We just returned from the September 18th sailing of the Rhapsody of the Seas. This was our tenth cruise and our fourth on RCI. Embarkation: We flew to San Diego, spent the night in a hotel downtown and took public transportation to Ensenada. The trolley to Tijuana was $2.50 per person and the ABC bus from Tijuana to Ensenada was about $11 per person. The cruise line charged $ 85 per person for transfers for transfers from the airport to Ensenada. The only problem occurred when we tried to check in we were instructed to go to a hotel several miles from the ship. This ended up costing another $25 and we were on the shop by 4:30 pm. Cabin: Our inside room was quiet and comfortable. The bedding was soft and much improved since my last cruise with RCI. Our room steward, Daniel, was fantastic. The best room steward we have ever had on a cruise. Our room was immaculate. In fact, the whole ship seemed very clean with staff observed continuously cleaning. Ship: My favorite areas on the ship were the 5th deck where if it was too windy near the pool, I could comfortably read my books; the solarium, and the beautiful atrium.
Entertainment: The cruise director Tim Seivert was great! He was very personable and so funny! The RCI production shows were just ok. They weren't even up to par with some I have seen at various amusement parks! My husband and I enjoyed the casino, even though we lost more than we won! Captain Nyseter had a real nice welcome aboard party. Even though I was a little seasick, I did manage to climb the rock wall which was fun! They had a Hawaiian luau on the fifth night at 11:30 pm that was real nice, but at that late of an hour, it was difficult for me to really enjoy it. Dining: We ate most of our dinners in the Edelweiss Restaurant. Our servers Deepak and JingJing were extraordinary. They anticipated our every need and were very efficient! The food in the dining was very good. The main courses and desserts were delicious! The only complaint we had was with the shrimp cocktail that was served unpeeled with cocktail sauce poured over the top! When my husband and another member from our table complained to an upper management level staff member they were told it was due to "cutbacks". The Windjammer buffet was disappointing at breakfast. Most mornings the pancakes and waffles were hard and only lukewarm. They did offer a nice selection of fruits. The lunches in the windjammer were delicious! I loved the Indian food offered and the desserts were fantastic! The pizza in the Solarium was pretty bad, but they serve great French fries! Fitness Center: The gym had a nice selection of exercise equipment, although I never used them. The spa has a nice relaxing steam room and sauna one can use free of charge.
Highlights: The overall cleanliness and elegance of the ship, along with the friendliness of the entire crew made this a great cruise and allowed for some fine relaxation time before hitting the ports of call! Our tablemates at dinner were the best! We were lucky to have such a warm and funny group. Normally, we don't care to go to the dining room to eat since we have to dress up, but with such a great group to socialize with, I strapped on my high heels! My husband appreciated the "The New York Times" synopsis that was provided every day for free near the coffee shop. We appreciated the free tote bags and coupon booklet we received for being previous cruisers and belonging to the Crown and Anchor club. Room for Improvement: Definitely the tendering process needs to be better organized. It seemed like mass confusion, tender ticket numbers weren't called over the PA system right away. With limited time on these islands, I think RCI needs to improve this. We were not able to get on the tender until 11:30 in Kona, a whole hour after the tenders started running. We found out later some people who were hanging out in the hallways and just walked on without tickets when there was space available from groups that were on ship tours. I think ship tours are best in ports where there is tendering involved and limited time! Also, I wish they would have such events like the Hawaiian Luau and the Gala Buffet at an earlier hour, rather than midnight! I have never understood why they have to be so late!
Ports of call:
Kailua- Kona, HI We rented scooters from Snorkel Depot right in town and near the port. We drove to some cliffs (not sure of the real name) which one lady we met called it "the end of the earth". Some teenagers were jumping off the cliffs into the ocean which I estimated to be about 40 feet. For some crazy reason, my 49 year old husband decided to jump as well! He was black and blue afterwards, but swears it was the highlight of his trip!
Lahaina, Maui Day 1: We rented a car from Enterprise which provides a free shuttle to their lot from the cruise port. We drove the road to Hana. I would not recommend this drive unless you spend the night in Hana! It is a long, stressful drive (9 hours round trip with some stops). Basically the same scenery for the first several hours, lush foliage, waterfalls, and one lane bridges with the same scenery repeated like a broken record every few minutes. Mix that in with sharp twisty curves and cars coming at you head on every few minutes does not make for a pleasant road trip. I would suggest taking a tour (if you don't have a problem with motion sickness) and let someone else drive! That being said, if you can get as far as Wai'anapanapa State Park you will understand the popularity of this road. The park is beautiful with a black sand beach, lava tubes, hiking trails, and a cave pool. As we continued on the road to Hana, the scenery improved and then we finally came to the highlight of the whole day-Ohe'o Gulch, which is the southern end of Haleakala National Park. The area contains lovely waterfalls and pools. We went for a swim, and I could have stayed there far longer than the hour we had allotted. The area is very beautiful! The drive back in the dark was actually easier than the drive there due to oncoming headlights! Day 2: We woke up at 4 am, hopped right on the tender, got in our car and drove up to Haleakala National Park to see the sunrise. We got there as the sun was rising and it was beautiful (but in my opinion most sunrises are)! This sunrise was unique for me since it seemed like the unique landscape started to glow a bright orange and red. We spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling at the Kahekili Beach Park where there is a reef and many colorful fish just a few feet from the shore.
Hilo, HI We rented a car through Enterprise where a shuttle picked us up at the dock and promptly brought us to our car. We drove to Volcanoes National Park and spent the day exploring this very interesting place.
Honolulu, Oahu Day 1: We got on the $2 city bus and hung out all morning on Waikiki. We walked around the shopping area and bought some souvenirs. Later that evening we walked from the Aloha Tower into China Town. A lot of homeless people were milling around and it was kind of creepy. We did a little shopping and quickly left! Day 2: We carried off our own luggage and rented a car from Enterprise, whose shuttle was not available at the time we made the 7 am rental reservation. They did reimburse us the taxi fare to the car rental lot which was really nice! We drove around the island with the highlights being the Pali Highway and the Nu'Uanu Pali lookout. We also enjoyed a movie set tour when we stopped at the Kualoa Ranch. The ranch itself is beautiful and the tour was very interesting. Many movies and scenes were filmed here such as Jurassic Park and Pearl Harbor. Another highlight of the day, was stopping at one of the roadside shrimp trucks. The fresh stir-fried shrimp, as well as the chili and rice were delicious and made for a great roadside picnic. Later that night we checked into the Navy Lodge Pearl Harbor. We did laundry and repacked our bags for our next cruise the following day on NCL's Sun back to Ensenada.