Live From Rhapsody of the Seas: First Impressions of the Newly Refurbished Ship

May 23, 2012 | By | 11 Comments

How new can you make an old ship seem? Royal Caribbean is trying to prove that even 15-year-old ships like Rhapsody of the Seas can hold their own against newer, bigger, sleeker ships — with a little plastic surgery, that is. We’re onboard Rhapsody this week in Alaska, checking out the added dining venues, entertainment options and updated cabins. Our first thought is: Yeah, this ship does not feel old or dated, even if it does lack Royal Caribbean signatures like the Royal Promenade or FlowRider. No scuffed wardrobes or ’90s color schemes here. But do the new additions live up to expectations?
The Centrum
Thumbs Up: Royal Caribbean has made over Rhapsody’s lobby area into a popular gathering spot and entertainment venue. It’s a bit of genius — events you might miss like the art auction, ’70s dance party, salsa lessons and sushi demo are now in a highly trafficked area, so passengers stop to watch from an upper deck or slide into a seat at the R Bar, even if they didn’t really mean to.
Thumbs Down: The most talked-about entertainment option here — the aerial acrobatic performances — are designed to be serendipitous. They’re not listed in the daily schedule, and you’re supposed to just stumble upon them. But passengers are getting irked when they discover they missed the main event. Luckily, we saw a bit of the morning rehearsal because we completely missed the first show. Hint: We’ve heard they take place at the welcome and farewell parties.
Thumbs Up: The pan-Asian restaurant (it’s mostly Japanese) is located in a gorgeous spot, carved out of the top-of-ship Viking Crown Lounge. The venue is open and airy, offers lunch and dinner, and even has a sushi bar. We’re not sushi connoisseurs, but the fact that we ate raw fish several days into a cruise and still feel fine has to count for something.
Thumbs Down: This may be the longest, most confusing menu we’ve ever seen. We had to ask the waiter how most people go about choosing between sushi, hot-rock cooking and other entrees because we were at a total loss. (Answer: Most people go for the combination meals to avoid ordering a la carte.) Also, there’s a cover charge plus a fee per item ordered.
Royal Babies and Tots Nursery
Thumbs Up: The nursery is a godsend for parents looking for a safe place for their little ones (6 months to 36 months) to play on a ship that’s just not designed for the toddling set. It’s a wonderland of Fisher Price toys, soft play structures and developmental games. Expect both parent-baby playtime and drop-off sessions, and yes, the nursery staff change diapers (rare in the industry). You can also borrow toys to bring back to your cabin (for free), so that’s one less thing to pack for Junior.
Thumbs Down: Unlike Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean’s kids program for ages 3 and up, you have to pay to drop off your kid. And if just one other tyke has been dropped off, parents are not allowed into the facility. That means if you want your baby to play in a safe environment, you either have to ditch him with a babysitter or wait for the meager open-play sessions. We’d appreciate more parent-baby playtime.
Thumbs Up: We’re big fans of the Digital Way-Finding systems and find that we’re browsing dining menus, looking for directions or checking the daily schedule any time we pass by one of the interactive screens. They’re great for international passengers, as the information is available in several languages. Flat-screen TV’s in the cabins help bring staterooms into this century.
Thumbs Down: The poolside movie screen has been under-utilized on our Alaska cruise. It’s constantly playing scenes from the Caribbean, which are jarringly out of place on grey days sailing through snow-capped mountain ranges. Perhaps this feature will be better appreciated on warmer itineraries. We’re told there’s shipwide Wi-Fi, but it’s hard to test in Alaska were service is always spotty. (Hint: The Centrum is one of the better spots onboard for access.)
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    11 Responses to “Live From Rhapsody of the Seas: First Impressions of the Newly Refurbished Ship”

    1. Burky
      May 23rd, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

      I just finished an Alaskan cruise on the Rhapsody and found the ship to be excellant and could not tell that it was 15 years old. Not everyone wants to sail on the mega ships. The one thing I did not like was the limited hours of the buffet. To me dining is a huge part of cruising. If I want limited dining hours then why would I go on a cruise when I could just go to a resort.

