping, and we stood in a long hot line to get to the tender going back to the ship. Stingray city was wonderful. At Cozumel, we planned to shop in the morning and lay on a beach in the afternoon. We should have gone right to the beach that we read about (Paradise Beach - the cab driver will know of it) right away - that would have gotten us away from the people that accost you constantly to go into a shop. The food at Paradise Beach was MUCH better than anything we got at the downtown area. At Key West, we walked and found Kermit's for a key lime bar covered in chocolate (worth it), then we went into an Irish Pub (now that was fun) and then in Sloppy Joe's (hated that - why do people recommend that?). We also saw the sunset from Mallory Square - folks, I have seen much better in California, Florida and Texas. On the Rhapsody, you may read that some things need touchups, but we found people constantly cleaning, painting, waxing - making the ship a gleaming example. Our only negative on the whole trip was that my digital Sony camera was stolen out of the Windjammer - so keep stuff by your side. The cruise director and his staff ("Goose", Abe, etc) were great personalities, and kept everyone's spirits up without seeming forced - they genuinely seem to love their ship and their job. There were gems of entertainment everywhere - like the Schooner Bar where the entertainer made anyone who walked through the bar, dance across the stage. Or the "Love and Marriage" game show - even though I was not with my husband on the trip, my daughter and I laughed SO HARD watching this. I can only be grateful that we were able to take this cruise and meet so many nice people. Even though my daughter is at a tough inbetween age to cruise, she still seemed to have a great time. Don't forget to: go to the top of the ship at night, where there are no lights, and watch the stars; ordering coffee from room service; see the game shows on board; sit at a bigger table at night to meet people; try the cookies!; if you like flavored coffee creamer, bring yours; bring a reading book light if you want to read and not keep up your cabin mate; get your doctor to give you the seasickness patch - they work great.

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Jun 13, 2004

Western Caribbean

This cruise was for our 23rd wedding anniversary. What A vacation! This is the first vacation I have ever had that was truely a vacation. It was wonderful! The Rhapsody was beautiful,it had everything to do and more. The crew was great. I don't think I heard the word "no" the entire trip. They worked so hard to please everyone and were so friendly and helpful. The food was awesome! Everything from gormet to burgers and pizza.

I especially enjoyed the Edelweiss dining room, the service and the food was spectacular. Everything was so well organized. I also enjoyed the Windjammer cafe, the food was great. Everywhere on this ship the food was great. Room service was great. I know I have said this over again, but I was so impressed. The quality of the food and service on this ship was equal to a stay in a luxury hotel and a 5 star resturant. I also loved the room service, which I used for my wakeup call in the mornings. I am a coffee drinker, and was worried about getting good coffee. I read a cruise review before my cruise and someone said the coffee was not good and was too weak. Well, I'm not sure they were on the Rhapsody, because the coffee was very good. There was so much to do on this ship that we could not do it all in 7 nights. The shows were great. I really enjoyed them. During the day life by the pool side was also very intertaining. There was games or live music and even if you didn't get involved in the games it was intertaining just watching. The pool side did get crowded and it was hard to find a lounge chair, but after the first day we just went early and got chairs. I loved the solarium pool, mainly because it was for adults. However, there are always adults who don't follow the rules or read the signs and just had to bring thier kids to the solarium pool. Now, I didn't take my children on this trip. This was our anniversary trip, therefore I didn't appreciate these people bringing kids to the adult area. But this only happened once so, I can't really complain too much. When we were boarding the ship (which was simple, well organized and much quicker than I expected) I saw a lot of children and said to my husband you know if I had wanted to be with children it would be my own. But to my surprise I hardly saw any children because they were so occupied in the childrens places. This also impressed me so that I told my friend , who has 6 children that this was the perfect vacation for her! Another thing that I was so impressed with was the security on this ship. I went out on deck one night about 2 am, just for some air and to look at the water. I was alone on this deck and got a little uneasy at first but someone spoke to me and it was security, just walking by at 2am so I felt very secure on this ship. One thing I was not impressed with was disembarking the ship. The wait was long to get to customs, this would not have been so bad had we been able to stay in our room a little longer instead of staying in the Broadway Melodies Theatre for so long before getting to customs. The line was long but went fairly quick to get through customs. The ports of call were so much fun! Key West-We walked a lot, and saw a lot. We didn' book anything here, but I wished we had. Tip: If not booking an excursion, rent a scooter or one of the little buggy type cars to tool around in because it is hot! We still had a blast! Grand Cayman: We booked a snorkel excursion. Everything is very organized and the boat picked us up at the dock. We had never snokeled before. It was so easy and the fish and the coral were so beautiful pictures do not do this justice. I felt like I was on the dicovery channel! I had so much fun. We then took a taxi($3.00) to seven mile beach and sunbathed and swam. The water is so beautiful there and we had a great time. Cozumel: This was also beautiful water, beaches, snorkeling was breathtaking here. We went to the market downtown by taxi($3.00) and shopped and ate lunch. Everything was cheap and I even bargained my way into 2 solid silver bracelets for less than the price they wanted for 1! We then sunbathed and snorkeled at the beach, which was so much fun. tips: Look at your daily planner everynight and make a schedule if you want to do as much as possible. If you enjoy great food do not take clothes that just fit! Don't waste your time going to the meetings about the ports, they are just about shopping, unless you are on this trip to buy duty free alcohol or diamonds it's a waste of time. Order the drink of the day and keep the glass. Don't over pack and over shop for this cruise you will find most everyone is casual, with the exception of formal nights. I mean t-shirts and shorts, very comfortable. Plan to stay at a hotel the night before in Galveston, that will let you leave your car for the week. We stayed at the Hilton on the seawall, and they kept our car in a lot with security and took us and our luggange by air conditioned bus to the ship. This was free. If they are booked try a smoking room, at the Hilton you wouldn't know it was a smoking room if they did'nt say so. Walk through the windjammer cafe before eating so that you can see everything they have to offer before you go through the buffet. Get a prescription from your doctor for a patch for seasickness, We own 2 boats and have been on the water alot and the first night I was so dizzy and could have gotten sick but I took dramamine and was ok, but I noticed a lot of people wearing these very small patches and enquired about them and was told that they were a prescription patch. This came on me so fast, I didn't know why I was so dizzy for so long and found out that this was seasickness. Overall: We will definatly cruise with Royal Carribean again. I would not even mind going on the Rhapsody again. Because there was so much to do that we could not do it all in 7 nights. Everyone was so friendly on this cruise that it was hard to believe. They acted like they knew you already. Our stateroom attendant was so effecient. This was by far the best money we have ever spent and will do this again!  

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Jun 13, 2004

Caribbean

I gave this cruise to my wife for Christmas. We have been married for 23 years and had never taken a cruise or vacation without the kids. This was the best thing we have ever done bar none. I do not know how it could have been better. Boarding went smooth and quickly. Everyone was helpful and friendly all week long. On this ship these people work. We never saw any of them idle. The Edelweiss dining room runs like a precision machine.

And the food!! "everywhere" on the ship cannot be beat. Hint- try a chocolate martini at the schooner bar. The shows were great. There are many activities for everyone. More than we could attend in a week. We noticed When we tendered at a port of call, we were the only ship that had our own transportation boats to and from land. We were along side two carnivale ships and they were using the (ports of call) boats to come and get them to and from the ship. Also My Nephew and his wife went on the Rhapsody 5 months ago and told us about what a wonderful time they had. They tried to book it again the week after we got back to take his Mom and Dad on their first cruise but it was booked up. So they (all 4) had to take a Carnivale from NewOrleans. They got back a week after we did and told us they all had a great time but it did not compare with the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody. We are All going again next year on the Rhapsody. It leaves out of Galveston which is also very handy,about four hours from us. Another hint we learned. Several hotels will let you leave your car there for the week free of charge. We stayed at the Hilton resort on the seawall the night before we were to depart. Cost us about 149.00 or less for the night. Great place and you leave your car there very secure for the week. Also they take your family and "all" your luggage to the ship and meet you there when you get back to bring you back free of charge. It cost 60.00 to 80.00 a week to leave your car at the dock parking areas. Then you will need a taxie to get you and your luggage to the boat. Made that 149.00 room look perty cheap to us. This Hilton is about 6 blocks from the Ship. We will do that again also. All in all this Cruise is a must do and we will do it again. We had a Great time.  

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May 23, 2004

Western Caribbean

My husband and I have cruised several times out of Galveston on Royal Caribbean, but my mother had never taken a cruise. For her 81st birthday last year in May, I booked us on a 7-day cruise aboard Rhapsody of the Seas. And she LOVED it! Afterward she told me that it was the best vacation that she had ever taken in her life—“a once-in-a-lifetime experience”, as she described it. (Although I have told her that we can go again any

time that she is ready.) Since her health is poor, I knew that a cruise would be the least strenuous and most enjoyable way for her to travel. I booked us in a Junior Suite, which was very comfortable for the two of us. (It always astonishes me that people book the smallest inside cabins and then complain about lack of space in their reviews.) Dwight, from Trinidad, was our stateroom attendant. He was always friendly and accommodating. He seemed to have a “sixth sense” about when we left the room and always had it clean and serviced by the time we returned from our meals or other outings. In the dining room we had a lovely table near one of the starboard windows. The day before Mom’s birthday, I asked Victor, the headwaiter, if he could provide something special for her to celebrate the day. For a minimal fee, a small decorated birthday cake was prepared and ready to serve at the end of our meal, and the waiters gathered to sing a very loud and enthusiastic, if not particularly tuneful, rendition of “Happy Birthday”. She later told me that it was only the second birthday cake that she has ever had. Our table service was excellent, with Pani from India as our waiter and Linus from Lithuania as our assistant waiter. I have never been disappointed with the food aboard the Rhapsody (or any other Royal Caribbean ship), probably because I have always followed the recommendations of our waiters. (Trust your waiter’s suggestions, because he knows which dishes are the best each evening.) Victor sometimes brought several dishes for us to sample if he thought that they were especially good, such as the night that, in addition to the desserts that we each ordered, he also brought mango strudel and chocolate mousse cake for us all to sample. Another night Pani brought cheesecake and baked Alaska for the table. We always ate breakfast at the Windjammer since we were both trying to limit ourselves to fruit, cereal, and yogurt, as well as a slice of the excellent, lean ham that the Rhapsody offers at breakfast. (I wonder why many of the other ships don’t have it.) For lunch we sometimes ate at the buffet and sometimes in the dining room. I found the waiters to be very accommodating with our "mix and match" requests in the dining room. We would often order a green salad (always on the lunch menu) and top it with the grilled fish, shrimp, or other seafood (also on the menu but served as an entree). Our ports of call were Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Because of my mother’s health, as well as her poor eyesight (she is legally blind but can function fairly well), I tried to choose our excursions to accommodate her limitations. At Key West we took the trolley tour of the city, and then we stopped at the Mel Fisher museum on our way back to the ship. At Georgetown, Grand Cayman, we went to the turtle farm aboard a comfortable, air-conditioned bus. Our excursion at Cozumel consisted of the Mexican Folkloric show and a tour of the San Gervasio ruins. I had suggested the show, and she wanted to see the ruins. She did enjoy them both, but she became overly tired while touring the ruins and needed to stop occasionally to rest. At home Mom often has trouble sleeping, but I kept her so busy while we were aboard the ship that she slept soundly every night. She was delighted with our table companions at dinner (two Chinese couples and a Texas couple who had cruised many times before). Although she had difficulty seeing the action at the production shows, she enjoyed the music. And she was impressed with meeting the captain at the “Welcome Back” party. In all, it was a wonderful experience for both of us. All of the staff was exceptionally accommodating and responsive to our needs (and our gratuities reflected our appreciation for their efforts). It is impossible to imagine a better vacation.  

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By Stan_CR

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Mar 28, 2004

Western Caribbean

RCL’s Rhapsody Of The Sea is indeed a fine ship. The ongoing maintenance amazed me; how can they keep it looking so good while at sea. Because of the recent shipboard viruses, I found the hand washing stations reassuring. Beware, Royal Caribbean misses no opportunity to charge additional fees. Waiting for RCL to deliver the documents a short time before departure is scary. The public areas were nicely appointed. Lots of room for quiet

privacy. Good library. I did find the pool areas too crowded. The rule about not reserving a lounge chair is not enforced and it should be. The tile around the aft indoor pool was badly in need of repair; the were shards of tile and plaster on the steps. Our cabin, aft of midship on a lower deck, was comfortable. Small, but comfortable, you really need to be good friends with your cabin mate. The shower, of course, is too small. Extra hangers are a must. The steward was invisible and omnipresent; he was good. The 2 buckets of ice each day were as welcome as the chocolates placed on the pillows. Since the cabin is small and shelf space limited, there should be fewer ship related items in the cabins...bottled water, sodas, advertisement books. One is constantly moving them aside. The food and service were better than on the NCL ship of our first cruise. We had to change dinner seating. Our first table was for 12 and we were seated with a large older group who were involved with themselves. We requested and received a smaller table and each meal afterwards was pleasant. I didn’t think I’d like assigned seating but is was nicer than “freestyle” dining. The daily rolls and breads were delightful...where all really want is soup, salad and bread. Too bad the “bread” waiter was stingy with the rolls d’jour. I feel no remorse for eating every desert every night! We took several excursions. My wife enjoyed Key West but I stayed aboard and had the ship to myself, a nice luxury. Stingray City on Grand Cayman island is a must. The snorkeling tour on Cozumel provided a full bar and great munchies. More food. The annoying things about the Rhapsody Of The Sea include the constant ship wide PA announcements. Most of them were advertising some activity that required a fee. The photographers were a nuisance, they were everywhere. The $3.00 bottled water in the cabin is a giant rip, take your own. It is more practical to have a root canal aboard the ship than play BINGO. Royal Caribbean Line misses no opportunity to get more of your money. I would sail with RCL again. Just say NO to the extra charges.

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Mar 7, 2004

Western Caribbean

My husband, myself and our 5 kids(11 to 19) just completed our first on the Rhapsody of the Seas, through the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. IT WAS GREAT! The kids all loved the activities,we never saw them unless we went looking for them. Each one did things they talked about excitedly about all the way through dinner each night, on the

ship. They really had all the kids stuff well planned and the activity directors for all the kids were really skilled and experienced with doing things will all age groups. With my 5, it is rare to find someplace they all love at the same time.   Our usual family vacation venue is camping, so we didn't have any comments from the kids about the size of the state rooms. I was really expecting smaller, to tell you the truth. There was always lots of hot water whenever we wanted to take a shower. The rooms were neat, clean and the furnishings looked almost new. Our kids' steward was certainly challanged by the 4 boys being in one room, but he rose admirally to it. He would see my husband and myself go to breakfast, check the boys room and 2 hours later and they would all still be snoring away. When the boys lost stuff, he always able to find it. The food and the service in the main dinning room was spectacular. It was alot more "gourmet" than I am used to. The review I read that said this was not a "foodie" cruise was right. There is not everything you could ever imagine to eat ,all the time. You could eat all day if you wanted to, but it would require walking around to the different areas of the ship. I thought the portions were smaller that what you get on land, but it gave us the chance to order several different things(most of which we never have had) and not feel too stuffed. The kids really loved the chocolate buffet. I liked eating in the Windjammer and watching the view of the ship moving through the water. We spent some time talking to our waiters. They are without doubt, bright, very observant and fun. There were people from every corner of the world, as the ships crew and that added to the "worldliness" of the cruise very much. I liked the Captains daily noon speech over the pa system. I found the english spoken, by lots of people for which it was not a first language, quite good. The whole ship is very elegant. There is beautiful marble, wood, brass and art, every where you look. As a kid when I read twenty thousand leagues under the sea and I imagined Capt Nemos' ship to be just like this. I can close my eyes and imaging sitting in a lounge chair watching the blue ocean race by my window.....ahhhh. The kids did all the ships board activities they could do. My husband and I went for the shore trips. Key West: Very colorful. Not my favorite place because we got there too late to do much but watch the sunset. We did go to the shipwreck museum and ripleys believe it or not. It was ok. If I had to do it again, I would just walk around. There is a "interesting" collection of street performers on the pier at sunset worth having a look at. At night it is more of an adult sort of place. Grand Cayman: WOW the beautiful water. If I didn't see if for myself I would never believe it. We used Stingray City tours for our snokeling trip. Good thing too, because the ship canceled their trip. We had to walk aways to get to the bus pick up point, but it gave us a chance to get out of the crowds and see something other than shopping. I loved it. We took the two hour, three stop trip. Let's be real here, this is not a paddle in the pool and it was choppy. I saw dozens of beautiful fish and lots of coral. At the second stop pretty soon I was the only one from the boat still in the water, wimps didn't know what they were missing. I could watch fish all day. Sting ray City sand bar was the last stop. Really cool, these sting rays are huge. I was the first in the water with the captain of the boat. He had a bag of squid to feed the rays with and the bag broke, boy there were rays all over us. Sort of like really big,eager,sloppy,funny looking puppies looking for a handout. Ray skin is very smooth feeling and they are used to people. My youngest son stayed on the boat and watched. Even my daughter gave it a go. This was a British colony so it gave me a start when we got a ride to the boat in the bus, they drive on the other side of the road. They do zoom around and I probably missed a site or two covering my eyes when we passed on the right, but that was just reflex from driving differently in the US. They didn't really go that fast and the roads are sort of narrow. The kids were ok with this trip. My husband and I loved it. At lunch we sent the kids back to the ship and snokeled the wreck right out in the bay where the ships anchor. Nice. Cozumel: If you only do one thing ,DO THIS! The water, the people, the scenery is beautiful. Everything you may want to do is a quick taxi ride away.(and I do mean QUICK, the taxi's seem to have some sort of unspoken competition among themselves to see who can get there first) We should have dragged the kids with us, but they chose to remain on the ship because they had stayed up all night. We when to Chankanaab park. If you only go one place in cozumel, go here. There are a dozen things to do, or just sit under a palm umbrella and look at the water. My husband and I went snokeling..of course. The fish are beautiful. There were hundreds of them. There is more coral and sponges here than in grand cayman. The fish have been fed and they come up and inspect you to see if they are going to get anything. They don't seem to care if you are there otherwise. They will look right into your mask. The fish were bigger than in grand cayman. It is just like an aquarium. I spent an hour watching a cleaning station in a coral formation, where lots of other fish stop to get their parasites and such cleaned off by the small wrasse fish. After this we went horse back riding with palmitas ranch. We took the 2 1/2 trip to the caves and temple ruins. It was just my husband, myself and our oldest son (and guide of course). We had the jungle to ourselves. It was beautiful( I say that alot....) we saw iguanas, birds and butterflys. The little village that surrounds the temple ruins was very quaint and quiet. There was a catholic church built next to the temple ruins. You can go in the maya caves, no railing, no glass, no official stuff in the way of looking at it. Oh yeah! We returned to the ship, salty, sandy, sunburned and smelling horsey, but we had one heck of a day. Summary: This was a great family trip. The kids had a blast and the hubby and I had lots of time to ourselves. The food was fresh and well prepared. The crew , words cannot describe their professionalism. After having done most of the cooking and cleaning around home for 20 odd years it was a pleasure to have it done for me for a while. The explorations were the highlite of my cruise time. Observations: I don't think I would take a kiddo under 7 or so because you are not going to get enough time to yourself, although the daycare looked really good, how is that different for them from what they (kid) do everyday anyway. It took several hours to get on board, we were so excited , the time passed quickly. It also took lots of time(5hours from get up to drive away in the car) to diembark and go thru US Customs. Big deal, the kids had all tried to pull all-nighters with their friends and just slept in the lounge chairs. Port Trips: If you are really, really adventurous, do the short near by trips yourself(less than a half hour away in case you have to walk back). I don't speak spanish but I had no trouble, the local folks were friendly and try really hard to figure out what you are saying. If you want to go someplace over an hour away, like going to Cancun from Cozumel, book thru the ship. Our adopted dinner time family went to Cancun and was late. The ship had to wait for them because they had booked thru the ship  .(the excursion was an hour late) Downer: All that shop, shop, shop, shop, shop crap. I don't live to shop. All the announcements and handouts were about shopping, diamonds and duty free booze. Fine,great if that is what you like, but why go half way round the world just to shop for stuff you can get at home. There was always some "seminar" about shopping for something. The piers were covered with expensive goodie shops, yech. You'd think by the advertisements that was the only reason we were there. My souveniers are a ton of pictures, sea glass from grand cayman ,some grand cayman currency ,all the day to day activity cards from the ship, two hand made glasses,from the ship with the royal caribbean logo pressed into them ( I felt they were indicative of the quality and personal service of the whole cruise, unique and handmade) and the fact that my kids are going to talk about this for the rest of their lives. Carpe Cruise

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Feb 8, 2004

Western Caribbean

Since this is my first cruise and my wife's second cruise we had a pleasurable experience with the Rhapsody of the Seas and we hope that our input would help those who are interested in booking with the Rhapsody of the Sea. ARRIVAL: We arrived to port in Galveston and was not sure we were at the right place until we physically saw the ship. The

port was smack dab right in the middle of an industrial area, not the kind of place where you would expect a cruise ship to be. Getting to the terminal was worse. We waited a good 30 minutes to travel 1 mile to unload. Apparently, the terminal is being reconstructed so the temporary teminal looks like it used to be a warehouse. There's a hugh cement producing facility off to one side and piles and piles of rubble everywhere. Standing aboard the cruise ship later and looking out across the port, it looked like you were standing in downtown Baghdad. The terminal is not able to support the large number of people coming on and coming off the ship at the same time. THE ROOM We were on Deck 7, room number 7573. It was an inside room and we really didn't care. The room was spacious for our needs, the bathroom was very small, but again, based on our needs it was very accommodating. However, concerning the bathroom, if you plan on creating a "stink", I would strongly suggest using a public restroom because due to the size of the room, it lingered around for a while. I am not trying to be funny here, but to warn you if you plan on staying in your room for a while. Our room attendant, Reggie Bougondeau from the Dominica was awesome. The room was kept clean, the bed was turned down every night and there was always a different towel creation on our bed. He did a superb job. FOOD What can I say? I gained six pounds during the week. Food was everywhere and it was GREAT! Our waiter, Edmund and asst. waiter Vester were very nice, very helpful and went out of their way to accommodate our needs. My wife was on a Disney cruise and she said by the second night, the waiters would know what type of drink she wanted and would serve it without asking you first. Here, every night they would ask what we would like to drink and sometimes they would place it with the wrong person. Our glasses would be almost empty before they would come and refill. On the last night, our head waiter was very pissed at our waiters due to the lack of service they were giving. PORTS: The first stop was Key West. We took the trolley for the tour of the city. It was sunny and 75 degrees out. It was nice if we could have arrived earlier in the day instead of getting there at 4pm to midnight. There was so much to do. We watched the sun set at Mallory Square and stopped at alot of the local shops. If you see a local guy doing a juggling show on a unicycle, I would highly recommend seeing it, it was very entertaining. From my understanding, the previous two weeks, the ship was not able to tender at Grand Cayman. Fortunately for us, we were able to tender and went snorkeling. The temperature was 85 degrees and mostly sunny. The water was so clear. Afterwards, my wife and I ate at an Italian restaurant called "Cassanova". It was very good. We could see it from where we were snorkeling. We bought a ton of rum cakes from Tortuga and Blackbeard and of course lots of alcohol!!!! Cozumel was okay. We saw the Tulum Ruins. The Ruins itself was very beautiful due to its location along the sea. However, the time it took us to go there and back was longer than the actual tour itself. It was 85 degrees and cloudy. ENTERTAINMENT We saw a show every night. The Broadway productions put on by the ship were very good. The dancers and singers did an awesome job. The ship also brought on acts as well. The magic show of "Laraf" was my least favorite. To me, most of their show was doing talking than doing actual magic tricks. The cruise director Chris Anderson didn't sound very enthusiastic when addressing the crowd. I think I fell asleep a couple of times when he was talking. My wife and I participated in the "Love and Marriage" show and were promised a copy of the show on Saturday. Saturday night came and we still did not get the copy. We contacted the Purser's desk and Chris wrote a letter back and said due to technical difficulties a tape could not be created. It would have been nice to be told that instead of us having to inquire first about it. However, we got a free copy of the "Cruise in Review" so I am not too sore about it. There was something always going on the ship. We saw the Belly Flopping contest and that was quite funny! OTHER STUFF The Solarium was cool. I was surprised to jump in the pool and find out it was saltwater! I didn't bother me and it found it quite enjoyable to float in there. No kids were allowed in there. The decor was of Egyptian with hieroglyphics on the walls. There was soothing music playing. It was one of the most favorite parts of the ship for me. DEPARTURE We left the terminal around 10:30 am. However, getting out of there was just as bad as getting in there. People crowding outside waiting for their rides. Again, the terminal is just not capable of holding that many people at one time. Tempers were starting to rise and one family almost lost it. I would wait until construction is done before going back to that dump. All in all, being my first cruise and my wife's second. We were satisfied with our experience. If given the chance we would take another Royal Carribean cruise but not out of Galveston. I would give this cruise and eight of out 10.

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Feb 8, 2004

Western Caribbean

The cruise itself was wonderful. I just wanted to warn people of the shop called Inches of gold thats inside the ship. We bought a 18kt gold plated chain and necklace for over 100.00. It started turning colors in one week. It was a total waste of money.  

By Dan_CR

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Jan 25, 2004

Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

My fiancé and I (both in our mid 30’s) traveled on our first cruise aboard the Rhapsody on Jan 25, 2004. We booked a category C Superior Ocean View Suite. The embarkation was very quick, due in large part to RCCL having a separate embarkation line for Suite passengers. Parking is available at the Galveston pier for $60. The ship itself was

very well kept and I’ll attempt to break down the cruise by using the following categories: Room – The room is smaller than the pictures present, yet, it is still a decent size. I strongly suggest spending the extra money if possible and booking a balcony suite. Having the extra space and the balcony to relax or spend some private time is well worth it. We had some people we met on the cruise, who booked an inside room, visit us and they couldn’t stop saying what a difference the balcony/space makes. However there were some problems with the room. On the first evening, we went to bed after 1AM, only to be awoken by a screaming 2 year old in the room next door. Thankfully after speaking with the purser, we were able to move to another suite down the hall. I don’t know who would bring a 2 year old with them on a cruise. If you are considering doing this for whatever reason, please reconsider! Aside from the screaming 2 year old, the rooms are pretty soundproof, although I would suggest looking at ship map to ensure you are not under the swimming pool or above the lounges. The other major problem with the room was smoking. People on both sides of us smoked on their balconies, which definitely brings down the enjoyment of your balcony for non-smokers. RCCL should have non-smoking rooms aboard the ship. Some tips: bring an alarm clock, shoe organizer, and any other space saving/organizing things you can think of. Food – What can I say? There was a lot of it. Available 24 hours a day. The dining room food and service was excellent. The Windjammer café is very tasty and convenient. Late night options included the Solarium café (pizza, hamburgers) or room service. Room service was good but it takes 45 minutes after you place your order. Drinks such as Iced tea, Lemonade, Tap Water (purified) and Orange Juice were free; Sodas, Booze and Bottled Water are extra. Entertainment/Activities aboard the Ship – The nightly entertainment shows at the theatre were very well done. Other daily entertainment aboard the ship was spotty at best. After the first couple of days, bingo, art auctions and assorted pool games get old pretty fast, and I don’t do shuffleboard or karaoke. The spa is overly expensive especially when you consider the treatments are not that great. The ship does have a decent exercise room and there is a jogging track. Ports of Call – The Ports of Call the ship visited were Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. The good news: Cozumel was excellent! We did not book an excursion through the cruise line. We rented a jeep at the pier. By talking with locals we were able to find Paradise Island Beach, which is brand new, very clean and provides free non-motorized water sports as well as rock climbing. At the beach, we booked a snorkeling tour of Palancar Reef aboard a glass bottom boat. The tour was simply awesome as the guides provided free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks during a 20-minute ride to the reef, provided the snorkeling equipment and instruction. We snorkeled the reef for 1 hour in which we literally saw thousands of fish. The trip to Key West was so-so. You don’t arrive at Key West until @5PM EST and you leave by 12AM EST. Key West is a nice but peculiar town with plenty of shops and historical sites along the main drag but not an abundance of other activity due to both the time of arrival and the fact Key West is not known for water activities. A minor annoyance, due to it’s timing there was not time to eat dinner aboard the ship. Now we get to Grand Cayman………..Or not! The ship did not go to Grand Cayman. The captain informed the passengers that the waters surrounding Grand Cayman were too rough and the harbormaster was not letting us tender. This was a MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT. We booked the cruise largely to go to Grand Cayman, not to spend another day at sea, watching pool games and playing bingo. To make matters worse, once we got to Cozumel the next day, we were informed by people aboard other cruise lines that they were went to Grand Cayman the prior morning and had absolutely no problem with tendering. The Captain was caught in a lie, which he tried to talk his way out of during a passenger/captain information meeting, which was held the next day. We also found out that the Rhapsody had canceled the Grand Cayman visit on the 2 cruises prior to ours. The captain informed us that RCCL doesn’t want to take the risk other cruise lines do, and therefore will be canceling Grand Cayman as a destination. Due to the Grand Cayman incident, I probably will not travel with RCCL again. Aside from that, the cruise was a good vacation and I would recommend taking a cruise vacation to people who ask.

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Jan 25, 2004

Western Caribbean

Grand Suite Cabin: 8516 Hmm, the air is salty and the frozen drinks are circulating the pool area as I sit on the top deck writing the beginning of my cruise review for “The Rhapsody of the Sea’s”. The cruise began on January 25, 2004 from The Port of Galveston. The itinerary included Key West, Georgetown (Grand Cayman’s) and Cozumel

with several a few days at sea sprinkled into the schedule. The following is my take on what I observed during the cruise: DEPARTURE EMBARKATION FROM GALVESTON (Sunday): It was utterly amazing how fast the port staff processed me through. I will say that I booked a Grand Suite (Cabin 8516) and had check-in privileges which included a separate line from the general boarding line. So, I walked right up to the counter and was on the ship and in my suite within 10-15 minutes. I traveled alone so I bypassed the boarding pictures that are taken. If you don’t care for the photo’s you can go around that queue. Once on the ship it was a direct beeline for the 8th deck. I was able to board around 2:30. Unfortunately, my bags did not get to my cabin until 5:30 but since the first night on the ship is a casual night, I was already appropriately dressed. I took the time to checkout the features of the suite and to make my spa appointments for the entire week. Once I finished all that it was time to depart which was exactly 5:00PM as scheduled. I stayed on my veranda until I could barely see land. It was really awesome. About that time my cabin attendant (Leslie Ann) came by to introduce herself. We had a nice chat and I explained that she probably wouldn’t be hearing from me that often as I was pretty much a low maintenance traveler. However she was always nearby and anytime you left the room it was immediately made up when you came back. I tested her one day and left a hand towel on the bathroom floor. When I returned 15 minutes later it was gone and a new one was in its place. However, she did not come in if you left the “Do Not Disturb” sign in the door. After Leslie Ann left I unpacked. My shirts that had been recently starched at the cleaners were somewhat wrinkled so I hung them in the shower for about 10 minutes with the hot steam and they all came out looking perfect. I would have sent them out for pressing but wanted to try this little trick which seemed to work fine. By the time I unpacked it was time for dinner. STATEROOM: As I mentioned I booked into one of the Grand Suites which are on the 8th deck. I read several reviews before departing that made the “Rhapsody of the Sea’s” seem like a Holiday Inn. Whoever posted that ad was sadly mistaken! My suite was absolutely beautiful and VERY clean. I’m hard to impress when it comes to aesthetics and I was impressed. The bathroom was awesome and really large. I’m not sure what they were doing to the bathroom but it always smelled extremely clean and fresh. The furniture was all comfortable as was the bed. The designers used common sense with space that would normally not be used. Meaning, there were many cubbyholes to store personal items in corner shelves and the closets. The veranda had plenty of seating and tables for dining if needed. Oh, and not that I was in my room much but when I wanted some quiet time they had “Retro TV” on the television. It was a really cool station with old television shows like, “Flipper”, “The Patty Duke Show”, “The Jefferson’s”, “Charlie’s Angels” and many shows you might see on “TVLAND”. It was really fun while getting ready for dinner or watching some TV before bed. As I said, the bathroom was really great. Beautiful inlaid tile flooring and plenty of towels, bath products and tons of storage space for personal items. For those like me who are tall (I’m 6’4”) be careful when you get in the shower…it’s a really low ceiling and I actually forgot one day and bashed my head. THE CRUISE: The ship departed Galveston for Key West and was not scheduled to arrive until 3PM on Tuesday. This was one of the things that attracted me to this itinerary (outside the fact that I live in Houston and could depart from Galveston). I really enjoy the time on the ship and care little about the ports of call. That evening for dinner I met my table mates for dinner. As I approached my table I noticed that it was a table for 8. There were already 4 people seated. The two couples were traveling together and well into their middle to late 70’s (I’m 40). I didn’t have an issue with the difference in age had they been engaging. The entire time we ate dinner they complained about getting stuck with a late seating versus the main seating earlier in the evening. They had asked to switch but the main seating was full and couldn’t accommodate 4 people. So, as the dinner continued I noticed that my table companions didn’t even look up the entire time we ate. I also made note that the other 3 seats were still empty and apparently the five of us were going to be it for a week. After kindly excusing myself after dinner I hightailed it over to the dining room supervisor who was more than happy to reassign me for the following day. He did a great job! The following day at dinner I was THRILLED with my new table mates and we all really enjoyed each other’s company. The first stop on the itinerary was Key West which was just great. It was so convenient getting around and we bar hoped up and down the main street (Duvall Street). We docked around 3PM and had until 11:30 (sailing at Midnight). We ended up getting back on the ship around 9PM. To sum Key West up, it’s definitely worth hanging out there. We left Key West and were scheduled to be at sea another 1.5 days for Georgetown, Grand Cayman’s. However, the water was really rough and in fact I noticed a lot of green and sad faces walking around. Captain Charles announced that it was possible we wouldn’t be able to tender into Georgetown if the harbor master didn’t approve our visit because of the rough water. At 6AM the day we were supposed to arrive (Thursday) Captain Charles announced that in fact we were not approved and they had already started heading for Cozumel. A lot of people were bummed as they had scheduled a shore excursion and was looking forward to the fun things Georgetown has to offer. The Purser’s Desk was quick to credit all SeaPass accounts. So, we ended up having an additional day at sea (which to me was awesome). We were now scheduled to arrive Cozumel the evening of Thursday. We arrived at 8:15 PM and was allowed to go ashore by 9PM. The ship basically emptied out after the late seating for dinner. Everyone went into town to party at the various places just outside the gates to the pier. Needless to say they were a lot of hangovers the following day as well. I chose to stay on the ship as it was “Retro 80’s” night in the Viking Lounge. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of people on board so it was pretty empty. I enjoyed listening to the music as I grew up in the 80’s. The following morning (Friday) we were still docked in Cozumel so it gave everyone the entire day to do their shore excursions, shop and have a lot of fun. It was really busy while we were docked that day as RCL’s “Mariner of the Sea’s” pulled up next to us and TOWERED over the Rhapsody. It was beautiful. Then Carnival’s “Conquest” (which I believe is their largest ship) pulled up as well as Princess’ “Grand Princess”…they were all beautiful. The Rhapsody was sort of swallowed up by the other larger ships but was still EXTREMELY beautiful. I read another review once where the reviewer said they were really proud to be on the Rhapsody and couldn’t figure out why they were having that feeling. I must say I felt the same. Other than getting off the ship to buy some cologne and take some pictures I was on the ship for the rest of the day as I really enjoy the quiet time while everyone else is gone. However, the buzz was all the excursions were great and I didn’t hear any complaints as I made a point to ask a lot of people. We departed promptly at 6PM to head back to Galveston. SPA: I booked 3 separate spa appointments. The first was the salt scrub and the full body massage. It was really awesome but I had to admit, I’ve had better and for a lot less money. It was $160.00 plus I tipped my therapist $30.00 because they truly do work hard. The second treatment I had was a facial which was really nice. The facialist who did my facial advised me my skin looked great but I had some very slight dark circles which can be caused by cigarette smoke in bars, even second hand smoke. Then a day after I had my facial with her we were in Cozumel and I saw her walking down the pier with a big ole cigarette hanging out of her mouth. I thought it was really funny for some reason. The third treatment was the day docked in Cozumel and a last minute booking. I booked one of their specials where you can pick two 25-minute treatments for $79.00. So, I booked the Alpha Capsule and a neck, scalp and shoulder massage. The Alpha Capsule is supposed to relax you so much that 25 minutes in this enclosed capsule is equivalent to a 3-hour nap. What they didn’t tell you is it got up to 114 degrees inside and I about went out of my mind and didn’t feel well rested as advertised. The massage was of course really nice. CREW: I simply can’t say enough about the entire crew. Everyone was wonderful and couldn’t do enough for you. One of the things I noticed that really impressed me was many of the crew remembered your name if they had met you previously. Additionally, they always paraphrased sentences in a conversation and used your name freely in which made me feel like they were listening. It was quite noticeable and I heard other passengers who appreciated this as well. The dining room staff was particularly attentive and if they heard even the minimal dissatisfaction about something being served they were right there trying to make it right. FOOD: Frankly I’m not going to write much about the food because I had no complaints. I will say that if you want 3 awesome meals a day go to the main dining room and eat as I didn’t have a bad meal in there the whole week. Plus, they will seat you with other people on the cruise and it gives you a chance to chat. One day I met a group of “Quilters” who organized a vacation together and they all brought their sewing machines on the ship to do some projects while at sea. RCL accommodated them by allowing the machines to all be setup in once of their large conference spaces…pretty cool. They were a hoot. Anyway, back to the food…I didn’t care much for the Solarium food which was basically pizza, burgers and hot dogs. The burgers were pretty good but that was about it, oh and the veggie burgers were awesome. The Windjammer buffet was decent but I usually just ate their if I wanted a salad or some of their awesome frozen yogurt for an afternoon treat. I ordered room service for breakfast a few times which was really good. I liked the strong coffee. Plus, I used this service as sort of a wake up call as they call 10 minutes before arriving with you tray. So I chose the earliest breakfast time (7AM) which ensured I had a full day. The surf and turf on Thursday evening was great. If you dine during the main seating at 6:30 PM you will only be allowed to have 2 lobster tails but the late seating got unlimited tails and our table of ten pretty much made fools of themselves! The chocolate buffet they did early in the week was fab and I think I almost slipped into a sugar coma that night. SHIPSHAPE FITNESS CENTER: Superb!! Enough classes and variety for all ages and levels of fitness. I also enjoyed running on the top deck running track. It was a pretty awesome feeling running while the ship was sailing alone in the middle of no where. DRINK PRICES: I drink Bacardi and Coke and they ran $5.75 for each which I didn’t think was bad. They have endless specialty drinks ranging in price and all were really great. VIKING LOUNGE: Frankly, not the greatest but after you meet a few folks and hangout it gets better. The music isn’t catered properly to the people who are actually in the club. Meaning, most of the people in the club were younger and ready to dance but the music wasn’t always the best for dancing. It was pretty much like a wedding reception everynight but, it was fun and we managed to make our own party. The first night in the “Viking Lounge” they had a singles night at 11PM. It was a TOTAL bust as there were very few single people on the ship. Since I was traveling by myself I included myself into the singles crowd. However, the following night was PACKED and I attributed the first nights lack of energy to people being tired from traveling and getting settled in. Monday night they did a 70’s night and it was a blast. I met a ton of people that evening and two guys I ended up hanging with for the rest of the week. CHAMPAGNE BAR: Needless to say I spent time here every evening right before dinner. They serve a champagne cocktail called, “The Classic” which was amazing. It included champagne, bitters some sugar and lemon…very refreshing. Watch it though each one of those babies ran $9.14. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Since I decided not to do any shore excursions this trip I don’t have much to write on the topic. However, I heard from several people that the Dolphin swim was amazing in Cozumel. You actually get to swim with them for up to an hour whereas the same excursion in the Grand Cayman’s is a bust as you only get to touch them for a couple minutes. I don’t believe I heard any complaints about the excursions. FOR GAYS AND LESBIANS: It’s really funny to watch all the gay men cluster together within the first day. Usually it happens the first night in the nightclub. As I said I was traveling by myself so I just made it a point to go and introduce myself to most of the people I thought were gay. Within a day we were all hanging out and it was really fun. I’m not hip about the idea of “all gay” cruises as there is only one word to describe to many gay men on a ship…”DRAMA”! This itinerary was nice because there was a really nice mix of people. In addition, the passengers and crew I encountered were really gay friendly and people at my table were also really fun and I never got the impression it was an issue. My partner did not sail with me on this cruise but I met some really nice gay couples and a lesbian woman who was a real blast. DISEMBARKATION: The disembarkation was very orderly and there didn’t seem to be any confusion. Since all cabins are released by a colored coded process it’s hard to go wrong. Since 9/11 all passengers are required to pass through U.S. Customs but it only took a couple seconds per passenger. Once in the terminal I had my bags and was out front in just a couple minutes where I picked up my ride back to Houston. CLOSING: As the car pulled away from The Rhapsody I was actually upset and I had utterly enjoyed myself. I’ve traveled all over the world and have even cruised once before but I was really impressed with that ship and the service. I highly recommend it to anyone. In fact, my partner and I have decided to book on the March 21st sailing of the Rhapsody. This time we are going up another notch to an “Owners Suite” which should be really nice. I went on and on about the Grand Suite but there was a really great deal advertised for an Owners Suite on the March 21st sailing so we decided to go for it. For those sailing during that time please let me know so we can meet up for a drink.

