From our hotel Balcony at the Sheraton Waikiki, we could see the arrival of the Rhapsody of the Seas sailing towards the Port of Honolulu. It was a magnificent sight. Knowing that in a few hours we would be aboard! Despite our tickets saying not to board until 7pm, we headed out to the ship just past noon. This was in part due to the fact that the rest of our party who had booked a 3 night pre cruise package were being picked up at 1pm from their hotel and taken to the ship. Why RCCL had printed this in the tickets is unknown. However, it made our embarkation a piece of cake! From the time we left our taxi at the pier until the time we were aboard was literally under half an hour. Ground staff were all personable and friendly and our first impressions of ship's staff were also favorable. Our group totaled 6 and was an anniversary gift for my parents in celebration of their 50th, and our ages ranged from 12 to 75.
My partner and I plus my sister and her daughter each had inside cabins and my parents an outside. Being experienced cruisers we were impressed with our initial greeting and the cleanliness of the ship and our staterooms. Our cruise was from Honolulu to vancouver with stops in Kauai, Maui, Hilo and Kona before our 5 days at sea to Vancouver. Having done this trip twice before on both RCCl and Princess in either direction we didn't find it necessary to do any shore excursions this time round as we have seen it all already. We did notice however, that the price of excursions has risen dramatically.
Our overall experience was wonderful and a good time was had by all! Dining seems to have dropped in standard in both the Windjammer and in Cascades Dining Room, especially in the field of desserts. In fact I can say I had the worst dessert ever on this cruise (after 24 completed ones). It was an almond torte that sounded wonderful but tasted worse than sawdust! Main courses in both locations were very good especially beef dishes. Appetizers were a little disappointing and the menu was bulked up by printing their standard chicken breast, steak and salmon that was available everynight on every menu. Also by it's design, it seemed suggested that you just order an appetizer, an entree and dessert. Our waiter Olesky and assistant DeWeight were both very good and friendly. The two specialty restaurants were excellent. Food, presentation and service. Having eaten at Portofino on previous cruises we knew what to expect but this was our first time at Chops Grill. All meals were cooked to perfection in both restaurants with no complaints from any course, appetizers, entrees or desert. I would be tempted to eat in either most nights. Especially Chops. Ships cruise staff were generally pleasant and friendly, especially Matt our trivia quizmaster and Bingo Spice.
Our cruise director Kirk, whom we had on our first RCCL cruise in '98 was efficient. The ships entertainment was pretty standard, 2 production shows plus guest entertainers. It was of the usual caliber which in my opinion is pretty hokey and fairly uninspired. The movies provided in the cinema were the same ones on the ships TV so that didn't increase the choice of entertainment. Events such as an 80's music night was scheduled at the same time as the chocolate buffet so that turned out to be a flop through no fault of it's own as everyone went to devour chocolate. Just poor planning! A pet peeve which followed to this ship is the surly staff that these ships manage to find serving on the on board shops. Once again several of them would hardly give you the time of day or if they were talking to a fellow staff member, their conversation came first. Another pet peeve is the lack of a quiet space. Everywhere you go, music has to be playing, and some of it not that good or repiticious. It would be nice to have 1 lounge during the day where you could sit quietly and read. However, those are minor and overall the RCCL cruising experience is still an enjoyable one and they remaining strong as our third choice behind Celebrity and Holland America of all the lines we have been on.