    2. ironskillet
      May 23rd, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

      I recently sailed from Hawaii to Vancouver on Rhapsody. I can say as a long time cruiser that I was impressed by the make over. I have sailed the Allure, Oasis and there other ships. I love this cruise line. On this cruise line I met the best crew and they made my cruise special. I always look at the positive not the negative. When you travel on a ship it is what you make it. When you see a crew member who looks down. Say hi and talk the them. They have feelings too and a lot of cruisers treat them as servants. They are people working a hard job to make your stay special. I see many grumpy people on cruises most will not answer when you say good morning. I make it a point to always be on the top of my game and smile. After all, a cruise is what you make it. I feel that as long as I am sea I’m happy. And I have met a lot of crew members and see them on their ships and they remember me and my wife.

    3. Kate
      May 23rd, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

      Regarding the menu at Izumi- this is pretty standard for Japanese restaurants that offer hot food along with sushi. Anyone who has not eaten like this- ask your servers for help- they will be happy to assist you!

    4. lynn walters
      May 23rd, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

      We sailed on Rhapsody immediately after refurb from Singapore. Not knowing what it was like previously I can only comment that she didn’t feel as old as her years. I echo the sentiment about the limited hours of the buffet – have never struck this before on any cruise line. We were also annoyed at the offerings on MUT. Prefer not to have it at all quite frankly. Love to cruise to get away from the normal routine and “TV” watching is not what I want during the day around the pool. Could not fault any member of staff, in fact I felt they were the friendliest crew I have ever experienced, and the Captain was visible around the ship more than I have ever noticed and always interacting with passengers. Good Captain = happy staff = happy passengers.

    5. cruise deals
      May 27th, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

      WOw!! Thar’s wonderful, I am planning for a cruise vacation next time. I relay enjoy traveling on large ships on sea. It’s like freedom to me, leaving all works & responsibilities behind, fling like a free bird.
      I wish to be with your next trip.

      Karen J. Bergquist

    6. Ron Becker
      May 29th, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

      I did not sail Rhapsody, but just returned from Radiance of the Seas, Honolulu to Vancouver. We loved the ship, the staff and the food/servers and ship staff. However I must agree with Lynn Walters about the TV in the pool area. We found it annoying to read or lounge around the pool being forced to listen to the loud TV. One morning early, they had CNN on. Come on, who wants that on a cruise when you are getting away from reality? We tried to use the Solarium instead but it was always packed. Others getting away from the TV?

      August 14th, 2012 @ 11:41 am


    8. Kalahari
      October 29th, 2012 @ 5:02 am

      Please let me know how do I find out who the Capt will be on the Rhapsody of the Seas. MY husband and I sailed with several Captains and enjoy finding out that some times the same Capt will be on that cruise.

    9. david
      February 26th, 2013 @ 1:27 am

      went on the last cruise last feb before rhapsody got refurbished. Last week we just got off the cruise on Voyager of the seas. it was a massive letdown & a disgrace to royal caribbean. the staff are all rude & the alcohol was watered down. half the time they ran out of certain alcolol for cocktail mixes. once again like last year the ship SO CALLED broke down at noumea & we got stuck on that horrible island for two days. Cant wait to get back on the rhapsody next year…the Voyager was huge but dead set terrible..never again

    10. Hope
      February 21st, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

      I travelled on the rhapsody in 2008. I absolutely loved the ship and the staff bent over backwards for you. I’m booked on it again nov 2014 and am looking forward to see the refurbish. But truthfully I loved it how it was first time round. And the food was fantastic not to mention the alcohol is really cheap. They have what’s called free pour which means a nip is twice the size of the usual nip of spirits. Just turn the bottle upside down and pour :))))

    11. virginia marie jackson
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

      Thanks. I’m already book on the Rhapsody of the Sea, we’ll be traveling to Sydney Australia for a Queensland Cruise in Oct., 2014 that why I wanted to see the ship.

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