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Nov 30, 2003

Western Caribbean

Our first impression wasn't great, seeing the big pile of rubble that is Galveston docks, but it got better once we got on the ship. The Rhapsody in general is ok, but it needs some new paint here and there, also the carpet and mats are looking old. We got to our room which was on deck2 inside. There would be 4 people in the room but it worked out great. Our

room attendant Maria was awesome, My son loved the animal sculptures that she left in our room every night. We had the early sitting for dinner, Geraldine and Patrick couldn't have done anymore than they did to make our cruise better as they were both excellent and very professional. The food was good, but the salads lacked something, also so did the royal steak. What is a royal steak? We all enjoyed the appetizers and deserts the most. The food in the windjammer was great and that's probably where the extra few pounds came from. My son loved the activities at the adventure ocean club, in fact he never wanted to leave. Key West was ok, but I didnt like Grand Cayman, as it was too busy (there were 6 ships in port at the same time). Cozumel was great. We spent our time on the beach. Overall my experience was all positive except for the smell of sewage wafting around our room first thing in the morning and the bingo session we played that was ruined when someone was paid out on an incorrect call when it states the rules on the back of the cards, All the guy would say was that we shouldn't be spoilsports. Overall, though 8 out of 10.

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Nov 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our fourth cruise on an RCCL (RCI) vessel. The Rhapsody of the Seas was surprisingly clean. We expected her to be less than superb given that the port of Galveston is not one of the premium ports for RCCL. She was clean and well maintained. Embarkation. We started our embarkation at approximately 11:45 a.m. We were onboard in about 20 minutes.

We had to get duplicate keys to our rooms and that added about five extra minutes. Smooth getting on. Day 1 Departure. This day saw us departing Galveston just after a cold front passed through at 5:00 p.m. We left behind the Carnival Conquest. It was windy (35mph) on the forepeak and cold. The wind was driving the waves and thus the vessel was rolling a bit in the 12-15 foot swells. Later that night, the Captain announced we were in 20-22 foot swells and the vessel was rolling a bit more, but we were fine. I do know a few people either did not come to dinner or left in the middle of dinner. I enjoyed the rolling and was rocked to sleep. Day 2 at Sea. The seas had fallen back to 10-15 feet and the sky was sunny. There was still a bit of wind and it was cool, but no big deal. There were plenty of games and goings on throughout the vessel. We walked, played shuffleboard, slept, ate, played trivia, ate some more, and had a good day. The Solarium's food is below par for me. It was like eating at a Friday night high school football game. Hot, filling, but little else. The Windjammer Cafe was better. Food was hot, tasty and satisfying. There was nothing out of the ordinary. It was just good wholesome food. Our dinner was at the main seating. We enjoyed our meal. Very good quality, good selection, and we drove our poor brand new assistant waiter nuts. He is better trained after a week with us. Thanks NuNu. Anroy our waiter was excellent. Handled the trip with ease. Children, due to the temperature of the outside air, invaded the Solarium pool. Day 3. Key West. Sorry, been there done that. Key West is the type of port that should be deleted and a port such as Roatan added. Arrival at Key West was at 3:00 p.m. Daylight gone by 5:30 p.m. …and me want to go home. We went to Ripley's Believe It or Not.... my daughter has a desire to go to them all (76 more to go). If you like drinking and loud music, there are a lot of small bars near the port that will entertain you. We returned to the ship in time for dinner. The ship left at midnight. Nice lights as we sail away, sail away, sail away. Day 4 At Sea. Nice day at sea. Sunny, warm, cruising the coast of Cuba. Leisurely day. Spent most of the daylight hours listening to books on tape. Talked to my son for a few hours. Played shuffleboard, walked around, listened to music, played trivia, and took a nap, just a lazy day. Sweet. Formal lunch. Good selection, good food, nice company. Day 5 Grand Cayman. We departed on the 2nd tender to go to our personal diving trip with Absolute Divers. Mark did a good job. The water on the north shore was not cooperating and the swells were running 4-6 feet and we stayed on Stingray City for two dives. My daughter had a great time. We played with the rays, a green moray, saw lobsters, and a lot of fish. Returned to downtown, tendered out, cleaned up and came back to town to shop for trinkets. Day 6 Cozumel, Mexico. Again, we had arranged our own personal dive trip and chartered a six-pack for diving and snorkeling from Blue Angel Diving. Great dive. We went to Columbia Wall, Columbia Shallows and the Star Fish Flats near Columbia Shallows. Beautiful water. We saw turtles, Eagle Rays, lobster, a sleeping nurse shark, barracuda, and a large assortment of beautiful corals, sponges, and fish. Thanks to the Blue Angel crew. We will be back on a diving trip. The water was rough on departure from Cozumel. That night the seas climbed again to 15-18 feet. There was a mechanical noise at the bow. Day 7 At sea. Gray and dreary day. Spent time catching up on sleep, listening to books on tape, eating, snoozing, and then packing. Entertainment. We had four comics, the Rhapsody not ready for prime time dancers and singers, the Gauchos and a lot of fun. The main showroom was very good. We enjoyed the acts of the comics, comic jugglers, and comic singer. They were all very entertaining. The Rhapsody Singers and Dancers put a lot of energy into their shows and were entertaining. The audio was a bit overpowering from a musician’s standpoint and overwhelmed the singers. I do not know if this was by plan or just trying to pump up the volume. The drinks in the showroom were very good. We really enjoyed Eric in the Schooner Bar for Kamikaze Karaoke. Not for the faint of heart and at times an adult themed show. Worth the ticket price and was more fun than normal adult karaoke. Rhapsody Mania was OK. We got to play in several trivia games and the Majority Rules. The pools were well used. Good music on the pool deck. The Brazilian musicians in the Champagne Terrace Bar kept my daughter entertained. She was amused at their language and the way they were singing. Good band. The Viking Crown Lounge was under utilized. I don't know why. Casino was in full swing every chance it could be running. There were too many novice blackjack players to make it worth staying on a table. No one was playing the odds and too many people were taking hits with the dealer showing 3, 4, and 5. Saved my money for better things. The disembarkation procedures were somewhat more formal with everyone having to go through immigration. We were near the end of the getting off groups and were still off by 9:50 a.m. We had a good time, enjoyed the trip and will be taking our next one on the Golden Princess in July 2004. We will return to the Rhapsody or another RCCL vessel. We signed onto this cruise with just four weeks to go to cruise day. Food. As mentioned above, the Solarium Grill was not my favorite. The Windjammer cafe had good breakfasts. Omelet’s to order, greasy bacon.... I like it that way... Cereal, milk, hard waffles, good French toast, average pancakes, ham, and bananas. Lunch in the Windjammer was also good. A mixture of entrées, tacos, sandwiches and wraps to order, good macadamia nut cookies, and good desserts. Frozen Yogurt and lemonade. We did not eat dinner in the Windjammer, as we were not going to miss dining in the formal dining room. The appetizers were all good. I usually always had two. Something and a soup. The roasted garlic soup was very good. The rolls are a bit hard. The cornbread was very good. We enjoyed the Caesar salad. There were always at least two fish dishes, pasta, meat, and usually a poultry dish as well. The Royal steaks were a bit tough. We were eating them medium and medium rare and they were still tough. I am not a fish eater, but I tried a few fish dishes and they were ok. My son got into eating shrimp cocktail every night and while they were not on the menu, they always appeared. Thanks to Hank and Anroy. The desserts were all good. Every one of them. All that we ordered...all that we tried.... yea, you can order more than one. My favorite, Bananas Foster. Ask for just about anything and you will get it. One of the boys sitting next to us put away five lobster tails...I told Anroy he could do it. Our wait staff was excellent. Even NuNu got into it once he figured we were not going to roast him. Herbert my room attendant did a jam up job in the room. Thanks. Accommodations. Our room was 4524. It was an outside cabin near the starboard bow. It was good. The bed was a bit hard. There was some mechanical noise in the high seas, but it did not bother me. It did bother my wife. There was some smoking odor in the hallway. We have been told that most ships allow smoking on the starboard side, but not the port side. Check that out before you cruise. See you at sea. If you can't laugh at yourself, don't get up from your seat. "Bob"  

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Nov 16, 2003

Western Caribbean

I just finished washing dinner dishes. It’s the typical routine, along with such entertaining activities as paying bills, doing laundry, cleaning house...the sort of fun stuff that’s just a part of everyday living. But for one incredible week this past November, that routine got tossed overboard, as my wife, Susan, and I experienced our very first cruise on board Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas. You know, we’ve all

heard the phrase “get away from it all.” It’s become a cliché. But I can honestly say, Royal Caribbean actually made it happen. For seven days, the world went away, and we enjoyed the first vacation in recent memory where we’ve actually been able to get away from all the pressures and interruptions of today’s world. No cell phones. No email, unless we really felt like checking it. No co-workers hounding us with “where’s my stuff?” No pressure. It was a week for us to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted to do it. And it’s a week we’ll never forget. I’m going to take a few moments to describe to you what our experience on Rhapsody of the Seas was like. If you’ve never cruised before, I hope you’ll find this educational and exciting. If you’re a veteran (like us, now!), I hope this article will bring back a few memories and kindle your anticipation for your next cruising vacation. The whole thing started off back in March of 2003, when I got to talking with longtime friend – and Cruises, Inc. cruise agent – Kyle Kiper about this cruise group we’d heard about. Certainly, it’s something we’d always wanted to do, but given the kind of prices we were seeing in brochures, it just didn’t seem feasible. Well…first off, I’ll let you in on a little secret: having a good cruise agent can make the difference between a so-so vacation and a dream vacation. The first thing Kyle did was to offer us a great price: about $550 per person for a seven day Caribbean cruise! $550? That’s not bad, we thought. And considering we were still seven months out from the cruise, we thought…why not? Surely, we can get that paid between now and then. So, out went the deposit, and we were booked on Rhapsody of the Seas! Slowly, the anticipation began to build. We hooked up on a website exclusively for this cruise group, and began getting to know the people we’d be cruising with…not the least of which were three other Cruises, Inc. cruise agents: Rich Lewis, Jodie Real and Tracy Berry. As experienced cruisers, all of the Cruises, Inc. agents in our group proved more than helpful, providing everything from answers to first-time cruiser questions to arranging hotel accomodations on the night before the cruise, transfers to and from the airport and a pre-cruise party right on the beach that was plenty of fun! Finally, the day came, we boarded the Continental Express jet, and off we went to Galveston, home port of the Rhapsody. After a night at the hotel, we set out to the pier on Sunday, November 16th to board our ship. Amazingly enough, despite the large number of people waiting to get aboard, the check-in process was remarkably fast. We waited in line for maybe 15 or 20 minutes to get to a check-in attendant, who checked our ID, issued and activated our SeaPass cards, and just like that, we stepped aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas! Now, if you’ve never stood beside a modern cruise ship such as the Rhapsody, you’re in for a bit of a shock. It’s like standing next to a floating, multi-story hotel! It is absolutely huge…which is all the more astounding considering it’s half the size of the newest Royal Caribbean ships, the Voyager class. But step inside, and prepare to be amazed. The central area of the ship, called, rather logically, the Centrum, is a vast, open lobby five decks high – elegantly appointed with brass and glass, artwork and sculptures, sweeping marble staircases, inviting lounges, lovely glass elevators, and at the top, a clear canopy that lets the sunlight stream into the ship. Below, on Decks 2 and 3, are many of the cabins. Deck 4 is the lowest deck of the Centrum, and also features the Champagne Lounge and the lower level of the 2-deck Edelweiss Dining Room. Deck 5 is where you’ll find the Purser’s Desk, as well as the Shore Excursions Desk, the Casino Royale, the lower level of the 2-deck Broadway Melodies Theater and the upper level of the Edelweiss. On Deck 6, you’ll find the Broadway Melodies balcony, various ship’s stores, the Moonlight Bay Lounge, the Schooner Bar and all the way aft, the Shall We Dance Lounge. Decks 7 and 8 are more berthing decks, but also include the Library, Card Room and Internet kiosks. Moving above the Centrum, Deck 9 is the first true topside deck, featuring a large swimming pool, plenty of chaise lounges for sunbathing, the Solarium and the glass-enclosed Windjammer Café. Deck 10 is the sports deck, featuring a jogging track, shuffleboard, the Shipshape gymnasium and areas for the kids, as well. And let me paint a picture for you here: the gangway onto Rhapsody is located on Deck 1, and you walk straight across from the pier. No stairs to reach the ship. So, when you’re resting along the rails of Deck 10, you’re nine stories up. Imagine the views…and you wouldn’t be wrong. One deck up from that is the glass-enclosed Viking Crown lounge, a Royal Caribbean staple, situated toward the aft of the ship, and providing sweeping views of the vessel and everything around her. It’s a great place to relax, people watch and have a drink. And at night, it turns into a hot, happening nightclub. But there would be plenty of time later to look around, so we went first to our cabin, an interior stateroom located on Deck 2. For two people, an interior cabin is, well, a bit cozy. But it’s sufficient, featuring two twin beds that can be put together to form a queen size bed, a small sofa or love seat, a small table, plenty of storage, including a dresser and mirror, nightstand and closet, a small television, telephone and of course, the bathroom (alright, the head…whatever). Royal Caribbean lists these as being between 137-144 square feet. After dropping off our carry-on luggage, it was time for a bite to eat. After all, food is one of the big selling points of any Royal Caribbean cruise, and Day One was no exception! So after a sumptuous snack at the Windjammer Café, we were off for a bit of exploring. At 4:15 came the mandatory lifeboat drill, which consisted of donning our life jackets and proceeding to our muster station (all of which are located topside on Deck 5). Then, it was quick like a bunny to the Viking Crown Lounge to watch our departure from Galveston shortly after 5:00 pm…foo-foo drink in hand, of course. We were off! Out into the Gulf of Mexico we went…and the fun began in earnest. First, came the welcome aboard show in the Broadway Melodies theater, starring our Cruise Director, Sydney, Australia’s own James Andrews. At 8:00, it was Movie Theme Trivia in the Schooner Bar, won by no other than my movie buff wife, Susan! Then…it was time for dinner in the incredibly elegant Edelweiss dining room. Attended by our waiter, Nelson, our assistant waiter, Wilson, and our Head Waiter, Baja, we and our 8 tablemates dined on some of the most gourmet foods it has ever been my pleasure to experience. Be it as simple as Thai Lemongrass Rice or as elaborate as traditional Duck a l’Orange, each night’s selection, accompanied by my choice of wine (that bit cost extra…fair warning), was always an experience…and and education! I want to take a moment to talk about dining aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas. I’ve been a lot of places in the world, and enjoyed many different cuisines. But, as is so often the case, the day to day world makes preparing elaborate dishes each night impractical. So it is no small thing to be able to come onto Rhapsody of the Seas and enjoy some absolutely outstanding foods, including many I have not had before. I admit, I was occasionally guilty of indulging myself by ordering 2, or even 3 appetizers, be they vegetable spring rolls, onion soup, smoked fish dip or lobster bisque. The range of selections is dazzling, and all of them are delicious. The same may be said of the dessert selections. As for the indulgence issue, I can only say this: it’s my cruise, I paid for the food, and for this one week, I’ll indulge my culinary whims when and as they come! Of course, there are other dining choices on board. For those who prefer something a bit less formal than the Edelweiss (at which there is a dress code each night), there is always the Windjammer Café on Deck 9, serving breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner each day in an informal buffet style. Though not as elegant as the Edelweiss, the Windjammer’s offerings are plentiful, varied and just as mouth wateringly tempting as those of the main dining room. And when it’s time for some good old, down-home American hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza, you can’t beat the Solarium Café, also on Deck 9. One thing you almost cannot do on a Royal Caribbean cruise is go hungry. Food of one sort or another is available 24 hours a day, from round-the-clock stateroom service (there’s something really nice about coffee and a fruit plate in your cabin as a wakeup call) to midnight buffets several times throughout the week. (More on that later.) After dinner, it’s time to get together with friends for a drink, or perhaps to land in one of the many lounges around the ship. Or maybe you prefer an evening constitutional around the ship’s weather decks. For us, it was up to the observation area on Deck 10 as the ship slipped past the many oil derricks whose lights shone out to us from the distance. We ended the day relaxing by the large, circular windows of the Centrum on Deck 4, as the ship’s culinary artists presented the Chocolate Fantasy Buffet from 11:30 till 12:30. Not that we would ever indulge ourselves in such decadence. Oh, no. Not us. Never. Day two, Monday, was a day at sea, and so much to do! We fell into the rather pleasant habit of enjoying breakfast at the Windjammer, then sitting outside in the fresh air with friends, sipping coffee and talking about whatever came to mind. I can think of few better ways to start the day. Then the call for Big Bucks Bingo went out…and, being fans of the game, we proceeded to the Shall We Dance Lounge to participate. Though we didn’t win, we did have a lot of fun, as Simeon, the assistant Cruise Director, put on a good show for all the players. Lunch was next on the agenda, followed by some exploration of the ship, passing up the chance to attend casino gaming or napkin folding lessons (among many other offerings). That afternoon came a highlight of the trip, the wine tasting seminar, at which we had the opportunity to sample several different wines, from light white to heavy red and sparkling wines. (Note: for first-time cruisers, it’s a $6 fee to participate in the wine tasting. After that, you’re part of the Crown and Anchor society for veteran RC cruisers, and the wine tasting is freebies!) We also had the chance to learn how you’re really supposed to do that swirly-tasty thing when the waiter brings you wine. (Note: don’t sniff the cork. You’re supposed to be making sure it hasn’t been soaked through, not sniffing it. It’ll just smell like cork!) Then it was time to get into the formal duds, because tonight was the Captain’s Gala Dinner and Welcome Aboard Reception, followed by the first of two fantastic Production Showtimes at the Broadway Melodies. First rate, all the way. We also had the chance to have our formal portrait taken, which is a picture we’ll always treasure. Tuesday, day three on board the Rhapsody of the Seas! Following our normal breakfast routine, we basically puttered around, doing nothing in particular, anticipating our arrival in Key West, Florida. Arriving at 3:00 that afternoon, we were soon on our way off the ship to meet friends at Sloppy Joe’s, a popular hangout for Ernest Hemingway and later, Jimmy Buffet. A little beer, a little shopping, and then it was time to head for the Western Union, a 1930’s-era sailing schooner aboard which we enjoyed our first purchased shore excursion of the trip, a stargazing cruise with the aptly-named Joe Universe. Motoring out beyond the glare of Key West, we spent at least an hour if not more looking at constellations, gazing at other galaxies, sipping wine and enjoying fresh conch chowder. It was a unique experience we will always remember. Then, it was back to the ship in time for our 1:00 AM departure for Grand Cayman. And just for fun, the culinary staff was hard at it again, presenting a genuine Caribbean barbecue buffet by the pool at midnight! And just to top things off, when we returned to our cabin, we discovered a swan on our bed. Not the kind with feathers, mind you. It was the first of the Towel Animals our cabin steward was so adept at creating for us! Day four, Wednesday, and it’s another day at sea. It was also a day to sign up for the Adult Talent show, another tradition onboard RC ships, but one in which we elected not to participate this time around. We also skipped the Men’s Bellyflop competition (!) on the pool deck, but made sure to attend the Broadway Melodies Theater backstage tour, which was a fascinating look at how a shipboard theater still manages to put on Broadway-quality shows almost every night. I want to take a moment here to go over some of the many, many choices of things one can do on board a cruise ship. No one can do them all, and sometimes it’s necessary to choose which you’d rather do more. As an example, on day four, we had the chance to choose from such activities as: swimming, massage, yoga, shopping, rock wall climbing, gambling, walking, dance lessons, arts and crafts, a ping-pong tournament, a diamond and gemstone seminar, bingo, an aromatherapy seminar, cocktail seminars, art auctions, a digital camera seminar, ballroom dance lessons…and that gets us through 2:15 PM that day. There is a wealth of things to do, so know that if you go on a cruise and you’re bored, it’s YOUR fault! Now it’s Thursday, day five of our cruise on board the Rhapsody of the Seas, and we are in Grand Cayman! One of the cruise agents in our group, Jodie Real, had arranged for a special group excursion here, taking us to Stingray City to swim with, pet and feed real stingrays in the ocean, and snorkel around some spectacular coral reefs. What a fascinating experience that was! To stand on a sand bar, literally surrounded as sleek, silky-smooth stingrays slip around us was a singularly spectacular moment! It was an all-day affair, though, and we had to return to the ship for our 4:00 PM departure for Cozumel. Just as well, as it was the second Formal night of the cruise, so back into the duds and off to the Broadway Melodies Theater for an absolutely outstanding “Rock on Broadway” show, followed by another delightful dinner at the Edelweiss. Afterwards, again, was time with friends and a chance to relax and unwind from the day’s activities. It was also the night for the traditional midnight buffet, with some of the most incredible ice sculptures and culinary presentations you can possibly imagine. (Half the point of the midnight buffet is how it looks! In fact, there were 45 minutes set aside just for picture taking…before guests were invited in to destroy it!) Oh, and it was time for another Towel Animal. This time: an elephant. Ahhh…Friday. Day six. The end of the cruise is beginning to loom a bit larger, but not before we experience Cozumel, Mexico! Arriving in port at 9:00 AM, we berth directly across from one of the newest of Royal Caribbean’s ships, the truly gigantic Voyager of the Seas. At more than twice the gross tonnage of Rhapsody, Voyager is truly a sight to behold: 15 decks (to our 11), a miniature golf course, an ice skating rink and a passenger capacity several hundred more than ours. It is a magnificent vessel, and I cannot wait to board her sister ship, Mariner of the Seas, when our group sails again in September 2004. If it’s Cozumel, it must mean shopping! Cozumel is one of the great duty-free shopping ports of call, and we took advantage of it (within US Customs limits, of course). But that’s only part of the story. We also enjoyed an experience unlike anything we’ve ever done before: a voyage on the Atlantis submarine. A true submarine, we rode a ferry out about 20 minutes to the Atlantis dive site, and after boarding her, took a fantastic voyage 105 feet deep, gliding over coral reefs, fish of all descriptions, and the edge of Cozumel island, a drop-off extending down some 3,000 feet into the depths. According to our English-speaking guide, only 1 percent of the world’s population has ever dived to such depths in a submarine. We’re proud to be a part of such an elite group. Back on shore, we met friends for lunch at Los Cincos Soles, a store and restaurant there in town, where we shopped and enjoyed authentic tamales, gazpacho and of course, ice-cold margaritas! Then it was back to the ship for our 6:00 PM departure. We enjoyed another great show at the Broadway Melodies that night, and it was also time for our final Towel Animal of the voyage, which turned out to be a man, hanging by his arms from a hanger over our bed! Finally, we were back at sea, and headed for Galveston…but not before one last, relaxing and enjoyable day at sea. After our normal breakfast routine came a fascinating cooking demonstration, a Q&A session with the Captain and his officers, the poolside horse race (not real ones, of course), the guest talent show and more. We also spent a little time packing, because Sunday morning and the end of the cruise was coming on all too quickly. And, I have to admit, I spent a little time parked in front of the big windows on Deck 4, staring out at sea and feeling a little melancholy. One could get used to this very easily. Oh, yes. But…life goes on. Sunday morning debarkation came early, but it was a much smoother process than we had anticipated. Aside from having to lug around heavy carry-on duffels (note to self: next time, pack light and use wheels!!), things went quickly, and we were off the boat and back to George Bush International Airport before noontime, in plenty of time for our flight home. As our trip ended, we realized just what had happened on this voyage. For one whole week, the cell phone was off…locked in our room safe. I never carried my wallet anywhere. We didn’t watch the news. We didn’t care about the weather, which was almost always nice, anyway. Susan and I didn’t do ANYTHING…except enjoy each other’s company and do the things WE wanted to do. What a remarkably refreshing experience it’s been. We cannot say enough about the service on board, particularly in the Edelweiss Dining Room. Every staff member on board was there, seemingly, with the express purpose of making our lives as easy as possible. They most certainly accomplished that, and we thank them, each and every one. We know what hard work and long hours it can be…but you’d never know it to see them. One last note: the name of the company is Royal Caribbean International…and international, it certainly is. More than 50 countries were represented on the staff of Rhapsody of the Seas, all working together as a team, in harmony and cooperation. If only the rest of the world could take a lesson. Bottom line: this has been the most relaxing, most enjoyable vacation we’ve had in years. If you’re even thinking about doing it…do it. You won’t regret it. And now…I think I hear a vacuum cleaner calling. How much longer until September?

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Nov 9, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was a wonderful ship.....and you are treated like Kings and Queens. The staff goes out of their way to make this a pleasant and unforgettable time of your life. The food was excellent! Our waiter Tolga was a dream! He became like family! Our room steward, Alpha made us little creatures out of towels that awaited us in our rooms after dinner and they were just wonderful! The only thing I would not recommend is their pizza. I cannot

wait to go on another cruise with them!

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Nov 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

Having been on many cruises, I can honestly say this one was one of the best I have taken. Embarkation: Since I reside in Dallas, my husband and I drove to the pier. As we normally do, we spent Saturday night in Houston with family and drove into Galveston the next day. Parking is plentiful and will run $60.00 for the week. The shuttles from the parking lots

do not carry luggage so I was dropped at the pier with the bags while my husband went to park. He was back within 15 minutes. Since my documents were scheduled to be pier pick up, the porter took me to another area where I received my cabin assignment and luggage tags for the bags to be delivered to the stateroom. VERY pleasant experience. When we got inside the terminal it looked like we were in for a long wait in line, but the whole process took about 10-15 minutes and we were on board. Our cabin #3569 was an inside cabin on the "A" deck. For an inside cabin we were pleased with the space it offered. The bathrooms are always small but still much larger than what they used to be. Closet and drawer space was plentiful. This is a big statement for me as I pack like a girl. At least 3 outfits for each day. Our cabin steward was there immediately to greet us and by the end of the cruise I just wanted to take him home with me; I have never had a cabin steward who was so pleasant and attentive. Our bags arrived within 1 1/2 hours of us arriving on board. This was probably the quickest luggage service I have ever received. Although happy with the cabin we received, we really prefer an outside cabin. Neither my husband or I are morning people so the daylight shining through the windows helps in the mornings. We went to the purser's desk to see if there was an outside cabin available. She said no but that we would be on a list. We would have an answer by 6PM that night. Unfortunately the ship was sold out and no upgrade was available but she called right when she said she would. I'm already loving this cruise and we have barely left the pier. We were on this particular cruise for a Royal Caribbean seminar so we had a cocktail party to attend at 7PM at the Observation Lounge. This is a beautiful bar area, obviously with fantastic views. We went there a couple of other evenings for a before dinner drink and never found it crowded. One night we were there by ourselves. If you are looking for a nice quiet venue, this is the place to be. Dinner for our party was at 8PM. Service was very good. The food was good but not spectacular. One thing I have noticed about all cruises now is the declining quality of the food. I would like to make an additional point regarding my last comment. My personal opinion is that the quality of food is declining but there is a very simple explanation for it. 5 years ago my husband and I took a Western Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. We had an inside cabin on the main deck at paid $1200.00 per person, cruise only. This included an early booking discount. Balcony cabins on this sailing were priced at $899 per person. The ships have the same accommodations, the number of staff must remain the same and the service is of the same quality. Something has to give with the declining prices and food is the easiest way to cut costs. With the change in market trends as we see pricing starting to increase again, I hope to see the quality of food increase as well. Day 2 - At Sea Class was held in the morning so to avoid being rushed, I ordered room service. Food came right on time and was nice and hot. Beware of the coffee, it is VERY strong. Each day I ordered double to triple the cream to smooth it out. Quality of food was very good and as always, service with a smile. After class was dismissed, we decided to eat in the dining room for lunch as we had about an hour before closing. Service was a little slow but understandable as we were there at the very end. I decided to play bingo that afternoon. With each set of cards played, they had a raffle for something, whether it was something from the boutique, donations from shops on the islands or even shore excursions. My husband and I both won at bingo on this cruise, but on different days. Each of us won small jackpots and he won a raffle for a shore excursion to Paradise Island. More on the shore excursion later. Unfortunately we didn't win the big bingo jackpot on the last day. We still considered ourselves big winners as this was the first we have ever won at Bingo. Day 3 - Key West Because of the great distance of traveling from Galveston to Florida we did not arrive in Key West until the afternoon, as scheduled. We did not book a shore excursion but heard great reviews from those who took a Bicycling tour. For those interested in a city type tour, I would suggest the Trolly Tour. These are open air busses with a comical tour guide. I have taken one in San Diego previously. We spent our time touring the shops. Lots of jweelry shops which I am always interested in. I have to say I was not impressed with a lot of the salesmanship. In one particular shop, I was very interested in a ring that was quite expensive. The sales clerk told my husband "She deserves it." Now I'm sorry but this person has known me for all of 5 minutes. How does she know what I deserve? It may be a small sticking point to some but I felt like I was dealing with a used car salesman. Needless to say I did not buy the ring, much to my husband's pleasure. Lots of little art galleries which I always enjoy and of course many bars. We did make to long walk to Margaritaville but there was nothing breathtaking about it. Just another bar like all the others. We had a slice of pizza from a little Italian joint. The guy was an original New Yorker (as I) and he truly made New York Pizza. I was in heaven. Diner this evening is open seating as you are in port until midnight. Service was scattered but understandable as not one table was all seated at the same time. Day 4 - At Sea No class this morning so we decided to sleep in. Had breakfast at Windjammer which was pleniful and good. We decided to take advantage of the sunny weather and lay out by the pool. It was crowded as you would expect but we quickly found some chairs by the pool. Bar service was very good. I can't say enough of how attentive the staff was. My husband had lunch in the Windjammer and I had a GREAT hot dog from the Solarium Grill. Now again, a hot dog may not be a big deal to some but I always enjoy a good dog. If only I could always be that easy to please!! Day 5 - Grand Cayman Unfortunately there is limited time at this port. Off the ship at 700AM and back on by 330PM. Again, we did not have any excursions planned but wanted to do some shopping as we have not had much of an opportunity in previous visits. My husband did attend the shopping talk the previous day (he must have had a fever) regarding watches. The ship recommended Columbian Emeralds not only for the selection but the price. Now the cruise line has reasons for recommending certain shops and we know this but used it as a starting point. They were correct on both counts. While my husband was looking over the watches, I was having a field day in the rest of the store. While there prices are generally high, they do have a 50% off area that has some very nice pieces. I purchased a ring that apraised for over double upon my return to the States. Just behind Columbian Emeralds there are a number of shops situated around a courtyard. For those interested in Cigars, there is a very nice shop located in this area, as well as a shop called Island Pleasures. This is also a jewelry store but they sell a lot of loose Tanzanite. Normally Tanzanite can sell for up to $700 a carat but I was able to but a pair of 2 (identical in color and shape - 1 1/2 carats total) for $299.00. Loose stones also do not have to be declared on your Customs forms. After some other souvenier shopping we went back to the ship. While I took an afternoon siesta in the cabin, my husband played Bingo, This is where he won a small jackpot and the shore excursion for Cozumel. He decided he would try and sell the tickets as we already had plans for golf in Cozumel. Day 6 - Cozumel Since we had won the shore excursion to Paradise Island, my husband decided that we would forgo the golf and take the shore excursion instead. I was not on board with this as he really enjoys his golf but it was his decision to not play. As I'm almost ready in beach wear he comes back to the cabin to say that he found a buyer for the tickets and we were going to golf afterall. Whatever!!! It worked out to be a good thing. There were 11 ships in port that day and over 400 people were booked on shore excursions to Paradise Island. The island ran out of food, service was poor and we heard nothing good about the experience. The golf course however was good as usual. The golf pro/manager is just as nice as he can be. We always enjoy going there. They do offer a grill with a pretty extensive menu and full bar. The course is not full of flowers but has more of a arid landscape. Make no mistake, the course is challenging. There is a lot of rough on the course and if you lose your ball, you'll never find it. Also lots of crocidiles on the course. Don't mess with them and they won't mess with you. If you don't bring your own clubs, they do have rental clubs and shoes. Have a group? Contact the course in advance and with 12 players, they wil set you up in a scramble tournament with prize money and lunch included for a price the same or less than it would cost for green fees. We didn't do much shopping this trip but I always enjoy Mira, a clothing store, somewhat similar in style to those of Fresh Produce. Any outfits I have bought there have lasted for years and don't fall apart in the wash. Day 7 - At Sea Back in class for another couple of hours in the afternoon and disappointed that the cruise was coming to an end. Our gratuities were included with our seminar but the service was so good that we had to give out more money. I did visit the casino a couple of nights while on the cruise. The staff again was very friendly and really interacted with the guests. I hate a dry blackjack dealer and I did not find a one on this ship. Again it was a money cruise for us as I was up, not only in blackjack, but also on the slot machines. One night in the casino I was craving an Irish Coffee. The bar's coffee machine was broken so one of the bartenders went to another bar to get me some. When he returned he apologized for it taking so long and gave me the drink for free. This is what I mean by the excellent service. I did enjoy the different cordials that were offered in the dining room every night at dinner. Each night, th "glass" was of a different color so I came home with a set to use during the holidays. If nothing else they made a great conversation starter. During dinner, the wine steward always knew what I wanted and had it ready and waiting for me when I sat down for dinner. The whole cruise for me was a treat and I look forward to sailing on her again. As a travel agent, I should not cruise the same ship/itinarery over and over but this one will be hard to stay away from.

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Oct 19, 2003

Western Caribbean

We had booked our cruise ourselves, through the RCCL website, and were therefore, a little apprehensive. Since we live about 30 minutes from Galveston, we made a trip to the terminal a couple of weeks ahead to check things out. We were able to get two forms and luggage tags that had not been sent to us in advance. Having those things completed ahead of time facilitated the embarkation process considerably. We were dropped off at the terminal

at about 10:30 AM (it was our first cruise and, yes, we were anxious to get started) and were in our cabin (deck 7) by noon. Our luggage arrived mid-afternoon. Many people did not get theirs until much later in the evening, so the first night in the dining room was informal in attire. We checked our dining preference immediately upon boarding and found that we had been given just what we asked for – a table for four. We were advised by friends to ask for a larger table, so we requested a change. We were accommodated courteously, and were delighted all week to be at a table with two other couples from Texas. We ate in the dining room each night, except the night in Key West. We ate in the Windjammer for breakfast everyday and found the omlettes to be wonderful. The omlette line appears to be long, but moves very fast and is worth the wait. Breakfast about 9:30 AM held us over until dinner. We tried lunch in the Windjammer but found that three meals a day was just too much food. The food was average (banquet fare, in my opinion), except for the prime rib the last night. It was super! We purchased only two drinks on the ship as they were fairly pricey, and “fruitier” than we really like. We chose, instead, to buy our own at the liquor store on the ship and take it back to our room. The first two days are “at sea” and we were really glad we had a balcony room because we spent lots of time enjoying the balcony. For those who enjoy bingo, gambling, or pool activities, there is plenty to do on the “at sea” days. We don’t fall into any of those categories so we were anxious to get to Key West. We arrived in Key West early Tuesday, which we knew about in advance thanks to the GPS and navigational software we had brought along ((yes, we’re boaters so this kept us entertained for hours). We love Key West and thoroughly enjoyed it this time. We walked down Duval Street, enjoying shopping and the interesting sights, and then on to an open-air bar at a marina, where we had drinks and visited with local boaters. We had dinner at a local Cuban restaurant and then returned to the ship (a long walk!). This was a most interesting walk, as Key West’s version of Mardi Gras was in progress and the scenery was certainly interesting (think Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras…..). Wednesday was “at sea” again…..same drill as before. Thursday we arrived in Grand Cayman and tendered ashore. We found Georgetown, Grand Cayman to be very commercialized, over-priced, and the people rude. We took the Aqua Boat and Snorkel shore excursion. The water was much too rough, even for us. We were led on a very rough ride in inflatable dinghies (ours was never up to snuff and we later discovered it had a crack in the bottom…..we were blamed for that!) to a snorkel spot with coral near the surface. We were both washed onto the coral by strong surface turbulence and were scolded for “making contact with the coral” (we are still healing …). The guides gave the group no instruction in snorkeling, even though most of us had no experience. After snorkeling we had to try to hoist ourselves into the dinghies from the water (Not!). At least half of the group returned to the dock after the first stop. We made another snorkel stop – in a boat lane – where we were clearly in danger of being hit by departing tour boats. Needless to say, that tour was a ripoff ($79 each!). Our young guides told us that earlier in the day they had advised their boss that the water was too rough, but he insisted that they go ahead with the excursions. We do not recommend the Aqua Boat and Snorkel shore excursion to anyone (and don’t think RCCL should recommend it either)! Cozumel was an entirely different story. We went ashore to shop in the morning and met our shore excursion (shore snorkeling – we were obviously apprehensive after the Grand Cayman experience) at noon. There were three PADI certified guides who took us to Dzul Ha for a wonderful snorkeling experience. They were very professional, gave wonderful instructions, and made sure that everyone had a great time. They even advised one gentleman not to go because of his health and refunded his money. I highly recommend this shore excursion. It was SUPER! We also shopped at Diamonds International and found the prices to be comparable to US prices. The sales personnel were very helpful. We are glad we stopped in (especially me – diamond earrings…). We also made a stop at Señor Frogs to see what our kids do when they come to Cozumel. They say, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” Well, we’re too old. But the music was from the 50s to 70s. We had a great time and the “kids” (probably in their 30s) at the next tables were great fun. The food wasn’t very good, but then who goes there for the food? Worth the stop! By the time we got back on the ship, we were ready for a day of rest and relaxation, and were ready to get home. We arrived in Galveston early Sunday morning and disembarkation went smoothly. We came home to stormy weather after a week of fabulous weather, sunny skies, and beautiful water. We will miss the gorgeous Caribbean waters, but it is good to be home. Now for some general comments: We both hated being out of touch with the world (no cell phone service most of the time) and no internet access (tried the onboard internet – cost us several dollars to find out that it didn’t work!). There was also no access to network TV channels. CNN and MSNBC just didn’t provide much US news coverage. We felt information-deprived! That was our biggest adjustment. The captain was a riot! We really enjoyed his dry nautical sense of humor. We regret that we missed his Q&A session on Friday on the way back to Galveston. The service on the ship was outstanding! Our cabin attendant, Jenky, was awesome! She was always there when we needed something. She made sure we had our informational brochure, The Daily Compass, each evening, so that we could plan the next day. Our waiter, Kamen, was great. I followed his recommendations for dinner and dessert and was not disappointed. Everyone on the ship was very friendly and helpful (except for the salesgirl in the liquor shop). Even though our room was above the theater, we were not disturbed by noise from the performances. We did, however, feel lots of vibration, probably due to the fact that we were in the bow. It kept us awake from time to time. Otherwise, we were quite happy with our room. We took half of everything we own, and still had room to store everything conveniently. That was pretty amazing! The performances were good, for the most part. The Drifters were quite good, as was the final evening act (Brazilian drummers and performers – can’t recall their names). We couldn’t stay awake long enough to enjoy the late-night performances or the midnight buffets, but heard they were worth seeing. Being from Texas certainly enhanced our enjoyment of this cruise, as most of the other passengers were from Texas and many things were geared to Texans. We like that….I’m sure some non-Texans didn’t. In conclusion, we are really glad we went on this cruise. We don’t think we are “cruise material” (read, hard to sit and relax) but we’ll see how we feel in a few months. Nevertheless, we highly recommend this cruise.

