We did a 15 night New Year's Eve cruise with our two children, ages 5 (turning 6 on the cruise) and 12, on board Rhapsody of the Seas. Overall we had a truly amazing family holiday and I would definitely recommend this cruise line and ship to everyone. Here is my perspective of the highs and lows of this particular line and ship as well as the ports we visited.
1. Edelweiss Dining Room
The food here was of a very high quality. We have cruised with P&O Australia before and we felt the food in the Edelweiss Dining Room on Rhapsody was better.
2. Adventure Ocean
This club for children aged between 3 and 11 was outstanding. The variety and quality of the activities the staff provided everyday was exceptional and our son was always eager to go. It was wonderful to know he was safe and happy while there so that we could relax. The fuss they made over our son on the day of his birthday, the birthday card they all made and signed, and the little gifts were great, we certainly never expected so much! Also, the club provide a complimentary service of picking your littlies up early after dinner outside the Edelweiss Dining Room so that you can enjoy your meal or take in a show (first dinner seating only, make sure to tell your waiters so that they can get your children's dinner out to them in time).
3. Port Variety
A great variety of ports were visited on this cruise, very good.
The crew were attentive, always friendly, with nothing too much trouble. Cannot fault the staff in anyway at all, they were amazing. From the dining room staff who always remembered our names and food preferences, to our cabin attendant whose friendly banter and humour always made ours and our children's day, the exuberance of the entertainers, to the Captain's funny daily announcements, all were outstanding.
This adult's only area was the best place to be on the whole ship! Beautiful Egyptian décor and the place to relax away from the children on the ship!
6. Availability of Complimentary Food
Rhapsody had an abundance of complimentary food available (even if you really didn't need it!) at the Windjammer, Edelweiss, Park Cafe, refreshment stations (including 24 hour ice-creams - the children loved this!) and through Room Service till late. It would have been totally impossible to go hungry on this ship.
7. Festive Sailing
Rhapsody created a very festive atmosphere for New Year's Eve. We all got a New Year's Eve hat or crown and beads at our dining table in the Edelweiss Dining Room which was a nice surprise. Having to get up early for a shore tour the next morning meant we didn't actually see in the new year, but we did have fun all the same. There was also still a Christmas tree up and decorations when we boarded which was also quite nice.
1. Teen Club
The programme for young teens (our son was 12) is really not very good. He attended a lot of activities at first but they seemed to interest the older teens more, this seemed to be the case for other families with young teens like ours that we talked to.
On the whole the Windjammer wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either. Breakfast seemed to be the best, although they did run out of items like some cereals towards the end of the cruise. Apparently they also ran out of French Fries towards the end as well. The menu seemed to repeat every few days and became very predictable. However, it was a better buffet than we had experienced on the Pacific Dawn. The Windjammer was a nice place to be in that its décor was nice, it was air-conditioned, and there were always cold drinks available. It did seem to be a bit much too that Royal Caribbean were charging for freshly squeezed orange juice though! In saying all of this though, my two children loved the Windjammer so it really just depends on your own preference for food.
3. Theatre Shows & Entertainment
We felt that these were fair to middling. There were some really great highlights throughout the cruise (the comedian, hypnotist and magician were excellent) but overall the shows did not seem as good as the ones we had seen on the Pacific Dawn.
4. Lack of a Laundromat
There is no laundromat on board Rhapsody so you cannot wash and dry your own clothes yourself, except in your cabin if you can manage it! Laundry must be sent away with your cabin attendant and the cost is high.
5. 'My Time' Dining
This was the only thing that really annoyed us about the cruise. We were sold the idea at the time of purchase that we would be able to dine when we wanted with 'My Time' Dining in the Edelweiss Dining Room. Wrong! If you're a first time Royal Caribbean cruiser you may not know that you actually need to book on-line the time you want to dine every night before your cruise otherwise you will not be able to eat when you want throughout your WHOLE CRUISE. Little did we know that everyone does this, especially those with children who want the first seating so that their children will be picked up early by Adventure Ocean. Our Maître'D could not/would not give us a table at our requested 'My Time' because all the tables had already been booked out pre-cruise. After much insistence and perverseness with the Maître'D we were finally allocated a table one night, and told we might be able to get a table every night if we rang everyday in advance, no standing bookings available. Mostly we managed to be able to eat in the Dining Room every night after this, but we were pretty unimpressed by the whole situation.
- Take your own snorkel gear. Royal Caribbean will charge you the earth to buy some on board.
- Sign up early for the shore tours you want in case they fill up quickly.
We had to pay to get a shuttle into the city to look around as we were docked too far out of town for taxis. At this port we just did some shopping at the mall. There is also a free ferry (the Cityhopper) that takes you for a ride along the Brisbane River, the terminal is just a short walk from where the bus drops you off in town. This was nice but be warned it takes forever to visit all its stops and return again!
2. Airlie Beach
We did the Great Barrier Reef shore tour here. It is very expensive, but we felt it was worth it to snorkel on the reef (something on our must-do list) and we really didn't want to organise this ourselves. It was excellent. There was a glass-bottom boat available as well and a buffet lunch. The only drawback was the 2 hour catamaran ride out to the pontoon. It was fairly rough and our youngest son was sick a couple of times, however the staff on the tour were very supportive.
Cairns was lovely. Here we visited the Rainforest Station, Kuranda Village and did the gondola ride. Outstanding.
4. Port Vila, Vanuatu
Unfortunately we ran into some trouble at Port Vila as our belongings were stolen soon after we got off the ship in the marketplace. Vanuatu is a lovely place, I'm sure this kind of thing is a rare occurrence. We returned to the ship afterwards so did not explore Port Vila.
5. Lifou, Loyalty Islands
Go early before it gets crowded, take a right off the pier and walk down the road. Here you will find some lovely secluded spots for snorkelling. We got to snorkel with a turtle here! Take some money for the markets too. They will take Australian dollars.
6. Noumea, New Caledonia
Don't miss the Tchou Tchou train shore tour! A very charming experience, I'm sure people of all ages would enjoy it, not just those with children. You get a fantastic tour of the island and some fresh French pastries and cold drinks at the top of a hill where you can also take in the views. Afterwards do some shopping when the tour guide drops you off in town. Shopkeepers will take small amounts of Australian dollars, otherwise take some local currency for larger purchases. Make sure you know where to get back on the bus to go back to the ship! I didn't and I got delayed lol.
7. Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
Gorgeous place. Just enjoy!
Overall this cruise was amazing and I would recommend it highly to all.