This was our first time on Rhapsody of the Seas and the only other cruise we have been on was a short 5 night cruise last year (Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney) - with RC Radiance of the Seas.
Firstly, Rhapsody isn't on the same level as Radiance of the Seas - we preferred Radiance over Rhapsody when we compared both ships.
Our recent trip this Month was still enjoyable and we hope the following information is helpful. We also tried to pre-pay for as much of the cruise extras before we left (i.e. wine package, spa treatments, bottled water and juice for our cabin etc). We had our elderly mother (80) with us so we wanted to make the cruise special for her and this included having water & juice in the room for her.
We left from Sydney overseas passenger terminal. The embarkation process was quick and simple. The staggered boarding times made it easy. We arrived, dropped off our bags, had a cup of coffee and entered the short boarding line. We breezed through the checking and customs and we were on board within 30 minutes. Just had to negotiate the hand luggage X-ray and ship photographers. At Sydney you have your hand luggage x-rayed before entering the gangway - oversighted by security guards. No issues with this process.
We had to wait 2 hours for our cabin to be ready - so this gave us some time to have a look around the ship.
We hid a couple of plastic (i.e. rum runner type bottles) bottles in our luggage with vodka and alize for our nightcap room drinks. These containers were packed with our luggage and made it on board with no problems.
We had ordered some wine and nibbles for our room - the ordered bottles were in our stateroom completed with filled ice buckets and glasses. So we had a pleasant afternoon watching from our balcony and having a few drinks - this was a very pleasant way to start the cruise.
We had a junior suite for 3 people. The room was comfortable and our stateroom attendant (Ed) was helpful and hardworking during the entire trip. We had a flatscreen TV which had a variety of cable and other channels. The TV worked fine with the odd loss of service (now and again) due to satellite problems but overall it was fine. We also had an IPAD which we couldn't get to work - the guest services got it working for us and it would be good if you could use the IPAD to "book" restaurants and other services. You can ordered room service via the IPAD (we didn't order any) but it is good to review your account and apart from that, we only used the IPAD to review information about the ship and available activities. Because we were in a junior suite, we had the use of complimentary bathrobes and overall good cabin service i.e. bathroom amenities (shower gel, shampoo, conditioner etc). The beds were comfortable and it was hard to sleep in the small single beds......couple of times I nearly rolled out because you forget they are not very wide. Lots of storage space (drawers & hangers etc).
We had an in room safe which we managed to lock with the wrong combination. The maintenance man arrived within 10 minutes and fixed the problem for us. We had a problem with the in cabin announcements, the volume control didn't work and we had to be out in the room corridor to hear any announcements. Also the cabin bar fridge hardly kept anything cold.
Our cabin wasn't far from the centrum and it got very noise in the evenings with kids and people congregating from the internal centrum balconies and we could often hear the pool deck bands at night. For some reason we could also clearly hear people running or jumping on the deck above our room and this happened at all times of the nights - bit annoying.
CROWN AND ANCHOR BOOKLETS
As Gold C&A members, we were issued with paper discount booklets. We used a couple of the vouchers for internet access and to get a discount on a coffee etc. Apart from that - the booklets are not much good.
MY TIME DINING
We had my time dining and the waiters and food in the main restaurant (dinner) was really good. The food was diverse for our main meals. Everyone in the restaurant was very friendly and we didn't book the same time each night but tried to vary the times - this did create a bit of a problem because you either ate at 6pm or had to wait for the later seating times (which we didn't want to do). We mainly ate in the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch - the food was not that good, just ok. The windjammer is very repetitive with the good and hot food only means luke warm. I also found it odd the way people stuff themselves with food during the meals - eating as if it was their last meal. We also had lots of kids and young teenagers on this cruise and they certainly made a bee line for all the cakes etc for all meals.
DRINKS AND ALCOHOL
We ordered a wine package which we used for dinners. The 12 bottle package was great for us and we even took a bottle or two back to our room after dinner. The wine was fine but yes it is overpriced for what you get back home. We only purchased 3-4 of the speciality cocktails during the cruise and some of them were very sweet and seemed to be "low" in the alcohol content. The drink waiters do their best to be pushy sales people with the afternoon cocktails. We had plastic ice buckets in our room - so we did a few trips up to the wind jammer to get ice for our cabin drinks - at the end of the day it was easier for us to use our wine package wine and smuggled alcohol to have a few quiet drinks in our room without paying the inflated prices for daily cocktails.
We meet a few people who had opted for the all you could drink packages and most admitted they wouldn't take that option again. They spent most of the cruise trying to get their monies worth and this meant drinking lots every day.
