My wife and I were part of a family group of 24 that have just returned from a 13 day cruise to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia on board the Royal Caribbean ship Rhapsody Of The Seas. I wasn't going to write a review but think it only fair as I always read other peoples reviews before deciding on a cruise.
We have traveled with Holland America and Princess cruises in the past so any impressions of the ship and cruise will be by way of comparison with those cruises.
Boarding was in Sydney with all passengers given a time window in which to board. We were allocated between 11am and noon and were in the first boarding group. We dropped our bags off and then spent an hour in line waiting for our turn. Other members of our group were in a later boarding time and took up to 3 hours to board the ship. Obviously this part of their operation needs some work.
We booked a "Superior Interior Cabin" on deck 8 (8519) after only having Balcony Cabins on previous cruises. The cabin was spacious enough with an updated small bathroom, the bedding was new as was the 3 seat lounge. We were kept awake a couple of nights due to the late night parties on the pool deck, the band was directly above our cabin so if you like to retire early it may pay to avoid cabins in this area.
Food was quite good though probably not up to the standard of previous cruises. There was no lobster or other high end foods unless you paid extra for them, probably an attempt to keep prices down. Soups and sweets were very good. The buffet in the Windjammer was very well set up with a good variety of food and it was rarely a problem getting a table despite the fact the ship was at full capacity. The dining room was open for breakfast and lunch when on sea days but due to their policy of using 10 seat tables and filling them as people arrived the service was a bit spasmodic. Some days food would arrive in 10 minutes other days it would take 40 minutes. Food was also available in a cafe adjoining the Solarium Pool and it was well patronized.
The service on the ship was excellent even though I am sure the staff would have been advised about Australians reluctance to tip. Our cabin steward was very friendly and efficient as were our waiters.
The entertainment was OK considering the cost of the cruise. The standard was not as high as previous cruises but this could also be an attempt to reduce costs. I would never complain about the entertainment because I have paid big money on land to see lower standard shows.
During our cruise approximately 300 people came down with the Norovirus, this is a gastro virus very common in America and Europe. Once diagnosed with the virus you would be confined to your cabin for 24 hours. Unfortunately the Fijian medical authorities refused to allow anyone to come ashore if they had been infected with the virus even if they were over it. It also meant that all food had to be served by a staff member for the entire cruise even down to making a cup of tea or adding salt and pepper to you meal. If anyone in your cabin became infected they placed a yellow sticker above your door and then came around every 30 minutes to disinfect your door handles. All cabins were also fumigated as was the entire ship. This process was repeated after we disembarked. The source of the virus was not revealed but staff indicated it was on the ship when it arrived in Australia. Luckily my wife and I never contracted the virus.
All passengers had to be off the ship by 9am to allow the crew to conduct a final fumigation. We elected to carry our own bags and walked off at 7am with no delays whatsoever.
Despite the medical problems on board we still had a great holiday with many happy memories of our close family group enjoying our time together. The staff were excellent even though their workload was greatly increased by the virus outbreak and there was always something to do on board. There were many more children on board than we expected and there behavior deteriorated as the cruise progressed but apparently this is mostly the case with this destination. Would we do the cruise again? Probably not because of the number of sea days but we have no regrets about this trip.