The Rhapsody was fresh out of refit in Singapore just before this 18 day cruise from Sydney, Australia to Honolulu, Hawaii. So the physical facility is the best this ship will ever likely get and is in some ways quite impressive. (My wife and I completed a 28 day cruise on the Dawn Princess a couple of hours before boarding Rhapsody at Sydney's Circular Quay, so I'm comparing an immediate memory of those two ships and our cruises on them.)
As you read the following, keep in mind that by the time my wife and I boarded Rhapsody, after 28 days on Dawn, we were pretty much 'cruised out' already - so others on this same cruise might have much more pleasant memories of it.
1. Food: Food quality and selection and availability were vastly inferior to that on Dawn Princess, almost unacceptable. In the self-serve Windjammer buffet on Rhapsody I often saw wilted veggies and empty pans that had not yet been refilled, and many strange dishes with strange names that nobody seemed to want to try.
Annoyingly, you had to find and pickup your own cloth napkin that wrapped, get this, only a knife and fork. If you had yogurt or any dish requiring a spoon you had to get up (and risk losing your table) and search for a spoon!
The buffet was only open a few hours a day and was often overcrowded, requiring a walkabout to find an empty seat. Dare leave your table to get a drink or dessert, or seconds, and you might return to find it had been cleared and was now occupied by someone else.
Sit down dining was crowded but the food was better (though nowhere near that on Dawn Princess) and the service was excellent.
"24 hour self-serve ice-cream" was very tasty but turned out to not be available until 11 a.m. and closed at an early evening hour - and was often out of cones or ice-cream - very poorly serviced.
2. Service: The first few days, the hotel crew seemed to be untrained, unfriendly, and not knowing what they were doing, especially in the buffet. And maybe that was true, the ship was on its first cruise after a refit and maybe most crew joined up in Sydney? We saw a remarkable improvement in the buffet service as the days progressed, they even got around to bringing us drinks and welcoming and thanked us as we entered and left the buffet. (But the food itself didn't get much better.)
Our stateroom steward had worked for another line before and was friendly but just average in taking care of our room.
Dining room service was absolutely great, very fast, very friendly, a bit intrusive.
3. Staterooms: We had a balcony on Dawn Princess but took a "superior interior" room on the 8th deck on Rhapsody for economy. It was a nice sized room but there was always a hum as if a diesel engine was running nearby. (We told ourselves we'd ignore it - needed that attitude...) The bed and pillows were not very comfortable but acceptable.
But get this: Royal Caribbean did not even provide shampoo or conditioner or body lotion, just a dispenser of liquid soap in the shower and a small bar of soap at the sink that was rarely replaced.
4. Programs and entertainment: Some not very good, but a beautiful theater.
5. Excursions: horribly expensive, very poor value.
6. There are NO self-serve washers, dryers, or irons on this ship! You can stuff a small plastic bag with dirty clothes pay $15 a bag and some 36 or so hours later get the clothes back clean but thoroughly wrinkled. This was the most common complaint we heard from fellow passengers - the lack of self-serve laundry.
7. Tip: Do NOT book an airport transfer with Royal Caribbean! We booked on the ship, thinking they'd handle our checked luggage, and were charged $25 each to be transferred from the Channel Street dock in Honolulu to the airport.
I asked why we didn't get tickets or vouchers and was told that the number and color of the debarking tags on our luggage was proof that we had paid and we'd be found by the driver. But getting off the ship was absolute chaos once we'd left the ship itself!
There were no reps from Royal Caribbean to help outside and mobs of people trying to find where to go. We had to handle all our luggage, even that we'd checked, and had to look for the transfer vehicle ourselves, shoving our way through crowds.
It took me about 40 minutes to finally luck out and find the right bus by asking the right person. We (dangerously) had to walk behind a long line of idling buses because of the crowds to get our luggage to that bus. And there, we had to surrender our stateroom key or the only copy of our ship expenditures printout to the suspicious driver who paid no attention to luggage tags.
And we found out that local vans were transferring to the airport for only seven dollars per person, instead of the $25 each Royal Caribbean had gouged from us and just took our money and 'ran'!
So, our first cruise on Royal Caribbean, and most likely our last, unless we get lured into trying one of their megaships.
Hope you have a better experience on Rhapsody of the Seas than we did...