We purchased a restaurant package for Chops Grille, Izumas and Giovannis. Chops and Giovannis were fantastic with their food and the quantity of the food is far too big with us foregoing entrees so we could enjoy our main meals. We tried Izuma's and because we had a package, the waiter talked us into a combination meal (soup, hot rock etc) - the food was OK but the hot rock means you have to cook your food on a preheated rock. Again it was too much food and we regretted having the earlier soup. I wouldn't go to Izumas again, the service was slow and our waiter often disappeared (i.e. we had to hunt out our own wine bottle to refill our glasses, or we were left waiting at the entrance with no-one interested in seating us at our table. Izumas is also situated on deck 11 and it difficult to get to because of the limited lift access and then you have to climb a set of stairs (difficult for older people) - the bathrooms are also located back down the stairs. Overall the price for the package of 3 restaurants were $55AUD (from memory) and whilst we loved the food in 2 of the 3 restaurants I don't know if we would bother spending this amount again when the main dining room food was good.
Very small with limited room. I signed up for 4 classes (boot camp) and this was great -loved it and the instructor was fantastic. We also did a couple of the free morning stretch classes, they were also good. We used the walking / running track on the ship to do a bit of morning walks and this was great. Would recommend you do it early to avoid the avid runners and crowds. But overall the fitness facilities were fine - would be better if there was more room. They have towels for use in the gym and lots of wipes for cleaning the equipment. Toilets are downstairs in the spa.
I booked a couple of treatments in the SPA before we left, again pre-paid so to avoid extra monies once we were onboard. My mother had a facial which turned into a farce. She had the treatment and was 30 minutes late starting (??) which no-one could explain the delay. It became apparent the SPA staff are avid sellers of products (they can be quite push) and also try and get you make additional appointments. My 80 year old mother ended up making another facial appointment and was sold $190 worth of face cream during her pre-paid facial treatment. When she came out of the SPA she was very embarrassed and "just couldn't say no" to the beautician. But to RC's credit, I returned to the SPA, cancelled the extra appointment and they refund the $$ for the unwanted facial creams. I had a couple of treatments (lime and ginger scrub, facial and massage) - yes they tried to hard sell for the products (annoying when you want to relax). Would we use their services again - not too sure. The treatments were OK and I have had better. It is annoying that each appointment is spend trying to "shut down" talk about buying the Elemis products.
We didn't bother going to any of the theatre shows. Feedback from some of our fellow travellers is that some of the shows were boring whilst others thought they were good.
We booked and paid for all of our shore excursions through RC before we left. We knew we could have probably done some of the stuff cheaper at the destinations but it was easier for us to sort it before we left. There were no organised shore excursions for the Isle of Pines, Lifou, Mystery Island. We enjoy most of the things we attended and would highly recommend the Noumea SEGWAY IN THE BOTANICAL GARDENS and TICOH TICOH TRAIN. Both of these were great. The ship arrived in Noumea on a Sunday, so our shopping plants fell apart because the shops are closed on a Sunday (disappointed). The other shore excursions we did were in Luganville and Port Vila. We had never been to any of these destinations before.
We spend most of our time relaxing, reading etc. The pool deck tended to get very rowdy in the afternoon (too much sun and grog) and the pool was overrun with kids. We watched a couple of the pool deck competitions and some of these weren't quite right to have with kids around i.e. the worlds sexiest man competition held during the afternoon (watched by lots of young kids) and some of the antics and comments were not appropriate with the audience.
We had a couple of formal dress nights and most of the travellers really got into it and word their formal dress. It was interesting to see one of the passengers refused entry to the main dining room because he was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. The staff refused him entry and he took it with good grace although we think he had had too much to drink and was trying to make a point - he was wearing a t-shirt with a tuxedo print on the front.
We had a bit of rough weather after we left Sydney for days 1 & 2. A number of people had on going sea sickness for the first couple of days. After this, the weather improved and we had great seas and weather for the remainder of the trip.
The shopping is fine on board. We had a few wanders around the shops and bought our duty free alcohol from the onboard shop. It was delivered to our room the night before we arrived back in Sydney. We also made a couple of other shop purchases (clothing and jewellery etc). The shops were often packed with travellers looking and or buying stuff.......particularly with the (allegedly) reduced price offers being offered on various days. We bought a limited small number of souvenirs from our destinations (you can only look at so many sarongs, necklaces (not made at the destinations we visited), island inspired clothing (that you will never wear again) etc. At the destinations they all take AUD - just take small denominations i.e. 5, 10 etc.
All in all - we had a good time visiting destinations we had never been to. The Rhapsody (even though it has had a makeover) does show it's age and the venues etc don't seem to be on par with the Radiance of the Seas (our only other cruise experience). We wouldn't take another cruise with Rhapsody but we will be going with R&C again (we have another cruise booked for Nov 2013 with Voyager). The staff on the ship worked hard to maintain the service and as we got towards the end of the cruise, they are constantly reminding you of the feedback survey (arrives in your cabin on the last night). As our stateroom attended said "on this ship good in not good enough - they expect excellent" - in other words R&C expect the "excellent" comments - "good" is not rewarded. So we made sure we gave fair & excellent comments for those that deserved it.