Royal Caribbean RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS Caribbean Cruise ~ May 21-May 28 ~ Four chicks in one inside stateroom! by Jennifer Rogers
The participants: ME! (29, first time cruiser), my sister Kristin (27, 3rd time cruiser), my mother Susan (3rd time cruiser) & her cousin/best friend, Karen (first time cruiser), both in their early 50s.
This cruise was a gift to me by my mom because I just graduated with my Music Degree from Sam Houston State University. I couldn't think of a more fun vacation than being with these lovely ladies!
We booked the cruise through a travel agency about 4-5 months prior to departure. After I looked around for the ultimate deal for four ladies in one room, I kept finding that all prices were the same! Finally, Mom called the travel agency and inquired about any way to get a discount from the nearly $3,000 price tag for an inside stateroom. They told her there was no discount to be had and that Royal Caribbean has fixed prices. Finally the travel agent said that he couldn't do anything for us unless one of us was from out of state. BINGO!!! Karen is from Oklahoma. The price dropped to just over $1,900 for us all! Less than $100 a day for the four of us on a 7 day cruise. Mom immediately booked it and we were set!
We read up here on Cruise Critic almost daily to find out what to expect and what to bring. Thanks to those who have shared their experiences - we did benefit from their knowledge.
Karen flew to Houston from Oklahoma one day prior to sailing. The rest of us are from Houston, and my husband dropped us off right where we needed to be in Galveston. The three of them remembered to print their "Set Sail Pass" prior to being there. I was the loser who forgot to do that, but it didn't matter - we all had to get in the same long line for checking in. We all brought our proper ID/Birth Certificates, etc and we were on the ship within an hour.
We were allowed to go straight to our stateroom, which was on the 2nd floor. One long corridor of small rooms! Finally, we got to 2551 and opened the door. We were pleased in general. Plenty of closet space & hangers for us, 5 good sized drawers to store some of our clothing, inventive use of the spaces under the bed, and we were set! Kristin and I took the top bunks and let the older ladies have the bottom bunks. I was worried about us being in the top beds because they don't look super sturdy to me, and Kristin and I are...well, we're not small people! The beds held up fine. Our stateroom attendant came by after we got there and introduced himself as Richy, and said that if we needed anything to ask him. So I immediately asked him for two extra pillows, which he had at my bed when I came back later that day. There are small aluminum ladders we had to use to get up to the top bunks, and Kristin and I found it easiest to prop up our ladders on each other's beds and come down front-ways rather than twisting our bodies to get onto the bed! Mom brought one of those shoe holders for the bathroom supplies, which was a LIFESAVER! We had tons of space to store all of those bathroom essentials that we had no space for. The bathroom was VERY SMALL, and I ended up just leaving the shower curtain open and aiming the shower head a little further away so the water wouldn't spray everywhere. The curtain was a canvas material, which felt gross when it was wet against my body - so I just threw down a towel on the floor, and I never made a mess with the water. Richy always brought ice in our ice bucket, and he was great about bringing us extra towels when we needed them.
The Royal Caribbean staff did replace our little bitty couch and vanity chair on our 2nd day there, which was nice. I guess they're doing upgrades, because the ones we came in to were very worn. It was nice to have a few brand new things in the room! The TV was small, but had a great selection of things to watch. They even taped American Idol and played the final show of it on a loop for about a day or two! That was nice for fans of the show since the finale was that week.
The ship was fairly easy to navigate. In the elevators, they have some reminders at the top to tell you where certain places are, such as the Broadway Melodies theater, the Shall We Dance Lounge, etc. That's great for people like me, who forget just which floor something is on. They do have a little map at every level in the shape of the ship showing you where things are. I love to read, so one of the first things I did was go to the little library on board to check out a book. I enjoy reading myself to sleep, and I liked the selection they had on board. There are plenty of elevators around and they move quickly. The ship has music decorations around, which of course I loved (future band director here!). I have read of some people complaining about carpet coming up and rooms that were in poor shape, but I didn't notice anything bad in the way of decor. I thought the ship looked nice, and I always noticed staff picking up and cleaning.