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Oct 5, 2003

Western Caribbean

There wasn't much we didn't like and enjoy about this cruise. My wife, Debbie, and I went to relax and unwind and we got our money’s worth. It took us a couple of days to adjust to the change of not having a computer handy, phones ringing or meetings to attend, but we did finally settle down about the 2nd day at sea. We originally planned to drive to Galveston on Saturday and spend the night prior to the cruise, but after closer scrutiny

it seemed as if it was going to be more trouble than it was worth. We used the “Keep it simple stupid” wisdom to make our plans allowing less chance for errors and mistakes. We drove to Galveston from San Antonio Sunday morning arriving about 11:30, parked in the municipal lot, went through security and boarded the ship. It was relatively fast and painless. In fact, our bags were outside our room when we arrived a short while later. Our stateroom was small and cozy, not too small and they had it set up just as we’d ask. One of the desk lights was blinking with a burned out bulb when we arrived, but a call down to maintenance got an immediate response and the burned out light was replaced within an hour or so. We checked our dining room seating first thing after boarding the ship even before going to our stateroom and delighted to find we were given the table for 2 we’d requested. The recommendation to check your dinner seating arrangement immediately after boarding the ship is a sound one. We ate all of our meals in the formal dining room so we had a wait staff catering to our every whim for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was excellent. We purchased a wine package for $129 that gave us a bottle of wine at dinner for each of 7 nights. We had no complaints about the quality of the food served or service and we’re normally fairly critical of such things. It was our first trip to Key West and we were impressed at all the nice colorful shops and friendly people. We purchased some delicious rum cakes for some of the folks back at work departing Key West about midnight for the next day at sea and on to the Cayman Islands. Georgetown, Cayman Islands has got to be one of the most humid places on the planet. Debbie purchased some ruby earrings and I got a nice watch at a good price, $200 cheaper than on the ship. Our one and only excursion on this cruise was the glass bottom boat. Thankfully it had air conditioning and ended up being an excellent photo op. On to Cozumel Mexico after another day at sea, a shopper’s paradise to say the least. I made the mistake of mentioning we should buy something for the house. Next thing I knew I was toting two large bags of Aztec figures back to the ship. We left Cozumel about 6 p.m. on Friday. Saturday was a day at sea arriving in Galveston at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to end the cruise. All told some 1850 nautical miles or about 2400 land miles roundtrip. Because of Cozumel shopping we had to purchase another suitcase on the ship just get it all home. The Good: The food, the service, the drinks, the crew and the people. We'd planned this cruise to purposely avoid having to deal with school aged children and apparently we weren’t alone because the vast majority of people were over 60. Most everyone was from Texas and Louisiana, however we met a lady and her husband from Atlanta, Georgia who'd been on upwards of 25 cruises. We very much enjoyed the ability to pick and choose what we wanted to do out of the many activities available on the ship making a conscious decision to do almost none of them. No gambling at all on this cruise for us. There was no pressure to do anything and that’s exactly what we were looking for. The day before a port of call there are classes on shopping tips at the upcoming port. In case you were unable to attend they also had the live tv version you could watch from the room and ran the tape over and over until arrival at the port. They told you approved places to go and things to see. The Bad: We were unable to stay up as late as we'd have liked. Even with an afternoon nap we found it difficult to remain out for the nightly live entertainment. Almost all of the shows, comedians, magic acts and bands started at 10 or later so we just didn’t bother with it. Not being a big fan of the singing styles of today I don’t think we missed that much. Admittedly we’re a bit more difficult to please than most when it comes to live entertainment. All of the entertainment was taped and shown continuously on tv the next day. The drinks were very good, but a bit pricey at $5.50 each plus a 15% gratuity. If we drank two or three a day we were doing good. We found the rum drinks to be an exceptional arthritis medication. The Ugly: There always seemed be a fly competing for my personal space at just about every turn, something we didn’t notice on our previous cruise. There were no flies in our room or in the dining room for the most part, but just about every other public place. I’m not talking about an infestation, but a noticeable problem. The flies became less the further into the cruise apparently dying off as time passed. Also every single window on the ship needed cleaned very badly. I realize that the gulf salt spray makes cleaning windows difficult, but windows are so easy to clean. I never saw even one attempt to clean a window by anyone the entire cruise. If they are going to put windows on these ships it seems they ought to keep them clean or at least make an attempt to clean them. I felt like asking for a couple of paper towels and some Windex and doing a few myself at times. I made the appropriate complaint to that effect on the feedback form we filled out at the end of the week. Overall experience: Very Good! We are planning another cruise for the spring or fall of next year. We didn't use a travel agent this time booking this entire vacation and did the research almost completely online. We’ve learned that when we make the plans and do the research ourselves there is less left to chance. We were braced for something bad to happen or a surprise of some kind, but everything went smoothly and as planned for the most part. Sometimes the weather can cause a problem, but we had absolutely great weather the entire trip. We each gained 5 pounds during the cruise. I don’t think it was so much the quantity of food we ate as it was that we ate whatever we wanted. Dinner was an hour and a half each night and we didn’t over eat. We’re now back on the Atkins diet. I go to work in the morning waiting for someone to hand me a menu. We took a suggestion or two from those mega-reviewers from cruisereviews.com, Tom and Mary Milano. They suggested we take a combo night light/deodorizer to place in our stateroom. That was a very good suggestion that really made a noticeable difference. Although our stateroom didn’t smell bad, it smelled better with the deodorizer and the night light was invaluable. We took $2 bills for tips, but didn’t tip waiters and others in advance as Tom and Mary suggested. And we didn’t take slow rumba lessons the week prior to the cruise nor did we listen to Julio Iglesias cds on the way to Galveston in the car. Oh yea and I didn’t get a cruise hat. I’ll have to say that many of the potential problems were avoided by simply reading the experiences of others who had taken the exact same cruise in the past. My hat is off to cruisereviews.com. We're looking forward to doing it again. The difference between our first cruise and this one is like comparing day and night. So many things went wrong during our first cruise out of Miami on the Voyager of the Seas. Some of our trouble was caused by not making the plans or doing the research ourselves. We, in ignorance, allowed others to make all the arrangements through a travel agent. If possible make the arrangements and do the research yourself. Ask questions and even call Royal Caribbean if you need an answer. This cruise was to decide if we would ever go again. Like I said we’re looking forward to another cruise in the spring. Please feel free to contact me via email if you like.

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Oct 5, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our 6th cruise with Royal Caribbean and 2nd on the Rhapsody. We have also sailed with Princess, Celebrity, Holland America and NCL. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived in Galveston a day early and took the free hotel shuttle to the pier. We arrived at the pier at about 11:30 and were laying by the pool by 12:30. We are Platinum members and had a special line to check in but we didn't really need it, there were plenty of representatives

there and only a few customers. The ship wasn't quite ready due to some sort of inspection, so we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes before boarding. Once on board we went to our cabin, Category C, a 256 sq. ft. Suite on deck 8, 8026. This was a very nice cabin. My wife mainly liked it because the bathroom had a tub instead of the tiny shower, makes it much easier for shaving legs, or so I hear. We had plenty of closet and drawer space and the balcony had 2 chairs a table and a lounge chair. However, if you book this category be aware that it is under the pool deck and you will hear noises, we were slightly forward of mid ship on the port side. You could even hear the joggers from two decks above. I would suggest maybe checking out an aft cabin, the forward cabins will be under the Windjammer. Our itinerary took us to Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Nothing new there. We took one tour in Cozumel, the Tulum Myans and Xel Ha combination. The Myans were cool but Xel Ha was beautiful. It is sort of a water park lagoon with a bunch of activities and food and nature and swimming with dolphins for $90. We wished there was a full day tour just for Xel Ha. We had absolutely perfect weather. We rarely felt the ship move, and it was sunny and warm almost all the time. We were on this ship in '97 for it's first Panama Canal cruise. At that time we were not impressed with the food and were not impress this time either. Of the ten different ships we have been on I would rate this one at the bottom. The food is not bad, it is just not special as you find on other ships. Two very good meals were the lobster one night and prime rib on another night. The rest were just very average. We ate twice in the dining room for breakfast and both times our food was not warm. The Windjammer was fine, it was what you would expect of the Windjammer. Nice variety, you know, leftover combinations from last night's dinner. Desserts were not as good as others that we have had. Never had a problem finding a place to sit. The Solarium had hot dogs, hamburgers, chili and pizza. The chili was quite good. We would take a hot dog put it on a bun, pour some chili on top add some raw chopped onions and some cheese and that mad a great lunch. They also had chips and guacamole. Service as usual was outstanding. Our room steward, Edgar, did a great job. We rarely saw him, which some people like, however, we like to get to know the staff and have some conversations with them. The pool staff was great, Gherrick made sure we never went thirsty. Our Dining room Waitress, Patricia must have been somewhat new. She did a great job, but not much personality. Our Assistant Waiter, Kimber was the same way, Excellent service but not much of a talker. Entertainment was very good. We had two production shows that were done very well. A juggler that was great, we usually skip the juggler but he was on the last night and we decided to go see him and it was worth it. The comedian was OK. Overall all the entertainment was worth seeing. The only problem with commenting on entertainment is that two of our entertainers were leaving the ship. So, who knows who you might get. Cocktails have gotten a bit pricey. Royal Caribbean had a drink card you could purchase and save a few bucks, this is no longer available. In the Champagne bar they will run martini specials for $5 and the drink of the day is usually $4.95 or $5.95. One big tip for you drinkers. As you know they are charging you $9.50 surcharge per bottle if you buy something on the ship and want to take it to your cabin. However, at least on this cruise, if you buy your booze on the first day, you can buy all you want and they will only charge you a one time fee of $9.50. I didn't find out about this until the second day, but was able to get the same deal. The ship was about 85% Texans which we found to be a very nice group of people to sail with. We had about 160 kids, they were only noticable on a few occassions. Almost forgot, they have the rock wall installed on the Rhapsody, it is still free to use and I would suggest taking a crack at it. We will be on the Monarch in December for a short 4 day cruise. I have heard they did a real nice job remodeling it. And in September of '04 we will be on the Voyager for a 9 day Caribbean out of New York. If you have any questions about this cruise please feel free to contact me. Happy Sailing to all.

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Sep 21, 2003

Western Caribbean

My husband and I went on the Rhapsody in September of 2003. This was our first cruise, and we absolutely loved it! There was so much to do whether it was rock climbing, playing trivia games, going to a show, ping-pong, shuffle board, or gambling at the casino! And the food was delicious! We weren't too thrilled with Key West as it has become

extremely touristy, but enjoyed Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Snorkeling was great at both ports, and we really enjoyed Chankanaab Lagoon/Park in Cozumel. We took some extra time to find a snorkeling excursion offered outside of the official Rhapsody ones in Grand Cayman, and it was well worth the effort. It was half the price and more intimate, as the boat only held 30 people. Plus the guide took us to more than the two stops Rhapsody offers, including Stingray City. We loved the food and the service on the ship Both were fantastic! Our only complaint was that we had a few days of "motion from the ocean", as our captain called it, because we traveled in September. But we knew that could be the case going into it at that time of year. Did I mention how wonderful the food was? We liked eating at the early dining time because we were definitely hungry by the time 6:00 p.m. rolled around. It would've been torture to wait until 8:30 p.m.! Although they do have a buffet open if you want a snack before the late dinner. Overall, our experience was wonderful, and I would definitely recommend this cruise, especially to first time cruisers or to those who haven't visited these particular ports before. Have fun! We sure did!  

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Aug 24, 2003

Western Caribbean

The English have a term called "value for money" to denote a good deal, and this cruise fits the bill in spades, particularly if leaving from Galveston is convenient for you, as it was for us. We had expected a "Brady Bunch" crowd, with lots of little ones underfoot, and were presently surprised when the passengers were mostly mature. Boarding was simple and fast and we were on board only 5 hours after we left home in

North Texas. Our stateroom was spacious and well maintained and, most important, the staff couldn't have been more helpful  and friendly, from the stateroom attendant to the dining room staff to the room service personnel. On a scale of one to ten the entertainment was an eight and the quality of the food a six, although very well presented. There is more than enough activity to keep one busy for the week, but we enjoyed just being able to do nothing and enjoy being pampered.

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Aug 17, 2003

Western Caribbean

This review is about our weeklong cruise on Royal Caribbean International's M/S RHAPSODY of the SEAS. We sailed from Galveston on August 17th, 2003 and visited Key West, Florida; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. Built in 1997 at the famous Chantier de l'Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France, RHAPSODY is the 6th of the "Vision-class" ships and first of the third pair of different looking pairs that shares

similar designs. A few technical notes- she is 915 ft long and 105.6 ft wide, meaning she can easily fit through the Panama Canal. When she was built, she was the largest in the RCI fleet until VOYAGER of the SEAS joined the fleet in 1999, weighing in at 138,000 grt. Like all her fleet mates, the Viking Crown Lounge is high above the ship, offering great views of the ocean undisturbed. She uses the traditional shafts and thrusters-no Azipods are found anywhere. Embarkation: Very smooth throughout, but could definitely be improved. We got to Galveston's Pier 26 Cruise Terminal around 9:00 am. Embarkation process did not begin until 11:00 am, and there was not many people there yet. After you pass through the security checkpoint, you go on the row of desks where you get your "Seapass Card" and some fill out some paperwork. Then you go over to the waiting room and photographers are already waiting to take your "Welcome Onboard" picture. Now here is the bad part. They won't let you onboard until noon, meaning you will have to sit back down and wait. We were never given a number; when noon came, people with disability went first. Then everyone started crowding around the gate. Luckily, we managed to stay together and were in front of the pack. If anyone is familiar with Galveston's Cruise Terminal, after you great through the gate, you go down these stairs and BAM, you are right on the dock. Wait a few minutes in the heat while they clear-up some confusion from the security photo machines. Pass that last check point, and walk for about 25 meters and then board the ship. When you board the ship, no cruise staff asks if you need any help finding your cabin. Luckily, we know where our cabin was when you booked. In all, embarkation went very smoothly and quick. Now RCI, try passing out numbers and give incentives to those who got there earlier and help the elders who have to crowd along just to get onboard. Public Areas: All the public areas was clean. They all look welcoming, but the Schooner Bar is very narrow and at night, very dark. The place I felt most welcoming was the Moonlight Bay Lounge on deck 6 (right next to Schooner Bar). The furniture was upholstered in warm blue and yellow colors along with green carpet. The best place with good ocean views would be the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 11. A huge tiered sitting area enables everyone to see out. Half stories up in the back is view out backward of the ship. Here you can look down to the Solarium. In all, Viking Crown Lounge has 360 degrees view of the ocean. Food and Service: Great food in the dining room. In the casual Windjammer Cafe/Buffet, sometimes the hot food is not fresh enough. I like the way this place was designed. The middle of the sitting area is raised along with the ceiling. Food at the Solarium Cafe were okay. There, they served pizzas, hot dogs, burgers, fries, and snacks. I would not recommend eating the pizza here-sometimes it is dry and they put it out on a plate with a heating lamp over it. None of the three places are opened 24 hrs. Activities and Entertainment: The production shows were great. At night, they had a few late night comedy, Love and marriage game show, theme dancing, and much more. Some programs included demos, wine tasting, ship tours, dance class, and many more. The cruise director claimed there were over 150 activities over the course of the week. A great way to exercise and still get incentive was the ShipShape Program. They had about 10 activities each day and after each one you get a "ShipShape Dollar". On the last day, you can redeem it for towels, bags, hats, t-shirts, and key chains. Some of these activities were ping pong tournament, shuffleboard, walk-a-mile, line dancing, etc. The cruise director staffs led all of the daily activities. A new attraction that opened during our sailing was the RCI's famous rock wall. It is about 25 feet high and it was popular throughout the cruise. The bad part was that it only opened on sea days. In summation, there were different kinds of activity for all ages. Disembarkation: Very smoothly done. The night before, you were issued color tags of the same color. This is your ticket for getting off a certain time. They actually printed a schedule of the different colors schedule to depart. There was no crowd down at the gangway when we got off. RCI was actually ahead of schedule. Stuff I didn't like: RHAPSODY of the SEAS is showing aging. Peeling paint, loose switches, some carpets need outside doors were damp. The two Panaroma elevators that go from Deck 1 to Deck 11 are slow. These two are the only elevators that go up to the Viking Crown Lounge. Waiting time could be long, but then you can climb the stairs. Ports of Call: We sailed from Galveston and went to Key West, Florida; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. Key West was mainly a shopping stop and it does not take long to walk around the whole island. Be sure to stop by the US Southernmost Point! Grand Cayman is a British Island. The most famous place there is the Seven Mile Beach. There are lots of stuff to do around the island. Snorkeling, Kayaking, biking, and Rum cake Factory are just a few. Cozumel has the best beaches. Crystal clear water great for snorkeling and diving. Summary: Great cruise and ship for all ages. There were stuff for everyone to do. There are many outdoor deck space. Many Texans are usually onboard. Would I go on RHAPSODY of the SEAS or go on another RCI cruise?-Definitely!

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Aug 10, 2003

key west, grand Cayman, Cozumel

We just returned from a seven-day cruise from Galveston on the Rhapsody of the Seas. There were four of us (husband, wife, teenager, grandmother) and this was our third cruise and gramma's tenth. We had two connecting rooms with balconies on Deck 7 toward the rear of the ship. The rooms were always kept meticulously clean, though the couch and beds were extremely low to the ground. As in our other cruises the beds weren't exactly

the most comfortable. But the pillows were very nice. And the room attendant, Mack, was always eager to please and did a wonderful job. All of the crew on the ship were very good and very friendly and helpful. Our main dining room waiter, Sirrup (spelling?) and assistant waiter, Michael (from South Africa) were excellent. Sirrup was more serious, while Michael was more outgoing and just fun to talk to. But they were both very, very good and I would highly recommend them. Our previous cruises were on Disney's Magic and Celebrity's Infinity. And the ROS was absolutely no comparison to those two ships. ROS is an old ship and it shows. It's had a lot of wear and tear and needs to be dry docked for some basic maintenance and a little cosmetic work. Perhaps if we had never been on another cruise we would have thought it was fine. But immediately upon entering the ship it looked a little shabby around the edges. And there was a constant (and I mean daily) smell of sewage on the hall on Deck 7 just aft of the Centrum elevators. And sometimes the carpet was even wet in that area! I don't even want to think what the dampness was from..... Apparently this odor was coming from some of the rooms because one night we discovered it in both of our rooms. After three calls and about three hours it was somehow fixed from some other location. While our stateroom absolutely reeked, the bathroom itself did not. The chief purser explained to me the next day that it was sewer gas coming up from the shower or sink when the bathroom door was opened and the air lock was released, thereby allowing it to escape into our statement. No matter. It shouldn't have happened. And NEVER happened on our other cruises. One other night both of our toilets didn't work and that took about an hour to fix. These things never, ever happened on the other cruise lines any of us had sailed on. And in my opinion there's no excuse for it. Getting back to the main dining room, the food there was good but not great, though the presentation was beautiful. There weren't that many and varied selections, though alternatives are offered, such as chicken and salads. But overall, the food in the main dining room was nothing to rave about. Better on other cruises. Windjammer food was good, but it was always very crowded, floors always wet due to the proximity to the pool and flies everywhere, even in the middle of the ocean! The spa pool is beautiful but don't get a massage. Three of us had a massage and they were all nothing more than 55 minutes of getting oil rubbed on us, with about the same amount of pressure you'd put sun block on. And for a mere $99. Rip off big time. When we complained, no comp was made and nothing was offered to us. I've read a lot of reviews about the casino being a place where you can't win, but we had good luck on the black jack tables and most dealers were friendly and outgoing. And very few gamblers were drinking so it made it very nice and jovial. The Broadway Melody Theatre is the prettiest any ship has to offer, though the quality of the entertainment was mediocre at best and not half as good as other cruise lines. The one exception was the magic act, Laraf, (Larry and Raffi.) They were absolutely fabulous so don't miss them if they're on your next cruise. Getting back to bathrooms, the ones in common areas were always dirty, with used paper towels overflowing their receptacles and floors often wet. And they would remain that way for hours at a time. Overall, the best part of the ROS is the staff. They are exceptionally helpful, friendly and eager to please. But other than that, I would NOT recommend this ship. Admittedly, things can go wrong any time, any place, but

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Jul 27, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was the first cruise for my husband and myself so we didn’t have prior experience for comparison. I must say, however, that our experience far exceeded anything that we had imagined. We took the seven-day cruise with stops in Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. We do not live far from Galveston so we did not have to deal with flights or shuttles. We drove in, found the parking to be very convenient with frequent shuttles to

the ship. We boarded around noon so we did not have long lines to deal with. The cruise line has a very efficient and streamlined process so it took no time at all to check in and board. We then spent the time before we sailed to explore, get our bearings and let our hair down. The staff and crew of the ship were amazing. They went out of their way to make sure that we were comfortable and entertained. Captain Charles spent some time mingling around the ship and he had a great sense of humor and was a wonderful host. The food, both in the dining room and the Windjammer Café, was awesome! Mike, the Cruise Director, and his staff were an amazing bundle of energy and were constantly providing varied activities around the ship and around the clock. We completely bonded with our waiter, Dubravka (Dubi), a wonderful young woman from Croatia. She provided wonderful, attentive service while making us feel completely at home. I cannot say enough about the staff on the ship. If you are adults interested in an adult cruise, I would suggest scheduling your trip during school. Our cruise had a large number of children and teens and, while the ship is certainly large enough for everyone, a large number of parents included their children in many of the adult activities which was a little disconcerting. The teens commandeered the hot tubs for the length of the cruise. Key West was charming. We took the trolley tour of the town which was very interesting and it gave us a good, overall view of the city, its interesting history, its architecture and its lush vegetation. The sunset by the water was breathtaking. Our time in Key West was from mid-afternoon until midnight so there was more time for nightlife than touring museums or homes. In Grand Cayman we took the stingray city/snorkeling combo. We spent enough time with the stingrays to interact with them and take plenty of pictures. We then went snorkeling at the reef and saw absolutely beautiful coral formations and numerous exotic fish. The water is crystal clear so take an underwater camera! In Cozumel we got so involved with shopping that we missed our snorkeling excursion. Overall the trip was pretty amazing and we can’t wait to go again. I would recommend Royal Caribbean to anyone. The ship is beautiful and the staff and service are over the top. They planned activities that would appeal to everyone and the time aboard the ship was actually as enjoyable as the shore excursions. The shopping queen, Tasha, had plenty of information on each port and on the bargains available there. We were very sad to see the cruise come to an end and we look forward to doing it all again.

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Jul 27, 2003

Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

As this was our 5th cruise we did a lot of comparing. We’ve taken 2 on Carnival, one on the Grand Princess and one on the “Big Red Boat” when it was the Disney line. We (19 of us, age 9mo. to 60 something) had a row of inside cabins on deck 3, with the exception of the matriarch and patriarch in a suite on deck 8. Paw Paw and Granny paid and, by golly, deserve the best. I actually prefer the interior cabins. You can get a view

of the ocean all over the ship and several of the cabin windows I’ve seen tend to get fogged up in the humid air or salt water deposits on the outside. If you appreciate a dark room to sleep in, the interior rooms look like midnight even at noon. Nevertheless, these cabins were “cozy” as my son put it. There was just enough drawer space, a fairly large closet, plenty of lights, and well controlled AC. Although the cabins on Carnival are often garishly decorated, they are also often larger. Larger TV on the Carnival, but better picture and more programming in this cabin. The most interesting place on the Rhapsody is the Solarium pool. It has the look and feel of some ancient Roman bath but is decorated with statues all around which look like Pharaoh sarcophaguses. The towel stand and other items look like fixtures from a pyramid, as well. The gold and white marble tiled floor hasn’t been polished shiny smooth, but has the texture left on it. So while it looks ancient, it also prevents you from slipping on wet marble. The pool itself is churned near the steps by water/air pumps which creates a current in the pool allowing you to swim in place….a good thing since the pool isn’t that large. The 2 Jacuzzis in the solarium pool were usually not crowded and quite comfortable. One thing I hate in a swimming pool is cold water. On Carnival and Princess, the water was cold water right from the sea. This pool was perfect. But, Carnival has the waterslide and most ships I’ve seen have more pools. Rhapsody could at least have a toddler pool. 2 isn’t enough. This is a pool for 16 and up but would have been better as a 21 and up. There were a couple of teenaged Rexall rangers with their cowboy hats on that decided to splash into the pool, hats and all. Still, this was a much better alternative to the main pool which seemed to have more people in it than water. Food. On par with our other cruises. To me, that means fancy sounding and looking dishes with nice preparation, but flavor was still closer to Lubys than The Mansion (insert your towns finest restaurant here) or even TGI Fridays, for that matter. Most of the family loved the food and a couple are FREQUENT cruisers. I’m not finicky but am quite critical. The best meal I had was tilapia in a coconut curry sauce for lunch in the dining room. In the same meal was baked sweet potato soup….delicious. There was the option for steak, salmon, Caesar salad, and a couple of others at dinner every night. I usually had the Caesar which was so so. Others in our family tried the steak with favorable opinions. Most of us had prime rib on formal night #2, and most of us loved it. They usually liked the deserts and loved the Bananas Foster which was prepared at our table by the head waiter. I, however, have been spoiled by my wife’s superior southern cooking. All deserts worth eating contain ample amounts of butter, sugar, and sometimes salt and vanilla. So keep that in mind as you assess my culinary critique. The apple strudel prepared for the cooking demo looked wonderful…..needed more butter and sugar. The pies and cakes did, too. The mousse was ok. Ice cream was good – Blue Bell is better. Still would much rather have a good crème brulee, my wife’s pecan pie, a chocolate zinger (before they new and improved them) or even a bowl of melted butter, dark brown sugar and pecans, ooh yeah, a meal in Paradise! As usual, food was always available somewhere, but the buffet and hamburger/pizza lines weren’t constantly open. The only thing I ate at the buffet in the Windjammer other than breakfast was some bowtie pasta with olives, olive oil, pancetta, mushrooms, garlic, parmesan and peppers. It was tasty. The only breakfast I had in the dining room was Eggs Benedict. Good but needed more/stronger Hollandaise. Surprisingly, my recollection of the food on Carnival is better. I was really surprised. I suspect a smaller ship on a more expensive line would have better food, although my parents recently went on a Seabourn in the Mediterranean and the food was poor. Las Vegas would be my vacation in The Bad Place. Broadway musicals might equate to purgatory. I’m not a big drinker, nor dancer. Therefore, I have no comment on the casino, nor the song and dance shows (other than that they were well produced). There were 4 comedy acts, one including juggling. Every one got me laughing…mark me happy in that category. Scott Parham (sp?) in the Schooner bar sings and plays guitar with some pre-recorded/programmed backup. He covers mostly classic rock, some country and a few recent numbers. We liked him the best. I also enjoyed the solo jazz guitar player and the ships show band was tight, polished and sounded great. Karaoke was fun to watch. For excursions, do not miss the stingrays in Grand Cayman. It may look crowded but there are plenty of those "big portobello mushrooms" swimming around for everyone. In Cozumel, Playa Sol Beach was a good choice. Nice clean beach, incluced non-motorized water sports, included drinks (and bottled water) and an optional buffet. They also rent water bikes, shorkel equipment and offer scuba diving. The "Intro to Scuba Diving" costs $75 and involves equipment, some brief training, and a 30-40 minute boat dive. If you've never tried scuba, this is the place. Finally, this was a summer cruise with plenty of moderately priced fares which departed from Galveston. That means families and kids. About 500 of the 2500 were kids. For the most part, there was no problem. Yes, there were a few that ran around unsupervised. Yes, my 13 year old came in 45 minutes after the published curfew and woke me up. And yes, the main pool was jam packed, but for the most part, things were under control. The exceptions were the bubbas mentioned above and a couple of other families. Always remember – the family that drinks together, shouts obnoxiously together. Drunk family A: river of wine and cocktails during every evening meal. By the time, the main course arrived, we couldn’t hear each other above the shouting at the next table. (The single dining room for the whole ship didn’t help the noise level either.) Even though our waiter claimed that alcohol would not be served to those under 18 with or without the parents permission, some of the kids in that family looked under age to us. Angry glares are ignored by inebriated diners. Drunk family B: “Hey, don’t touch that!” “It’s cool, man. I know what I’m doing.” Only son was attempting to turn down the music during the musicians break so sis could wow us with her rendition of a Mozart piece on the piano. After the real musician shrewdly patronized them and she’d finished her sour-noted minuet, the family retired to their table full of daiquiris and Guiness darks. Then mom hears a song she just has to dance to, so she walks on the furniture and pulls dad out for a songs worth of groping in front of us, the kids, the Almighty and everyone else….and I mean barfly butt groping. Repulsive. The rest of the week was pleasant and as relaxing as one would hope from a cruise. If you want more peace and quiet, try an all inclusive adults only resort on the Mayan Riviera. If you want more party and lewd behavior, go to Cancun or Daytona. A more refined, elegant vacation? QM2 or Crystal. For a good balance of family atmosphere, decent food, nice accommodations and a fun time, Rhapsody of the seas is a good choice. Take into account that embarking from Galveston might save you plane fare and the cruise price is very reasonable, and this could be an annual thing. Just remember to be patient when you fight the traffic to load your luggage when you get back!

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Jul 26, 2003

Western Caribbean

We just returned from this wonderful cruise on The Rhapsody of the Sea which happened to be our first, so maybe we were easy to please. We had balcony suites and definitely worth the money. >From the beginning, everything went right for us on this trip. My husband and I flew to Houston from Nashville, and my brother and his wife flew in from Birmingham almost at the same time. The Continental flights arrived within 10 minutes of

one another. We found each other easily at the baggage claim area and step outside to where our shuttle driver was awaiting us. We arrived in Houston a day before our cruise and is the only way to do it. It made it a lot less stressful than having to rush to the ship terminal. And thankfully our travel agent had prearranged for our transportation to Galveston, the people at the hotel in Galveston gave our travel agent the name and telephone number for this shuttle service. This is one the best pieces of advice we can pass along to you. We highly recommend this shuttle to Galveston, you get more than just a ride. The shuttle driver’s name is L. J. at the Houston Van Services 281-443-4430. This helpful, friendly and knowledgeable man drove us door-to-door to and from Galveston, and included a tour of downtown Houston on our arrival to Houston, then once we got to Galveston and before arriving at our hotel, our driver give us a tour of the Galveston strip, and "the Strand" downtown near our hotel along with other local highlights. It was a great way to see these cities we’d never visited, especially with such a great guide. Without L. J. our cruise would not have been the same. This man is awesome. Our travel agent found and arranged for lodging at this neat little hotel, it call "the Harbor House at Pier 21". It only has about 50 rooms, built in the last ten years. Our hotel was next to the cruise terminal and its a block away from shops, restaurants and bars in the old historic downtown area of Galveston. The terminal in Galveston is pretty well organized. The cruise ship employees are very helpful, they will help you tag your bags if needed. Our bags were outside our cabin door by the time we’d boarded and had lunch. The port of Galveston is a busy place for the offshore oil-rig companies. In fact, expect to see oil-platforms for the first 10 hours sailing south. Actually, it was kind of interesting. The weather was perfect our entire cruise. As you know Texas is a little hot, but by the morning of the first day we were in the Gulf of Mexico enjoying the good life and good weather. Evenings got a little breezy on deck, but if you found shelter from the wind, it was very pleasant. The crew members were so nice, and the ship’s Captain with the cowboy hat is a very entertaining man !! Key West was beautiful, we rented scooters and spent several hours exploring. In Grand Caymans, we viewed the stingrays, we took the highly recommended excursion in Cozumel. The food was great, entertainment was wonderful and service aboard the Rhapsody was very excellent. The four of us loved the cruise and will definitely to it again. We hope to find the time to book another Royal Caribbean cruise soon. When we returned to Galveston on Sunday from our cruise it was good to see our driver L. J. awaiting to load us up and return us to the Houston’s George Bush airport so we return home. Galveston is a wonderful to visit, we had as much fun in Galveston as we did on the ship. I wish we would have been able to spend more time here. We are first time cruisers and were impressed, The most difficult thing about the cruise was coming back to reality!! We highly recommend it. We had a good time because all alone the way we dealt with professionals, from our Travel Agent, Continental Airlines, L. J. the Shuttle Driver/Tour Guide to those great people who work for Royal Caribbean.

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Jun 29, 2003

Western Caribbean

We sailed on the Rhapsody of the Seas on June 29th, 2003. We have cruised only once before on the Norway. I have to say we were disappointed in the cruise. There were some good things about the ship & the cruise. We had an outside cabin with a window. The cabin had plenty of storage space & it was big enough for the two of us. Getting on & off the ship was pretty smooth also. We used the Dolphin parking instead of the

cruise terminal parking. I would highly recommend Dolphin. It was much easier & quicker. The ship is beautiful and seems to be well kept. We did not notice a lot of wear and tear. There were many little lounges and areas where you could sit and watch people or just look out the windows. However, if you are looking for relaxation, and/or a romantic cruise experience, avoid this ship. It was loaded with families. The children ran amok on the ship. They played in the stairwells all hours of the day and night. They ran people down. Their parents simply turned them loose on the ship. We actually saw a small boy of about 4 or 5 years old playing in the elevators at 11:00 at night. No adult anywhere around. A child molester would have a field day on this ship! If you want to use the outdoor pool or hot tubs, good luck. The outdoor pool area looks like a bunch of beached whales. There are so many people that you cannot get close to the pool. Forget the hot tubs. The chair hogs get out early & save 5, 6, 7 chairs at a time. RCI did not pick up any towels on chairs on our trip. The adults sitting around drinking even crowded out the kids at the shallow end of the pool. I don’t think some of those folks ever left the pool for the entire cruise! The solarium pool (indoor) was better, but it was supposed to be designated for people 16 and over. Not so. RCL did not enforce this. Also the hot tubs at the solarium pool were supposed to be a food free drink free area. We observed kids sitting in the hot tubs with burgers and fries every day. Yuck! Everywhere you turned there were mobs of people. The staff was generally disinterested. They were businesslike at best, and rude in some situations. The wait staff pushed drinks on you at every opportunity. If you said no, there was another person right behind to ask you again. The food was just so-so. There were some B-B-Q ribs (I use the term B-B-Q very loosely) that showed up at least five different times at buffets, The Windjammer, and even in the Dining room. The passengers on this ship also wore shorts in the dining room (which is supposed to be prohibited). We were under the impression that RCL would maybe be a notch above a Carnival ship or even a Norwegian ship. Not so. It is a floating mass-market resort, geared toward families. For a real cruise experience I would recommend you look elsewhere.  

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Jun 8, 2003

Western Caribbean

We arrived in Galveston around 11:30 AM. We parked in the “Dolphin” lot which is privately owned and not associated with the Port Authority. It is the first cruise parking lot you see on approach to the terminal. The price is exactly the same and the advantage is, they take your luggage on their shuttles unlike the Port Authority parking. This is a great advantage when you return because you can just hop right on the shuttle with

your bags (it was POURING RAIN when we returned) and they take you right to your car! No futzing with taking the port shuttle to get your car, fighting traffic back to the terminal, and trying to fight to get near enough to get your gear. I highly recommend them. Embarkation when very smoothly and is well organized. It took us about 45 min. to get through and get on board. No waiting to get on the ship once we got through the first line. They will present you with your “Sea Pass” card at that time. Be sure to have your driver’s license, passport or birth certificate to present at this time. Keep your Sea Pass close at hand for the rest of the cruise. After boarding we headed to the Windjammer for lunch. We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer where the food is varied. In fact, I thought the quality of the Windjammer food was better overall than what we were served in the dining room. Overall, I would give the food a score of 4 out of 5. Regarding some things I read before we departed. 1. The Windjammer coffee was undrinkable. I found the coffee fine, but weak, so I guess they had enough complaints and changed it. 2. The Windjammer ice cream was bad. The “ice cream” was frozen yogurt and was clearly marked as such. I really liked it (a little too much). You can get the real stuff in the dining room and the coffee there was better I thought too. Our dining experience was very pleasant. We changed tables after the first night in order to sit with some friends we met on board. This really worked out well and we had a great time with our table mates. Our waiter “Yousef” from Turkey and assistant waiter “Maria” from Bulgaria were very efficient but not overly friendly. They did their jobs and got out of the way. Basically, they were just too busy to spend too much time chitchatting. The head waiter for our area was “Ian” from India. He came by each night and chatted for a few moments. He was delightful. As I mentioned, the food overall was good and well presented. From time to time, I thought the meats were a bit overcooked for my taste and dry. The desserts however were outstanding. I usually ordered two starters, salad, entrée and one main dessert with ice cream. On two nights, we were offered additional desserts to enjoy. WOW!! Each night, a waiter would come by with cordials in souvenir shot glasses. These were $5.95 but SO good. You could also order other digestives and coffees which we took advantage of on several occasions. After dinner activities included the casino and on-board shows. The casino slots were very unforgiving and I didn’t see too many people winning (especially the $.05 slots) which I thought was a shame. There were a three or four slot winners but that was about it. We did have some luck with “Piggy Bank” $.25 slot which is closest to one of the exit doors. I had fairly good luck on the blackjack tables. Basically, we lost our shirts on the slots. I did a lot better on the last Carnival cruise. The casino staff on the other hand was very friendly and helpful, especially to new players. In addition, the bar staff throughout the ship were great and after a day or so called you by name (which may not be such a good thing). Don’t bother with the daily bingo games, but do play the final game. The odds are around 900 to 1 to win the big money which is about as good as it gets for such a large pot. Bingo tickets are $25 for a half sheet (3 games) and $35 for a full sheet of 6 games. Each bingo game consists of 5 total games giving you 5 chances to win for your $25. Furthermore, each game offers a “jackpot” which rolls over to the final big money if no one wins. Bingo is played twice a day. “Goose,” the Assistant Cruise Director runs the game and makes it fun. The after dinner shows were VERY good and enjoyable. As a professional musician I was really impressed with both the singing and dancing. In addition, there were also comedians who I found to be really funny. I didn’t make it to the late night “adult” shows though. There are TONS of onboard activities and you will be hard pressed to be board. Some require an addition fee (such as the spa programs) but many are free of charge such as the “Belly Flop” contest for example. We didn’t participate in the ship’s excursions but booked a snorkel/Stingray City excursion with Captain Marvin’s Watersports in Grand Cayman. This turned out to be a great choice and I highly recommend it. There are lots of excursions to choose from to meet everyone’s needs. Unfortunately, there is just not ample time to do everything you would like to do in the ports of call. This is one aspect of cruising that I wish were different in that port time was longer. I have only been on two cruises and both times wished we could have stayed longer. Now it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you only the good stuff and not include a little critique. I was only aggravated by a couple of things during the trip (which I guess isn’t too bad all things considered. I found disembarking at ports of a call a bummer. Things went smoothly enough in Key West for some reason but when we tendered in Grand Cayman, it was a pain. People who have booked excursions through the ship were given their disembarkation time with their tickets. This makes sense (and I don’t really have a problem with that) BUT if you booked through the ship and your tender time was early, you were given first preference in getting off the ship. If you didn’t book and excursion through the ship and you need to get off the ship early, you must go to the “Moonlight Bay Lounge” at 7 AM to get tender tickets. I got there a little before 7 and there was already a line. We got Tender #1 so we got off fairly quickly. The return to the ship was mess however. The line was nearly two blocks long in the middle of the afternoon with no shade. Boy was it HOT! One of the tender ships broke down (I heard). After about 15 min. in line, a local tender vessel was brought in to help with the crowd. It was quite large and must have held several hundred people. All in all, it took about 30 min. in line to get on the tender boat. This seemed like an eternity after a long day and having to stand in the blistering sun. The other mess was disembarking in Cozumel. There was ONE LINE for people to get off the ship. Imagine 2,800 trying to get through ONE security line. GRRRR!! The other thing that pestered me while on board was the multitudinous afternoon announcements for the Art Auction and Bingo. If you like to take naps in the afternoon and are a light sleeper like me, forget it. I can see making one general announcement around midday to cover the afternoon’s activities, but announcement after announcement was a little much in my opinion. In conclusion, I was very impressed with Rhapsody. She is a beautiful ship and is well maintained. Her crew was friendly and genuinely seemed to be concerned with providing the best service possible to pamper the guests. Imagine doing that gig week to week for 6 months with every other Tuesday off. Our Cabin Steward “Lennox” did a great job and somehow kept up with our mess. The wait staff was wonderful overall and was eager to please. The Cruise Director “James” was enthusiastic and the Cruise Director staff worked very hard throughout the cruise was busy making sure the many on-board events went smoothly and everyone was entertained and had a good time. I give Rhapsody 4 stars!!

