This was our 5th cruise and our 4th on a Royal Caribbean ship. We took our children (ages 18-21) and two of their friends with us. Also, another family came with us so our entire group included 3 adults and 7 young adult offspring. We traveled by car from Arkansas and it took about 9 hours, including stops. We drove directly to the ship so we left about 3 a.m. and arrived around noon. Getting up to the ship was a little confusing because you are blocked from entering in front of the Rhapsody dock. You have to go further down to the first dock and backtrack.
Parking was fairly easy but the shuttle bus drivers were rude. The buses do not have the name of the ships they are shuttling you to which would eliminate a lot of the confusion and frustration exhibited by their customers. After getting everyone to the check-in lines, things were very smooth. All the employees were very nice and helpful but don't forget to tip the baggage claim people. We were eating lunch on deck 9 within 30 minutes. The lines were very short at every buffet we went to and the food was good.
We were able to go to our stateroom by 2:00 and our luggage arrives within an hour. The staterooms were being renovated and ours had the furniture changed within three days and there were some minor decorating changes that were being made when we left the stateroom. My family had a lower deck inside cabin and had 3 people to each cabin. The room was adequate and had plenty of storage. I have been in rooms with portal views but quite frankly, a small round window is not worth much to me. I may reserve a balcony room on my next cruise but we just don't spend much time in our rooms.
As I was saying, the rooms were being renovated but I thought the rooms and the ship was in good shape. Rhapsody has been renovated a couple of times and they obviously want to keep it in good shape. I spent most of my leisure time reading around the solarium pool because there was a lot less noise. The younger adults and teens stayed around the outdoor pool or were in the gym during most of their leisure time. They climbed the rock-climbing wall and one of our group won the "Belly Flop Competition" with an awesome back flip off a chair to get a perfect 5 score. Our overall consensus with the evening on-board entertainment was that it was only fair.
We were in the 2nd seating for dinner for the first time. I am not used to eating that late so I usually would get some pizza around 3 p.m. to hold me over. The food was very good at lunch in the dining room and was also very good in the evenings. On several of the nights someone in our group of 10 did not like what they served and asked for another meal and they always graciously brought out something else. I liked every meal that I had except for the lamb. My wife's favorite meal was the salmon at dinner and the almond crusted salmon trout at lunch. All of the fish dishes were very good. The desserts were not as good as the main courses or appetizers. All in all, we were very pleased with the food and it was comparable to the 3 other Royal Caribbean ships were have been on.
The service was very good in every respect, from the cabin stewards to the dining halls. I had to bring some medicine on board that had to be refrigerated so I brought a portable refrigerator because I did not request one soon enough to get a refrigerator from the ship put into our cabin. You can get one for less than $40 at Wal-Mart. I asked the steward to make sure it did not get unplugged and he monitored it when we were away from the cabin for long periods of time.
The only paid excursions we went on was through grandcaymancruiseexcursions.com. We went on the Stingray City excursion, made 3 stops for snorkeling and it was only $39 per person. This excursion much less than half the cost of the cruise ship's comparable excursions. The meeting place was only a 5-minute walk from the ship. However, since it started late, around 11:00) that was the only thing we were able to do before getting back into the very long line going back to the ship. At Key West and Cozumel, the adults basically shopped and the younger adults rented mopeds and drove around. Be very careful on a moped in Cozumel because the traffic is horrible and the medical care if you are in a wreck is poor in Mexico. I have a friend who had a compound fracture of her leg when she rented one and had to be flown out because the Mexican physicians wanted to amputate her leg to fix it. She is fine but the med flight took 10 years to pay off. I would only recommend renting mopeds in Key West where you have access to good medical care and your insurance will be in effect.
We decided to take the express departure route, which is basically keeping your luggage and carrying it off the ship at 7 a.m. This worked well for us and very well for our friends that went with us. We ate breakfast so we got a later start and had a much longer wait in line. Our total wait was about 1 hour and their wait was about 20 minutes. This got us back on the road much earlier than our scheduled 10:00 departure time.
I would definitely recommend this ship and the ports of call. Our decision was initially made on cost because we could drive to Galveston instead of having the added expense of flying 6 people to Miami. I would definitely do it again and plan on going again to take my older son and new daughter-in-law.