Dining - The ONLY sore spot for all 4 of us ladies. The service was GREAT! The food quality was not near up to the standards I had hoped for. Maybe I got too hyped up about it - I was expecting each night to be up to standards of "The Capital Grille" or at least "Steak and Ale"! Sadly, the food all over the ship was simply OK. I expected fabulous desserts, and was very disappointed. I absolutely love great chocolate in any form - but it was all just kind of - blah. I tried chicken, beef, pasta - my other family members tried the more adventurous things such as different types of fish and duck, but the same response was found from them. Kristin has been on two Carnival cruises, and she said that Royal Caribbean is better in every aspect than Carnival EXCEPT for the food. She said that Carnival's food is amazing. However, the service was outstanding at RC. Our waiter was Eva and assistant waiter was Tatiana. Those girls have great memories! Tatiana always knew I wanted Coke with my dinner, and Eva always remembered that I liked extra croutons with my Caesar salad! We had a table for 6, so a wonderful couple named Gerald and Apryl joined us. In fact, we loved Apryl so much, that we were glad to have her join us for nighttime events and shows when Gerald didn't want to go. They were a delightful couple, and our trip was definitely enhanced by us getting lucky enough to be seated with them. It was nice to hear about their excursions and their lives back in Louisiana. The Windjammer is the buffet, which has a ton of very mediocre food. We did try eating in the dining room for all meals, but found a better selection at the Windjammer, so we ended up eating in the dining room only for dinner. The ship did have some nighttime buffets which were fun (same old food), and a cool midnight chocolate buffet. Hard to describe, but let me say - the chefs put a lot of work into that one, and it looked beautiful! Ice sculptures abounded, creative food carvings, it was really pretty. I definitely recommend checking that out! The Solarium has an adult pool and a food area with pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries. Get all you want. Eat there, take it to the pool area, your room, another floor, whatever.
Activities - This ship had plenty of activities. It seemed like you could be as busy as you like, or as lazy as you like. There was always something going on at the pool deck, such as a contest or dancing with live music. Tons of live music all around the ship, which I loved! Kristin & I went to the card room and played cards, and some other games that they keep there in that room. That was fun to kill some time on some of the sea days, and very relaxing.
Children's Club - Well, we didn't have any kids on this cruise with us, but my Mom talked with a lady who had a 5 & 6 year old involved in it. She told my Mom that she and her husband had never had so much time alone, and that the kids begged to go back to that kids club. They tried to get the kids to eat with them, and the kids pleaded to stay in the kids area! The children did the cutest thing one night at dinner. They all dressed up like pirates and had little eye patches painted on them and pirate hats, and they came down the middle staircase and did a little call back & forth with their guy in charge, who was young and really cute with the kids. I never noticed kids around with bad behavior, and I was very glad to know that the kids seemed to enjoy it so much.
Entertainment - SUPER!!! All I can say is - PLEASE at least go to the main event show at night either before or after your dinner. The singers & dancers are really terrific, and the other shows they brought in were just great. Drew was so much fun as a host and entertainment director, and Mo' Money Marney was adorable and funny. They were very approachable and friendly when I saw them around. I hope RC pays them well to keep them around. The entire entertainment staff was great. I was amazed by their "Piano Man" show and I really loved their Broadway tribute. Those kids are awesome and really talented. There is that game everyone talks about called QUEST - and I will just echo what others have said - JUST GO and enjoy it! I've never seen anything quite like it. They have a '70s night and a country night, and I didn't go to those but I might have if I was with my husband. They have Bingo just about every day, and if you feel like it, go when they give away a cruise and when they are giving away the big jackpot. They have a little casino, and they have $5 single deck Blackjack all day long! $5 craps, too! Loved it there - lost a little, won a little. Big tip for getting cash if needed - DON'T go to the ATM, just go to the casino cage and get some cash with your SeaPass card. It will just be charged to your room without the hassle of the big fee.
Shore Excursions - We went to Key West, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. At Key West, we didn't do any of the planned excursions, we just rented one of those CUTE little electric cars for $75 for 3 hours and drove all around! We went to the Southernmost Point of the US and got a picture there, and checked out Margaritaville. We found some little beaches and got our feet in the water and took pictures (my first experience with CLEAR water! Watch out for those little schools of fish and for crabs at the bottom!). I knew about this one website, and if you have some loved ones at home, they can see you when you visit! This Karaoke bar in Key West has a webcam, so if you stand outside, your family & friends can see you! Check it out anytime also for sad, drunken Karaoke! It's fun! http://www.twofriendskeywest.com/webcam.htm .