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Jun 8, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our 3rd cruise and our first one on Royal Caribbean (first two were on Princess) and I thought the staff and crew on the Rhapsody were friendly and helpful throughout our 7 day cruise. Food and service in both the main dining areas and in the Windjammer cafe were excellent. I would recommend this ship and this itinerary to friends and family who want to sample the Caribbean and have a fun time on the cruise. We checked in early

in Galveston (about 11:30) and avoided the long lines that tend to develop both with cars and with people later in the afternoon. If you can park offsite and catch a shuttle or a taxi to the main drop off area you will save yourself a headache at the start. By noon we were headed for the buffet and the pool and the ship was still fairly empty. We had a room on deck 8 with a balcony and loved the view. Decks 7 and 8 with balconies are the way to go if you are willing to pay a bit extra and the rooms toward the back of the ship seemed to be the quieter ones. In the middle you have the elevators and the stairway so you are going to let the late night revelers and the kids going by your door. Our stateroom attendant (Dwight) was friendly and very helpful and the same was true of most of the staff we came in contact with. Cruise Director James is a hoot and the shows onboard were well-done and entertaining. I did the Fury Catamaran snorkel trip through the ship and had a great time at the reef while my wife and daughter went for the ocean kayaking trip and loved it as well (bring strong arms for paddling). In Grand Cayman we all signed up for the Aqua-boats and snorkeling and all I can say is that for $44 you are in for a fun day on the water as these boats were a blast and our two guides found us some great snorkeling spots...ask for a tour of the sunken ship...we loved it. In Cozumel we did more snorkeling and it was an interesting experience, but the current would be intimidating to any first timers. I'd say the best snorkel trips are in Grand Cayman. We did not see Stingray City but heard from others onboard that it is a "must see" for our next trip. I would agree with a prior review that wished for more time in port as there was too much to see and too little time in some of our ports. We focused on having a good time onboard the Rhapsody and signed up (via the Internet) for the ship tours. Don't procrastinate if you know what you want to because when you get on the ship there are waiting lines for some trips and some of the tours are already sold out by the time you make your choices. If you are on a ship sponsored tour they make every effort to get you there on time, but one of the headaches was the fact that everyone was trying to get off the ship at the same time. If you don't have to go ashore right away you will find a shorter line if you wait 30 to 60 minutes and then exit. All things considered this was a wonderful 7 days and we had no major complaints. We found Royal Caribbean and the Rhapsody to be first-rate and comparable to our earlier cruises on Princess. The Texans onboard were wild and crazy but even that was fun. Buy a Texas hat or t-shirt in Galveston and hang for a wild time. I should also mention that getting back and forth from the airports seems to be easiest when you use the ship's shuttle, but there is also Galveston limo service at $30 per person each way and we did not find any cheaper deals to get to Galveston if you are arriving by air. We were back at Houston Intercontinental by noon with an 8:30 p.m. flight but there is a free shuttle to Greenspoint mall that helped us with the long wait for our departing flight. I heard that Houston Hobby was easier to get back and forth to Galveston but do not know what the shuttle options were from there. The ship also offers a tour of the Space Center as part of one of their tour packages and is another way to kill a few hours if you have a late flight.

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May 4, 2003

Western Caribbean

Let me say this was our 5th cruise and 3rd line. We previously did 2 with NCL and 2 with Carnival. I may make some comparisons with NCL but Carnival will probably not be used in the comparison. Carnival cannot compare with the quality of these two super cruise lines. I will try to avoid the ports as ports aren't really the reason I go on cruises, plus ports are

done to death. The ROS is a beautiful ship and although she's been around for app 8 years you could not tell it. The crew works night and day to keep her spotless. I'll try and break things down by category and give a A-F grade---don't look for the Fs though! Cabins We had an outside with a beautiful 3x4' picture window on the 4th deck. The cabin was adequate for a week and plenty of stow and drawer space. Nice sitting area. Close circuit TV was terrible unless your into into CNN International and ESPN South America. Not that I'm cruising to watch TV but the NBA playoffs were in progress and being ported in Texas many folks wanted to see Dallas or the Spurs games. After being told they couldn't get the fed, it was finally worked out and all Texas sports fans were happy. This was the way this cruise line works---customer satisfaction! We were right across the hall from the elevators and stairwells but this was never a problem and actually allowed us quick access to everything. Above us was a outside deck with plenty of chairs. This deck did not go all away around the ship and was not a jogging track. It allowed a nice quite place in the afternoon. All in all the cabin gets a "B" Dining Room One double deck dining room. Beautifully appointed. The dining experience made the trip. The waiter asked permission the first night to use our names. He always called us by name and made a point during open seating to come and speak. The food was good-great with few problems. Being a Texas oriented cruise it was "beef heavy" and it was excellent. Super desserts. RCI really needs to look at NCLs 'freestyle' cruising as it gives so many more alternatives. Give it a B+ Casino Oh boy. If you don't gamble don't worry about it. If gaming is a large to very large part of your cruise you may want to rethink this ship. The room is actually the smallest I've been in with very few table games. One roulette table and sometimes it was not open because of staffing. They had to close one table so they could move a dealer to another so that table could open. This was obviously the area of the ship that they were cutting corners to save on overhead. Minimal cocktail service here making it hard to get intoxicated even if you tried!! lots of nickel slots, quarters and up, most with poor payoffs. This part of the ship definitely is in its own category as it receives the lone "F". Bingo Didn't play but many complaints regarding the high price. It seems to be the trend. No grade. Bars/Lounges Absolutely beautiful. The furniture was comfortable, over stuffed chairs and couches. Most rooms had ample window space to view the ocean. The Viking Crown on the top of the ship was decorated in older style furniture was classy. Nice quiet retreat during the day to read and have a panoramic view of the ocean and a super disco at night. The pool bar was nice with plenty of wait staff. The quality of drinks was superb and the price, of at least beer, was much cheaper than previous cruises. Definitely an "A". Spa/Gym Lots of activities here. Didn't do the massage thing but the other facilities were the best I have seen floating. The exercise room was big and they had a men's dry sauna and steam room available free of charge. The area was emasculate all the time. Another "A" for this great service. Pools A nice outdoor pool with four hot tubs. They did a fantastic job keeping the area clean and towels provided. The Solarium pool has a retractable cover and had two hot tubs and an afternoon grill. It was beautiful with marble floors and pillars. No kids allowed. For that alone it gets a generous "A+" Other foods They had the cafeteria which is alright, but I can do Lubeys at home thank you. The Solarium Grill had great burgers and OK pizza. The buffets are fantastic. Don't miss the Texas BBQ when you sail away from Key West. Other times of the evening they had waiters coming around with trays of food ranging from shrimp to chocolate strawberries. Really a nice touch. Lets give it a "B". Staff/Crew Nothing needs to be said--"A+" Entertainment This was really good but NCL can't be beat. The ROS had a good variety of stage shows. The entertainment in the Centrum( more up scale) and in the lounges were fantastic. The thing that impressed my wife (I guess I didn't mentioned I had a traveling companion) was there seemed to be music everywhere and just not a "peak" times of the evening. "B+" Overall ship appearance Beautiful, clean, elegant in parts but always comfortable and friendly. Mega art work throughout the ship and just not the art auction "crap" that NCL loves to hang. Living plants and floral arrangements everywhere. The public bathrooms even had cut flowers. Lets call it an "A". Low Points Sorry but there was a couple. Our stateroom bathroom didn't work from Sunday to Tues morning. The pursers desk stated they had 300 kids the week before and they screwed up the system...not my problem, I want my toilet to work. There wasn't a formal apology or a 'comp'. This was the major disappointment. I wrote the cuisine after the cruise had still have not received an apology. We had a man become sick and had to be air evaced off the ship making the Grand Cayman stop cancelled. This of course is not the ships fault although some people actually blamed the cruise line. We did get an extra day and overnight in Cozumel. And Finally, this was a fantastic cruise on a beautiful full service ship with world class service. We also took the time to meet some folks on the Cruise Critic board. A few of us met the day before we sailed in Galveston and had a sail away party on Sunday. This is a super way to meet folks and I'd recommend it if you are a people person. I recommend RCI and this ship and would really do it again. It was definitely a B+. Please feel free to write to ask any questions..be glad to help. Jeffrey

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Apr 20, 2003

Western Caribbean

This being our first cruise, we were really excited and had anticipated a totally relaxing and worry free vacation. Well, our first night out on sea, while sitting in one of their many lounges around midnight the first night, my husband and I were sitting by the cafe, in the solarium, they had open at the time talking about our plans for that week and what we thought of the ship and un be known to us, we were having our cameras stolen right

under our noses. We had a video camera, panoramic camera, and a water camera stolen. We went to report the incident and inquired about their use of security cameras on board and that we even know who took the cameras (we had the description of the guy as we had seen him come up and sit by us before he slyly took the bag of cameras and took off) and were asking the ship to review their tapes so we could get our cameras back. Well, they said it would be impossible for them to review the tapes and that they only look at them in severe emergencies such as homicide or terrorist attack situations. They were totally unhelpful in trying to catch this thief even when we could describe him and he was on their video taping. We of course spent the whole trip looking for this guy and our cameras of course never to be seen again that whole week. This experience put quite a damper on our "relaxing" vacation. They refused to search through belongings or with the x-ray imaging they have to check luggage for weapons or other contraband upon departure as well so that we could catch it in someone's possession. Later in the cruise, we found out we were not the only one's who had their cameras stolen, several others that we knew had theirs taken as well. So definitely beware, there are those who go on cruises just to steal from vacationers and make money off of someone else's lose. Beyond all of this, most of our cruise was o.k. Our room attendant and waiter were superb!!...They were very attentive and did a great job making us feel like royalty. From the mints on our turned down beds each night to the animal sculptures made of towels to the assistance with removing our lobster from its shell, every detail was highly appreciated and they did these extra ordinary things like they were expectations. The ports we stopped at were Key West, Belize, and Cozumel. We went snorkeling in key west which was great!! We went off a fury catamaran about 8 miles off shore and got a chance to see some awesome coral and fish and some even saw a nurse shark and reef shark and a 6 ft. barracuda!!!...We went for a jungle walk and cave tubing in Belize which was a lot of fun!!!...Be prepared for some major walking and physical exertion. The say to wear sneakers or water shoes, DEFINITELY either wear sneakers or get a pair of hiking sandals because you will be walking on a lot of big hard slippery rocks with jetting edges that little water shoes just don't have enough cushioning to protect your feet from!!! By the time we were through, I had sore calves, soles of feet and sprained ankles from sliding all over the rocks!!...You start off with a good 45 degree hike up a large hill to start the trip off and then back down the hill at the same angle just to get to the point where you pick up your tube and life jacket. You then carry these two items through the woods for about a 45 minute hike on a rocky path. By the time we got to the water, I was dripping wet already it was so muggy and hot out!...The water at the entrance of the cave is BEAUTIFUL!!! its a beautiful blue and you can either jump into the water from a cliff or gently lower yourself onto your tube from a rope. The river the runs through the cave is a very slow one so you end up having to paddle more then drift in order to keep up with the rest of the group. You are given a light to look at the rock formations in the caves and to see the bats that make the cave their home. There are NO snakes or alligators to worry about in the waters for there is no food for them in the caves. There are little bitty fish in the waters but that is it. The water ride is a good distance so by the time you get out you are definitely ready to leave the water. Definitely well worth the money, in fact it could of been cut in half and would of felt fine about that. Afterwards, we were feed BBQ chicken and rice with beans and cole slaw. Very good meal, and to look at the surroundings we probably ate better then most of the citizens in the country. We were planning on taking the Cancun transfer when we arrived at Cozumel but because we left Belize 8 hours late because of a stuck anchor, we didn't arrive to Belize on time and our excursion was canceled due to lack of time. We were supposed to arrive at 0800 and didn't get to port till almost 1:30. We ended up though being able to port closer to downtown Cozumel then was expected and the let us stay an hour longer in port then we had previously planned to leave so we ended up walking to the shops and doing a little shopping. The shops I found to be disappointing though. Being Cozumel was supposed to be known for their shopping (and the way they beef up Cozumel shopping in several of their activities they have aboard that are about how and where to shop in Cozumel for the best deals), we were really disappointed. Jewelry was supposed to be really cheap and we found that all the jewelry they had was cheap all right, but not in price ranges!...They were silver and gold plated items being sold as if they were 14k gold items and overly priced at that. You can bargain with them but still they want way too much for the junk they had. All the rest of the "souvenirs" they had were stuff you could of bought back in the states. We were really hoping to find some real bargains on some gold which we had thought Mexico was known for so were quite disappointed. Overall, the food on the ship was great, though by the end of the week, the food at the windjammer was losing its variety and overall we were getting tired of eating all the time!!!...But the diners at the Eldenweis Dinning Room were excellent!!!...You can have as many appetizers, entrees, and deserts as your heart desired!! One gentleman on ship ended up eating 13 lobster tails in a sitting!!!! The activities they had on board were fun. You are at sea about 3 days or so and they try to keep a schedule packed of different things for all interested to do. You could play cards in the card room, learn yoga in the ship shape room, take a beauty lesson in the spa area, or participate in the pool side games for prizes and medals or play bingo for big bucks or check out a book from the onboard library and laze around the pool all day long. Beware though, come out early and take claim to your lounge chair for they go fast and people claim them for the whole day and will fight you if your in "their" chair (believe me someone tried to claim I took "their" chair and were persistent that I let them have mine, which of course was out of the question!!!) The only thing I wish they did with the activities would be to make them all free. Some things like the bingo, yoga, spa treatments, wine tasting, and some other activities sometimes charged for participation and that gets really expensive if you want to take part!!!!....They have a great program for the kids on board as well. There were several families with their children from all age groups and they seemed like they were always having fun. There was excellent entertainment all the time during the evening hours. It would start out with a comedian or performer in the Broadway Melodies lounge each night then the night goes on with Karaoke at the bar or disco fever in the Viking lounge or any other "theme" they were having that night. You could party till late in the night if you liked or stayed in your room and watched the shows from that night on your stateroom TV. or caught a running of a new release movie. You can even order room service and have either a selection of the dinner items being served that night or a selection off the 24 hour menu they have available!... There is a casino for your gambling pleasure, just be aware if your playing the Craps Table, they don't believe in backing up your bets so the odds are with the house and you won't make ANYTHING on this table! Your best bet is the slot machines. We ended up spending $170 in the casino then won back $50 on the slots, we called it a quits after that!...All in all, we had a good time, definitely could of been better!!! They should NOT charge for cokes but they will and the drinks are about $6.00 an alcoholic drink so can get really expensive. They do have LOTS of opportunities for you to get your pictures taken. At almost all the dinners and at each of the ports of call, there are photographers who will take your pictures at no obligation to you and then you can view them later in the photo gallery and decide on purchasing or not!!! Beware though, the pictures run from $10-$20 A picture and as many as they take, be selective!!!!...They have an on board shopping area with a few shops selling duty free liquor and colognes (be aware you can't access your liquor purchases until you leave the ship on your final day) as well as overly priced jewelry (about the same quality found in Cozumel) and souvenirs and t-shirts. They do have a shop with some formal dresses if you forgot yours at home and you can rent tuxes for the formal nights if you like. We of course don't know what to compare our cruise too, but from what we have heard from others who have cruised on several cruises before this one, that this was not their favorite. All in all, we had a good time none the less. Needless to say, we never went back to use the solarium again since it left a bitter taste in our mouths but we enjoyed the other amenities and activities available on board. But I think we will try another cruise ship next time. We chose this one because it was in Galveston, TX just 7 hours from where we lived but I think we can fly out to Miami next time we cruise. Price wise was a good deal as well. We had a window room and it was nice to be able to see the ocean in our room and see as we entered the ports. Next time we might get the balcony, rooms are a little bigger and you have your own private place to appreciate the sea.

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Apr 13, 2003

Western Caribbean

THE SHIP The Rhapsody of the seas is a mid class ship weighing about 77,000 tons. The facilities on board were great. Nice video arcade, and the childrens facilities were entertaining. The ship was decorated nicely, and it wasnt over crowded. Our waiter, Lambert was amazing, and always had our food before any other table. The pool deck wasnt too crowded which was nice, and the music set the perfect atmosphere around the ship. PORTS

Key West: This port was beautiful. It was a clean area for the most part, and their was lots of entertainment provided by the local folks beside the ship. The water was light blue, and you could see the bottom of the ocean. EXCURSION OF CHOICE: Key West: taking a tour of the city is probably best, maybe even rent some golf cart sort of things and just drive around and tour. Dont forget to try some of their WORLD FAMOUS, KEY LIME PIE. Belize: Although the city itself was quite busy, ans pretty dirty, my uncle took a shore excursion that picked them up at the tender docking, ans brought them to a little private island at the back of Belize. There, they has bathrooms, drinks, food,, snorkeling equipment, and nice beach and water to swim in. Cozumel: I would definately recommend the Snorkeling and beach party. The Catamaran picks you up at the dock, and tells you the rules and hands out the gear. Then they go a short distance away from the ships and let you snorkel for about an hour. Drinks are complementary. Then the catamaran takes you to a private beach where you can tan, swim, float, walk the beach, or go horse back riding. The crew plays music during the ride on the catamaran, and that signals party time.The whole excursion is about 4 hours long, and if your up for it, you should have plenty of time to tour the city and walk around after. RATINGS: Food 9.5, Ship 9.4 Service 9.6, Amenities 9.3 Thank you for reading my review, I hope it helps.

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Mar 30, 2003

Western Caribbean

Enjoyed cruise from convenient port of Galveston, TX. Standard staterooms were small as compared to other vessels. Evening program was excellent in the Royal Carribean tradition. Major deduction on this trip was quality of food. There was not continuity of quality in bakery and side dish departments. Apparent disconnect among chefs to provide consistency of quality throughout trip. Service in the main dining room was tremendous. Don't eat

the scrambled eggs.....they need to find a new supplier. Ugh.

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Mar 9, 2003

Western Caribbean

Very easy...here goes : #1 - be sure to check what is above you in your stateroom. We were on deck 8, family room (loved it, but.....) deck 9 was the "common area...windjammer dining room/stairs/elavaters etc.... very noisy!! All hours..day and night.. #2 disembarking was a nightmare. #3 food could have been better. #4 wow....here comes a pro ::: Loved the Capt "Rolf"... great sense of humor! #5 everyone very friendly..

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Mar 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

My husband and I recently completed our first cruise ever, with Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. I highly recommend this cruiseline. They were very organized with embarkation, and we were in our cabin in a matter of half an hour after arriving. The cabin itself was lovely, and sparkling clean. Our cabin attendant was Aaron, and gave us outstanding service for the duration of the cruise. He was always friendly, efficient, and

helpful. Meals on the ship were excellent. We enjoyed several theme nights, including Mexican, Italian, Seafood, and International nights. There was always plenty of food at all times. We had choices of formal or informal dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs were served in the Solarium, as well as fresh fruit. If you didn't feel like leaving your cabin, 24 hour room service was available. We took advantage of this for breakfast a few days, and the food was outstanding. There were plenty of shipboard activities to keep us busy while at sea. One of the highlights for me was the art auction, where you could purchase signed works of art at a much lower rate. There was also the casino, the Broadway Melodies Theatre, several bars and dance clubs, 2 pools, the spa and work out center. They offered activities to folks of all age ranges. The ports of call were wonderful.. we stopped first in Key West, then cruised to Belize, and Cozumel after that. Our only complaint was that we wished we could stay longer in the ports! The employees were all extremely friendly, helpful, and knew us by name, which impressed us very much. We're definitely looking forward to our next cruise with Royal Caribbean in the near future!!!!!

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Feb 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our first time cruising, and it probably didn't live up to our expectations. We got a great price on a balcony stateroom, which I would highly recommend. The room was pretty nice, clean and plenty of room for storage. Not much on t.v., although they do play a few newer movies each day. Not that you want to spend much time in your room anyway. The first night out of Galveston was very rocky! We all got seasick, and as I was wandering

around the ship, it appeared that many of the guests were not feeling well either. But by the next morning it was much better. Our first stop was Key West. It is a beautiful city. Rhapsody did not arrive there until 3:00 p.m., so it did not leave much time for sightseeing. We took the champagne sunset sail, and I would not recommend this to families, as this appeared to be more of a drink-fest than anything else. Loud music and beer and champagne flowing. It's good if you are into that kind of thing, but we are not. The boat just cruised around and around the island. Not very exciting. We now wish we had not booked an excursion, as there is plenty to see and do right off the ship. Watch out when the sun goes down! We wandered around the shopping area, and there are some strange people around. I felt uncomfortable walking around with my 4 year old, so we returned to the ship at 9:00. Nice city, but the arrival is way too late. Then we had 2 days at sea, which kind of got long, as there are not a whole lot of activities. Note: in February, it's still chilly when you leave Galveston, and VERY windy on the decks, so the first couple of days were too cold to swim in the pool. There is an indoor pool area, but this is restricted to adults, so we did not swim at all until about the 4th day. I wish they would open the indoor pool to children in inclement or cool weather. There are activites on board, such as bingo (We did not win anything), trivia, and a sexy legs contest. Some of those were kind of fun. However, we did become bored after awhile. I spent a little time in the casino, long enough to watch my money go away very quickly. I played the slots. My boyfriend didn't do any better on the Blackjack tables either. Needless to say, we did not go back in there. We went to see a few shows, and those were good. The Broadway Melodies theater is beautiful, and the seating is very comfortable. Our next stop was Belize City. You will want to take an excursion in this port. There is not much to do. There is a small area for shopping right on the dock, and we purchased some nice things there. We took the Riverboat tour with the Belize Zoo. This was OK. We saw some monkeys and some Manatees. A few people got a glimpse of a crocodile, but we didn't. If you are disabled at all, you might want to skip this one. When getting on the boat in Belize, which is nothing more than a motorboat, it rocks terribly, and it was very hard to get on. And it was HOT! After about an hour on the river, I was ready to get off because I was so warm. But, I am from Wisconsin, and the Average temp. in February is about 20 degrees, so I guess it's whatever you are used to. The zoo was really nice, although again, very hot. And the animals are kept in cages with alot of foliage so the animals are somewhat hard to see. They gave us lunch in what seemed like a shack in the middle of nowhere that smelled like an outhouse. I just had a soda, and did not eat. It was chicken and some beans and rice. The smell turned me off to eating. This is a tender port, so you need to take a short boat ride to shore. Royal caribbean let everyone off first that had tours scheduled, and that seemed to go ok. Our next stop was Cozumel. We did not take an excursion here, as those got kind of pricey. This ended up being our best day off the ship. Cozumel is beautiful. We took a taxi to the beach and spent the day there snorkeling and swimming. The taxi ride was $10 each way, and it's only about a 10 minute ride. Don't go to Chankanaab if you are looking for sandy beaches, it's all rocks. We went to the beach a little further down the road, and it was very nice. There were a few stands at the entrance to the beach selling souvenirs, the prices are definitely negotiable. There were taxis waiting right at the beach when we are ready to go. So we went back to the dock, and there was loads of shopping places there. So we shopped for a few hours and returned to the ship. Loved Cozumel. Overall the service was very good. Loved our room attendant and the towel animals we came back to each night. Dean kept our room very clean and neat, and our ice bucket full at all times. The water on the ship tasted fine, so don't bother bringing bottled water. When you get to your room, they will have your refrigerator stocked with soda and bottled water. You will be charged $1.70 each can of soda, and $3.00 for bottled water if you drink it, so beware. I would recommend bringing your own soda on board to keep the the refrigerator, as drinks on board are very expensive. You can buy a drink card for $30, but you are much better off if you just bring your own. They also have drink cards for alcoholic drinks, but I don't know how much they are, as I do not drink alcohol. Sorry. I think it was around $30 as well. But, they were selling these fruity drinks on the deck for like $5 apiece, so I imagine that your $30 drink card would not go too far. We ate in the dining room only once. Otherwise we went to the Windjammer buffet, and most of the entrees in the Windjammer were the same as the dining room. We did not want to be on a dining schedule, so we preferred the buffet. And we do not own formal wear. The food was excellent. There is always plenty of variety, except for breakfast which was the same every morning, but delicious anyway. And the wait staff was awesome. Very friendly. The dining room was very elegant. 5 course meals, and they took a long time. Do not take young children to eat there, as they are ready to go after about 15 minutes. This was our mistake. The food was superb! However, being the gourmet kind, you really did not get enough, and ended up stopping at the Windjammer for a snack anyway. We also got Room Service a few times, and this was ok, but not great. You will have to tip the wait staff when they bring it. I am a smoker, and for all you other smokers out there, get a room with a balcony, as this is the only way you will get to smoke in your room. No smoking is allowed in the cabins. And smoking on the ship is pretty limited as well. So be prepared for that. The best place for smoking is next to the pool on one side, other wise the smoking areas are hard to find. Be careful with the Seapass cards you are given when you get on the ship. It was very easy to rack up several hundred or thousand dollars without realizing it. No cash for buying things on the ship, you have to use the Seapass. The last 2 days, you hear alot about tipping for the staff. And that happened to be the night we were in the dining room, when the waiter came over and basically asked for a good rating on your Exit survey. And they give you recommendations of how much you should tip everybody, and for 3 people, it came out to a total of almost $300! Since we did not eat in the dining room but once, we did not give the recommended amount to the dining staff, but instead gave to the Windjammer. Be prepared for this, as we were not. Our next vacation will probably be at an all inclusive resort instead, most of those don't allow tipping. I also noticed that on the last day of the cruise, the staff really wasn't around helping at all. In the rest room by the waiting area as we were leaving, a woman had gotten sick all over a bathroom stall, and nobody attended to it for at least an hour. It was quite disgusting in there, to say the least. Overall, the ship is very nice, and the staff does a good job, other than the last day. Food was great. Would I recommend this cruise? Probably not. There aren't enough ports, and not enough to do onboard, especially for families. I would not recommend it in February, as I was pretty cold for much of the time onboard, mainly due to the wind. I don't know if it's that way on all cruises, or just the area we were in, I'm not sure. I am going to try another cruise, perhaps on a bigger ship with more to do. Probably not for a few years though. This cruise probably would fit in better for couples without kids, or a large group of people cruising together. Not enough family type activities.  

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Feb 9, 2003

Western Caribbean

Felix and Nancy Pfaeffle We had booked our space for the lowest price offered through an Internet travel company in October 2002 for a Western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston for February 9-16 2003, having made our final cruise joice on the basis of many reviews found on the Internet and promptly received confirmation and the “Guest Vacation Documents” booklet from Royal Caribbean International. Our stateroom designation

at that time was “GTY”. We therefore did not know where we were going to be on the ship and hoped for the best and a possible upgrade. Although Las Cruces is approximately 840 miles from Galveston, we decided to drive there, making to overnight stops rather than flying. The reason being that we wanted to be sure to get to the ship without worrying about airline schedules, connections and possible weather problems. The long drive through the wide open Texas was made short by listening to book tapes, which eats up the miles much quicker than would imagine. Unfortunately we woke up in Kerrville on our first stop to three inches of snow on the parked car and the drive through the wintry Texas Hill country was not as pleasant as we had hoped. Rain and blustery temperatures stayed with us until we reached our destination The last overnight stay was in Galveston, where the temperatures, rain and wind made us wish we were already at our tropical destinations. The motel (EconoLodge) permitted us to leave our car in their parking lot, apparently especially set aside for “cruise passengers”, thus avoiding the $ 60 fee for parking at the pier. In our view it is preferable to arrive in Galveston the night before, stay at a convenient motel and be ready to board early, to avoid standing in long lines. We were fortunate to meet a couple at the motel who were booked for the same cruise and with whom we shared a cab ride to the pier. Being of “like minds” we spent many hours with these two fine people during the next seven days. Embarkation went very smoothly and according to the many reports we had read on the Internet. We were at the pier by 10:00 am and got aboard around 11:00am. The first impression of the ship as you climb the wide stairway to Deck 4 is one of awe. Having been informed of our cabin assignment at check-in we immediately went looking for it and found it quickly. Although it was an inside category, it was very conveniently located amidships near an elevator which proved very handy indeed. Having heard from a number of people that it was a good idea to check with the headwaiter regarding our dining room table placement, we headed for the two-tiered “Edelweiss” dining room. We found that our table number 123 was for four and located near a window next to Deck 5, a very attractive spot. I decided to hand my tip for the headwaiter (Maitr’d) early. This may have been the reason why my wife and I were chosen for the “Captain’s Table” (‘along with four other couples) on Tuesday night’s first formal dinner. The obligatory emergency drill, announced on the ship’s sound system, went off smoothly. Everybody quickly assembled at their assigned “muster station”. Now let me discuss the various locations and other aspects important for future “cruisers”: CABIN Our cabin, number 2087 (“N”category) was certainly adequate. When we arrived, the two beds were pushed together to one side to make a queen bed. We immediately asked our attendant Michael to separate them and to put the night stand in between. That proved to be much more practical. There was a small sitting area with a “settee” and a glass-top round table The vanity with large mirrors and a separate chair was handy and include lots of space behind the two side mirrors. It also contained a small safe for valuables, passports etc. Unfortunately we were never able to secure it despite good instructions on how to set the combination lock. A small TV set was convenient to watch the news (International CNN program), several other channels, including movies, incessant (and boring) sales pitches for shore excursions, rebroadcasts of the ship’s “Broadway Melodies Theater” shows and, finally, the view over the “Rhapsody’s” bow enabling us to see what the captain would observe from the bridge. The only electric outlet in the cabin was in the vanity, none in the bathroom vanity arrangement, as far as I could tell. We brought along an inexpensive night light with air freshener which proved to be convenient and made it unnecessary to leave the bathroom door light on with the door cracked open. This, we think, is important for an inside cabin which would otherwise be pitch black. Although the cabin was small, my wife found it comfortable enough to use the sitting area for extended periods of undisturbed reading. We were amazed how absolutely quiet it was inside, even though the cabins immediately opposite was occupied with a family with children who created a lot of traffic. One might expect to hear a certain amount of engine sound on deck 2, but it was almost undetectable to realize that the ship was moving. The proximity of six elevators, including the two big glass-enclosed ones, at first caused me concern. We heard absolutely no noise coming from them and instead were happy that they were so accessible. CENTRUM This five story high atrium is aptly named. It is the center of the ship, with many many activities nearby. This large, airy space features a huge wooden sculpture that floats like a giant Alexander Calder mobile over the entire “plaza” with its floor on Deck 4. One can look into this space from several interior balconies and from the glass elevator and it reminded us of a huge, elegant hotel lobby. The “Edelweiss Dining Room” can be reached from either Deck 4 or Deck 5. An elegant stairway leads to the “ground floor and is a popular venue for picture taking. The Pursers and the “Excursions”Desks are located just off the Centrum on Deck 5 as are the Casino Royale and beyond it, the magnificent “Broadway Melodies Theater”. The Centrum, with its several levels, has many comfortable seating areas from which one can listen to the pleasant sounds of music often played during the day. Unfortunately, this stunning environment was taken over by the daily “art auctions” with their incessant sounds of the auctioneers hyping their wares during long periods of time. DINING ROOM The centrally located “Edelweiss Dining Room” is another elegant space, creating a festive atmosphere for the passengers. It is easily accessible from the central elevator bank and generous staircases are available to those of us who welcome the stair-climbing as an opportunity to add to aerobic exercising while indulging the multiple calories ingested on a cruise. The lower level on Deck 4 is completely surrounded by windows while the upper (balcony) level on Deck 5 looks down on the diners and the large Captain’s table in the center. The variety of table sizes for from four to twelve diners makes for an elegant, festive ambience. Numerous serving stations for the wait persons are strategically placed but blend unobtrusively into the pleasant décor. WINDJAMMER CAFÉ This second major eating venue is located on Deck 9 forward of the large sun deck/swimming pool area. Floor to ceiling windows complete surround the large eating area and provide an airy ambience from which to observe the ocean. Various seating areas are raised so that even those diners on the inside of the space can look out over the water. Food selection is buffet style with a wide variety of warm items, cereals, fruit and fresh pastry. An “omelet station” provides masterfully prepared egg dishes. FOOD QUALITY Other reviewers have commented on the fact that “Rhapsody of the Seas” is not a “foodie” ship, whatever that word may mean. Perhaps a true gourmand may not be entirely satisfied by the gastronomic offerings. I found the food quality very good to excellent, at times. The menus for both dinner and lunch were well chosen, varied and thus everyone on board should consistently have been satisfied with the selections starting with truly outstanding appetizers. My wife was delighted with the choice of various cold soups such as “watermelon gazpacho” and bisques made from tropical fruit. There are plenty of selections for the light eater who would nevertheless participate in the opulence of the culinary experience. All entrees were beautifully presented and served. Although some passengers did not follow suggestions in “dressing up” for the two formal nights, the majority of diners showed up in either formal or dressy outfits. Thus the festive atmosphere of those traditional cruise events was preserved and added to the overall quality of the cruise. LOUNGES The “Rhapsody of the Seas” is not only a beautiful ship but is also designed to provide numerous spaces for quiet relaxation. The Centrum atrium itself is a wonderful space and reminiscent of a large hotel lobby from which one can observe the “comings and goings” of cruise ship life (for people watchers) and listen to the small music ensembles which, at certain times, entertain the guests in the lower level. One can also enjoy the musical strains as they drift up to the Centrum balconies and upper levels facing the atrium. The Champagne Bar on Deck 4 serves the surrounding area. The “Shall we Dance” lounge at the stern of Deck 6 is a large venue for after dinner dancing or another quiet place to relax or read during the day while watching the wake of the ship as it makes its way to the next destination. The “Observatory”, high up and forward on Deck 10 is especially designed for star gazers offering opportunities to see the night sky. One more flight of stairs up is the “Viking Crown Lounge” on Deck 11, offering grand vistas of the ocean during the day and dancing at night. The “Moonlight Bay Lounge” on the portside of Deck 6 and the “Schooner Lounge” on the starboard side surround the “Conference Center”. The latter is reserved for a variety of private affairs and meetings. Its wood-paneled ambience provides for a quiet atmosphere totally separated from the rest of the ship. LIBRARY and CARD ROOM On either side of the atrium on Deck 7 are the Library and the Card Room, both pleasant and ample spaces with large windows to the outside for either reading or playing card games. The Library is well stocked with both fiction and non-fiction books to choose from while lounging in large leather chairs and sofas. The books can also be signed out for reading in the cabin. The Card Room is also furnished with cards and a variety of other games and appropriate furnishings to play in comfort. Sign-up sheets are provided for those seeking playing partners and bridge foursomes are quickly assembled. “BROADWAY MELODIES” THEATER This is a venue for all kinds of entertainment performances such as musical stage productions and variety space shows. The two-tiered theater on Decks 5 and 6 is a breathtakingly large and beautifully appointed auditorium with comfortable seats (each with a beverage holder) from which to observe the action on the large stage. Two very large screens on both sides of the stage projected the video image of what was happening on the stage. Not being particularly interested in shows, my wife and I went only to three events in the theater, two of the life shows and one movie. The life shows were very good and we enjoyed the movie “A Big Fat Greek Wedding”. However, we both regretted that the film was shown on the two screens, making it necessary to crank our heads to either direction. We strongly urge RCI to install large movie screens in the center and provide more films for passengers who are not interested in life shows or too tired to attend them in the late evening hours. “CASINO ROYALE” For those people wishing to spend some time (and money) gambling, the Casino on Deck 5 is located between the Purser’s area and The Theater. The feeling one gets when walking into this space is like entering a small Las Vegas casino. The sights and sounds are the same as is the smell of cigarette smoke which the ship’s otherwise excellent ventilating system cannot quite overcome. There are several banks of slot machines attractively arranged along with the usual poker and blackjack tables. Roulette and crap tables are provided on the portside. I found the slot machines tighter than “on land”. I don’t think that they approached the 97% to 98% payout levels found in Las Vegas or the other well-known venues. However, a fellow passenger, whom I had met during the embarkation process, did win a jackpot equal to the amount of his cruise fare. “SPORTS DECKS” (DECK 9 and 10) The main swimming pool, along with several hot tubs is located here. Large sections are provided for sun worshippers but equally generous space is reserved under roofs and under large canvas sun shades. Under the warm Caribbean sun, this large area was popular throughout the day, especially when the excellent steel band was entertaining the crowd. The “Windjammer Café” on the same deck is accessible from the swimming pool area or from the bank of forward elevators. Doors to the restaurant are both on the port as well as on the starboard sides of Deck 9, permitting those who want to eat “al fresco”-style to take their trays out to the tables on the periphery of the deck. Deck 9 is the perfect spot for an early morning walk with a quick cup of coffee provided outside the Windjammer Café. Open stairs lead up to Deck 10 which is perfect for walking or jogging, helping to burn off the copious calories consumed during the meals aboard. THE SOLARIUM is also located on Deck 9. One needs to walk only a few steps aft of the swimming pool area to get there. It is a most attractive place containing an indoor/outdoor pool, two hot tubs and lounge areas. In inclement weather it is covered by a glass roof making this space comfortable and convenient for quiet lounging. The Solarium is tastefully decorated with Egyptian motives and provides towels for those wishing to go for a dip in the salt-water pool or relax in the hot tubs. I enjoyed the latter especially after a swim in the cool (about 75F) water which is agitated with some wave-action facility. Be careful when getting in and out of the hot tubs, they can be slippery. ON-BOARD SHOPPING Deck 6 features an extensive shopping area, attractively laid out and inviting to those who are unable to resist browsing through clothing, jewelry, sports equipment and souvenir assortments. In my limited experience, I found the offerings reasonably priced, especially when considering this is geared to vacationers. The duty-free liquor store had good selections and prices. However, one could not buy liquor for consumption on board. After making selections, they were kept for you until the end of the cruise when one could retrieve purchases before leaving the ship. Next to the shopping “alley” is the large photography gallery where one can inspect the thousands of snapshots taken by the ship’s photographers. The pictures are displayed on the walls, separated into categories and days on which they are taken. Despite this organization, trying to find your own image among the thousands is time consuming and boring. Yet, I understand that selling photos of the vacationing passengers is a profitable enterprise for all cruise lines. EXCURSIONS Royal Caribbean offers a large menu of shore excursions as part of their cruising experience. My wife and I, at our age, are not interested in these opportunities to see the sights or participate in the adventurous activities. (“Been there, done that…etc.) For us life aboard a big, attractive ship with all the conveniences aboard is the true value of a cruise. Therefore, even though we went ashore in Key West, Belize and Cozumel, we only went on cab rides with our newly-found friends in these places. SERVICE AND CREW My hat is off to Royal Caribbean International for their efforts in this area. They have hired and trained their personnel with the comfort, enjoyment and safety of their passengers in mind. When considering that the staff is recruited from over fifty different countries, this must be an enormous task. We found every crew member, with the exception of a few lowest-level jobs, friendly and helpful in every possible situation. Especially the dining room staff and our cabin steward went out of their way to be helpful. They truly deserve the recommend tips, which we passed out on the second day of our journey on the advice of experienced “cruisers”. It is especially advisable to tip the head waiter early in order to get special attention at all times. NEGATIVES Our entire cruise experience was so delightful that I am hard put to find something to complain about. Nevertheless, I find it necessary to point out that the “Art Auctions” held every day in the vast Centrum atrium were disruptive and objectionable. I would not be adverse to one such an event during the week but the incessant hyping of second and third rate artwork, displayed in cheap frames offended me. I understand that selling this stuff is another profit center for RCI but they are overdoing it by the sheer amount of mass-produced paintings and prints stacked in the two lower levels of the Centrum, the most attractive and important space on the ship. There were many times when I would have liked to sit in the atrium listening to the gentle sounds of the musicians, who were doing such excellent work “when they had the floor”. HIGHLIGHTS Undoubtedly one of the high points of the cruise was to be invited to the Captain’s Table on the first of the two “formal nights”. To be chosen for that honor as one of the five couples among the 2400 passengers was an unexpected bonus that we will remember with gratitude. The fact that it happened to be my wife’s 76th birthday made the occasion even more enjoyable. Captain Rolv Olaussen is the kind of Master of the Ship you would picture the captain of a large vessel to be. He turned out to be an excellent host to the lucky folks gathered around his table which was decorated with a large anchor laid out with red flowers. When my wife and I ran into the Captain in the line-up for the tender returning from Belize City to the Rhapsody, I told him of “George, the GeoBear” whom we brought along for the trip. “George” is a small teddy bear who is owned by a fifth-grader in Alton. Illinois. The “Geobear” is part of a geography lesson, wherein each student was given a bear by the teacher with the admonition to send out ‘his’ or ‘her’ pal to friends and relatives who in turn were asked to pass the bear around in order to “see the world”. We received “George” from a neighbor, who had taken him on a sailboat voyage from Tahiti to Hawaii and then on to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We told Captain Olaussen about our bear whereupon he invited us to the bridge of “the Rhapsody” for a tour and picture-taking”. We gratefully accepted and upon the indicated time we were escorted to the bridge, which for security reasons nowadays is a restricted area. It was an exciting visit and I appreciated having the opportunity seeing this very large (about 20x100 feet) room with its high-tech equipment from which the huge ship is steered. The Captain graciously showed George around and pointed out the location of the “Rhapsody” to him on the sea charts. WRAP-UP This was a most enjoyable cruise which we were sorry to see end after only seven days. I could have easily sailed on for another week. We can highly recommend Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for similar trips being confident that the Line’s other vessel are equally well managed and beautifully appointed. We believe that the “price/performance” ratio highly favors a cruise such as I described here. It is hard to imagine that there is a better opportunity to relax and feel totally pampered in a magnificent environment served by a caring crew.

