This was our family's first cruise, and we chose Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas because we live just north of Houston and wanted to cruise out of Galveston. Our party included two adults (late 30's) and 3 kids (ages 11, 8 and 4). Because we have three kids, we had two staterooms with a connecting door between which we left open. We decided against having balconies because we worried about the four year old on a balcony, but we did have ocean view rooms, which were quite nice.
Embarkation was very simple. It did take my husband a long time to park the car, but the waiting room was comfortable, and, as soon as he arrived back at the terminal, we were on our way. We had printed out our Set Sail passes online so it was quite easy to move through the line and check in. We arrived in Galveston around noon and were on the ship by 12:40. We walked around for a little while and were allowed into our staterooms at 1:00. We ate a buffet lunch in the Windjammer, then walked around awhile longer checking out the different public rooms. At 4:00, we had the mandatory muster drill which was quick and smooth.
Our staterooms had an connecting door, which we left open. It was locked when we first arrived, but our stateroom attendant unlocked it for us while we were at dinner. The kids had a room with twin beds and a pull down bed. They took turns sleeping on the pull down bed, which they all thought was quite cool. The attendant cleaned our room twice a day. At the evening cleaning, he left a different towel animal each night.
Dining the Eidelweiss Dining room was excellent. We are every dinner there, and everything we ate was delicious. The wait staff was very accommodating. Our waiter was from Romania, and when we told him our 11 year old was working on a school project about Romania, our waiter went out of his way to provide us with internet links to websites about Romania and even had a friend on the ship burn a DVD about Romania for our son to use in his project. The head waiter came by every evening just to say hello, and he always played with our four year old and even remembered the names of the stuffed animals she carried around. Our assistant waiter was from Peru and a very nice kid. On lobster night, our waiter offered us seconds and even thirds! Anytime we wanted an extra anything (entree, appetizer or dessert) our waiter was quite happy to bring us more. Our younger kids ordered their entrees from the children's menu, but they tried different appetizers off the regular menu. Our 4 year old loved the different chilled fruit soups!
We ate breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer. I would say the food there was good, but nothing spectacular.The kids usually passed up the food on the main buffet and went to the middle section of the restaurant for the more kid friendly food such as pancakes for breakfast and burgers for lunch. We also ate several snacks (pizza, burgers, hot dogs) in the Solarium Cafe. Everything there was good. My husband and I managed to steal some time away from the kids and ate one lunch in the dining room. It was fabulous.
This was a holiday cruise, and there were 600 children (under 18) on the ship. Amazingly, the kids were very well behaved. I had read about bratty kids in elevators pushing all the buttons, but those kids must have been on a different cruise! Our own kids participated in the children's programs. Our girls (ages 4 and 8) loved the kids' programs and would have spent their entire cruise with the youth staff if we would have let them. Our 4 year old had a wonderful counselor named Pineapple who was perfect with the little ones. It was obvious that she loved working with them. The rest of the youth staff was also excellent. However, our 11 year old chose not to participate in the activities and instead just hung out with other preteens he met on the ship. I would have been very worried about this except for the fact that one of the youth counselors happened to "hang out" with the kids. Of course he was supervising the, but the kids just thought he was a cool guy hanging out with them.
As for the fitness facilities, my husband jogged every day and spent time in the gym. We both visited the dry sauna and steam room the last two days of the cruise. If we would have "discovered" them sooner, we would have been there everyday.
The shows were good. I imagine they were just the typical cruise shows. The magician was funny and did a cool optical illusion where it looked like his head grew and shrunk.
The one bad thing about the cruise was the weather. The seas were rough the first two days, and it was cold. The pool water was definitely too cold to swim in for the first half of the cruise. When we arrived in Key West on Tuesday, it was pouring and very cold outside. By Thursday, things had warmed up a bit and we were able to tender in the Caymans. The guide on our Cayman excursion (through Captain Marvin's, not RCL) told us that the day we were there was the first day ships had been allowed to tender in the past five days due to the weather. The day we were there several ships (including the Carnival Conquest out of Galveston) were not able to tender.
Excursions- In the Caymans, we did the stingrays (abbreviated with only one stop due to the weather)and the hell/turtle farm tour. These tours were rushed because it took the tender boats a long time to get everyone off the Rhapsody due to choppy seas. The Captain Marvin's staff was waiting for us as soon as we got there and managed to get us every where we wanted to go. I highly recommend them. Key West- we didn't do an excursion due to the horrible weather. Several excursions were cancelled. It was just a dreary day. Cozumel-we did the Playa San Francisco all inclusive beach day (not booked through RCL). This was really fun because all drinks and lunch were included and we had a nice seat right at the edge of the ocean with three chairs, two small tables and an umbrella. Our daughter got her hair braided for (halfway, not full head) for $20. We also went on a banana boat for $12/person.
Our family takes a vacation every year. We've been to Disney World twice, to the Smoky Mountains, to Branson, and to several different beaches in Florida. We all agreed that this Rhapsody of the Seas cruise was the best vacation we've ever had!