Grand Cayman was a real treat. Mom & Karen went to Sea Grape Beach. They hopped on a bus that dropped everybody off at 7 Mile Beach, and then the driver took the ladies to Sea Grape Beach. The only bad part was that on the way there, the driver complained about going out to Sea Grape, because gas was so expensive and 7 Mile was just as good, etc. If he would have pointed out the sights, and made small talk, they would have tipped him nicely! So because of his extended rant, they gave him his $10 with no tip. For $25, my Mom & Karen got two nice beach chairs, an umbrella, and two drinks each that could be alcoholic or not. The beach was not crowded, and they really enjoyed being a little away from the tons of people at 7 Mile Beach. Their cab driver on the way back was really nice, and they tipped her. Kristin & I did the infamous Stingray City. Oh my gosh. What an experience!!! Let me just say, Kristin loves the ocean and fish, and I am not a fan of fish. I don't even EAT fish, nor do I want to be up close and personal with stingrays. But because I love my sister, I went. For $45 each, we got a 20 minute long boat ride with 3 guides and lots of cold water & fruit punch, 45 minutes with stingrays, and $2 Rum Punch drinks on the way back. They provided all the snorkel equipment for us, and we went out to a sandbar with the most lovely clear water. There were a bunch of boats out there with people, so we weren't the only party boat. We saw the stingrays coming over to our boat and I started freaking out! I am definitely not a fan of fish. Kristin climbs down the stairs with her snorkel equipment, and I follow her. I felt fine at first, but then - I'm sorry, but those stingrays are HUGE!!! Once I used the goggles to have a good up close look at them, big & small ones, I started to freak out again. You guessed it, I lasted a good 5 minutes in the water, and couldn't do it. There were a few others like me, we tried it, we got scared, and we hung out back at the boat. But the one benefit to it is that I got my camera and took fabulous picutres of Kristin with the Stingrays! She was loving it, and I was happy for her. I tried it, so I'm pleased that I gave it a chance. After it was all over, we shopped and ate at the Hard Rock there.
Cozumel - This excursion, all 4 of us ladies decided to stick together and go on the "Catch the Wave" Snorkel & swim tour. All you can eat chips & dips were provided, and all the alcohol you wanted was included in the $45 fee. You are allowed to drink once you are finished in the water. They also have a Bond adventure, and for an extra $35, you can be in this cool little motorized single - Bond, I guess! - and get a better view down about 10-15 feet. They provided the snorkel equipment and fins. They also have a glass bottom boat that doesn't cost extra. The most terrible thing happened, though - my Mother fell as she was getting on the excursion boat from the pier, and tore some tendons in her shoulder and sprained her wrist badly (it's still swollen three days after). She didn't know how bad it was at the time, so she stayed on the boat and stayed still in a chair, in a lot of pain. The staff was very kind - they brought her drinks and food, but she was heartbroken about not getting to snorkel. Kristin & Karen went on the glass bottom boat, and I stayed with Mom, and then Karen stayed with Mom while Kristin & I snorkeled. The snorkel experience was wonderful, and just how I like it! Viewing fish from up top, and they didn't come up to bother me at all! We swam all over and saw some really neat looking fish and plant life, coral, and I know I'll never forget how clear that water was. I can only hope that one day I'll go again to snorkel in that water! I am so sad that my dear Mom couldn't experience it, because she loves the water like Kristin does. We shopped before the excursion, and we picked up some great smelling vanilla, some alcohol, and some little souvenirs like magnets and T-Shirts.
Disembarking - The evening before, we went to the purser's desk and showed him my Mother's injury (she got a sling from the ship doctor earlier), and we requested the earliest time possible to get off the ship because of her injury. I didn't want to risk anybody bumping into her. We were originally slated for the last departure time at 10 a.m. He told us we could carry our own luggage off and leave at 7 a.m., but that wasn't possible because Mom couldn't carry anything because of her injured wrist and shoulder. So he gave us the earliest color besides that, which was White, leaving at 7:50. It was a real breeze - took about 30 minutes total including finding a porter with a cart, finding all of our luggage, waiting in line all together, and going through customs. My husband picked us up, and were back on our way home.
Overall, the trip was fantastic. For my first cruise, I was pleased with how easy I got acclimated to the movements of the ship, and I didn't feel sick at all. I will be eager to try another cruise in the future, but would definitely try another cruise line or maybe just another ship through Royal Caribbean. I don't feel particularly loyal to RC, because I don't expect to cruise often enough to be in their club of Diamond cruisers. Also, the food was not good enough to keep my business loyal to RC. I would cruise RC again if I got a super deal, but I do like to try new experiences, so I'd love to try out some other cruise lines and compare. If you are going on this cruise, I bet you'll really enjoy it! My best advice is that the cruise is what you make of it - RC's tag line really does sum it up - "Get Out There!". Do what you want when you want! If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. firstname.lastname@example.org . Happy Cruising to everyone!