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Sep 29, 2002

Western Caribbean

As Texas residents, my wife and I decided to sail the Rhapsody to eliminate the cost and hassle of air travel to Miami. A great deal for travelers within driving distance to Galveston is to stay at a local hotel Saturday night. Many offer free secured parking for the week, as well as a complimentary shuttle to and from the ship. Embarkation was very quick and efficient; we arrived about 11:30 AM and we were in our cabin in under an

hour. The ship is beautiful and very well maintained. It is only a matter of opinion, but the extra cost of a balcony is well worth the price. Based on previous reviews I read, I selected a cabin at the rear of the ship where the balcony is at least 3 times the size of the balconies on either side of the vessel. The only drawback is a constant, but very subtle vibration from the ships propulsion system. The ship caters to residents from the Gulf States and there are many people from Texas and Louisiana on board. You can count on friendly, courteous people to share your cruise experience with. The service throughout the ship is very good. Dinning was also a pleasant experience and most entrées were tasty and served promptly and at the right temperature. If you ordered wine and did not finish the bottle, the waiter will cork it and save the remainder until the next night. Onboard activities were fun and the shows were all well produced and enjoyable. The casino staff was great and seemed like they genuinely wanted you to win. Believe it our not, the slots were pretty loose and I talked to several people that had won jackpots of $1,500 or more. My only negative experience occurred at breakfast one morning in the Windjammer Café. I slipped and fell on a very wet marble floor. The staff was aware of the liquid on the floor and apparently had sent someone to get a mop to clean it up. It would have been prudent to have someone stand by the wet area to warn passengers until it was cleaned up to ensure that none slipped since the floor was like a wet skating rink. I went down very hard. There are many elderly people on cruises and someone much older than I could have been very seriously or permanently injured. I reported it and the next day went to the infirmary because my wrist and back started to really hurt. I was shocked when the nurse on duty told me that I would have to talk with the Security Officer, who would then make the determination as to whether or not I would be charged for the infirmary visit. Never once after the fall was I contacted to see how I was doing. This left me with a very negative impression of RCL and I decided to book our next cruise with another line.

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Aug 25, 2002

Western Caribbean

We quickly found our room and looked around. Some of our fellow group members were a little nervous about the size of the rooms; apparently the ship they cruised on last year had larger ones. After a quick inspection we were satisfied, there was plenty of room to completely unpack and get comfortable. Besides, we didn’t spend much time in the room anyway! Our group had a meeting in the Viking Crown Lounge on the first evening. As soon as we

arrived there were plenty of waiters on hand with complimentary drinks. Thank you Royal Caribbean! By the time the meeting was over most of the staff knew us by name. Then we were off to dinner, second seating in the Edelweiss dining room. We were seated with fellow group members and had an excellent time. We decided that night that all our meals would be in the dining room, the staff was extremely personable and the service was highest quality! Besides, sometimes it’s nice to get dressed up for dinner. The ports were excellent. Stop number 1 was Key West, which was my all time favorite, funny I know! We had plenty of time to tour the island, took the trolley tour, and enjoy the nightlife! We had dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, very quaint. We stopped in at Sloppy Joe’s to enjoy an excellent band and later moved on to Rick’s, just in time for ladies’ night and free drinks until 11:00. We ran into a lot of the crew there and danced the night away! Word to the wise, be very careful to keep track of time while on the shore excursions, I understand they will leave you behind if you’re not back in time! Our curfew in Key West was 11:30 and I believe we boarded the ship at 11:27! Stop number 2 was Grand Cayman, which is absolutely breathtaking! We tendered here. No issues at all with getting onboard the tender, no line, no nothing! We took a tour and browsed the shopping district for a while. In retrospect, I really wish we had snorkeled here. Stop number 3 was Cozumel. We booked an excursion on the Fiesta Party Boat which was a load of fun! It stops at Playa del Sol for water sports and/or swimming. We did a little shopping around the pier but once you’ve seen one shop in Mexico you’ve seen them all! I also loved the fact that they are always taking your picture. When you go to dinner, when you leave the ship, while you’re eating dinner, etc. There were plenty of souvenir photos to choose from. The formal nights onboard were grand, perfect time to show off that favorite cocktail dress! The midnight buffet was absolutely beautiful and amazing! The cruise director, Tom, and his staff kept our schedules very busy. In summary, I applaud the staff and crew of the Rhapsody of the Seas. This was a fantastic, refreshing vacation and I returned to work with a hop in my step! Special thanks to our wonderful waitress, Adrienn, who failed to tell our table that this was her last week on the vessel and probably would not be returning! Would’ve been nice to do something special for her as her service was outstanding! Also a special thanks to the dining room staff who were so entertaining in Key West. Rhapsody is truly the friendliest ship on the seas! I highly recommend this vacation to anyone who is considering a fun filled week!

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Aug 25, 2002

Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

I want to share my experience cruising on the Rhapsody of the Seas out of Galveston, Texas. Our trip date was August 25, 2002. This was my first cruise and overall my wife and I had a good time, but I take offense of their motto as being the “friendliest ship of the seas”. Let me tell you why. We were one of the first people to board. Having driven from New Orleans we got there at the earliest boarding time of 1:00 p.m. The first thing we did

was check on our seating. It was our first year anniversary and my wife is five months pregnant so we requested a table for two to share some quality time together before the baby arrives. We were promised and guaranteed not once but twice by the Royal Caribbean booking staff that we had a table for two reserved by a window for the 6:00 p.m. seating (main seating). So you can imagine the disappointment and shock when we found out we were at a table of ten. We told the head maitre d’ and all he did was put our name on a list which already had fifteen or more names ahead of us of people who were told the same thing as us. It appears it is common practice for the Royal Caribbean to promise a table for two knowing that they only have three in the whole dining room. Why they wouldn’t just come out and say that it is very unlikely for you to get a two top because of limited availability instead of giving a false guarantee and getting peoples hopes up is beyond me. The maitre d’ was very unfriendly, unaccommodating and showed no remorse. After getting that disappointing news we went to find our cabin. We had trouble finding it because it was off by itself, not down the two main hallways as most cabins. We found it, put our carry-ons down and left to go explore the ship. There was a hallway right outside our door that led to some elevators. We went to the elevators only to be overwhelmed by not one but two crew members yelling and screaming at us in some foreign language. It was obvious they weren’t happy. It turned out we had walked into a restricted area where they were “unloading” the luggage for people on that deck which is normal - you will get lost on the ship esp. the first couple of days. The main reason why they were so upset, though, is that they were seen throwing, kicking, and bouncing everyone’s luggage like they were taking out the trash. I know they do not have the time to care for each piece of luggage as if it was their own, but how they treated the luggage was uncalled for. So my advice is to carry with you any breakables or valuables with you if you don’t know that already. Anyway, later on that day about 30 minutes before dinner we still had not received our luggage so I told our cabin attendant. He said don’t worry about it, it will show up. I went to the restricted area and didn’t see any more luggage and checked the hallways and didn’t see any crew members handing out luggage. Fifteen minutes before dinner still no luggage, asked the attendant what could be the problem and he said the tags might have fallen off, but not to worry we can go to dinner in what we had on. After hearing that my wife, who is pregnant, ripped into him. We had been wearing the same clothes since 3:00 am and would like to look decent and have clean underwear for dinner since we are at a table of ten and not two that was guaranteed to us. Two minutes later he showed up with our luggage with the tags on. There is no doubt in my mind that the crew members who were ticked off that we accidentally walked into a restricted area and saw them mishandle everyone’s luggage purposely held on to our luggage. And once again our cabin attendant wasn’t very accommodating until my wife “lost” it. It should never had come to that point. The next altercation wasn’t until we went to book our excursions at the exploration's desk. It is only opened two hours a day so there is always a line. When we reached our turn we had some questions about some of the excursions. The staff member (who also plays the piano at times on the ship) that waited on us was obviously aggravated that we had questions and had not made up our minds. He didn’t have the patience to help so he literally pushed us aside and took the next person in line while we were left in the dark to choose. We waited ten minutes until he finished with that person and we told him how rude he was and his response was ‘do you want to talk to my manager?’. I know most of the crew weren’t this rude, unwilling to help, and unaccommodating. It just seems that we got stuck dealing with the worst of the bunch. Anyway that is why I object to them calling themselves the “friendliest ship of the seas”. I will tell you who was friendly and that were the passengers. Mostly Texans, everyone we met was super nice. The people at our table were great, so not getting our table for two wasn’t so bad. The food was better than I expected and the entertainment was top notch. The ports of call were nice, but I didn’t like the pushiness of the store owners in Cozumel. We went on snorkeling excursions in Cozumel and Grand Cayman, but recommend going on your own if you have been snorkeling before. So overall we enjoyed the cruise. I give it a 3.5 out of 5 based on the unfriendliness of the crew; otherwise I would give it a 4.5. Some of the crew definitely need to take a refresher course in Manners 101.

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Aug 25, 2002

Western Caribbean ~Key West ~Grand Cayman ~Cozumel

This was my 1st (but certainly not my last) cruise ever and it was AWESOME! I knew it would be fun but NEVER dreamed it would be so PERFECT! The ship was beautiful and elegant! My husband and I went to celebrate our 13th anniversary and had an absolute DREAM vacation! We paid the extra to book a guaranteed Balcony room and ended up with a huge beautiful balcony room with a refrigerator, sitting area, and big balcony where we had breakfast most

every morning. I would HIGHLY recommend spending the bit extra for the luxury of being able to sit on the balcony and have breakfast, or sip wine out there at night. I even was able to sunbathe out there and my husband who brought his guitar, was able to sit and be inspired to play... it was worth every penny! (not to mention, we got to board faster.. we skipped the long lines when boarding and went to the line for "suites" which had 1 person in front of us. We were on the ship in a matter of minutes! That's worth the money right there!) I've heard people say that the room doesn't matter since you don't spend much time in it, but we went on this trip to get away and REST and didn't want to feel rushed to get up and leave the room. Rather, we always felt happy to return to the room and relax a bit. Our room attendant was great! Thanks Manny! As for ports of call and excursions, I'll begin with Key West... there we ate at the famous Sloppy Joes, which was OK... just felt like I was eating back home in Fort Worth though... nothing special... and then we took the sunset champagne catamaran sail. The champagne and wine was nasty (I'm sorry to say it, but it was) and unfortunately there wasn't much of a sunset, since it was so cloudy. But, it was still so cool to sail past our ship and admire it from the water. Next port of call was Grand Cayman, which was beautiful! The people were friendly and the shops were PLENTY! There we did the Snorkeling and Stingray COMBO, which I hate to say was a joke. This came recommended by the ship's staff, and we thought we would first be going snorkeling at one location to see coral and sea life and then on to Stingray city... well, we set sail on an overcrowded chugging junky boat run by unprofessional crew. The refreshments consisted of some IGA brand soda in cups (which they brought enough ice for about the 1st 10 people out of 80 or so) They gave NO instruction whatsoever on snorkeling (and being my 1st time this was unnerving). We arrived at our 1st destination of the "combo" which was about 50 feet outside the group of boats that gathered at Stingray City... there we snorkeled for about 45 minutes and saw little coral and even less sea life... then we all boarded the boat and putted over 50 feet or so to join the others in visiting the Stingrays. Now, that was COOL! You MUST go see the stingrays! The waters were crystal clear and absolutely breathtaking! The only complaint I have is that I took the "combo" tour instead of just taking one of the plain "Stingray City Snorkeling" tours. Forget the supposed "combo"... But, our favorite of all the ports of call was COZUMEL! AWESOME!! There we took the BEST excursion! It was the Snorkeling by Boat which we booked through the cruise line. It was PERFECT! The crew was adorable and professional! They had the Mexican music playing softly which put us in the tropical mood.... and they offered a great selection of drinks which were ice cold and plentiful.. they were VERY informative about snorkeling... the waters were beautiful and we ended up snorkeling for an hour and seeing awesome coral and sea life... it was organized and we moved as a group though, unlike the chaos the day before... I would HIGHLY recommend this outing! We were so pleased and felt so happy to tip them generously when we left. They dropped us off at the Playa del Sol Beach resort (we had booked that too) where we were able to spend several hours doing the beach thing...I would also highly recommend this since it also includes all sorts of beach "toys"... they also have parasailing for a reasonable fee, which I did, and it was a blast! Then we took a taxi to the restaurant Panchos Backyard and enjoyed our conversation with the driver. It was worth the money because it was quite a drive. There we ate and enjoyed a great authentic Mexican meal among the great caribbean atmosphere. We then shopped the store next door (Cinco something.... recommended though by the cruise line) and were able to find EVERYTHING you'd want to buy in Cozumel under 1 roof! Overall, our day in Cozumel was just awesome! Our days at sea were also just awesome! The ship had so many fun activities planned.. we enjoyed the wine tasting session tremendously, and there I discovered the sweetest Riesling wine which I was able to order and enjoy with my meals the remainder of the cruise. I wouldn't have tried it if not for the wine tasting though. We had the late seating for dinner which we loved! The meals weren't really filling since they were so "gourmet" like, so it was light and just fun to go and enjoy our table mates. One thing I'd like to say is wait to purchase your pictures till the end of the cruise... we bought SO MANY pictures, because we thought they were good, and then we'd like the next ones better.. so we'd buy those... In the end, we looked back and wished we'd have waited till closer to the end of the cruise to look and compare them all. We were very pleased with the formal pictures though. I was happy to have been able to purchase them, since at home my husband and I will probably never take the time to get dressed up and get our pictures made. We loved the picture with the background of the Titanic Staircase... it turned out looking like we were really standing there, like Jack and Rose, on the Titanic! Our kids loved that one! Overall, I found the shopping on the ship to be very affordable and convenient. The prices were as good, if not better, than they were in the ports of call. We spent hours on land shopping for a Tanzanite ring for my mother-in-law (who watched our 5 kids while we cruised) and ended up getting an incredible deal on the ship on a lovely ring! So check out the shops! Well, I don't know what else to say except that I will DEFINITELY be going on a Royal Caribbean cruise again! The staff was wonderful... Our waiter was ADORABLE.... THANK YOU, Hakki! Oh, I do need to add though, that I found the shows to be a bit RISQUE... I mean, you expect to see girls in leotards and dance costumes, but one thing I found inappropriate was that all their female dancers wore THONGS! One time they even had rhinestones going up their cracks! UGH! Not appropriate for families for sure! I heard that the magicians assistant in the magic show might as well have been naked for what she was (or wasn't) wearing. So, keep this in mind as you plan your shows. Those are the only 2 I know about since I didn't see any more after my 1 experience. We did see the marriage game though and that was hysterical! Still, like I said this cruise comes HIGHLY recommended!

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Jun 30, 2002

Galveston - Key West - Grand Cayman - Cozumel - Galveston

This was our second cruise on Royal Caribbean. Our first cruise left out of Miami, and was such a great experience that when we were ready for our second cruise the choice of Royal Caribbean was a "no-brainer". This time however I was taking my two kids (22 & 24) along. This was our first cruise out of Galveston, Texas, which made it real convenient for us to take a 45-minute drive from our hometown to Galveston. The fact that

no airfare was involved made it a little easier to include our kids this time. The trip was such a great experience, and the RCC crew were such professionals, I felt I had to share our adventure. Leaving Galveston we were escorted out into the Gulf of Mexico by an U.S. Naval warship and a Zodiac semi inflatable with two heavily armed Navy Seals on board. I was very impressed with RCC's security measures on this cruise. When you check in you get an RCC card. This card bills directly to your credit card, and is the card you make all alcohol, and souvenir purchases with while on board the ship. The card is also your pass on and off the ship while docked. The card when passed through the readers as you leave and return to the ship will bring up your picture on a CRT, so the attendant can verify that you are the owner of that card. This was totally different from the first cruise we took on RCC, and obviously was in response to 09-11-01. I have only one negative comment to make about the entire cruise, and it involves one shore excursion we took out of Key West. We scheduled the cruise, and all our shore excursions online with RCC’s excellent website, no travel agent involved whatsoever. I would strongly encourage you to schedule your shore excursions online when you make your cruise reservations. This avoids the rush when you board ship and try to schedule shore excursions, which sell out quickly. Now back to the negative experience. We had scheduled a sunset sailing cruise in Key West with a firm called Liberty. It was scheduled for a 5:00pm departure on the sailing vessel Liberty. We showed up well in advance for this cruise, but the crew was nowhere to be found. They finally showed up about 10 after 5, and appeared to be getting this ship ready. They said nothing to any of the people waiting, but after about 15 more minutes one of our group asked when we would be allowed to board. One of the crewmembers said they were waiting for one more crewmember to arrive. He eventually arrived and we boarded and set out. The voyage out was very nice, but the return trip soon fell apart. The wind had subsided, so we had to motor back in. About ten minutes into the return trip the motor stopped and we drifted. I didn't think too much of it until a tow boat arrived. It was then that I found out that we had run out of gas. I also realized that the crewman we were waiting on at the dock was the only one that “had a clue”. Another crewman made a comment about being told he had enough gas until July, well “DUH”, it was July. We were towed back into Key West harbor and a comedy of errors ensued trying to get us docked. I was not impressed with the professionalism of this crew, and initially had second thoughts about sailing with them in the first place. There were several other sailing ships in the area where the Liberty was docked and their crews seemed to have it together. We registered our dissatisfaction with this group when we filled out the survey at the conclusion of the cruise. All our other shore excursions were excellent and exhibited organization and total professionalism. We did the trolley tour in Key West in addition to the sunset sailing cruise. In Grand Cayman we did the combination snorkeling and stingray city excursion, which was the highlight of the cruise. This is a “must do”, if you visit Grand Cayman. In Cozumel we did the Excoret excursion. The Mexican guide we had was very professional, and it was obvious he was proud of his country and grateful for us to be visiting, thanks Luis. In closing I would add that you could certainly find cheaper cruises to take, but IMO you get what you pay for. Royal Caribbean Cruise line left us wanting for nothing on this cruise. The ship was in excellent condition, and the staff had their act together, from the cabin attendant, to the dining room staff. The “grunts” that keep the ship running were very professional, polite and spoke to us every time we encountered them, which wasn’t very often. This gave us the impression that we were in good hands all up and down the chain of command. The RCC staff also takes great effort to keep the younger kids entertained while on cruise. We really didn’t notice a lot of kids on board until the last night of the cruise. We were extremely pleased with this cruise, and will be sailing again with Royal Caribbean Lines in the future. You cannot go wrong with Royal Caribbean for your cruise. Vince

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Apr 21, 2002

Galveston, Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

May 6,2002 Hello, I just want to share my first experience on a cruise. We chose Royal Caribbean. We live in Houston so we wanted to leave from Galveston, Texas. The ship was the Rhapsody of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has just come back to Galveston; the week we went was the second week out from Galveston. I did a lot of research on this ship and found a lot but not much on this trip due to the fact it was just returning. I want to share

the best vacation we could have hoped for. The ship was wonderful. After we got threw all the stuff to get on the ship we made it to our room. The room was really nice. Small but it was just right for two people. Our luggage was in our room so we unpacked and got all set up in the room. Then we put our swimsuits on and we to the pool deck… There we got a drink and just waited to leave… The cruise directors were already at work getting the party started around the pool…. Then we are off for the most wonderful time I have had. The ship itself was so beautiful. All the glass, artwork, and real live plants (no fake). Every one was so nice and helpful. There was so much to do each day and night. We felt very little movement from the ship. We never felt sick. I don't even remember seeing that anyone was sick. The dinning room was wonderful. The waiters were great!!!!!!!! And the food was so good. There was not one meal that we did not like. In the Windjammer the food was really good. Especially the breakfast…. Omelets made to order. In our room it was so nice after breakfast to come back to a clean room and then in the evenings after dinner to come back to a clean room fresh towels and our bed turned down with the next days information there to review and plan the next days activities. All the ports of call were fantastic… Key West, the wonderful sunsets they have. Grand Caymans, we swam with the stingrays that were so very exciting. Cozumel, the shopping and snorkeling were great…. We are already planning to go again same time next year, and the same ship if we can. And take a couple of teenagers with us. I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone and everyone… Great for the young and older…………… There were people of all ages. But over all it was a real quite and relaxing cruise. Thank Royal Caribbean for such a wonderful time and a fantastic adventure……………. The Robinson's PS. Yes, I know this was only our first cruise but it was so wonderful…

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Mar 9, 2002

Western Caribbean - Cozumel, Costa Maya, Grand Cayman

A lot of recent reviews talk about this ship and cruise. I would like to be more specific about certain things we particularly enjoyed so others can comment or take the suggestions. These are opinions and you know what those are worth! Having been on the Rhapsody three summers ago in Alaska, as well as the Sun Princess two years ago and the Explorer last summer, we were all anxious to compare the ships. We went to New Orleans

from San Antonio a day early to shop around. Stayed at the St. Ann Marie Antonette in the French Quarter only to be close to the shopping and eating. We had reserved two adjoining rooms overlooking the courtyard. Someone broke our block and we were unable to have adjoining rooms facing the courtyard. We ended up facing the street, but the noise really was not a problem as we thought it might be. We were looking for some furniture and hit the jackpot along the Royal Street antique stores. Some of the finest antiques are to be found there as well as some of the most heavily discounted new furniture available. The small A&P grocery on Royal behind the Cathedral must be seen to be believed. How the put all that stuff in such a small grocery store is amazing. The aisles are one person wide. Bought out water and beverages to take aboard there. Spent part of the day at the New Orleans aquarium and found it to be fantastic. Ralph and Kacoos and the Old New Orleans Cookery were the restaurants of choice this trip. We got up early to watch the Rhapsody arrive in port around 7:00 AM, but alas, she had arrived around 4:00 AM. Anyway, off to the Port for Embarkation. It went quickly until we tried to open the charge accounts. Having five people in our room (Family Suite 4032), cause a burp in the RCL system as it is designed to handle four persons per booking. With the necessity of two bookings it was a challenge for the operator to get it to work, but a purser staffer happened by to take care of it. Once on board, we headed to the Windjammer buffet for lunch - very adequate. Our cabin was very convenient as it was directly below both the Kids program and the buffet - straight up the elevator to either location. Straight down the hall to the main dining room. One flight of stairs up to the door of the theater. Excellent room location. The ship itself is now going on 5 years old and has not been refurbished since christening. We were pleasantly surprised how well it had been maintained. There were very few sighs of age. Other than a few rough spots in the carpet and some rust appearing on our mirror, the ship was in pretty good shape. The passenger areas were freshly painted as were most of the rails, and walls. The Astroturf around the pool was a bit shabby, but really not bad. This boat is going into dry dock in Alabama mid April for a week before moving to Galveston for a year. I understand the Dining rooms will be completely redone as well most of the pool areas and Centrum. Don't know about the rooms, but they seemed just fine for now. I thought Captain Olaussen was hilarious - each day he came on for his noon talk. A few times he started to give the noon coordinates, but balked and said something like he did not know where we were since it was not quite noon yet. He went straight from his noon briefing to the Windjammer buffet. He was happy to have you sit right down with him to chat over lunch. He was a very likable fellow. The crew also apparently enjoys him very much, often giving him standing ovations after his fun talks to them. I watched him dock the ship upon our return to New Orleans. He stood on the little wing bridge with one hand in his back pocket and the other on the controls. He drove it in himself. The cruise director was a fellow named Kyle Dodson who did a good job. He could sing as well as be funny. To see him in a tights on the last night crew skit was side splitting. Other entertainment was excellent. Comedian Dan Wilson, Gary Pucket of the Union Gap fame, Magicians LaRaf, Joey Van as well as Flash and Fever were all pretty good. We were able to have Sunday and daily Mass on the Rhapsody. Apparently since 9-11, RCL has a priest on each sailing system wide. I am glad to see this attitude and hope it continues. The children's program was very good. The staff does and excellent job entertaining the kids and keeping the kids occupied. The run down the Mississippi was mostly in darkness. The 90 miles took about 7 hours to cover. Then there are oil rigs strung out into the Gulf of Mexico. "MAX 3" is huge and sits about 50 miles out. On most trips there are not a lot of twists and turns going on. However this time, as we headed south, there were many hard turns and speed changes. It was quite apparent. The listing of the ship away from the turns was very noticeable. Coming back into New Orleans, at dinner, one of the turns was so severe sliding doors in the room were closing. There were a whole series of Pilot changes during the 90 miles. Those guys make a ton of money for their services. The Windjammer serviced us for breakfast every day. Don't forget to find the omelet station and if they don't have what you want for your omelet, you may find it on the buffet. I got my own bacon, chopped it up and the guy dumped it right in while making the omelet. On Tuesday morning the section chief assigned a new fellow to the omelet station. Just as I got there he got the job. We had a bit of a chat and he admitted he had never make an omelet before. His helper showed him how it was done, particularly the flip part. Needless to say his first one was not very pretty, but it was fine. I visited with him daily and by Friday morning he was flipping with the best of them. Really a nice young man. Lunch was either at the Windjammer, the main dining room or the burger/pizza joint in the Solarium pool area. I was glad to see water and tea right there close by the food line. Alas, no lemonade. Lemonade was in the Windjammer all the way up the ship. Even the pay soda selling stand was all the way across the Solarium. Three years ago in Alaska there were no beverages in the Solarium at all. Another review I read recently stated that the sister ship Vision of the Seas had no drinks in the Solarium cafe area. Glad there were there this time. Pizza - fair, Hot dogs - OK, Burgers and fries - excellent. Dinner was second seating 8:30 - every night the food was superb. Listen to the waiters - they "sell" the same things every week and they know what the better entrees are and it's not always the most popular. We were at table #16 with nine patrons total. Our waiter, Turgay (from Istanbul) and his helper, Anthony (from Brisbane) were excellent. Anthony got wine duty nightly and while we did not have wine except one night, the table next to us drank four or five bottles nightly. He took care of them and it never interfered with our service. Hats off to them both for a job well done. I have not seen many Australians working on RCL in the past, but Anthony told me that the company was doing a lot of recruiting in his country recently. Every entree was properly cooked and presented. Deserts were to die for. For a preview of dinner on most nights, take a swing though the Windjammer after 6:30 p.m.. It is set up as the alternative dining room. You travel through the buffet line, but rolls, butter and drinks are served at the table. Most food is the same as you will get at dinner. We were bad, but we previewed the deserts and often had one as a snack before dinner. I'm sure no one else has ever done that. In the room we emptied the refrigerator onto the counter - a liter of Evian and several soft drinks. We told our cabin attendant, Albert, we would not be using the items. No problem. We went down floor and found Duncan, our cabin guy three years ago. Same job, same rooms. We had a nice visit with him. They are all looking forward to working out of Galveston for a year. The only problem is the 24 hour Walmart is all the way across the island from the pier. There are no really crew related type shopping in walking distance. Hopefully these fine folks will enjoy the Great State of Texas! Around the pool, I had no qualms about moving towels off unused lounges. It amazes me how people leave a towel there when they leave for the day. Why they don't pick up their towel and throw it in the hamper is unknown to me. That doesn't take a lot of effort. If every one did that there would be plenty of chairs. I guess these are the same ones who hog the chairs by saving 25 lounges for their traveling partners who show up hours later. I give them 15 minutes and move in. Last year on the Explorer we always found a lounge chair where we wanted one. I suppose the higher ratio of balcony cabins kept some people form the pool area to sun themselves. The first sea day was breezy and cool. 20 knots heading South were wonderful. They kept the solarium closed as it was almost too cool. The last two sea days were hot and almost uncomfortable - we slowed to about 14 knots and were sailing with the wind. That made for no breeze on the deck. The canopy over the Solarium pool was opened these two days. Cozumel - Got on deck early to watch the sunrise over Coz - magnificent. The Norwegian Sun was already there and we paralleled another RCL ship coming in. We docked at the new downtown pier along side the Sun. The other RCL boat was at the International Pier next to a Carnival boat. Both the Sun and Rhapsody dumped 2,000+ passengers each at the same time. Lots of confusion over meeting shore excursions, but since we were heading directly to town, we headed off immediately down the pier. The previous night we were told we would be at the International pier and it was three miles to town. Fortunately we were at the downtown pier and had only to walk down the pier to Carlos and Charlies. We worked our way about 13 blocks to Cinco Sole's for lunch at Panchos Backyard. Very good food. After hiking back to town our group rented two Jeeps ($50.00 each - bring it back full). There were several car rental places as we worked our way through town and there were ready when we go back. The one road look took up past Chakkanab Park but we did not stop. We did stop at several of the beach clubs to take in the flavor of Mexico. They are all very nice and make their money selling food, drinks, water toy trips and souvenirs. One in the group wanted to parasail - one quick radio call and here come the boat. $50.00/ 15 minutes. Each Beach club had its own personality and we enjoyed then all. 4:30 or so seems to be the closing times. Around the North shore the views are like Big Sur and the trip down Hwy 1 in California. The Rasta Club is the steel drum music place. The sign on their beach states "topless photos only". A bit further down is the Coconut club which is perched on a cliff and has the most spectacular view along this shore. No one wants credit cards, take plenty of cash for Mexico. Quick stop at the PEMEX (be sure they reset the fuel pump to zero when the fill your vehicle) and back downtown to drop the cars off. Then to Carlos and Charlies and Senior Frogs. That place is absolutely wild and out of control. Let them take your photo and hopefully you can view it on their website later. The spring break draw down the street was two beers and a tequila shot for $4.00. Back down the pier to the Rhapsody just in time for a snack. We were almost the last ship to sail away. The other RCL ship left at 2:00. Carnival was staying until 11:00 p.m.. With only 90 miles to go down the beach to Costa Maya, seemed like we could have stayed here longer, but the ship's casino and shops could not have opened. Whatever..... Costa Maya This port is a fully cruise ship owned port. Mall, beach, entertainment, tours, water volleyball, this small outpost has it all. Being brand new, it won't be long as the area build up has begun. 50 foot by 300 ft. beach front property - $137,000. It's selling fast. While this spot takes 4 hours from Cancun it is only 1.5 hours from Belize city. New four lane highway is taking shape quickly. Local vendors sell deep sea fishing, water toy excursions, ruin tours and beach tours for less than the ship sells them for and all leave from the same place. Two of us wanted to see the ruins at Chacchoben. Only two of us in a Suburban with Pedro. $45.00 person. (Ship price $58.00 each for the bus load group.) The bus left at 8:00 - we left at 9:30. When we got there most of the others were leaving and we got lots of photos with no tourists in the way! Paid Veronica - a local guide to take us through. (20.00 including tip) Very interesting and well worth it. The other advantage of our independent tour was the ability to stop at the watering holes for adult beverages. On the way out of Costa Maya, we passed an Army checkpoint checking for cocaine coming into the country. Some in the group took the ship's bike/kayak tour. 25 minutes biking, 1 hour kayak and 25 minutes biking back. Very enjoyable. The rest of the day back at the pier was spent at either the shopping area, many of which were the same vendors as were in Cozumel or the beach. A very relaxing day and very enjoyable. You could spend the whole day on the beach if you wanted to - it was that nice. This would compare favorably to Labadee the previous summer, except the ship does not take food onshore. Grand Cayman The third port was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We arrive at 11:00 with four ships already at anchor - Grand Princess, Carnival something, HAL Maasdam and some ship unknown to me. The captain told us he would "maneuver" for the day meaning no anchor. The side thrusters and prop were used to hold the ship in place We looked out around 4:00 to see the Rhapsody moving away to let the Grand out and then take her place at her anchorage. All arrivals have to tender. Went to Stingray city with Captain Marvin - 1.5 blocks to the left of the port. ($30.00 per person) Ship time was Central standard time and Cayman is Eastern standard. Watch those clocks. Do not miss this excursion. Take if independently if at all possible. The ship boats with 150 people were there as well as our small group (15). We held them, fed them, petted them, and snorkeled with them. I don't see how the large groups can possibly to all that in the same amount of time. They taped the group and sell the tape for $42.00 delivered. They show the unedited raw film as we came back in. The one they deliver is edited and music is added. It should come out well. The rest of the day was at the waterfront shops. After two blocks in there is no more shopping area. Kirk owns almost every store here. Everything is nicely discounted. However, a reputable Internet dealer can sell for the same prices and tax free. Buyer beware. The last two days we poked along at 14 knots to not arrive too soon back in New Orleans. Traveling with the prevailing southerly winds there was no breeze to wash across the deck. Spent the late afternoon each day listening to the steel band by the pool. When they quit at 5:00 I moved to deck 5 with a chair to watch the sea roll by. Since I did not have a balcony, this was the next best place to be. Absolutely the best way to wind down and relax at the end of this activity filled cruise. Arrived near the port about 4:00. Tied up at 4:30 with the Captain driving. I like to watch arrival at the home port and New Orleans rising from the fog was a splendid sight. Jackson square was eerie. Harrah's casino was like a beacon in the night. Typical off loading of passengers - color by color. However, in the terminal, the luggage was laid out better than any disembarkation we have experienced. Took maybe 60 seconds to locate. Sky cap was right there and off to the waiting cabs. No one from Customs was there to accept our declaration card - although we were not over any limits. They did have agents on the ship to visit with if you were over the limit. Honor system. Our companions were driving and were given brown tags - among the last to leave and they were off right before 10:00. Luggage retrieval was easy and sky caps plentiful. New Orleans does these type things very well. Miami could take lessons. Random notes: The executive chef is relative new, but she did an excellent job with the food throughout the ship. Her nave is Catherine Ross from England. We went to her cooking demo. Tabasco sauce was on every table. Did not see a lot of tuxes on the two formal nights. We had the photographers take several shots of our family at each of several setting. Bought several excellent portraits. The staff will reprint all photos in different sizes. They were also very good at reprinting for color balance. I found it interesting that on the Explorer all the cameras were digital, on the Rhapsody, all were film.... We enjoyed the shopping in Costa Maya because it was all the same as Cozumel, but much more compact and nicely displayed. We could not see any of the repair work that was done to the dock several months ago. No one seemed to know anything about it. There is an outdoor swimming pool in the mall compete with chairs and umbrellas. The beach in front of the mall was operated buy the ships. The one to the right facing the shore was another beach club where you could buy food and drink. We did not go to Uvero beach, but got very good reports. The magic show, laRaf was terrific. Motorcycles disappearing etc. They do the quick change in and out of a box in the middle of the theater. Just a few feet from the audience. It amazes me that anyone can move that fast. I understand it is on two ships that they move back and forth on. This show has contracted for a year. The comic impressionist was pretty good also. We spoke to one dancer who said she had been hired for the Mardi Gras review and that was the only thing she did all week. She worked about 8 hours a week between two shows and rehearsal. Good work if you can get it. Took the backstage tour of the theater and got to see the light booth at work as well as the sound booth. Never thought about it, but it takes three places to show a video in the theater - the tape player itself is somewhere on deck two at the back of the ship. The sound and light booths are in the theater. All three have to be in their areas to simply turn down the light, amp the sound and run the tape. Three diverse locations. Glad it all coordinates. The two people who kept the plates spinning while juggling were excellent. I think they are there for a long contract also. Bingo paid out $8,700.00 the last game. It was spit by two players. The frozen yogurt in the Windjammer was served daily with lots of toppings. My favorite snack - pound cake with strawberry and chocolate toppings. The chocolates on the beds were milk chocolate mints for those who worry about that. Took the GPS along - it was great to watch from time to time. Returning to the Mississippi, the river is particularly narrow in the Delta region, and the fog was very dense. Ships were using fog horns every 90 seconds or so. We watched a Southbound ship pass very closely but could barely see it except for the lights. I also heard today that ships will now be referred to as "it" rather than "she." Good luck getting that one to stick. I am glad to see the Rhapsody going to dry dock to bet painted up. We have enjoyed this ship twice and now that she is going to be out of Galveston it will be close to home. Mike Bolner Questions - [email protected]

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Oct 28, 2001

Western Caribbean

I have read all the reviews I could find before we left. I'd have to say that you can only believe about 10% of them. Everybody has their own opinion and how they lead their lives creates that. I myself loved this ship. We had terrible weather but the crew made the trip so enjoyable that even my husband (who made a trip to the infirmary for seasickness/dehydration) wants to do it again. We were unable to stop at Playa del Carmen due to rough seas,

we continues onto Cozumel and had a wonderful day of sunshine. Our excursions in Grand Cayman where all canceled due to terrible weather although they were able to get anyone who wanted to tendered into town and we all managed to run around shopping. I suspect the town would not have made as much money that day if there had not been any rain. We carried onto Key West where the rain had continued so that all excursions there had been pretty much canceled (water sports) due to bad visibility also. Although the sun did come out, Jimmy Buffet was there having a little "carnival" and we saw some speed boats practicing for the world championship races. The last two were unexpected fun. We did manage to rent a little four-seater electric car and make our way around the tiny little island. We stopped at the Hemingway house-ok if you are a fan, at a beach-would have been fun had we brought our suits, and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe-good but pretty much just like the one here in Dallas. When on the ship you pretty much have no outside connections unless you pay .50 a minute for online service and I think near 8.00 a minute for a phone call. When on the way home we found that Hurricane Michelle had pretty much followed us the whole way only two days behind. We had a 4yr old daughter and a 14yr old daughter with us. They have an Ocean Adventure camp for the kids between 3(potty trained)-17. The teen age ranges need to be a little wider in ages but all in all my 14yr old had a great time. Where else to you feel safe enough to let one her age stay out till 12-1 am. The 4yr old on the other hand had never been on a vacation of this sort and has been excited since march when we booked. She is not in daycare since I stay home and is too young for school so the whole "leave her in the playroom to play" was a new concept. It was over all a great experience for her and us. We could drop her off and she could play with kids her own age for awhile and us parents could go do our own thing. The only exception was one individual who complained the first day about how hyper she'd been. Well DUH! Of course she would be. My older daughter said she was a drag when she was in the teen club as well. (I think she needs a new duty, to bad I didn't get her name). Any way it was a great trip. Don't believe the pics they show of the rooms though. And the food, crew, shows, parties, etc were all great.

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Sep 9, 2000

Alaska

Margaret S. Chatters This was my sixth cruise. I had never been to Alaska before and the sites were just beautiful. I would highly recommend this cruise to others. The last ship in before heading south brought lots of good shopping prices. Ship was clean, food great and entertainment excellent.

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Sep 5, 1998

Alaska

Mary K Rhapsody of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) Alaska - Inside Passage (9/98) This was our 4th Cruise, the others being Sep 95 - Sovereign of the Seas, Jan 97 - Crown Princess, June 98 - Vision of the Seas. We booked in Sep 97, well in advance because we wanted a particular cabin, so we had a year to wait on this particular vacation but we were sure it was well worth waiting on. The day before we were due to leave our Travel

Agent called to advise that Air Canada’s pilots had gone on strike and that our flights had been changed. It was to be the start of a nightmare journey. Instead of flying at 0920 hrs from Edinburgh, Scotland to Heathrow, London, England and then a direct flight to Vancouver with Air Canada, they had switched us flying out of Edinburgh at 06.40 hrs to Heathrow, then AA to Los Angeles where we would have to wait 5 hrs on a flight to Vancouver. When we got to the Air Canada desk in London, they advised us that they had chartered a flight to fly directly from London to Vancouver, and they had 2 seats left on it, however it wasn't leaving until 5 pm that day, so we decided we would wait in London and take the direct flight rather than two flights and wait in Los Angeles. The chartered flight was delayed and we did not leave London until 10.30 pm by which time we had spent around 13 hrs in Heathrow Airport. The chartered flight had free seating and we did manage to get seats in business class, which did make up for all the delays. We didn't arrive at our hotel The Hyatt, Vancouver until 2 am Canadian time, by which time we had been traveling for 28 hrs. We took our luggage with us to the hotel, and the next morning we checked in with the Royal Caribbean representatives in the hotel, who issued us with our cruise card etc, and all we had to do then was walk on the ship. Our luggage was transferred separately to the ship. By 10.45 am that morning we were picked up at the hotel by bus and taken on a city tour, which lasted around 3 hrs. When we arrived at the check in we just walked right on to the ship after going through the normal security measures. However we did not receive our luggage until after dinner, (we were main sitting) so it was around 7.30 - 7.45 pm before our luggage was delivered to the cabin. CABIN We were in Cabin No. 7152 which is aft and port side, it's right on the corner and has a huge balcony that wraps right around the side of the ship as well. It was fairly large and had two sun loungers, 3 chairs and a table on it. The balcony sure made the vacation, being able to watch the glacier calving and seeing the scenery go past, it was well worth the extra money to have our own private space to see the splendour of this wonderful land. The cabin was spacious enough, with a full size couch which doubled as a bed. The carpet was extremely marked, and could have done with a thorough steam clean to get some of the stains out of it, other than that the cabin was spick and span every other place. There was plenty of hanging space, with 6 normal size drawers in the dresser, four smaller drawers by the bed, and another unit that had spaces for sweaters etc, with about 5 shelves. On our first day our Cabin Attendant decided not to renew the towels, so as he was still there I went and asked him for them and he gave me them from his trolley. The second day the same thing happened he left us with one towel only, so as he wouldn't be around by the time we would be taking showers (it was Captains Cocktail party night) I called Housekeeping, we waited 1 hr and nothing happened, so I went to the Pursers desk, and they said it would be taken care of, we waited another hour and half, and nothing happened, so I went back to the Purser’s desk and got the same person, who apologized profusely, and said he would deal with it. 20 mins later the towels were delivered to our cabin, whereby the person delivering the towels was explaining to us that our cabin would be serviced twice a day. He obviously thought we required more towels than what was normal, we tried to explain that our cabin steward had only left us with one towel, but I really don’t think he understood. This left us in a rush to get ready for the Cocktail Party, however our Cabin Steward appeared that night with an apology and some fluffy dressing gowns, and the rest of the week we got more towels than we could ever have used. However we never did build up that rapport with him, like we have done with all our other cabin attendants. FOOD I have found that the food in the Windjammer is pretty so so, it was the same on the Vision as well, some things were never very hot, therefore we only ate there a couple of times. The food in the dining room was excellent (as they want you to say), some of the desserts were very tasty, the Key Lime Pie and also a dessert I had never seen before called "Blintzes" or something like that, was very delicious. Overall the food was very good, and plentiful, I also could never have eaten more than one helping, although we were never offered more than one, like we were on the Vision, although we never took up the offer there either. We cannot comment on room service, or midnight buffets as we never used this facility. We did attend the Galley tour which was at midnight and we found it quite interesting to see the vast expanse of the galley. There was a buffet that night too, but we chose the line to only look and not eat, but we were amazed at how long the line was for eating, it went all the way through the dining room out into other parts of the ship. ENTERTAINMENT We didn't go to all of the shows, but the ones we did go to were very good. We only seen one Review Show which was "In the Heat of the Night" the cast and costumes were quite spectacular if you like that sort of show. We also seen Gary Mule Deer who had a silly kind of humor, but along with him was Skip Devol who was excellent and stole the show. Another excellent show was Bowzer formerly of Sha Na Na, whom I had never heard of but was well known in the USA along with his backing group "The Stingrays" who were superb also, his certainly was a show no one would sleep through and I for one was glad to give him a standing ovation. Other stars were Maria Neglia, a violinist and Craig Dahn with the magic of the piano, he was a protégé of Liberace. The cruise director Kirk Detweiler was very talented and was seen to be around all of the time. JUNEAU We arrived in Juneau mid-day and it was raining, and it rained for the total time that we were there. We were prepared for that kind of weather though, with waterproof jackets and reliable footwear. We took the Wildlife tour, where we were taken by bus to the outskirts of town and we boarded a Catamaran that held around 175 people, I think there were around 125 people on board on the day we took the tour. It was a bit rough when we were getting out to Admiralty Island but then a whale was spotted, so the boat stopped and we watched this whale for a while, it was amazing to see it at last in the flesh, and was quite exciting just watching it. Anybody that went out on top to watch it got soaked to the skin, as it was raining so hard, but there was a bit at the back of the boat that was open, but had a bit of an overhang so you didn't get quite so wet, (it was for smoker’s - so if you can put up with that for a short while) then its the best place to be to get a good look at the whales without getting soaked. We also seen Sea Lions, Seals and two bald eagles, so anybody really interested in seeing whales this would be a good tour to take. We booked through RCI at a cost of around $99 per person. I had read a story about Patsy Ann the bull terrier (Juneau’s welcomer) on the Internet, (she has a Web Page of her own), so I wanted to check out the statue of her on the Quayside, we had a look for a while but couldn't find her, so I went and asked at the Information Center, but either they couldn't understand my Scottish accent, or they just didn't seem to know what I was talking about. Anyway I asked a Policeman and he showed me the direction I had to take. The story is so touching, I just had to go and touch her statue, it was a highlight for me. SKAGWAY It was dull when we arrived at Skagway, but by lunch time it had cleared and it was brilliant sunshine all afternoon, what a difference it made to this splendid little town. We had booked the White Pass & Yukon Train ride, which took around 3 - 4 hours, there was a commentary the whole time, and there were some very interesting stories told. It climbed quite a height, and clung to the mountainside at some particular points, so anyone scared of heights this is not the trip to take. HAINES We arrived at Haines around 6.30 pm just as the sun was beginning to set behind the mountains. It really is a beautiful little place, quite unspoiled, not many shops at all, with spectacular scenery all around it. The Rhapsody never looked so good as it did that night, sitting at the wooden quayside with the setting sun shining on her, she certainly did look a picture that night, she was just beautiful. We had seen both the Westerdam and Dawn Princess on our travels in Alaska, but they didn't hold a candle to the Rhapsody for her sleek lines etc. We took the Salmon Bake tour that night, well actually you could walk to it. It was held in Fort Seward, which actually doesn't look like a Fort, (well not the Fort’s that I know of) and the Salmon was tasty enough (it had a different flavor) because of it being cooked on an alderwood fire. There were ribs and salad as well, and cheesecake to follow. I only had some salmon, and was glad that there was food still available on the ship for eating. There is a shop straight up from where the ship docks, on the right hand side where there are some beautiful hand crafted gifts. The girl was hand painting one of the wooden carvings while we were there, I spoke to her and she told me that she and her brother had been to University and traveled the world but they decided to come back to Haines to make their living, and I wonder why….if you see the place the question will be answered. (No rat race there). KETCHIKAN I know that it has a high rainfall, but it just had to continually rain the whole time we were there, which was a shame because although a bit commercialized Creek Street is still pretty and worth seeing. We didn't take any trips here, as we had intended to do our own thing, but as it rained so much we just took a walk round some of the shops, bought some more things, we then decided we would need another bag/case to get all our purchases back home. Royal Caribbean do a handy bag on wheels for $29.99 which is quite good value. While we were walking on Creek Street, we were amazed to see the hundreds of salmon below the wooden boardwalks, I am saying hundreds but I am pretty sure there were thousands of them. HUBBARD GLACIER When I seen that we would be spending 2.1/2 hrs at Hubbard Glacier, I thought what are we going to do for all that time just looking at a Glacier. I never have been so wrong, it was absolutely amazing. The colors were outstanding, the noise was like thunder, and the calving just so exciting. It was pretty hard to capture it on camera, you always seemed to be looking in the wrong place, after a while I gave up and just enjoyed the solitude of the place (hence the reason for the balcony). With having the balcony at aft, when the ship turned around to let the other side see the glacier, we still managed to see about a third of the glacier as well, so it worked out really well. I couldn't believe when the ship turned round and set off to leave the glacier, the time had passed so quick, and I felt very sad to be leaving it. Of course the weather made all the difference, it was brilliant sunshine that day and not a cloud in the sky, it couldn't have been better. DISEMBARKATION When we were checked in at the hotel the RCI rep advised us to check with the Purser on board as they would have our flight arrangements for coming home, seeing as how the Air Canada pilot’s strike was still ongoing. However near to the end of the cruise when we checked they didn't know anything, and were told to come back Saturday morning when we docked in Vancouver, which we did, they still couldn't give us any information which was a bit worrying for us, as there would be no RCI rep at the Hyatt during our post cruise. All they gave us was the telephone number of their Miami office, (which I am sure would have been a lot of help), considering we were booked through RCI in England. As we were getting off the ship we seen the lady who had checked us in at the hotel, and mentioned to her we still didn't know how we were getting home, she was most helpful and gave us a telephone number in Vancouver to contact. As we were doing this Post Cruise add on at the Hyatt Hotel in Vancouver, we had blue luggage tags, which meant we would be one of the last people to get off the ship. Breakfast was 6.30 am so it meant an early rise if you wanted to eat in the main dining room. We actually did not get off the ship until 10.30 am, which seemed a very long time to me. We were then met and boarded a bus for a city tour, once again our luggage was taken to the hotel separately. They do this to waste time otherwise we would be turning up at the hotel and the rooms wouldn't be ready. You did have the option to get a taxi to the hotel so if you didn't have a lot of hand luggage you could do this, but you wouldn't be able to get into your room, you could also spend the time doing your own thing, but as we had a bit of hand luggage we decided to do the tour again. This time it was a bit shorter, and when we arrived at the hotel our luggage was there and there was another RCI Rep who once again was very helpful regarding our flights home, she called up and checked but as there wasn't any more information regarding the strike we would have to wait, but assured us that we would be contacted, which they duly did the day before we were due to come home. However the Concierge in the hotel advised us to call in to the Air Canada office just around the corner from the hotel, and get confirmation. We did this and although there were lots of people in the office we were dealt with quickly. We had transfer tickets for the airport bus which calls around all the hotels every 15 mins or so, but we opted to get a taxi to the airport which only cost 28 CD $. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, and were checked in as soon as we arrived, but the flight was delayed so we ended the vacation the same way we started with long delays. Alaska is certainly a definite for anyone who likes to cruise and also likes the natural things in life. Its a beautiful unspoiled land with plenty to occupy any person. There are a very wide range of tours to be bought through the ship, but if I went again I would prefer to do my own thing. Skagway has a population of around 800 which can swell to 10,000 a day when there can be as much as 6 to 7 cruise ships in port, we were lucky in the fact that any one time there were only three of us, The Westerdam, Dawn Princess and us, therefore anyone who doesn't like crowds in small towns beware! It would be very nice to visit Alaska off season, I don’t think that the weather would be all that different, and it would be nice to have the place to yourself, but then again a land tour is a lot harder work than being enveloped in the luxury of a cruise ship. Whilst we were on the Wildlife trip, the guide told us that it rained quite a lot in the Inside Passage, and that probably the best month to visit weather wise was May, I don’t know how accurate this is but you just have to believe your guide don’t you. Regards Mary K.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Following is my personal review of this past week sailing aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas from Galveston. I have tried to cover all the things I would find helpful in planning a cruise aboard this ship. I hope it will help you to get ready for your cruise! Bon Voyage! Port of Galveston info: Easy for drop off and pick up. Less crowded around 2:00pm drop off. Buffet lunch on board runs until 3:45pm. Parking lot D was also a good option

for the other family traveling with us. The cost was $70 for a week uncovered and $80 to park under a shade canopy. You pay in advance in cash. (I am sure they have learned that you might not have the $$ when you return!) For disembarkation, they no longer make you go to the lounge in the morning for U. S. Citizens. Non- U. S. still had to report in the morning. They now take care of customs in the baggage area after you pick up your bags, you proceed to the customs booth just like the airports and they check your documents and take your customs form and then you exit the building. There is also a separate line for non- U.S. for exiting the baggage area, so make sure you are in the right line. Aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas: Cabins: This ship was very clean and in great shape. On this cruise I had an inside cabin, which I have not had in a long time. There was plenty of storage with drawers, closets and shelves. They provide a hair dryer and there is a set your own combination safe in the room at no charge. They also provide soap and mystery shampoo in a dispenser in the shower. After that you are on your own…… I always bring my own sundries so I never pay much attention these items. Although the last time I sailed on Carnival I did really enjoy the basket of sample sizes that put in each room and wish Royal Caribbean would catch on to this idea. I also bring a good sampling from my own medicine cabinet like Tylenol, IB, floss, cough drops, eye drops, etc. Better to be prepared! Another word on the cabins, after 39 cruises, I have learned to bring my own pillow from home and on the last few cruises I have started to bring my own blanket. I know this may sound crazy, but I pick up one of those fleece or micro fiber thow type blankets that fits perfectly on the twin beds on the ship and is so soft and comfortable to lie on or under. I asked my cabin steward on the first day to take away the bed spread and not to return it all week and just to make up the bed with my blanket on top. (You know my Jamaican cabin steward said “ No Problem Mon”) I also asked him to take away the bar set up that takes up counter space on the desk and to take away the robes that take up space in the closet. (No worries Mon!) LOL Also, another tip that I learned from reading the boards was to ask them to replace the blanket that is between the sheets on the bed. They usually put a scratchy type heavier blanket between and you can ask them to replace it with the softer velour type and they readily will. I asked for this on both of my last cruises on Grandeur and now on Rhapsody and they immediately knew what I was talking about and replaced it. The cabin also has a desk, chair, a small couch and a television that showed movies, news, sports, sitcoms, and the in house channel that showed the talks, talents shows, game shows etc and the view from the bridge channel that showed you what the weather was like outside with music in the background. Also, I was traveling with a diabetic and we were able to request a refrigerator for her insulin and they also provided a sharps container for needles both at no additional charge. Food: The food in both the dining room and at the buffet was good and plentiful. They always had a selection of sugar-free desserts, which was great for my diabetic Mom. They do have a Ben and Jerry’s and a Seattle’s Best coffee area on this ship. There was a small charge for these places but I tried them both and they were very good. The coffee however was scalding hot….so be sure to ask them to tone it down a bit if you don’t like it so hot! If you are a past passenger and you give your Crown and Anchor numbers when you make your reservations to your Travel the big shows. I did however enjoy the piano bar, the Centrum music, and the poolside music. I also laughed my head off at “ The Quest!” I also had fun in the casino playing roulette. Although, I do not play the slots, the people at our table won frequently on them and one of the ladies even won $1600 and they took her picture! Spa: I did not partake in any spa treatments, they are pretty high priced and not my cup of tea….however, I did enjoy the rather large sauna in the ladies locker room and it is free! I did not use the gym, but I did enjoy the open air walking and jogging track on the top deck of the ship. Be sure to bring sneakers for walking and if you want to climb the rock wall they require you to have socks with either sandals or sneakers . It is a good workout walking against the wind! They also have a sheltered promenade deck for walking and strolling that was great for enjoying the sunsets and we saw a pod of wild dolphins swimming and jumping off the side of the wake during sunset on two different days from the promenade deck. Awesome! Ports of call: On our sailing we went to Ocho Rios, Jamaica …..they usually go to Montego Bay, Jamaica or Key West every other week, so you may not go to Ocho Rios on this ship. There were 5 of us traveling together, so we decided to get a van cab and driver for $20 per person for the day. He took us to through the Fern Gully area, and stopped to show us all the plants and fruits that are grown in Jamaica, then up to a scenic spot to get a great picture of the ship in the harbor. Then since it was getting late he took us to an area of the Dunn’s River falls where you can see the falls for free if you are not going to climb them and do not want to pay the entrance fee to the park of $15 per person. Then he dropped us off at an area called Magnolia Beach to swim for an hour and then picked us up to take us back to the ship. We had a very full day and even stopped at Burger King for lunch and had an hour for shopping too. Be sure to negotiate in advance if you are going to go off with a driver. Grand Cayman This is a tendering port, so if you are not a shore tour, I recommend you take your time, have some breakfast, and get ready to go into port. By the time you have done all this and it is around 10am, you will no longer need tender tickets to go ashore. We decided to spend a few hours at the beach. I have been to Cayman before and friends recommended that we try the “Sea Grape “ area of 7-mile beach. It was about a $4.00 ride per person in a shared van taxi each way. It leaves right from the dock area and takes about 10 minutes. There are three stops on the 7 mile beach, the first is Royal Palms…which is where I think I went last time, the second is “the beach club” and the third is Sea Grape. Sea Grape was a VERY nice area. It was very clean and had a restaurant, bar, nice restrooms, chair, umbrella, and float rentals, and a deck area in the sand. They were also offering banana boat rides and parasailing for a charge. The water was very clear and nice and warm. I would go back anytime! The shopping by the pier is expensive and the Hard Rock Café was a mob scene since it is the only familiar name in the shopping area. Cozumel Coz, is one of my favorite ports and I have been there many times. We spent the day shopping and had lunch in the square at one of our favorite restaurants “Casa Dennis”. The shopping in Cozumel is by far the best and most plentiful on this itinerary. There are markets to bargain and there are jewelry and perfume shops or more upscale shopping. We did not go to the beach on this trip but I would recommend Mr. Sanchos beach or Chankanab state park for snorkeling. I have also taken the Fury catamaran trip and it is a wonderful day excursion that includes snorkeling and a day at the beach. I will end with a few helpful hints of things to bring on your cruise to make it more enjoyable. Some of these are from years of experience and some are new ones I have learned from reading in other reviews. Bring a travel clock that lights up! There are no clocks in the room! A pen or a few pens! It seems you are always looking for a pen to fill out a form or write a note to your traveling companions or your steward. A white kitchen garbage bag to hang in the closet over a hanger to put your dirty clothes in. At the end of the cruise you can just toss it into the suitcase! A multi hanger to put over one of the hooks to make more hook space. Post it notes to leave notes for your cabin steward. A highlighter to mark the activities you want to do on the daily schedule. As I mentioned earlier, a pillow and blanket from home. Walkie-talkies! These work great to find each other on the ship! Camera, extra batteries, binoculars, air freshener or matches for the bathroom, a rain poncho or wind breaker incase it rains. Water shoes for the beaches or climbing the falls in Jamaica. Be sure to bring a great tote bag to take in the ports to hold your beach gear, money, camera and your shopping purchases. Go to the bank at home and get lots of singles, fives and smaller bills for tipping, cabs and bargaining in the markets in port. If you forget to do this, you can get change in the casino onboard much faster than the Pursers desk. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any cruise questions or would like help setting up you next cruise. Wishing you smooth seas, Marci

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By Bob_CR

  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise and after the many stories that our cruise savvy friends told us, our expectations were high. Those expectations were met and exceeded! The Rhapsody of the Seas is beautiful and extremely clean, the crew and staff are warm, friendly, and seemed to enjoy the company of the passengers. Having worked for 30 years in a customer service industry I can really appreciate this responsiveness. Kudos to the staff and crew

of the Rhapsody. We were in balcony room 7050. Our room attendants did a great job of keeping it clean, the ice bucket always full, and of course provided us with a towel animal every night. I appreciated have a mini-safe and mini-refrigerator in our room. While on the balcony one morning I actually saw flying fish. Awesome! The only negative comment I have about our room is that I found the mattress to be way too hard. The food overall was outstanding. We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer Café and we were impressed with the selection and quality of the meals. My only negative comment here would be the bakery goods, pass on the donuts and danish. By the way, the view from the Windjammer Cafe is beautiful. We always ate dinner in the Edelweiss Dining Room where everyone was serenaded by live music performed by Rosario Strings, a duo on classical guitar and electric violin. Every meal taken here was absolutely outstanding. Our waiter Agnelo and assistant waiter Shamir could not have been more attentive. This was 5 star service at its best. I ate more food that I should have but the extra pounds were worth it. The two pools on the ship were smaller than I expected but the one in the Solarium never seemed to be crowded. An issue Royal Caribbean needs to address is the tile floor in the Solarium. While they do have a little sign warning of a slippery floor, someone is going to break a hip or other body part someday, if it already hasn’t happened. Walking on this floor is like walking on ice. I personally saw an older gentleman have his feet slip out from under him and he hit the deck quite hard. I thought for sure he was injured but he said he was alright and got up and moved on. I could tell his pride was injured. Shipboard entertainment was outstanding. My wife and I still laugh about the game “Quest” that we played in Shall We Dance Lounge. The shows in the Broadway Melodies Theater ranged from very good to outstanding. If you ever get the chance to see the high energy act of the Knudsen Brothers, DON’T MISS IT!! Daytime activities ranged from horse racing to belly flop contests. I have nothing negative to say about the entertainment and again, kudos to cruise director Dan Dan the Party Man. Our ports of call were Key West, Fl., Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico and we enjoyed all three. At Key West we did the pub crawl consisting of 5 pubs. Three of the pubs were great, two were dumps. In Grand Cayman with went on the Atlantis Submarine and it was truly awesome. My only negative is that in Cozumel, three cruise ships arrived in port at almost the same time. Because of this trying to get ground transportation from our port was an absolute nightmare. The casino was actually better than I expected and the slot machines seemed to be quite a bit looser the first few days of the cruise. The two 5 dollar blackjack tables were always crowded and the 10 and 25 dollar blackjack always had open seats as did the Let it Ride and Caribbean Stud tables. During the cruise they had a Blackjack tournament and a Slots tournament. Embarking and disembarking from the ship was always smooth and easy. There were so many positive aspects of this cruise that they far outweighed my negative comments. Next time I cruise I want to go on one of the larger RCCL ships for purposes of comparison. Also, I’ll diet off 15 pounds so that on the next ship I’ll be able to eat like a pig.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean the Seas Sailing Date: March 10th, 2002 This was the second cruise on the Rhapsody, the first being in June of 2001 in Alaska. This cruise began in New Orleans and included Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Georgetown Grand Cayman. Our impressions continue to be overwhelmingly favorable towards Royal Caribbean as a line, with a particular fondness for the Rhapsody of the Seas. We will embark on our third cruise

on Rhapsody early in 2003. In our particular case, the greatest lure of cruising is being totally disconnected from work and day to day responsibIlity. The more competent the ship's company, the more complete the vacation experience. I the ship never stopped at any of the Tijuana-like ports of call in the Caribbean, it would have been fine for us. From the ship's captain to the room steward everyone has been efficient, professional, and accommodating. The only thing that would make the experience better would be to have designated "adult" cruises, where the minimum age was 21. I would think that Disney would be a good bet, if you have to confine kids to a boat for a week.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We just returned from this wonderful cruise which happened to be our first, so maybe we were easy to please. We found our balcony suite to be quite nice and definitely worth the extra money. We were worried about Hurricane Isidore, and did have some rain and 10-12 foot seas for a couple of days, but no problems at all. We were not bothered by any hint of seasickness or any discomfort, and our days in port were nice except for a little

sprinkle in Cozumel. The crew members were so nice, and the Captain very entertaining!! Key West was beautiful, we rented a scooter and spent several hours exploring---fun, fun, fun. Snorkeled and viewed the stingrays in Grand Cayman, and took the "Catch the Wave Snorkel Safari" excursion in Cozumel which was first rate and I highly recommend it. The food, entertainment and service aboard the ship was very good. I can't say that it was the best food I've ever had, but then I'm from Louisiana where the best food in the world is found, so my standards are quite high. We spent the night before and the night after the cruise in Galveston at the lovely old Hotel Galvez (left our car in their locked parking lot free of charge and let them shuttle us to the port). We loved the cruise and will definitely book another Royal Caribbean cruise before too long. The most difficult thing about the cruise was coming back to reality!! We highly recommend it.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

It was wonderful - the food a little disappointing, but I certainly had plenty to eat and didn't gain weight, which was a plus. I was pleasantly surprised that one could be on deck and find a quiet place. The only problem I have is that I have been sick ever since I got home, and therefore, I am asking how to find out if others have been "sick", how many, what their problem has been, etc. If this is too vague, contact me but I would like

a response.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

I have been one two cruises before. Once with Royal Caribbean and once with Princess. I went on this cruise with my wife, Amy, as honeymooners. Getting on the ship was easy. We purchased a transfer from the airport to the ship. There was a RC rep waiting at the baggage claim. Once on the ship, we headed straight for the windjammer to get some lunch. The food at the windjammer is what you might find at a typical buffet restaurant. Generally

it was pretty satisfying and well maintained. They have a frozen yoghurt machine but for some reason 3 of the 7 times we went up there, they were out of cones so we had to use cups & spoons. After eating lunch, we went to our room and our luggage was already at our door. This is great because usually you wait well into the evening. RC lost my mother’s bag last cruise. Our room staff came by and greeted us. She knew both our names all throughout the cruise even though we never formally introduced ourselves. We chose to do second seating at 8:30pm in the Edelweiss dining room. At that time, we got to meet our dinner guests and wait staff. Our waiters were Swaroop and Sunny, from India. The guests at the table were two other couples so it was very compatible. We were all sort of quiet during out first dinner, which is to be expected. I knew that by the end of the cruise we would have a hard time saying goodbye. After our nice dinner (I had the Alaskan Cod with some special wine sauce) we called it an early night and went to bed. This is probably not normal, but we had been up for over 24 hours at this point because of our wedding reception and early flight to Houston. In the morning, we were refreshed and ready for a day at sea. We went up to the pool deck, had some drinks, soaked up some sun, watched the band play, stared at all the large untanned people, and watched all the funny pool games. There is a lot to do on the ship, but a lot of things cost money. We opted not to do too much spending since we were tight on cash because of the wedding. The spa is pretty nice I suppose, from what people said. After this day, we had another day at sea. Same sort of activities on the second day. Next up, we stopped at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We were supposed to go to Montego Bay, but we didn’t due to “port issues” whatever that means. Ocho Rios looks nice from the pier, but don’t venture off onto the street or you will be physically grabbed by the people there that try to stuff you into their “taxi” which is written in duct tape on the side of their junk ride. We were also offered Marijuana and Cocaine. We literally ran back to the ship and hid until our tour took place. We did the river tubing which was pretty fun. The people are locals of course, and I always felt like they wanted to steal my wallet and I was not welcome. I felt like they tried to act like they liked you there but I get the impression that they hate tourists, which is totally understandable because life is ridiculous and easy in the USA while they are living in shacks and will never have the chance to leave the island. I feel ashamed of my life after seeing what they do every day. Next day, we went to Grand Cayman. This is the total opposite of Jamaica. Nice shops, nice beaches, nice people, no unemployment on the island, and full of culture. Much like the USA, it is a cultural melting pot and the economy is very good. There are 100s of banks from all over the world on this small island. They don’t even have income tax because they don’t need it. We went to the seven mile beach, visited the turtle farm, and shopped around in the shops before heading back on the ship. Then we had dinner and went to the show. Every night there is a show, and each night the show is great. Next we went to Cozemel, Mexico. The people there want to make a deal with you. We ended up buying so much stuff because even though we genuinely didn’t want it, we couldn’t refuse their lowest price. I suggest buying a large bottle of vanilla. You can get it for about $7 and its 20oz of the good pure stuff. That st uff is about $3.00 an ounce here. Nice marble chess sets sell for as low as $10, and other rock carvings that make great home decorations. You can also get good deals on t-shirts for $5 each. Silver is the big item there, and there are good deals on the metal if you like it. Our shore excursion was swimming with dolphins and snorkeling. We purchased the DVD afterward. Everyone there seemed to enjoy their jobs, and was friendly toward us. I always try to tell if they are acting, but I felt like he was genuine about his attitude toward us. This was our last stop, so getting back on the boat was kind of sad. So we ate more food, gained more pounds, watched the show again and headed for bed. Our daily routine was pretty repetitive. I pretty much got used to it. They play good movies on the ship so we liked to watch them in our room then take a nice two hour nap. It seems like the most boring time is from 2:00pm-6:00pm so it’s a good time to relax. This night they had a midnight buffet which is on every cruise but is always amazing and wont let you down. Butter sculptures, ice carvings, and fruit carvings were all on display for an hour for picture taking, then everyone gets to eat. The next day, our last day which was at sea, was uneventful and almost frustrating and we felt kinda stuck on the ship and we did get pretty bored. Our stomachs hurt from eating ourselves sick, and we were burnt and tired. We headed for bed early that night too. We were a bit homesick I suppose. We had a great time though, and disembarkation was very easy. Our color was called at the right time, and we got off the ship with no problem, and customs didn’t even charge duty tax on all the liquor we bought on the ship. We even managed to catch an early flight home. Overall rating of this cruise: B. When compared to the princess cruise, it was a step down. When comparing it to my other RC cruise, it was also a slight step down. I was not disappointed though for the most part. I did feel like I expected a bit more, but it may be because I have been on two cruises before. Overall I am satisfied and on a scale of 1 to 5 of whether or not I would recommend it, I give it a 3.5. Happy traveling!

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Never having cruised before we decided to splash out a bit this year. My wife Tracey and the Kids Ryan(12)and Ross(9). As we live in Houston it was a simple 80 minute drive to the quayside, and arriving early at about noon the embarkation was very smooth. I had read many reviews in advance and was happy with the tips given. The ship was very good in terms of facilities and condition, I was surprised by all the fittings etc. being in very

good condition on a ship of this age, there has obviously been a refit and paint job performed somewhere along the line. As for the ports, well Key West is not much to get excited about and we used the time to take an island tour and to watch the sunset over cocktails. Grand Cayman however was excellent and the water was stunning. We took the "Snuba" excursion which is basically scuba diving without the hassle of the wearing the air tank. The crystal clear water is excellent for seeing underwater and they had a wreck that we we able to survey with its many strange fish and corals. I would advise that if you take kids, that they are confident swimmers. My twelve year old thought this was a blast and made the cruise worthwhile on this alone. We also went to a local beach in the morning, The taxis tend to take all the cruisers to various beaches that looked custom made for this. They became very cramped but if you are only going for 4-6 hours it is worth it for the water! Cozumel was a bit of a disappointment as the beach club the taxi took us to was also cramped and the sand/water was not as high quality as Grand Cayman. That being said it was a chance to see somewhere different. Food: Breakfast and lunch could be had in various restaurants but I chose to take breakfast on my balcony (which was novel for the first two mornings but you got better choice in the restaurants). We had lunch in the windjammer every day and being a buffet we could all get exactly what we wanted which was great. The standard of food was generally very good without getting fancy. They were carving an excellent roast most days and it was difficult not to eat too much. Dinner in the main dining room was another experience. We requested a large table (10) hoping to meet other people. On the first night we met a lovely couple from Austin and their son who we met at various times throughout the week for cocktails etc. It does help to have some friends on board. The service was very good in the main restaurant with all the waiters trying hard for their gratuities (I will come back to this). The formal nights (2) were a nice departure from the rest of the week and an opportunity to get dressed up and get photos taken etc. They were well attended, but you can also eat at the windjammer if you don't feel like dressing up. We had very few low points and plenty of highlights, and given that we all shared one room (albeit a suite)it was remarkable there were few dramas (if you have kids I would recommend getting the largest room you can). Activities for the kids were plentiful and my nine year old was involved in their kids program most days. My twelve year old had more trouble as he was put in the 12-14 year bracket which is an awkward age group. Perhaps more supervision of this group would have helped. Entertainment on board for the adults was so so. The production shows were frankly poor quality, but they had a couple of very good comedians. The theatre is excellent though and we never had a problem getting a seat with a good view. I had my first ever massage at the spa which felt great, but was tainted by doubling the bill for some "relaxation" shower gel I am ashamed to say I was lulled into buying (my wife will get a lot of mileage from this) Back to gratuities. I am not impressed with the almost mandatory tipping for the cabin steward, head waiter, table waiter and assistant waiter. When 4 travel this adds up to over $300. I never saw the head waiter, and the cabin steward seemed more interested in other cabins. Our table waiter and assistant waiter were excellent and very helpful, but there was always an air of "dogs turning tricks" in order that you would tip them more come the last night. I also found out that they have to give a percentage of these tips back to Royal Caribbean. All in all we had a wonderful time from the anticipation of a grand adventure to the smooth disembarkation when it was all over. I can thoroughly recommend this cruise for families. It is a bit pricey, but if you compare to a Caribbean island quality resort it will work out around the same, and it is much more exciting.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We flew in to Houston, Hobby airport out of Midway airport Chicago. Avoiding the larger O’Hare and Bush Intercontinental airports is something I strongly encourage based on our experience. Galveston Island is a beautiful place and not to be missed. Don’t let your impressions of the island be solely based on the most expeditious route from Houston to the

cruise terminal. If you do you will be sadly disappointed, as were most passengers. While the terminal was surely lacking in aesthetics, I was very impressed with how quickly we were processed and boarded. The ship-board food was great. Reviews I had read on this website lead me to expect quantity at the expense of quality but I am emphatic when I say this was not the case. I might suggest, however, that when attending the buffets, walk the food line first before you commence filling your trough. In this way you will select foods you will most enjoy as opposed to all of the food you can possibly enjoy. If you think I’m being flippant when I say “trough” you’d best reserve judgment until you witness the size of the plates presented you at the beginning of the line. You can easily fill this platter up with enough food-stuff to nourish a family of 4 for a solid week. While this may sound just exhilarating, understand that you may want to spend the cruise doing something other than looking for the next available restroom. Believe me. I know of what I speak. We shared a dinner table in the dining room nightly with Bill and Jill from Massachusetts (Man, been a long time since I’ve had to spell Massachusetts) and they were one of the highlights of the cruise. Just the most fun, pleasant couple you could know. The ship is pretty neat. Lots to see. They were constantly busily fixing this and that and constantly painting things. I’d sooner have seen them spend an ounce of effort cleaning a window or two as there was not a clean window to be found. We were so fortunate to have a stateroom with a balcony. This was a surprise presented me by my traveling partner upon arrival. I’m guessing an $800 surprise. An option we entertained but rejected when making our reservations due to the cost. Please be assured that neither of us would have survived the cruise had it not been for that balcony. This little refuge, no larger than a sheet of plywood, was surely where some of our most pleasant moments were spent. To anyone who might argue that it’s a mighty big ship and there’s plenty of places to go, I will sharply argue that while it may be large ship, most of the vessel is occupied by cabins; cabins whose habitants are chomping at the bit to escape, as a result there is constant competition for common or public resources. On a similar note; If you have any premonitions about making use of the areas around the pool or on any of the sundecks be prepared for strife. The first sunny day we emerged on to the sundeck to find not a single lounge chair available. Mind you, nobody was sitting in them, but they had all been “reserved” by the presence of a towel tossed there upon. We punted and decided to find a spot in the sun where we could lay our towels on the deck and sit. The only available area was adjacent a shuffleboard court. Now I don’t know what it is about kids and shuffleboard but we witnessed infinite variations of games that bored and unattended kids could contrive using the resources available on your stock shuffleboard court. X-Treme shuffleboard does exist. I have witnessed this. While we both lay on the deck in defensive fetal positions we were pummeled and our drinks knocked over by errant shuffleboard pucks and were privy to some of the most interesting sibling rivalries revealed. The thot occurred to me on several occasions to simply put the pucks in my bag or throw them overboard but I resisted the temptation. On another similar note; Got kids? Thinking about bringing them on a cruise? Don’t. Save yourself the money. Save the kids the boredom. And above all else, spare your fellow guests the aggravation of dealing with your unattended children while you’re passed out in your cabin while your towels are up on your deck chairs that you haven’t sat on for 4 hours making then unusable by anyone else. There are soft ice cream machines in the restaurant with which all of the kids enjoyed making cones. Children were allowed to make cones unattended with which they would then proceed on deck, and the ice cream would invariably topple off the cone and land on the deck, the kid would break in to tears, run off to where they thot their parents were only to find vacant deck chairs and then run off to their cabin to find their passed out parents. I’d always sit anxiously waiting for the crew to show up and paint the spot on the deck where the ice cream fell. Still trying to tie these similar notes together; If you want to lay in the sun, this is what you have to do; Brink a bicycle chain lock on the cruise. Arise at 0700 every morning. Pack a bag full of insignificant belongings and your bicycle chain. Pick out the chairs of your choice anticipating wind direction and sun position relative to the ship’s direction of travel for the day. Systematically set on the chair these insignificant objects such as flip flops, a dirty towel or two, hair brush, sun screen bottle, photograph of your mother in law, what have you. Use the bicycle lock to chain the chairs together. Your failure to perform this task as described will result in your return to the sundeck after breakfast to find your belongings in the middle of a shuffleboard court being pushed back and forth by those arguing siblings I was mentioning earlier whose parents are passed out in their cabin. You need to prepare some measure of a gauntlet to prevent your chairs from being commandeered. What’s my point? There aren’t enough deck chairs or deck space for all of the passengers. When we arrived at Key West it was raining accompanied by cold 20 mile per hour northerly winds. Still, if I have to get drunk and cold soaked to the bone, there is no better place than Key West to do it. Apparently, as the ship pulled in to Key West and I was standing on deck watching the happenings, my travel partner was in the cabin showering. She emerged from the shower, walked nakedly to the open doors to the cabin balcony and was greeted, in reciprocal full view, by a Coast Guard cutter and crew escorting the ship in to harbor. If you will, after two days at sea, you get kinda used to parading around the cabin au naturel because…. well….. there just ain’t anybody out there to see you. Later that evening, sitting at the bar at Crabby Billie’s, enjoying some most excellent oysters and Conch fritters, she and I met the boys from the Coast Guard, currently on liberty. Everybody had a good chuckle and it was a most enjoyable evening. We were supposed to stop at Grand Cayman Island but did a drive-by since the water was too rough to drop anchor and go ashore on tenders. The only question I had was “Why did we proceed at 20 KPH (22 MPH) all the way to this island to find this out when we could have bee-lined directly to Cozumel where better weather awaited us when the conditions at Grand Cayman could have easily been established over the radio? I think they have radios on those things”. Believe me, at first the ship is kinda neat, but after 3 days on board you kinda wanna git off. While in Cozumel, we took a guided Jeep tour of the island. This consisted of boarding a Jeep which upon start up steadily displayed every single idiot light in the dash and driving to the other side of the island and following an ancient shoreline road along the beach, periodically stopping to climb around a ruin. Our guide explained to me that the Mayan Culture began in the year 300AD and ended 2000 years later. You do the math. The road we followed resulted in a ride for me that was nothing short of painful. On the way out I sat glumly in the back set. On the way back I stood on the back seat and restrained myself by holding on to the roll bar allowing myself to absorb the pounding with my legs instead of my L7 lumbar joint. The trip was interesting and we stopped briefly for some beautiful snorkeling and a picnic lunch that simple but delicious. En route, the guide took frequent opportunity to stop and point out the local wild life….which consisted of iguanas. If I may; where I live we have squirrels. If you come visit me and have never seen a squirrel we may stop to look at a squirrel for a moment or two. What I won’t do is solidly land on the brakes, launching you through the windshield or burying your forehead into the roll-bar every single time we encounter a squirrel. If you’ve seen one iguana you can kinda figure out the program. I was fairly familiar with the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas vessel, which was touted as the largest liner on earth capable of carrying 50% more passengers than the Rat-race….er…. Rhapsody. We berthed adjacent the Voyager in Cozumel. It is a little longer but it sits a towering three or four decks higher. While previously intrigued with this ship, I quickly concluded that the resulting formula surely meant 50% more passengers competing for not much more available space for activities out of cabin on deck. While we were berthed, I kinda half jokingly called across the dock to passengers on the Voyager asking them if they had any extra deck chairs they could loan us. They generally replied that their ship was too crowded and similarly devoid of adequate deck chairs. I wouldn’t touch that slug. We took the Galveston Limousine Service (1-800-640-4826) from Hobby almost directly to the cruise ship terminal and not at all directly from the terminal to the airport. Please understand, I offer this phone number because your options to make this Hobby/terminal move are slim. This limousine company is actually a fleet of Ford vans but they will pretty much pick you up and take you just about anywhere that is loosely between Galveston and Houston. While this sounds just grand, understand that if 9 of the 10 people in the van are going to the cruise terminal, this outfit won’t miss a beat running out of route to collect or drop off the 10th slack jaw individual. We boarded the van after disembarking the cruise ship with just enough time to make our flight but had to ride all over Galveston Island to collect a bejeweled lady passenger who had the means, but not the initiative to catch the van at the cruise terminal. While it was extremely touching witnessing her romantic goodbyes bequeathed upon her husband, 20 years her senior, this detour caused us to miss our flight and she didn’t seem to think anything of it. It was a vacation. Maybe it was everything a vacation is supposed to be. I ate too much and enjoyed it. I drank to much and kinda enjoyed that too. It was routinely aggravating but that was as much the entertainment as the entertainment was. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Dirty Dancing” where the family goes to the resort in the Catskills back in the 60’s to participate in some fairly silly entertainment offerings by the resort you may well appreciate the parallels. If a good vacation is something that gives you a chance to forget about the sublime and really makes you appreciate getting home then it was a good vacation.

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By Mick_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

First time cruise and had great time. In the first hour I thought I would not like the cruise, because I thought there were a lot of older people on the ship. But within the evening found many fun friends! There is a natural segregation that occurs on the ship where people meet with the same interests. Cabin was bigger than I thought it was going to be. Food was great in the dining room, but the food in the Windjammer

Cafe (casual dining) is only OK. Service in cabin was great, dining staff was fantastic at night, but a little testy at breakfast and lunch.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexico

This trip was a pleasure. NACTA and RCCL did a great job. My roommate and I had a spacious inside cabin. I do not usually like this type of windowless fare, but with the TV turned on to the bridge cam, it almost seemed as if you were outside. Our cabin steward was attentive to our needs, and created many interesting "creatures" when he did our turn down service. The food was not bad, although I would like more variety in the

salad offerings. Our Wait staff was great. They really got into the fun of the group. I prefer this dining experience to the alternatives on the ship. They need to do some work in these areas. I suggest you forget room service altogether. This food was really dry and tasteless. In their behalf though, the morning room service for a light breakfast was served promptly and was not too bad. Ports of Call were fun. I have spent many months of the year living in Mexico; so seeing Cabo San Lucas was a real treat for me. I think that Mazatlan has not changed in many years. It is still a bustling and dingy city. We took the Sierra Madre tour outside of the city and it was very nice. Had it not been for this excursion, I would have not even left the ship. Puerto Vallerta on the other hand is as wonderful as it always has been. I took a city tour to see it from the tourists point of view; and was pleasantly surprised. Our tour guide was a tad macho and preferred to answer the male questions but that did not do much to dampen the experience. Shopping was the best here. Also the most reasonably priced. The ships entertainment was fun, with Bowser of SHA NA NA headlining. He was pleasant and joined the other guests later in the Disco. What a beautiful showroom. Plenty of room for all. I also took a great deal of advantage of the Stiener spa facilities. The staff was courteous and very willing to meet your needs. The casino was nice and there is an auto teller machine much to close for comfort. All together this ship is a great package. If they can get their new computer access up and running with a bit more speed, there will not be much lacking at all. I am looking forward to my next RCCL cruise.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

As I mentioned in my review 2 years ago “this could become an annual thing”. It has. This was our third year in a row on Rhapsody of the Seas. By now, we know the all of the deck layouts. We can identify many halls by the theme of the framed posters. We know when to use the elevators or the stairs, how to find our dinner table, where to look for our kids in the evening, and what time the fries are being served in the Solarium. You

might think we’re tired of it all now. Well, yes and no. Those fries are still unbelievable. Derek Lewis was back this year in the Schooner Bar and was always a good bet for light hearted fun and cutting up. The food was on par with our last 2 cruises on Rhapsody. The stateroom attendants still strike the perfect balance between privacy and service. The ship is still in excellent condition. (Even the solarium pool area has had the floor redone…with slippery tile though.) As for “yes”, well if you sit around your own house long enough, you need to “get out there”. So yes it was convenient to know it all, but it wasn’t as exciting. But it was all about seeing the family and that at home feeling made the visiting that much easier. Cons: Dining room service seems to have slipped. We had trouble getting our iced tea and soft drinks before mid meal for the first couple of days. One evening one of our tables was finished with the entrées 10 minutes before our other table (full of little ones) even received their entrées. The service did improve after some complaints. Food: Again, don’t miss the fries in the Solarium. Soups were very good with the creamy ones being the best (sweet potato and pumpkin/apple with fried sage were my favorites.) Key lime pie was perfect and my wife tells me that the sugar free coconut pie was also good. I say it’s a sin to eat low fat on a cruise but I’ll not be judgmental. They’ve added a stand to sell Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream and Seattle’s Best coffee. Although there’s an extra charge for these, it was worth it. (One shot of espresso can turn the Windjammer swill into actual coffee!) Excursions: Zion Bus Line’s Bob Marley tour was the most interesting I’ve done. No AC on the bus but the sound was great and the tour guide had plenty of stories to tell about the reggae king. You ride –with pit stops – for a couple of hours into rural Jamaica. You see what the non-resort part looks like and it’s beautiful, but it’s poor. The focus is the Bob Marley Foundation complex where you see the marble mausoleum where he lays, the house where he was born and the little 2 room shack where he retreated to write songs, meditate and partake of the ganja. (BTW, “herb” is legal in Nine Mile and you will be exposed to it. The minimum age of 18 on this tour is because of that.) We’d done Stingray sandbar in Grand Cayman 3 times already so my wife and I walked off the pier and found a dive operation to give us the resort course….again. I recommend making reservations, but dealing directly with the operator is cheaper than the RCCL excursion. I’d recommend Rum Point as an alternative beach to Seven Mile beach and Pedro St. James Castle is really interesting. Entertainment: The main show room still had the same song and dance shows as last year. I really hate Vegas or Broadway type stuff so you’ll have to read someone else’s review for a value judgment on those. We skipped them. Mike Wilson, comedian, was funny. They had a Beatles tribute show which was fantastic. There was also a Temptations tribute band that was OK but the ships orchestra was out of tune and the singers were a bit out of tune, but the show was still entertaining. As mentioned before, Derek Lewis is the best bet for just plain fun. Kamakazee Karaokee (his T-shirts spelling)…..use your imagination. Now add tipsy passengers walking through being ambushed for said activity. Sure fire. You should also make sure to stay there long enough to hear some of Derek’s parody tunes and his guitar playing is well overqualified for this gig. We also really enjoyed Rosario Strings. Imagine a classical guitar and an electric violin performing Santana, Beach Boys, The Pink Panther, Canon in D and a couple of classic hymns all in the same set. I bought all 3 CDs of them. It did seem like there was less going on this year. Less things happening in the Shall We Dance, less general activities. Maybe I’ve learned to tune out all the announcements for bingo, sexy legs contests and beauty makeover sessions. BTW, I’m really getting tired of all of the ways they (all lines) try to pry a few more bucks from me…..art auctions, bingo, ice cream, latte, jewelry sales. At least the “orientation meetings” for the ports are more aptly names “shopping” guides, but it’s still a kickback thing. On Deck: The main pool is still way overcrowded. The solarium pool is nice and peaceful. They still are a pool and a kiddie pool short of enough. They also have no programs for the non potty trained. I’m imagining some of you reading this thinking “Great, less toddlers, more grownups!”. I can appreciate that. Finally, either RCCL or the Port of Galveston has done their homework regarding the terminal operations. Embarking and disembarking was astonishingly smooth. We expected, just as in previous years, to be sitting in a crowded area forever waiting for our color to be called to leave. Nope. We finished breakfast, moseyed down to the centrum for about 10 minutes, walked off the ship, through customs and to the curb a few minutes later. (Can’t say the same for EZ Park. They didn’t have their operation organized and we had to do an end-around to get out of there.) Next year, we’ve voted to switch to the Elation. Yeah it’s a “fun ship”, but it still departs Galveston and we’ll get to see Belize. More on that next August.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This was my second Royal Caribbean cruise and met all my expectations. Our room was a suite on the 8th floor. The best part was a large balcony where one could find privacy for relaxation without all the music played on the main pool deck. This ship was beautiful throughout. Evening entertainment was excellent; dining was excellent; we did not take any shore excursions, which are typically overpriced. Key West was a great shopping place

you can easily do on foot; Belize, on the other hand was not. I recommend taking a snorkeling and dive trip at this port. It was a very small and undeveloped port with not a whole lot to do. We walked to the Radisson Hotel (nearby) and swam for the afternoon. There was no beach front property there. The next stop was Cozumel. We were there last December and could not believe how much it had grown in one year's time. Plenty of shopping, beautiful beaches. In the morning we shopped in the marketplace and afternoon we took a taxi out to San Francisco Beach, where locals go. Had a restaurant, beachfront, wave runners, etc... a good place to go for several hours and swim. There were 9 people in our group traveling and I can say that when you cruise, it is always more fun to go with a group than just a couple. Personal rating: Excellent; can't be beat for cruising out of Galveston. Nothing beats a 7-day cruise!

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Nov 30, -0001

7 night Southern Caribbean

This was my 20th cruise, and my 4th on Royal Caribbean. Previous trips were on the Majesty, Monarch and Splendour of the Seas and all of these "vision" ships are similar. They are all beautiful ships with a lot of glass and artwork With Royal Caribbean cruises, there are generally no surprises. They put out a consistently good package. Overall impression: This cruise was fully booked with over 2200 passengers (over 900 were

repeaters) on the ship, yet embarkation and disembarkation was handled smoothly. There were people from 26 countries aboard, though the majority were American. There was a good mix of all ages with quite a large number of children on this cruise as it was spring break. RCI has a good fitness and activities program on all the ships I've been on. The cabin: Had a superior inside cabin on K deck that was clean and comfortable. There was plenty of storage space for two people, and there was a safe. The bathroom was quite adequate with a lot of storage space for such a small room. Food and entertainment: The food was good, though not up to the standards of previous cruises with RCI, and the menu selections were not always to my liking. However, steak, chicken and salmon were available every day and could be cooked several different ways. The Beef Wellington and filet mignon was very good. The food in the Windjammer was improved over previous cruises, but more variety is needed, especially at breakfast. One gets tired of orange or grapefruit juice every morning. They also serve hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza in the solarium, and this is sometimes a nice change. The entertainment is almost always very professional on RCI ships. We had two headliner acts, The Coasters, and George Wallace, and the ship has their Wave Review singers and dancers. Ports: We left from San Juan which is one of my favorite ports in the Caribbean. My flight got in late due to weather, but I managed to give myself a walking tour of the old city of San Juan. The old city is within walking distance of the cruise terminal, and is about seven blocks of 16th century buildings with iron balconies, old churches, a beautiful old cathedral, an old convent now a hotel (El Convento), and old city walls. (There are also shops if you're so inclined, including some designer stores.) There are also two forts -- San Cristobel which I'd seen on a tour on a previous cruise -- and El Morro which I didn't get to due to time constraints this time. One usually gets a chance to see El Morro when the cruise ship leaves the harbor. It is a splendid sight. It is highly recommended to get into San Juan early if possible to see some of this beautiful old Spanish city. Our first day was at sea which is nice to just rest, unwind, explore the ship, find a deck chair, take part in activities. etc. We stopped at Aruba and Curacao, both Dutch islands, part of the Netherland Antilles. Both are very nice ports to visit with charming Dutch architecture, and the only downside is that they are quite windy due to the tradewinds. The plus side of this is no pesky mosquitoes! A clerk in one of the shops in Aruba told me that they only get 4 or 5 cruise ships a week there as it is so far south -- only a few miles off the coast of Venezuela. We had another day at sea on Wednesday, then stopped at St. Maarten and St. Thomas as our last two ports. These are now great shopping meccas, and it seems that the shops have multiplied greatly in St. Maarten since my last visit there four years ago! With several cruise ships in port, the streets can become quite crowded. My favorite place to shop in St. Thomas is the Havensight shopping mall which is right where the cruise ships dock! A trip to St. John by ferry from St. Thomas is a nice shore excursion. I'd done that on my last cruise and I highly recommend it. Was happy to have sailed on the Rhapsody of the Seas on this cruise as I hear she is being repositioned and that the new Voyager of the Seas will be on this route.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

I recently returned from sailing on the Rhapsody of the Seas out of Galveston to Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. There are so many reviews that I felt another describing the ship and the meals and the activities would just be redundant. What I decided to do was to simply provide some information to those who might be first time cruisers on this ship, and who have some of the same questions I had. The ship is, of course, beautiful.

The dining, in spite of some few negative reviews I had read, was very good. Service was outstanding from all staff. My group was never nagged by the wait staff to provide excellent evaluations for them on the card we were given at the end of the cruise as I had read was the experience of some. Our waiter and assistant waiter just provided excellent service and so earned an excellent rating. So here are some miscellaneous pieces of information, which might prove helpful to others. Types of cabins: We had a balcony cabin on deck 7, on the port side. The balcony was one of our favorite parts of the cruise, and unless you are the sort of person who is going to be hitting the floor running and be engaged in activities outside of the cabin, from when you wake up to when you go to bed, the balcony certainly adds a great deal of ambiance to the cruise. We had coffee on the balcony every morning, and breakfast there on one morning. We observed other ships at sea, sea birds, and once dolphins jumping from the water towards the ships bow. We sailed from September 22 to the 29th around the edges of hurricane Isidore, so we had a lot of overcast days. It is possible that during days of completely clear skies it could be a tad bright and warm on the balcony, especially at sunrise or sunset depending on your direction and side of ship. The last day at sea we had a lot of sunshine and there is no doubt that it is possible to sun bathe on your balcony. It is also a great place to be as you sail into port. You get a broader view of the total port from observing the arrival in the front tables of the Windjammer Café, or from the Viking Crown Lounge, but there is plenty to see from the balcony on either port or starboard side as well. There is a really unobstructed 180-degree view from deck 11 in the extreme forward of the ship. It is outside and there are lounge chairs. We did both, watched the approaching arrival into Key West from topside forward, and then went to our balcony to view the final part of the arrival. I watched the Cayman and Cozumel approaches strictly from my balcony, beginning early in the morning for Cozumel before sunrise, when the island was just a scattering of sparkling lights in the distance. One caution; The balconies are private when you are seated but when standing at the railing each occupant of the cabins on either side of you are only a few feet away. This is OK as long as each respects the privacy of the other. We, unfortunately, had someone in the cabin forward of ours who was fighting with his wife frequently and thought nothing of bending his head around the divider to keep us up to date as to how misunderstood he was. On one occasion he even stuck his head around to holler at us, as we sat inside with our balcony sliding glass door open getting ready for dinner, to come and hear his latest installment. This was a very unacceptable level of intrusion for us, and the prompt slamming of the door and closing of the curtain conveyed our disapproval sufficiently to end any further attempts at communication or intrusion. If you have a similar problem, and do not wish to have a confrontation, a call the purser’s office should take care of it. Robes: These cabins provided robes for each occupant. Morning Coffee or Breakfast in the Cabin: I really need my coffee when I wake up and I don’t handle waiting even a short time very well. I was a little concerned about having an extended wait for room service delivery. It turned out to be no problem. There are enough order forms in your cabin for you to order anything, from just coffee to a full breakfast, the night before, to hang on your outside door handle when you go to bed. You can pick the time you want it delivered and room service will call you to let you know it is on its way. If you happen to wake up prior to the expected delivery time just call room service and they will send it right up. If you want more that a cup or so for each person indicate on the form that you wish to have a LARGE pot. They will make sure it is a large pot for the remainder of your cruise. Seasickness: If there was ever a cruise in which getting seasick was a possibility I think this must have been one. The crew told us that it was, for the first two days, the roughest sailing they had experienced. I had read reviews that indicated medication for seasickness from the medical facilities onboard was expensive. We found that they passed out packets of it, 5 pills per packet, at no charge each day for the entire cruise. You just go down to deck 1 and either ask someone on duty, or simply get a packet from the basket on the table in the facilities waiting area. I believe the medication they provided was called Bonine, and required one dose per 24 hours. I think it may have made me feel slightly sleepy for several hours after I took it, but others in my party did not experience this. Lemonade: I had read that coffee tea and lemonade were available almost anytime outside the Windjammer, but there was never any available there. My experience was that lemonade was only available during Windjammer lunch service, and tea could usually, but not always, be found outside the Windjammer, and after 11:00 AM in the Solrium. There was coffee and water always available outside the Windjammer. Room Service in General: Service was always prompt, and the food was quite good, even though the menu was a little limited. I imagine that if you wished for a dessert item you might be able to ask for it, even though it is not on the room service menu. Announcements: I read several complaints about the announcements, but I found that there is a volume control that allows you tone down, or turn off completely, the announcements piped to your cabin. I really enjoyed the captain’s announcement each day at noon. Storage space/ Stewards: It is abundant. We even missed several of the available places to put things away, and our steward, Jonathan, put some of the items we had left out in them, and left them open, assuming correctly, that we did not know they were there. The stewards, by the way, are everything that they are reported to be. Ours gave wonderful service, and was so helpful. The care and attention he gave to us, and to our cabin, was a large part of what made our cruise so outstanding. They anticipate needs, and do things which you would not have expected, and it was a real treat. Equipment on the observation deck: If stargazing is something you enjoy, as I do, then you may want to ask if, on your cruise, the equipment, which will help you to locate objects in the night sky, will be functional. The Out of Order Signs I found on them looked permanent to me. I had prepared in advance, and had copies of the night sky from the approximate longitude and latitude of the ship for each evening, so it was not terribly important to me that the equipment did not work. Ships drinking water: The water from the cabin faucet was of good quality and we had no problem drinking glasses of it over ice every day. Water and sodas in the room refrigerator were $1.50 each, as were sodas in the bars. Photographs: If you intend to purchase only a few of the photos taken by the ships photographers it is a good idea to wait until the end of the cruise after you have seen them all to decide which ones to take. You have lots of opportunities for having ships photographs made, but have to choose to have some of them done by going to the location where they are being taken. There are usually pictures taken in the main dining room and at the ports. Hot Water: I could never get the shower to adjust to give really hot water but I think it is possible I just didn’t get the workings of the water temperature adjustment. I think if you experience the same problem you might just find the solution by asking your room steward. The shower near the pool in the solarium has wonderfully hot water for your shower after a swim. The pool in the solarium is salt water so showering it out of your hair quickly is a good idea.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This was both mine and my boyfriend's first cruise and it well exceeded our expectations! The itinerary was great, enough days at sea & ports of call. Our cabin was an L grade and quite sufficient for us both; bath amenities were very workable and enough space that we didn't feel squeezed in. Our cabin steward was very attentive...never missed a beat, our waiter and asst. waiter were just excellent. In fact the entire staff was fabulous.

The food was incredible; the main dining room was indeed our favorite meal treat and top notch. The breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent; the food tasted fresh and plenty of variety. In fact...the one thing you never had to worry about was finding a good meal somewhere on the ship. The tropical drinks were some of the tastiest I've had in a very long time and prices were competitive to what you pay in a nice bar. The poolside band was perfect for the itinerary. We enjoyed our morning walks & workout in the gym which was more than adequate. We traveled with my sister & her husband who have been on 4 cruises prior; they rated the food as some of the best...in fact the entire cruise the felt was top notch. We enjoyed the entertainment every night and the showroom was just beautiful. I would recommend that on the formal nights to indeed make an effort to dress as the majority dressed very nice for the 2 formal nights onboard. I will say that we did not participate in the cruise excursions, as we prefer to find our own adventure at the various ports of call...and we will continue to do that on future cruises as we like to get away from the tourist areas. Belize is indeed a snorkeler's/diver's retreat. We took a 12 passenger plane ride (we didn't want to spend 3 hours of our time on land traveling via water taxi) to Ambergris where we snorkeled @ Hol Chan & Shark Ray Alley...awesome! In Cozumel we enjoyed renting a scooter and discovering several beaches off the beaten path. Key West is always a nice place to stroll the colorful streets, shop and dine. Upon our return to the ship from Key West there was a midnight Caribbean party that was absolutely perfect...it set the mood for the 2 remaining ports of call. We liked sailing with Royal Caribbean so much that we plan on another cruise, most likely with RC again, in the very near future! We strongly recommend it to anyone who would like a relaxing vacation; no doubt for the money you cannot beat it!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Hello fellow cruisers, This cruise was our fourth total and the first on this ship. The other three were on the Carnival Celebration (The Fun Ship). Since we really enjoyed the Carnival cruises, we had heard that the Rhapsody of the Sea was a nicer ship than the Celebration. It is true, the Rhapsody is newer and more elegant but we will not be sailing again on the Rhapsody. We booked two cabins and eight people. My wife, myself, my

16 year old son, his 18 year old friend, my 15 year old son, my 13 year old daughter, her 13 year old friend, and my 9 year old son. As is said, my family has cruised before on the Carnival Celebration and we really enjoyed it. We found the Celebration to be very fun and there was always something for the kids and my wife and myself to do. The Rhapsody while being a nicer ship, did not schedule enough activities for the children and adults like Celebration. My children were bored from the start of the cruise. Many days they were asleep by 9:00 P.M. due to lack of activities. For example, the first night on the Celebration, there were games on the pool deck, limbo contests, line dancing, etc. until 2:00 in the morning. The Rhapsody, on the other hand had no activities and the pool bar closed at 9:00 P.M. Many nights they drain and net the pool and hot tubs. We were not pleased with the food in general. Some nights in the formal dining, the food was good. We didn't like the coffee, tea, and the pizza. Food was available only at certain times while the Celebration has a 24 hour pizzerria for those times that you want to eat after hours. Our older children were not allowed in the Viking Crown club even with their parents. (DJ: "Everyone having a good time raise their hand! Great! Everyone under 18 having a good time raise their hand! Get out!") They are happy to sell virgin drinks to the children for $5.95 but they are not welcome in the club. We purchased soft drink cards for our family ($35 for adult and $20 for children) but the soda's were only available in the bars and the children were not allowed in the bars. Sodas were available in the cabins but the ship charges $2.50 each 12 oz. can even though you bought the card. If you purchase your shore excursions through the Rhapsody, you have preferential treatment. For example, in Belize, there was no dock so everyone had to be ferried to the mainland. If you booked your excursion through the ship, you left the ship first. Everyone else had to wait. Even when disembarking the ship on the final day, people that had purchased shore excursions through the ship went through customs first while the others had to wait hours! One last thing, on the first night (Sunday) on the Rhapsody we were all out exploring the ship. My wife and I observed a 19 year old man purchasing and giving our 13 year old daughter vodka shots. We approached them and told the man that my daughter was only 13 years old and that it is illegal to be giving her alcohol. We called ship security and told him about the situation and pointed out the 19 year old and we were told that "they would handle it". Let me say here that my daughter was at fault also for accepting the drinks and was grounded to her cabin for the rest of the evening and was only allowed to walk around the ship the next day (Monday) with a family member. Legally, however, a 13 year old cannot make their own decisions to drink alcohol and giving it to them is a crime. The third day, (Tuesday) my daughter and her 13 year old girl friend asked if they could go set in the hot tub in the pool area. My wife gave them permission because there was not much else for them to do. We went to eat and after dinner went to the pool area and observed our 16 year old son carrying our daughter over his shoulder! We ran over to see what the problem is and found her crying and talking irrationally. My son said that he observed the same 19 year old man giving her shots of vodka again! We called security again and explained the situation and took my daughter to the ship's doctor. We felt that she may have been given some type of drug to become so disoriented so quickly. While we were with the doctor, the head security officer approached me an said that he was upset with us. He stated that it was not his job to baby sit our daughter. I told him that I had not asked nor expected him to baby sit, but I do expect him to keep law breaking predators away from the minor passengers. He made some statement to the effect of that my daughter made the decision to drink the alcohol provided by the 19 year old. I reminded him that she is a minor and not able to legally make those kinds of decisions. To make a long story shorter, Rhapsody charged us $172.00 for the doctor. Security would not tell us anything and refused to give us the name or cabin number of the 19 year old's parents so that we could ask them to pay half of the bill. Rhapsody took no responsibilty even though we reported both incidents to them. Bottom line....we will not sail on Rhapsody of the Sea again (until Carnival takes it over :') Tony [email protected]

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Nov 30, -0001

Galveston, Key West, Belize City, Cozumel, Galveston

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean the Seas Sailing Date: February 9th, 2003 My husband and I finally were able to take time off for our delayed honeymoon. Since we had short notice on vacation, we decided to look at the RCCL site for pricing. We were very pleased to find that we could pay $549. for a larger interior stateroom. My husband decided to wait a while before actually booking the cruise, we had some friends that worked for the

cruise line and wanted to get the best trip possible. We also checked through cheap tickets for this cruise, it was apprx. $50. cheaper. Well, Bill was unable to get a hold of our friends in time and went back six hours later to go ahead and book online. We were surprised to find that all the interior cabins were taken; the only categories left were suites (cat. C and above) for around $999. /pp. We called up the cruise line and they said we could go ahead and hold a room in the Cat. c and wait for something lower to open up. We would have to make a decision by 11:00 that night. We went back to the computer around 9pm central to check the availability and found that a few interior cabins had been cancelled- but at the same price as the suite. So, we called the cruise line back and said to book the suite. (After all, this was our honeymoon.) We left for Galveston the Saturday before our sailing and stayed overnight in Houston. It was a short 45min. drive to the port, very easy to find, even in the rain. There are parking companies about a mile away from the terminal; they will charge you the same price ($60.) to park at their site as it does to park at the cruise terminal. We unloaded fairly quickly, there was a porter awaiting us at the curb and told us that he would take care of our entire luggage and us. He was very helpful, and told my husband where he would need to park and what shuttle to take and where I needed to wait for him. The people who booked through an agent had all their luggage tags and such, but we did not receive anything except a faxed confirmation since we booked online. J.D., our porter assured me that this was not a problem and took me to the baggage area and led me to a desk, where there was a guy who had a list of all passengers and their cabin numbers. I told him how many bags to check and they did the rest. I was inside in less than 5 minutes. It took longer for Bill to return from parking the car then it did to check the bags, go through security and check in. Once we got upstairs, there was a rather large line for security, but it had good flow. We found out that we didn't receive two paper documents, (again, because of booking online) but they did have them available on the surrounding tables, and we filled out the cruise charges form while awaiting security check. Security was fairly quick; we did get stopped for having alcoholic beverages stuffed in our luggage and carry on cooler- (Royal Caribbean has a strict policy about bringing on your own liquor) but we explained that this was our honeymoon and we were waved through. There was another long line for the cabin check in, but RCCL Diamond members and suite stayers had a separate, shorter line. We boarded the ship just after 1pm central time. We entered the ship at level one; the cabin was level 8 and there was quite a line to wait for the elevators, since the other 5 were being used for baggage. The suite was very nice, plenty of room. We had a queen sized bed that was actually two twins pushed together, but it was still comfortable to sleep on. We also had a loveseat/sleeper and two chairs with a bar area and a vanity. The deck was nice and large with room for four chairs and a table. The only niche about the balcony would be that it's not very private. It's not hard for someone to poke their head around the rail, and the glass is slightly etched. The bathroom was small, but longer, since our room came with a combo tub/ shower. There was one "small" problem about the tub- it was raised a couple of inches off the ground, so if you're like my husband who's 6'4", you will find yourself ducking during your morning shower. As far as storage goes, there was a 2 shelf cabinet above the TV. with the safe below, seven drawers to the vanity with side shelves with mirrored doors, two nightstands with two drawers each, the footrests had a removable top for storage, there were two small drawers in the closet, and in the bathroom there was a shelf that ran the underside of the vanity and two side shelves with mirrored doors. We also had another area across from the closet with extra pillows, blankets, etc. Don't be afraid to ask for down pillows either. We took some time to put things away, and toured the ship there is not much on deck one except for the ships hospital; deck two and three are cabins; deck four was more cabins towards the front, the champagne bar, Centrum, and first level of the dining room; deck five was second level seating, the pursers desk and shore excursions, casino and theater; deck six had three lounges/ bars, the photo gallery and boutiques and the second story of the theater; deck seven was mostly cabins with the card room and library in the center overlooking the Centrum; deck eight (our deck) held the internet area and crown and anchor study along with more cabins; deck nine towards the front was the windjammer cafe, outdoor pool with two hot tubs, the solarium (decorated Egyptian style) with two more hot tubs and the indoor pool, crystal canopy (which was only opened on the last day at sea), and the day spa; deck ten was the jogging/observatory track, shipshape center and kids play areas; and deck eleven was the Viking crown lounge which was only accessible from the back elevators or stairs. The windjammer was open for a buffet lunch until 3:30, but we didn't eat there since we had stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way in. Now, I've noticed that other reviews don't mention the muster drill. International law requires that ALL passengers attend the drill in the case of an emergency. When you arrive to your stateroom, they already have your life vests out with your muster station number printed on them. At 4:15, they sound the alarm and you have to put on your life vest (before you step outside) and proceed down the stairs to deck 5 and find your station. (Even numbers are on the ship's left, odds on the right) They have crewmembers with lists and they check you off when you arrive. Then they come over the PA system and give you a little talk about the drill and it's a law and so on. It only lasts about 5-10 minutes and then you can return to your staterooms. There is also a daily activities brochure with stuff to do, times to eat and specials. They highly recommend that you carry around the condensed version so you don't go around asking where stuff is and at what time. We went to the intro show at 7pm, it was ok, they had some music and then a Bulgarian couple performed an Argentinean ethnic dance with drums and stuff. Dinner was 15min behind scheduled time since we were leaving port; don't worry about getting to the dining room early- the doors are kept shut until the exact scheduled time. We were the only ones to sit at our table, but I've heard that this is not uncommon on the first night. We had a nice first meal, soup, salad, fish and NY strip. Dessert was really good. Be prepared for lots of pictures at dinner. (This night there was a guy going around in a pirate costume.) The midnight food festivals that they have are nice, but the lines are very long and they don't move that quickly. Our first day at sea, we ordered room service to snack on, and then went to the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch. We just lounged around the pool mostly, I went to a couple of beauty seminars and then a wine tasting. Tonight was the first formal night, so I had the salon fix up my hair- but be prepared, it's not cheap. We went to the Captain's Gala reception and then dinner. We were getting some big waves and rolling a lot so I wasn't feeling very well and asked to take my filet back to the cabin; our waiter came back with a whole new dinner for me to take back. Tuesday we made it to Key west, unfortunately, not until 3pm central, we would only be there until 12am and then leave. We mostly walked around and shopped, and watched the sunset at the pier, and then headed back to the ship around 9:30. Wednesday was spent at sea again lounging around. We enjoyed a nice breakfast at the Windjammer, and lunch in the main dining room. The original Drifters were on board and had a nice show in the theater. We left that and went to a special reception for honeymooners, then dinner in the main dining room. Thursday we made it to Belize. We woke up early and had a nice breakfast in the dining room, then picked up our tender tickets so we could get ashore. We teamed up with a couple that we met at the wine festival and decided to tour the city. When you arrive at the docks in Belize there is a tourist village with shopping and food. The idea is that you stay in the village and don't wander around. We went just outside the village gates and browsed through the street vendors, there are tours to the ruins, snorkeling, city, etc and cheaper than the cruise line. We chartered a young cabbie that took us on a 30 minute city tour for four people for $20.00 and had a lot of fun and saw a lot of sites. We returned to the village for cold beer and then back to the ship for lunch. Tonight was the second formal night in the dining room and the Vegas style show at the theater- and enjoyed it. Valentine's Day we arrived in Cozumel, we had booked a snorkeling excursion the night before. We had another early breakfast at the Windjammer and then met on the pier at 8:15. It was neat to watch the Voyager and one of Carnival's ships dock next to us. Our catamaran brought us to a baby coral reef not far from the cruise ships and close to shore. We stayed in the water for around 30 min. and then they called everyone in. The water was beautiful and crystal clear (like a swimming pool) but Bill and I were kind of disappointed that there were not more coral formations and more fish. I was happy to get out of the water with the baby jellyfish. We boarded the boat and headed out to a private beach where we stayed for about an hour going kayaking and laying in a hammock, then they re boarded us on the boat to head back. On the way back they had an open bar on the boat and the crew started line dancing, which lead to a conga line and margarita shots. When we got back to the pier we went back to the ship and changed to go out and shop. Like Belize, Cozumel had a tourist shopping center; Bill and I wanted to explore, so we walked about 2 miles down to the other cruise ship terminal (where we saw Princess and Crystal cruise line) and did some shopping around there. That terminal has a nice mall area, well decorated called Punta Langosta. We ended up catching a cab back to our pier and had a nice lobster dinner. If you ask for seconds on the lobster, they will bring you back a smaller tail than the first, but they were more tender and sweet. We came back to our cabin to find the most funny of all towel creatures created by our room attendant, peter. He made an alligator in our bed that was sitting up watching TV, remote in one hand, water in the other, wearing sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap. Saturday was spent at sea returning home. We ordered room service for breakfast, although it wasn't as good as previous days. We watched some movies in the cabin, had lunch in the dining room and played cards with our tablemates for the rest of the afternoon. Peter had placed our disembarking luggage tags out earlier, so we started packing up because they want to have your entire checked luggage out of the staterooms by midnight. We met up with our friends from earlier in the week and shared pictures and addresses before heading off to dinner in the dining room - very good prime rib. We had an early start the next day so we didn't stay up for any shows or activities. We woke up early on Sunday (6:00), met up with Kim and Zach again to eat an early breakfast in the main dining room. The ship had a little trouble docking at the terminal earlier, so we were informed that things were running about 1/2 hour late. Once the ship was cleared through US Customs, all the non- US citizens had to go through immigration. It didn't take too long. Then all US citizens started getting called, and they have it organized by luggage tag colors. When they called our color with three others, I expected a long line, but we were through fairly quickly, the US officer checked our passport and customs form, stamped our papers and sent us on our way. We were then told to wait in a designated lounge according to tag color. We sat around for about another hour, then they started clearing people off the ship. You get led into the baggage area where all the bags are sorted in a flag area that corresponds to your tag color. This was probably the least enjoyable part of the trip, because it is like a zoo. We found the same porter that helped us a week ago, and he loaded us up and stuck us on a nice spot on the curb. I waited for Bill to get the car again, only this time it took twice as long. He ended up getting stuck behind a shuttle bus and parked 20 feet back from where I was standing, so we had to lug all our bags through the crowd and cars. We still ended up leaving Galveston around 10:30. All in all, we really enjoyed the entire cruise experience, this was my second cruise, and Bill's first. I am look forward to taking a cruise with Royal Caribbean in the future.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My husband and I have taken five cruises in the past ten years, prior to this Cruise. Three cruises were on Carnival (Hawaii, Bahamas, Southern Caribbean), one on Holland American (Alaska) and one on Norwegian (Western Caribbean). This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise. We enjoyed all of the cruises. I spent many hours on the Internet, researching the ports of call for this cruise. I knew just want I wanted to do at each port. My

husband, two friends and I took this cruise together. We live in Texas so we drove to Galveston. We arrived at the cruise ship terminal at 1:00. Normally, we were able to board the ship within 30 minutes but because of the extra security, we waited in lines for two hours. Better safe than sorry. My husband, friends and I love to walk so we did a walking tour of Key West. Most of the neighborhoods were beautiful. We walked past a beautiful lighthouse, pretty coastal homes and an interesting old cemetery. The Hemingway home was closed but we looked at it from the sidewalk. The Hemingway home tours end at 4:00 so get there early. There were many on cats on the property. Do not miss the sideshows and crafts on the boardwalk between 6:00 pm and dark. It is a couple blocks from the ship and very interesting. In Georgetown, Grand Cayman we were tendered from the ship to the Island. This process was very disorganized on our ship this time but we finally made it off. We took a snorkel tour of the Coral Gardens, Stingray City sand bar and the Barrier Reef. We booked a tour with Bayside WaterSports ([email protected]) a couple weeks before the cruise. Our boat captain and his helper were very friendly and knowledgeable. The price was $37.50 person and included snorkel equipment but we had our own. Bayside had a bus picked us up about one block from the cruise ship terminal. The snorkel locations were great and Stingray City was exciting, do not miss it. Be sure to buy an $8 underwater camera for the trip before you leave. The underwater one-time Fuji cameras take better pictures than the Kodak cameras. In Cozumel, we took at taxi to Mr. Sanchez beach club. The taxi cost was about $10 each way. We had a wonderful time there. The beach was not crowded and the food was good. We spent the whole day snorkeling there. There were about 15 to 20 shops at the beach club, also. The water was clear and there was lots of fish. On the ship, the food was tasty and plentiful as always. The waiters were wonderful. The evening shows are cute and the ship was neat and clean. The noise from the on board clubs was loud in our room. We never experienced that problem on our other cruises. Be sure to take your Dramamine if you get motion sickness because the taxi rides can be interesting. The safe in the room was very convenient. At the end of our cruise we were given our bill for the ‘extras’ we ordered on the ship. The bill was incorrect so I took it to the purser’s office to straighten it out. They gave me a hard time but we finally worked it out. I visited the purser’s office two other times for information and both times I was given entirely wrong information. Do not trust Royal Caribbean’s purse office.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

The food on this cruise was absolutely terrible. The mood of the entire cruise is set by the executive chef. The executive chef on this cruise whose name is Cabrera obviously needs to go back to culinary school and brush up on some cooking basics. I took this cruise once before on August 4, 2002 and the food was terrific. Chef Kevin who is now on Navigator of the Seas did an excellent job but I am sorry to say that this time I was very disappointed.

First let's start with the room service menu. Approximately 75% of the offerings are Mexican items. The other 2 offerings was a ham sandwich which was served on panneta bread with thick slices of cucumber - absolutely awful - no flavor and a very poor presentation and the chicken Caesar salad had barely two strips of chicken on it and most of the time room service forgot to bring the Caesar salad dressing. Breakfast in the main dining room was also very poor. I ordered poached eggs and both the yolks and whites were runny. Royal Caribbean obviously does not know how to fry bacon because whether in the main dining room, or at the Windjammer, or on a hamburger the bacon was very undercooked and of a very poor quality. Royal Caribbean has opted to serve as an alternative ranch steak instead of New York Strip. What the hell is a ranch steak? It was nothing more than a tenderized sirloin steak cut into the shape of a New York Strip. The captain's dinner was also lousy. Instead of filet mignon they served beef tenderloin which was a flavorless cut of meat especially since Chef Cabrera missed his seasoning lessons in culinary school. The hot dogs at the Solarium pool were not all beef but some combination of beef and chicken. The French fries was hard and cold and they appeared to have a problem with stocking catsup. They also do not know how to prepare pizza because they never put on the correct amount of tomato sauce and the mozzarella cheese didn't seem to taste right because it was of poor quality and had no flavor whatsoever. Another interesting item that they had one day on the menu in the dining room for lunch was trout salmon. What the hell is that? Everybody that ordered it at our table returned it. Instead they ordered the vegetarian pizza which one could barely eat a single bite of. The prime rib at the last formal night was dry and also lacked the proper seasonings. I complained about the quality of food and the food offerings. I met with the food and beverage manager - Tim Malloy and the executive chef - Barlow Cabrera. They offered their apologies but little else was done. I know that they will not improve on their offerings because 75% of the people taking the cruise are first timers and don't know any better. This will be my last cruise with Royal Caribbean.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Michael Bolner Rhapsody of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) Alaska (8/99) Prior to leaving, I spent a lot of time reading and understanding messages aimed at Alaska cruises and various ships that traveled there. I did pose a question to rec.travel.cruises newsgroup concerning the five hours I appeared to have from the time I landed in Vancouver to the scheduled embarkation of the ship. I was concerned about looking for something to

do to fill some of that time. Many responded and gave me some suggestions, but the general consensus was that I would not have all that much free time. As it turned out, they were right. We were a party of four - two kids, 17 and a 15 year old, very small, moderately handicapped child. The only other cruise my wife and I went on was a RCCL Song of Norway, in 1981, Caribbean route. That was the only reference point we had for comparisons. Travel to Vancouver was uneventful, transferring in Phoenix on America West. RCI had made all air arrangements, transfers, etc. We did no stay over before or after the trip because of lack of time. Wish we could have though, as Vancouver appeared to be beautiful in June and my wife had been to Victoria previously. Arrived Vancouver 10:30 AM. An easy walk to customs, it took about a 25 minute process to get through. I was surprised that luggage was not with us at the customs window. The ship took care of our bags. We didn’t see them until later on the ship. Bus was waiting right outside and left as soon as it was filled. There were several other buses, and they all seemed to leave as they were filled. Short drive to the terminal - however, there was extremely heavy traffic and the trip took almost an hour. We arrived at Canada Place about 12:30. We immediately got in to a huge line. Took about 45 minutes to get to the counter to receive our boarding cards. We were getting hungry. Not much to choose form at Canada Place. I suggest grabbing a bite at the Airport or having a few snacks along. At the counter, the gave us our boarding passes. They punch a hole in the 17 year olds’ boarding card to prevent unauthorized charges at bars. Good system. They attached a sticker to our cards showing us to be a member of the Crown and Anchor Society - but never saw any advantage for it. Then we went through security check which went well. I carry lots of cameras and film, and all were hand checked without incident. We were given a number (21). We had to wait about 30 minutes for our number to be called. Then we could board the ship. Photo was taken at the entrance to the ship. It was now 3:00. Upon entering the ship we were led to our rooms. We chose a family suite, starboard front 1/3 of the ship. No luggage yet, (actually it arrived at 10:30)... so off to explore a bit. First stop was the Windjammer cafe for a bite of food. Nothing spectacular, but satisfying. Being not too forward or aft was pretty nice. It cut off quite a bit of walking. Actually we were very near the forward bank of elevators. The ship departed 5:30. Interesting departure. The HAL Westerdam left at 5:00 from the next berth over. Never saw the Westerdam until Ketchikan several days later, and then on the last morning we followed her back into port. Watching the sunset over the inside passage was beautiful. We chose the late seating. That worked best for us because we figured we would be running to jump aboard as they close the hatch on each port of call - that’s how we are. Anyway, it worked out very well. The first night we had no one else at our table. Apparently a family of four was assigned there, but because of small children they wanted their own smaller table. The two waiters at our table and the headwaiter were very competent. After first night all drinks were automatically brought. The head waiter did a very nice job with several special requests. I enjoy a tomato, mozzarella, oil and vinegar salad that was not on the menu and it was produced without any problem. The table next to us had special requests for mashed potatoes and rice and that was bought daily with no hassle. I don’t know exactly how this was accomplished with the crush of feeding so many at one time, but it seemed to work A lot has been said about food quality and I will comment as follows: Windjammer Cafeteria was OK. We felt it was about on par with cafeteria food in general. It was convenient for us being right over us - a short 6 story elevator ride. I would have liked it to open a bit earlier - there were many early risers waiting around for the doors to open. Many of the same entrees that were on the main menu in the dining room were also on the buffet. The preparation and flavor were the same in both places. Never tried room service. Because of timing, naps and such I had occasion during dining room hours to ask for an entree to go. To my surprise they brought it quickly I took it back to the room. This was a nice surprise and I was very thankful for it. I also did this once with a dessert for my daughter. They had her favorite, napoleons. These were not on the buffet. The dining room obliged. The food was well prepared. It was not gourmet, with complex sauces and extraordinary ingredients. However, it was competently prepared and served nicely. Extra portions were no problem - we didn’t have to pre-order extras, but they were still produced quickly. My 17 year old had no problem getting his fill at every meal. I do think the overall quality of the food service should have been better. This was so noted on my comment card at the end of the cruise. Comparing it with my experience 16 years earlier, we did see many examples of reduced effort in the kitchen. However, this should not be construed as anything more than a that. Food is typical banquet quality that hotels heat and serve. Nothing was bad, nothing was poorly presented, and certainly nothing was inedible. It’s just that I can eat food like this daily at any cafeteria or better diner in the country. We would have liked more upscale entrees and effort in creativity in the kitchen. The pizza bar was poor. Any brand of restaurant pizza would have been superior. Many frozen varieties would have been superior. Don’t know what the problem there is, but it should be a lot better than it was. However, the burgers and fries were excellent - go figure. Ice cream was offered in the Windjammer each afternoon. I thought the time was too limited. Coffee, Tea, lemonade were available continuously outside near the pool near the front of the ship. These same beverages were non existent by the pizza and hamburger stands (near the back of the ship). It was a hassle to walk half the length of the ship to get a drink with your burger. However, the bar was nearby and served cokes for a fee. By the way, soft drinks were included in the dining room with all meals. We did not participate in the Kids coke program. The midnight buffet was only on Thursday night - we looked and my son ate. He said it didn’t taste all that good - it did look lovely. Seems like a great waste of food and energy. Maybe a dessert buffet would be better. Don’t know. They did have these sandwich carts going around the ship wherever people congregated - the casino area, Centrum, and the lounges. Heaven forbid any of us was more than five minutes from food. On second thought maybe I should have picked a cabin more foreword or aft so at least a little bit more walking would have been forced on me......nah! Enough about the food. Sounds like all ships suffer from the same maladies concerning food. The kids programs were excellent - my daughter went with the 6-8 year olds and was quite taken with the program. She considered it her school and looked forward to being there every minute it was open. They had pirate night, game night and T-shirt painting night. The funniest thing this age group did was to make ships out of boxes, popsicle sticks, paper, plastic, balloons and just about anything else you could think of. They then cleared the swimming pool and had a race to see whose could sail across the pool first. Several kids made waves to help propel the boats. It was hilarious. When the ship was in port and during certain times of the day, they ship offered group baby sitting for $4.00/hour and we used that a few times. Excellent. The teen group keep that age group busy. Scavenger hunts, prom night, meal time, tea, swim and hot tub time, etc. They had a great program of activities that the 16/17 year olds enjoyed. These kids ate breakfast together, lunch, Ice cream, midnight buffet etc. Their teen room (separate from the younger kids) had a big TV, games etc. They seemed to not want to do anything else than hang together. They kept a list of all participants along with mail, phone, e-mail etc. and shared this at the end of the week. I think half of them still keep in touch on Instant Messenger. Seemed like we only saw our kids at dinner and shore excursions. This is a very good youth program. Reading the rtc news group and several other review areas if the Internet, it seems this program is equal to or better than some others. Plenty has been said elsewhere about entertainment. I would comment that I would like to see some younger name talent on these ships. Other that the cruise director and crew, all entertainment was pushing past their prime. Interesting sideline about the cruise director - Kurt Detweiller. I saw him repeatedly around the ship and onshore. This young guy was great and very personable. He was always easy to talk to and helpful with suggestions. I enjoyed meeting him. Casino and lounge experience were about what has been written. Shore excursions we took were as follows: Skagway - pre booked with the ship the train up and bus back down. Could have done without Liarsville show, but was OK. We then left my daughter at the ship in the care of baby-sitters and spent the rest of the day shopping. Haines - this is a 15 minute stop that you get to say for 6 hours. All three citizens come to wave hi when you arrive. Actually, we enjoyed this stop almost the best. It was quiet - we were the only ship there. It was 30 minutes from Skagway and was set among the mountains. It was here we saw what we laughingly called the totem pole manufacturing center - actually an artist hand carving these beautiful poles. Gorgeous. Walked downtown and poked around many fine shops. Excellent jewelry. Did not walk to the fort, but many others did. When you first got off the ship many locals were available to trips to the mountains or wildlife trips. Many of our fellow passengers sent on these and they were very happy. Didn’t talk to many who pre booked tours here. Juneau - hired a cab for 70.00 for three hours. He took us to Mendenhall Glacier - we walked to the glacier lookout but skipped the visitor center. Went to the Chapel on the lake. Toured downtown. Saw several bald eagle nests and circled around to an eagle standing on a pole next to the road. Got a great picture - the kind you need a 400mm lens to get right there with my APS cheapo. Drove over to Douglas island for overview of the three ships in port at one time. We also took the glacier float plane tour. This was a marvelous look at the five glaciers in the immediate area. Ketchikan - our time was too limited here. We took the Salmon Falls Jet boat trip to see many homes and old buildings in this area. It is amazing how people adapt to life here. This was worth the time to do. By the time we got back to town, there was only a little time to visit. The Totem Heritage Center was closed by the time we got there. We shared Ketchikan with the Galaxy and Westerdam that day. The other stop we made was to cruise Hubbard Glacier - this was magnificent. I went out on deck well bundled up and staked out my spot near the bow. There we met the Galaxy just leaving and we had the whole view to ourselves. I was surprised how close the Captain drove up to the glacier. We saw lots of calving and heard lots of thunder. I then moves to the side rail when I felt the ship swinging around. He held the ship there for a while and then I moved to the other side when I felt it moving again. Doing this I was able to video to the max. Keep warm and take gloves. The breeze was cold. As we left the glacier, we went to the Windjammer cafe and keep a sharp eye out for seals and such. Saw a few. By the way - wildlife was not abundant, but we know that going in. The salmon are not running until mid July or so and the food chain moves with them. However, the most excitement was the whale flukes we saw out the dining room window one night. That’s all we saw. The folks who went on the wildlife viewing excursions did see whales, seals, etc. Should have done one of those - didn’t. Guess I will have to go back. Returning to Vancouver was with a heavy heart. I rose early to watch the sunrise as we steamed into Vancouver. The lady I shared the bow video taping of the glacier was up also. No one else. It was just as pretty as the sunset leaving the week before. Disembarkation began at 8:30 went smoothly and we arrived with two hours to spare at the airport. Retrieved our luggage from the RCI truck, used the free baggage carts supplied by the airport. Watched the British Royal Wedding on the TVs there. The international terminal is under major construction - you will pay $7.00 per person tax to fund same. Customs was easy, luggage left us then. Had a horrendous 6 hour layover in Phoenix - spent the time at the Children’s museum and nice dinner at a sports bar via cab ride. If you read this far here are some interesting sidelights: We had occasion to visit the ship’s doctor. My daughter had a light fever flare up and we wanted to confirm before beginning medication. Down to Deck 1. Her office was right across from where they ferry passengers when at anchor. Dr. Inga from Sweden. Looked like Baywatch meets Chicago Hope. She actually wasn’t very helpful, but it was interesting to see the full blown ER they have on board ship. Laying on her desk was a list of "missing medications." While we were there, several crew came in for their medications. Couldn’t get a handle on what was wrong with them. Perhaps the insidious Alaskan flu I have read about since coming home? While we were in Ketchikan, the big news was the small cruise ship that had run aground in Glacier Bay the day before. The jokes were hilarious. I think another one went aground since then? Who drives those boats? In Haines, while we were visiting the totem pole shops we saw another man who was carving poles. He talked about how each is unique and can be commissioned. They sell for $1,500.00/ foot. He was working on a 20 footer for a Michigan gentleman’s 50th anniversary. It had all his granddads and several events in his life depicted. Impressive. Being from San Antonio, we had the bad luck to be cruising when the NBA finals were going on. Guess I could have scalped my tickets to pay for the cruise, but instead gave them to some customers. Any way out in the middle of the Pacific, we received satellite transmissions of the NBC telecasts. In talking to the crew the previous playoff rounds did not make the TV on the ship but the finals did. My cabin steward was named Duncan (not related to Tim). It was great fun watching the Spurs do battle with the Knicks on the casino TV two different nights. By the way, Duncan was so efficient that one night I went to the bathroom and the bed was made up by the time I got back. (No... really!) Also, my parents took a northbound HAL Noordam trip mid July. They did see some additional wildlife. They commented their food was very good after the first day, but he ship has a rumble and vibration throughout the whole trip. Many of their fellow passengers commented on it. It was also interesting how customs worked for them on their trip- they entered Canada at the Vancouver airport. They left on the ship sailing north from BC to USA. Leaving the ship in Seward and flying home from Fairbanks, they never again saw any kind of customs. As far as Canada knows, they never left Canada. Does any one know how this works? My wife and I plan to return to Alaska some time soon - I want to see Sitka, Valdez, and Glacier Bay. Also, with capacity increasing I would assume pricing will stabilize or decline. It doesn’t take long to write too much, but here it is. That’s about it - thanks for listening. Michael Bolner; [email protected]

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Nov 30, -0001

Ensenada to Honolulu

On April 15, my husband, 13-year-old daughter and I left for San Diego, the day before our cruise was to sail.  This was my eleventh cruise; tenth for my husband and daughter.  We have cruised with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess and Norwegian.  We traveled to San Diego a day early.  Since nearly missing a cruise several years ago, we always travel to our departure city a day early to allow for possible delays.  We

stayed at Loewe’s Coronado Bay Hotel and had a delightful night.  We got up early Sunday morning, drove to the cruise pier where we dropped our luggage and then returned our rental car to the San Diego Airport.  One of our biggest complaints with this cruise was we could never get a straight answer from anyone as to what time the buses actually departed for Ensenada.  In fact, when we arrived at the terminal around 11:00 AM, the Rhapsody was docked (in San Diego).  We were quickly told that the ship was leaving for Ensenada (something about a U.S. law that prohibits ships of foreign registry from going directly from one U.S. port to another without stopping at another foreign port).  What a hassle.  Even upon checking in, no one was really willing to tell us when the buses would load.  Since we were among the first to arrive, we were fortunately on the first bus.  It also helped to be a Crown & Anchor member.  By the time they loaded the buses (around 1:00 PM) there were probably 15 bus loads ready to go.  Once on the road, our trip was pretty uneventful but several other buses had problems.  Some broke down and had to wait for help, others experienced troubles and took a much longer time to arrive.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking about this aspect because we had so much trouble getting any information before we left.  We were really glad to get to Ensenada and see the ship.  We picked this itinerary for two reasons.  We thoroughly enjoy the days at sea and this cruise had five in a row and we had never been to the Hawaiian Islands.  THE SHIP The ship was extremely similar to the Vision of the Seas we cruised last year so it was very familiar.  With five days at sea, we really had plenty of time to explore the ship.  I loved the art work.  We probably looked at it more than on any previous ship.  We liked our room (same cabin type and location at the rear of the ship as we had on the Vision).  We were disappointed in the condition of much of the public furniture.  Much of it was dirty and stained and this included all of the dining areas and pool deck chairs.  We were told that the ship was heading to dry dock for several weeks of refurbishing.  Good thing!  It appeared that the Broadway Melodies Theater has recently undergone a renovation and was beautiful. The ship is easy to learn and navigate your way around.  We learned on this cruise that some of the places we really enjoyed on previous cruises (the piano lounge for instance – The Schooner Bar on this ship) weren’t the same because the passengers were different.  A rather rowdy travel agent took over this lounge every night.  But we found plenty of things to do.  In fact, the time change from Mexico to Hawaii took its toll and we were in bed early every night at sea. There was one major problem that got increasingly worse as the week went on.  There was a terrible smell on the starboard side of the ship.  It started on deck 5 and by the end of the cruise, you could smell it all the way up on the pool deck.  No announcement was ever made regarding the problem but I’m sure it was addressed when it made it to dry dock.  PORTS OF CALL Other than St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Tortola/Virgin Gorda (in the BVI’s), all of the ports on this cruise were better than anywhere else we’ve been.  Each was different and unique and we’d go back to all of them to spend more time.  I should note that we planned all of our shore activities (including car rentals) before we left home.  It is very relaxing to board the ship and not have to figure out what we’re going to do for shore excursions.  This was also the first time that we did not take any of the ship’s excursions.  We rented from National in San Diego and Honolulu and from Alamo on all the other islands. HILO, HAWAII This was our first stop.  Alamo has shuttle vans at the cruise terminals to pick up passengers.  We got our car and headed off to Volcanoes National Park.  Our first stop was at the visitors’ center.  We took a brief 30-minute hike with a park guide to get a general feel for the park.  I had printed out a lot of park information from the National Park Service website so we had a good idea of what we wanted to do.  We drove Crater Rim Drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road.   This is the spot where lava flowed across the road about five years ago.  We parked here and walked out across the lava about 100 yards.  You could see the steam from the active lava flowing into the ocean from here.  But they warn that the hike to see actual lava is extremely dangerous.  It was all an incredible site to see.  We felt like we were walking on the surface of the moon.  We spent our day in the park.  As we sailed away that night, we went south and as we passed the southern tip of the island, our entire dining room emptied onto the decks to watch the orange glow of lava flowing into the water.  Another incredible site! KONA, HAWAII Another stop, another Alamo car rental.  This was a beach day and also Easter Sunday.  We drove north and spent a couple of hours at Hapuna Beach.  By lunch, we headed south to look for a resort where we could get lunch.  We ended up at the Hilton Waikoloa.  A lovely spot where we had a great lunch.  We spent some time wandering around the resort (lots of pretty pools, gardens and grounds).  As we walked up to look at the golf course, we heard someone yell “whales.”  We looked out at the ocean and just off shore were several whales playing.  What a fabulous site.  We were glad we had our video camera.  We just sat and watched them jump and play for about 30 minutes.  As the week went on, we realized we were very lucky.  Most people never saw whales. LAHAINA, MAUI  Car Rentals:  www.alamo.com NOTE:  At each port, we rented a car from ALAMO except Honolulu where we rented from National.  There was a van to pick you up at the ship and take you to their agency.  The car rental company will also return you to the ship at o charge. HILO Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.....www.nps.gov/havo We printed out all of the applicable maps and tours provided by the National Park Service.  It was approximately 30 – 40 minutes from the car rental pick up to the park.  A terrific day! KONA We drove North and stopped at several beaches along the way to swim and relax.  Around noon, we headed back South looking for a place to eat.  We stopped at the Hilton Waikola Village for lunch.  We had a great time walking around the grounds (everyone was very friendly).  We enjoyed lunch outdoors near one of the many pools.  After lunch we continued our exploration.  My husband was dying to see the golf course.  As we walked up to it, someone yelled “WHALE”.  Just off the golf course there were several whales frolicking in the waves.  We watched them (and videotaped them for about an hour).  As it turned out, this was one of the rare whale sitings on the trip  MAUI Two days are spent here.   On the first day, we ventured out on Trilogy, a catamaran that sails from Kaanapali Beach.  WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS TOUR!  We’ve done a lot of ship excursions over the years and this was better than most.  We booked it ourselves (www.sailtrilogy.com).  These trips sell out early so I’d recommend booking prior to your trip.  We did the Kaanapali Picnic Sail.  We visited two different (very good) snorkeling sites and had a terrific barbecue lunch on the boat.  They even served us ice cream sundaes for dessert.  This was a first class excursion! Our first night on Maui was spent at the Old Lahaina Luau.  Like the Trilogy excursion, this luau fills up quickly.  We made our reservations before leaving home on-line at www.hawaiiguide.com  If you do a search on Old Lahaina Luau, you’ll also find the site.  We had a great evening and it was well worth the money.  We choose to sit on the ground on mats and were very close to the show.  The only down side was that we were the last to go for food (the VERY last) and there wasn’t much left by the time we got there.  Always a downside of a buffet type meal.  But the surroundings, the ceremonies and the people were well worth the money.  We had a spectacular sunset and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.   For our second day on Maui, we hired a private guide from Guides of Maui (www.guidesofmaui.com) Donna was our guide and did a FABULOUS job at showing us a side of Maui that most people never see.  While you might think it is a bit more expensive than a ship excursion (it was $220 for the day), an 8-hour trip from the ship’s excursion desk would cost more for far less attention.  We picked Donna up at her office and she was available to us all day long.   We chose to let her show us her “favorite” part of the island since she was native to Maui.  We ate at a wonderful place in the middle of the island that most tourist never see.  We saw private, out of the way waterfalls, and we saw the popular spots such as the Ioa Needle.   We’d highly recommend Donna!  She was a delight!  And don’t forget to ask her about Sean Connery! KAUAI Hands down, our favorite island.  We would (will) go back here to spend an extended vacation.  We began with a helicopter tour with Island Helicopters (www.islandhelicopters.com).  It wasn’t an easy sell to get our 13-year-old to agree to this tour.  We told her that she didn’t have to go if she really didn’t want to once we got there.  Upon arrival, she got to sit next to the pilot and the rest is history.  This was truly like going to heaven.  It can’t be described in words.  The sites, the music, the feeling…..they are all indescribable.  Be sure you check out IZ while you are there.  He is a Hawaiian legend who has the voice of an angel.  Any Hawaiian will know who he is.  His music filled our tour!  While this might be the most expensive thing you do, this IS the place to do it.  Even more so than Maui.  We WILL go back to Kauai for vacation! After the tour (it only lasts about 50 minutes) we ventured to Poipu Beach on the south side of the island.  This was a wonderful choice.  We spent the rest of the day here and it was our favorite beach of the entire trip.  We ate lunch directly across from the beach and again, it was as if we were in a painting.  GO HERE.  You will not regret it! OAHU Our last stop, and we had a great time here.  Upon disembarking from the ship, we rented our car (had to take a cab to the National counter).  We drove to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour (my husband really wanted to visit here….so did the rest of us) where we got a number for our tour.  Since it was approximately three hours until our tour left (you take a boat to the memorial), we drove to our hotel to check in.  We stayed overnight at the Halekulani.  If there is anyway to swing the cost of this hotel, it is worth it.  It is very expensive, but you know that old saying, you get what you pay for.  It is true here.  The service was unbelievable (more on that later).  After checking in, we drove back and did the tour at Pearl Harbour.  My dad was in WWII and it was really important that our daughter see the memorial.  It touched us all.  That night we had (without a doubt) the best meal of the trip at Roy’s Restaurant in Honolulu.  Roy Yamaguichi is one of Hawaii’s best known chefs (kind of like Emeril stateside).  His Honoulu restaurant is located beyond Diamond Head.  The food and service was the best!  We wish we could go to Roy’s every week.  If you have just one night in Honolulu, go to Roy’s! On our second day, we were flying home late that evening (an 11:00 PM flight).  We spoke to the front desk at the Halekulani about storing our luggage and changing for our flight because we were dining at their restaurant, Orchids, before leaving for the airport.   The gracious staff offered us to stay in a room if we were willing to move (our room was already reserved for the evening) at NO EXTRA CHARGE!!!!  Yes, the hotel is expensive, but offering a checkout at 10:00 PM certainly wasn’t something they had to offer without additional charges.  It was a delightful way to spend the last night of our trip….and dinner at Orchids was superb, too! Overall, we had a terrific time and will definitely return to Hawaii again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

I knew we had made the right decision to book a cruise when I was enjoying myself and having a great time, and we hadn't even left the dock yet! We had a beautiful outside cabin with a private balcony that was wonderful. The cabin was ample sized and had tons of storage areas. We were pleasantly surprised at the size of our cabin. It had a sitting area, refrigerator, and a safe. Our room attendant was wonderful!!! His attention to detail was

amazing. Our room was always made up and freshly prepared for us even when we didn't think we had been gone long enough to let him get to it. He made designs out of our pillows during the day, and animals made out of our towels at night. It was always a treat to walk into our cabin and see what Charles had done. He, along with all other crew members we encountered were extremely friendly and very accomodating. As a stay at home mom with 2 girls under 6, I was really wanting and needing to be pampered and they delivered! The shows each night in The Broadway Melodies Theatre were very entertaining and professional. All shows were accompanied by an orchestra that was very talented. The live bands throughout the ship weren't so talented, unfortunately. The band in the Shall We Dance Lounge was so horrible that we (and others that we talked to) avoided that area all together. We wished they had auditioned their live bands better or paid higher to get better quality. The food overall was pretty good. The dining room served great food with a lot of variety but we were disappointed that we only had a choice of shrimp cocktail twice during our seven days and lobster only once. We were, however, given more than one portion of whatever we wanted, which was nice. Our servers were very nice and did everything they could to serve us a five star meal every night. We also dined in the Windjammer Cafe which is a casual, buffet dining area. That food wasn't as great or fancy as the dining room, but it was good and had quite a lot of selections. Room service was nice because it was 24 hours and complimentary, but the food was less than spectacular. Room service breakfast was good, but didn't have a lot of choices. It was delivered promptly though and allowed us to eat alone on our balcony. We were a little disappointed in the shore excursions. We had received a brochure describing our choices with our tickets several weeks before we departed. We went through and selected what we were interested in doing in our 3 ports. Once onboard we received an order form of excursions that were close to what we had read in the brochure, but had significant differences. Prices had increased, some tours were longer, and some parts of some tours were omitted. We made the mistake of thinking that the description in the brochure went along with what the order form described about the tours and was very disappointed in our $120 Mazatlan excursion to Deer Island. I recommend that you go by what the order form describes and don't assume that they have just condensed the details from the brochure you were sent. Next cruise we will probably just go ashore on our own and take the tours as we see them. They are the same and you can bargain with the person. In with the things we were weren't 100% happy with, this was still the best thing we have ever done for a vacation and it was truly worth every penny!!!! My husband and I are hooked on cruising and have already planned our next one for next year. We can't recommend Royal Caribbean enough, and would suggest this cruise line to anybody who wants to be pampered, spoiled, taken care of, and made to feel special while on a beautiful, spacious, cruise ship!

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We were aboard RCCL's M/S Rhapsody of the Seas from 8/24/03-8/31/03, sailing out of Galveston, Texas. The ports of call were Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We booked a Category C, suite with a balcony on deck 8. We live in Columbus, Ohio, we are in our 30s and this was our 8th Caribbean cruise, all with Royal Caribbean. I've noticed that many cruise reviews flow along the same lines: we get up, eat, do an activity, eat, another

activity, eat, enjoy the nightlife, eat, go to bed. I know when I'm reading reviews; I'm often looking for helpful information on the Ship, crew and activities/services. So, I am going to try to speak to this - if there is any further information you would like to know, feel free to contact me and ask! Pre-Day: Galveston We arranged our own airfare and flew into Houston (IAH) on Saturday August 23rd. (There are no flights directly into Galveston) This was our first time to Galveston, so we did considerable research on ground transportation and lodging options. Somewhat to our surprise, we found it was most cost effective (and convenient) to rent a car in Houston and drive to Galveston. We arranged to stay at a "no-frills" hotel in Galveston that allowed us to park our rental car there for the entire week, at no charge. We took a cab to and from the pier, for about $12 each way. (There are various shuttle/limo/bus services that run from Houston to Galveston and back - all were more expensive than what we did, including the cost of the cab - we were also not impressed with the parking facilities, or cost, at the pier.) Galveston is a relatively small island town that looks to be in the midst of growing its tourism and vacation appeal (from more of an industrial background.) We will most likely return to using the Port of Miami in the future. Embarkation: We arrived at the Pier about 11 AM, made it through all security in about 15 minutes. As we are Platinum Crown and Anchor members, we checked in and received our SeaPass card right away. We waited in a large holding room until about 11:50, at which time passengers were allowed to begin boarding. We got our pictures taken by Ship's security, and were about the 5th couple on board. I'm told it got much busier from 1 to 3 PM. Our cabin was all made up, we met our stateroom attendant, and headed off to start the week! Debarkation: As normal, we had to put our luggage outside our stateroom door by midnight of the final day. We were given colored luggage tags that designated the order we would leave the ship. We ate breakfast in the dining room the waited in the Viking Crown Lounge with the other Diamond/Platinum members for our color to be called. We left the ship around 10:15 AM, picked up our luggage and got our cab out front in about 15 minutes. The lines of people waiting to board busses and shuttles, to get to their parked cars, or to the airport, were very long and didn't appear all that organized. The Rhapsody is Vision class ship whose maiden voyage was in 1997. While she may be starting to show some signs of wear, the ship is very clean! We were on Explorer of the Seas late last year, so we did notice the Rhapsody is not as open - especially when comparing Rhapsody's boutique area to the Royal Promenade of the Voyager Class Ships. The Solarium area and pools were very nice, and never crowded. Our Category C suite was roomy enough for 2, the balcony was very nice - we noted the clear Plexiglas that ran from the railing to the deck. This made it easy to actually sit on the deck chairs and have a full view looking out. The Edelweiss dining room was spotless! We enjoyed dinner there every night, and a couple breakfasts and lunches. The breakfast and lunch meals are open seating, making for a quicker meal, and allowing you to meet and chat with more people. The Viking Crown lounge was very roomy, had a great view and was never crowded during the day. This is a great place to look out over the Sea! The ShipShape center was nice and clean, but I would have liked to see some more exercise equipment. The Windjammer Café was very well laid out, as were the other lounges and the casino. On our last 2 days we were dealing with Tropical Storm Grace, but as soon as both of Rhapsody's stabilizers had been deployed, there was very little motion. The Crew: Captain Olaussen was by far the most personable captain we've ever had. He gave a welcome aboard message on Sunday, and gave updates everyday at noon. He had a great sense of humor and would talk for 10 or so minutes about our position, our depth, the weather forecast and other maritime trivia and anecdotes. The Captain was also at the Welcome Aboard party, the Repeaters party, frequently up on the pool deck in the mornings and at the Parade. He also kept the passengers very informed of the Tropical Storm when applicable. Cruise Director Mike Hunnerrup was excellent! We first met Mike when he was Assistant Cruise Director aboard Explorer. He presents the perfect combination of quick wit and light-heartedness while always acting very professional. His team is very hard working and seems to want to do a good job for him. In fact, when Tropical Storm Grace shut down the shore excursions in Cozumel, Mike and the staff printed a Revised Cruise Compass which included numerous additional activities to somewhat offset the inclement weather. Our Cabin Steward Edgar was from the Philippines. We met Edgar on the first day, he was quick to welcome us "back" as we were repeat RCCL cruisers. He did all the expected towel animals and he kept our cabin clean and the ice bucket full. I would see him often in the morning, to and from my workouts, and he was a joy to talk to. He was a fast worker and always treated us with nothing but top notch respect. Our Dining room Staff consisted of Head Waiter, Amit, from Turkey, Waiter Frederick, from the Phillipines, and Assistant Waiter Emmanuela, from Romania. Frederick and Emmanuela were very good. Frederick has been doing this for 13 years and was near perfect - very polished and professional, while still being fun and informative. Emmanuela was newer, she made a couple very minor mistakes, but was very respectful and wanted to please. Our Head Waiter, Amit, was by far the best Head Waiter we've ever had - he came by virtually every night (not just tip night), and we could see him helping the others. Erica the bar server!! We had the pleasure of meeting Erica while aboard Explorer - she was the best bar server I have ever met (I have 15 years of restaurant background). She is very fast and very consistent. We very much enjoyed getting to know her aboard Explorer; we were thrilled when we ran into her aboard Rhapsody! (it was a complete surprise!) She was serving drinks in the Casino - so we managed to end up there about every day! The Food - was excellent! I've been hearing for almost 10 years that RCCL's food is not that good. We have been on 6 different RCCL ships and that cannot be further from the truth! While there were a couple dishes that were not to our tastes (we try many different types of dishes) we were given replacement(s) immediately. It is our biggest pet peeve that some passengers are so arrogant (or stupid) that they do not understand that there are 2000+ people that all deserve the same first class treatment. We ate in the dining room, the Windjammer, ordered room service, and ate in the Solarium Café - all were excellent!! The Drinks. As my wife is pregnant, she had no alcohol, and we purchased the Coke Card for about $35. They put a sticker on her SeaPass card and she could get unlimited fountain sodas (Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite) all week. This was a very good value, as we both used it off her card. We also had several frozen drinks (hers were all virgins) and they were very good. A reminder here is to tell the bartender/bar server that you want your beverage in a regular glass, or they will serve it to you in a plastic souvenir glass, and charge you more for it. I would also recommend not purchasing the pre-made drinks the bar servers carry around, they are usually separated and melting, (and in the souvenir glasses - more expensive) and generally not as good as having them made at the bar. We did not have any wine with dinner and I was told the after dinner shots/cordials were overpriced. (I got my after dinner drink form Erica, while my wife played blackjack) The Ports - Key West (arrive 3 PM, depart midnight) Key West - we love Key West! We have never taken an excursion here, just go hit the strip - visit Sloppy Joes (perform for the Live Duval Street Web Cam), Hog's Breath and Margaretville. We love the hand made jewelry on Key West - it is generally good quality and very unique, we've had a couple pieces specially made for us while we wait. I recommend visiting the nightly Sunset Festival at Mallory Square. There you will see numerous artists performing for tips and selling their goods - it’s a very entertaining event! Procedure note - passengers are not allowed to go ashore until all non-U.S. citizens have presented themselves for customs. We got off the ship around 4 PM I believe. As the ship is in port during the dinner hours, the dinner times to eat in the dining room are open from 6 to 8:30 - its generally a sparse crowd. Grand Cayman (arrive 7 AM, depart 4 PM) We always snorkel at Grand Cayman. Even with Tropical Storm Grace looming and clouding up the skies, the snorkeling was very good. We booked this excursion online (as we normally do with snorkeling excursions) a couple weeks prior to the cruise. We had been on it before and knew the 2 sites we would visit - both are very good for observing all the marine life and to see the difference in depths (from 90 to 3000 feet) right off Grand Cayman. As the Cayman dollar is stronger than the U.S. dollar, we don't do much shopping while in port. We use the "shopping time" to enjoy a not very crowded Rhapsody of the Seas! Cozumel (arrive 10 AM, depart 7 PM) Grace was picking up steam by now (wind and rain) canceling all shore excursions. The Cruise Director's staff put out a revised edition of the Cruise Compass and added more shipboard activities. Late in the day we did go ashore to look at some of the close shops and the mall right off the pier. Not much had changed since our last visit a couple years back - the area wasn't that clean and I was continually offered drugs and Cuban cigars. Next time we stop at Cozumel we will most likely stay on board the ship. Shipboard Activities: The Cruise Compass does a great job of listing all the available activities you may want to take part in. There really is something for everyone, and we've tried a lot of it. Following is some of our comments on experiences we've had. The Shows - we have not been to a shipboard show since the one we walked out of on our very first cruise. I usually hear the same comments, the cruise ship singers and dancers are good, the comedians are ok, and the circus acts aren't so good. We have been taking an advantage of a more and more frequent trend of the pre-dinner second seating show. We eat second seating, the pre dinner show for second seating is at 7 PM, during the first seating dinner, 1/2 the ship is eating dinner and the other 1/2 is in the show, leaving virtually all other areas of the ship deserted. This is a great time to have a Jacuzzi all to yourself, be the only ones at the casino tables and slots, find your pictures at the Photo Shop, visit the Purser's desk (if needed), be the only ones in the Viking Crown lounge or just stroll around the top pool decks and enjoy the privacy! (Almost all shows are replayed on the stateroom TVs for the remainder of the week as well) ShipShape activities - these are special activities noted in the Cruise Compass that will earn you ShipShape dollars that you can redeem for prizes at the end of the cruise. Activities range from workouts, aerobics, stretching, pool games, walk-a-mile, to learning to dance to ping pong and mini golf to shuffleboard and so on. I've found these to be to be well run and a lot of fun. ShipShape offers some advanced activities that sometimes cost a nominal fee (rock climbing, Pilates) ShipShape also has a full Spa that is talked about non-stop. I'm told its very pricy and nothing you can't get "back home" for much less cost. Men's sexy legs and belly flop contests. Both of these take place at the main pool and are always a riot! Karaoke - both the family and the adult Karaoke are usually a lot of fun. The Cruise Director's staff does a good job of getting people to get up and sing, and its surprising how many good voices are out there. Bingo is big business!! They start hyping Bingo on day one and keep it up until the final game on the last day. The big jackpot is normally in the range of $10,000, and a lot of people play. We took part in a couple Bingo sessions this trip, but the Bingo caller, Rikki, wasn't that good, so we didn't play as much as we have in the past. Bingo card packs sell for around $35 and $50. Theme dance nights are fun. The Viking Crown Lounge becomes a disco at night, we had 70s night, 80s night, 50s sock hop, Latin Dance and the Texas Hoedown. All were well attended and a lot of fun. The staff keeps telling you that "you'll never see these people again, so you might as well get up on the dance floor and dance!" Art Auctions. Park West Auctions has some 800 paintings on board for sale and auction. We were educated some years ago that there are some good deals to be had, but you must do you homework to find them. (as they are not all good deals, and there are hidden costs). We normally look, might ask a question or 2; we've found the "good" paintings go for $400-$900. Schooner Bar activities. The informal Schooner bar has activities such as trivia contests, "name that tune", handwriting analysis, napkin/towel folding etc. These activities are not usually that well attended but are fun for those who participate. The Horse Race. Everyone makes a big deal about the horserace, where passengers bid on "horses" that are being auctioned off and decorate them. Some days later there is the horse race where you can make actual cash bets on which horse will win. The horses sell for up to $1000 and race is based on rolling oversized dice. A lot of people really get into this event, but it can get fairly obnoxious and not one of our favorites. Marriage Game and Rhapsody Quest/Mania. These are regular events on all of the RCCL ships that we've seen before. They are very funny, but usually quite crowded, so we didn't attend this time around. I recommend them both if you have never seen them before. (They are also replayed on your stateroom TVs for the remainder of the week) Special Event - Stars and Mars. As the planet Mars was as close to Earth as it would get for the next 60,000 years Rhapsody put together a "Stars and Mars" activity where the bow deck lights were turned off, and some of the Ship's Navigational officers were present at the observatory to point out Mars and answer questions. This was incredible, it was a clear night and, with no ambient city lighting, you could see thousands of stars, 3 planets and the actual Milky Way. Rhapsody Question and Answer session. This was a highlight. The Rhapsody's Environmental officer, Chief Engineer and Staff Captain (Second-in-Command) gave a 20 minute presentation about the ship and then opened up the floor for questions. There were only about 30 people in attendance so all questions got asked. This was informative and entertaining - topics discussed included Rhapsody history, engine specs, how the toilets flush, size of the propellers, the various departments within the ship and so on. I commented to RCCL that we would like to see this offered on all ships - it was that good! The Youth programs. We have a 2 1/2 year old, who did not accompany us on this trip, but will on the next. We found out a lot about the youth programs, both from the staff and other parents. All agree that it is a very well run program with very well trained staff - we will have no reservations about trusting our daughter's enjoyment and safety to these programs. The Parties - there are welcome aboard parties, newlywed parties, singles parties, repeater parties, pool parties and the friendship parade/party. Many of these serve complimentary cocktails/mocktails and appetizers, and they are well run. You may not need to go to them all, but it’s a good chance to see the officers and learn who does what. The Bands. There are normally 4 or 5 different bands on board. We love the Calypso Steel Drum band that usually plays poolside. There is also a house band that plays pop-rock-country-oldies music. The is usually a trio/quartet for chamber, dinner and big-band music; and the Schooner Bar normally has a piano player and/or guitarist to entertain. The bands are usually pretty good, and certainly good enough to enjoy for a fun loving time away from it all! OVERALL NOTES We had a very nice time and are already planning our next RCCL cruise! It should be mentioned that 80% of the passengers on this cruise were from Texas, and the ship really plays to this theme. (In the menu selections, some activities, the decorations, etc... It got a little old after a while.) As I mentioned before Galveston is still somewhat of a Work-In-Progress when it comes to facilitating a ship of this size, and all the people it brings to town every week. I look forward to the day that Embarkation and Debarkation are as organized as they are at the Port of Miami. We knew we were going into this trip with a more relaxed pace (we are normally very active) so the smaller ship and the couple days of poorer weather had no effect on us. I again compliment the staff - we had no complaints with anyone we dealt with, all were top notch professionals that did an excellent job. The ship was maintained well and everything was working all the time. My advice to anyone that wants it, is to go into your cruise with a good positive attitude, understand and accept that things sometime happen and be flexible enough to not let those things ruin your cruise - on this point also - don't hold it in, if something is not right, tell the right staff and I'll bet they will take care of you!! I have many compliments for Royal Caribbean, they have always exceeded our expectations and I think they do an excellent job of making cruising fun and entertaining for everyone (not so stuffy like some of the competition) Feel free to contact us if with any questions - we have copies of all 7 days of the Cruise Compass that we are willing to share! Bon Voyage, Jeff and Debbie Woodard

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Day One: took Continental flight leaving Denver at 6:30 arriving in Houston at 9:45 am. From there we took the Royal Caribbean shuttle which costs 62.00 per person round trip in the pouring rain to Galveston. We got to Galveston at 12:00 and were on the ship by 12:30. That was by far the best embarkation we have ever experienced. We did book a suite category C which lets you skip the lines and get right on the boat. Upon arriving on the

ship we proceeded directly to our stateroom which was easy to find and ready for us. We had the best state room attendant Edgar who came and introduced himself to us after we had settled in. As soon as we were settled in we went to eat in the Windjammer which I was dreading because of the poor reviews it received on the message board but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the buffet was very good and fresh and included everything you could want in a buffet including a carving station and a huge desert station. Although it was very cold in Galveston (low 50’s) the sail away party on the pool deck went on as planned and we were headed to Key West with our bahamma mama drinks in our hand. Just before dinner around 5:30 our bags arrived in our room and we were able to dress for dinner. The first nights dinner we met our waiter Mustafa and assistant waiter Allen who were very proficient considering they had 20 people to wait on they were right on top of it. We ordered the wine and dine package which cost 125.00 including tip which gives you one bottle of wine of your choice with each dinner. However on the first night we could not be served wine until we were in international waters so we didn’t get wine until mid way through our dinner. We also met our table mates who were wonderful entertainment. That night’s show included the Royal Caribbean singer and dancers singing “taking care of business” the Ritmos Duo which are male and female drummers who were entertaining but strange and goofy too. We were also introduced to Tom Canosa who is the cruise director who did a great job through out the cruise. Day two at Sea: there were plenty of activities through out the day for all ages but we chose to relax and swim this day in the solarium pool which was very nice. We did decide to play bingo this day but were not impressed. You paid 35.00 for 5 games but the odds of wining were like a thousand to one too many people played bingo. The show for that night was the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers doing the Swingin Singing Years the band and singers put on a very good show that was defunitny geared to an older audience you can tell that a lot of hard work goes in to the production Day three Key West: There where a lot of activities in the morning. We walked a mile; Ate breakfast in the windjammer witch I always liked. it was very good any breakfast item you could want ( bagels , lox’s , eggs , ham , donnuts , made to order omelets , potato cakes , yogurt . and much more ) At 3:00 pm the ship arrived at key west we docked at the down town Hilton pear. My wife and I got off the ship at 3:45 pm walked around town looked at the bars and shops got back on the ship just in time to watch the sunset from our cabin balcony with a bottle of Champagne. Dinner was open seating we ate early so we could see my big fat Greek wedding in the theater it was very funny hopping they would show it. After the movie we went to bed and missed the comedy show and late night sail away pool party. It is nice to do as much or as little as you like! Day Four at Sea: Again there were a lot of activities to do during the day at sea. We did all the ship shape activities to earn our ship shape dollars and that was kind of fun. We played in the casino but never one a dime only gave tons to the slots. The out door pool is usually crowded on sea days so we used the in door pool to swim and lay by the pool it is a really nice area to relax. The 4th night show was the best show we have seen. The Original Drifters were on the ship and put on a great show. Even at 26 and 30 we new every song they sang, it was so good. It was by far the best cruise show performance we have ever seen. Day Five Belize City: We anchored near Belize City at 7:30 a.m. and all the tours were the first ones off the ship and then the rest of the passengers wanting to go ashore could go but you had to tender over so we decided we weren’t going to get off the ship. But later that day we changed our minds and took the tender over. It is about a 15 minute boat ride over but there is really not much to see when you get over to the island. We only stayed in Belize for an hour and then tendered back it was kind of a waste but at least now we can say we’ve been to Belize. We were going to watch the movie that was playing in the Broadway Melodies Lounge but a quarter way through the movie shut off and the only two men who new how to run the computer were in Belize picking up a piano player for the next nights show so the movie was never fixed. However they did run the movie on the T.V. in each stateroom the next day all day long so we were able to see it. We were so exhausted this night we decided to order room service watch a movie and go to bed it was one of the best nights we had. Day Six Cozumel: We arrived at 7:30 a.m. and we were one of the first people off the ship. It is so easy to get off the ship when you are at the international peer. We took a taxi over to the plaza for $6.00 and we were there way too early nothing opened up until 10:00 or later in the morning. We walked all around and looked at the open markets and found a great place to play mini golf we had a lot of fun. It was hot this day so after playing mini golf we took a taxi back to the peer and got back on the ship and lay by the pool for awhile. It was a great day to be in Cozumel. This was lobster night in the dinning room so we ate in their and had a pretty good meal. The lobster tail were good sized and they even offered you a second or third. This was one of the better meals in the dining room. This evening’s show was a pianist named Glenn Smith. He was very unprepared and he was sick so the show wasn’t very good. He also wasn’t like a concert pianist he was more of a rock-n-roll pianist it just wasn’t our taste of music I guess. Day Seven At Sea: We laid in the sun most of this day as it was our last chance to work on our tans before headed home. We also played the final game of bingo that was a jack pot of $10,000.00 I got with in two numbers but some guy from Texas won the whole pot lucky him. The weather started to change as we got closer and closer to Galveston and we were trying to avoid a storm most of the night. This night’s diner was the best on the cruise. It was prime rib and they cooked it any way you liked. It was a great final dinner for the cruise. We decided to skip the last night show and have one more relaxing night before we headed home to our busy house with the kids running around all the time but it was a great night none the less. Day Eight Disembarkation: We had a lot of trouble docking in Galveston because of the wind so this put the disembarkation about an hour behind but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. The customs process ran really smooth and the disembarkation also ran smooth. We were some of the first ones off the ship because we booked the Royal Caribbean shuttle to the airport and these left early so that was a plus. All in all the disembarkation was an easy process. A final summary: The ship was magnificent very well maintained and very clean. Our state room attendant was the best he was so efficient and very nice too. The food over all was hit and miss the dining room was the worst place to eat but the food in the windjammer was great. We had a great trip and we already booked another one on the same ship for next year. Happy sailings to everyone.

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