Well, we just returned from our cruise to the western Caribbean, our first cruise and we couldn't say enough about Royal Caribbean. From the moment we stepped on board till we said farewell, we were treated like royalty. Every crew member had a smile each morning and with only one exception, I consider this bunch of Royal Caribbean employees top notch.
We had perfect weather, even though on one occasion, a squall healed the boat a bit and they had everyone in the dining room move to port side. Even so, neither of us had a problem with motion sickness even though there were a few people we saw who where really sick. We were for the most part really comfortable with the high seas and spent a lot of time just looking at the amazing colors of the water at the rail, watching for flying fish and dolphin and letting the delightful ocean breeze ruffle our hair. I think you have to be susceptible to it to have a bad problem.
Unless you really like to shop or drink, Key West, in our opinion is a complete waste of time. It was our first port of call and we were back on the ship within a couple of hours and enjoyed the fantastic sunset from our deck chairs. Some of the performers at the Sunset Celebration are very good, but in our opinion, we could've skipped it entirely. There is no sand beach there either. We were not too impressed with our second port of call, Grand Cayman, because as divers, we were expecting much more. But since we did not sign up for excursions, we had to make our own way and it is difficult to find dive shops on the day you get there that are not already booked up, so we had to settle for shore diving very near the pier and the reef there is virtually dead. We did see some tropicals and a barracuda but we think the good diving is elsewhere on that island. We didn't have time to visit the stingrays but we heard it was good. We did dive the wreck of the Calle which is just 30 yards off the shore and saw some wonderful fish and it has a small reef with colorful coral and fish, including huge tarpon(4 to 6 feet!). So our advice is to sign up for Dive Trek excursion before your sailing or the first day. Since these excursions are worked out with the cruise line, there is less trouble even though you must hang with a large number of people. It fills up very quickly! Or possibly contract with a dive shop to go out to the wall reefs, online. Kirk's dive shop and Eden Rock dive shop are clean, very helpful and safe.
Grand Cayman is very clean but we had no time to investigate. I wish Royal Caribbean would consider a two day stay in ports. It would be nice to have the extra time to muddle around. Cozumel lives up to its reputation as a premier dive site. The water is unbelievable and like diving in an aquarium! We met friends, by coincidence, who happened to be down for a 4 day dive at the Place de las Glorias and dived the shore there. We saw starfish, seahorses, sea cucumbers, all colors of tropicals, dogfish, stonefish, spotted eel, flounder and stingray and the reef is indeed alive and beautiful. We can't wait to get back for a real reef/wall dive. Again, not enough time in port.
Between dockings, life aboard ship was wonderful. There are so many activities, you never get bored and the trick here is not to sign up or attend so many, or your leisurely cruise could wear you out literally. We tried to do too much and were really tired when we got home. We should have done more deck sitting. The solarium pool on this ship was my favorite place. All the pools use recirculated sea water and are salt water pools. The solarium is most enjoyable because it is for adults only. The salt water made my skin feel so soft and it was effortless swimming because the salt water makes you so buoyant you can't sink! They play music with bird song and you can really imagine yourself on a island somewhere as you while away the time on your lounge chair or in the pool.
Now let me comment on the cuisine. Everything you've ever heard about cruise food is true, at least on board Rhapsody. We tried almost everything they prepared and it is all 5 star cuisine. The soups were our favorites, though. They are exceptional! Everything is fresh and prepared perfectly. We were amazed that things were still hot when they arrived at our table and vegetables like broccoli were perfectly crisp cooked and never mushy. Steak came back exactly as your ordered it. There is never any need to send things back. It really was amazing! One impressive thing was the bread/rolls. We do not eat a lot of bread, in fact, we ate more on this cruise than we eat all year. No kidding! But these are made fresh on board and there is an amazing variety and they are all wonderful with butter. There is never any hot bread though. I think this is a European thing. All bread is served at room temperature. The charming thing about the wait staff is that they are all from other countries and are all most pleasant. They really endeared us to them when they sang to us, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and sang farewell to us on the last night of the voyage.
The service was impeccable. Your every wish their command. Our room steward was ever present. We wondered if he ever slept! And was most anxious to do anything to make us comfortable. The animal towel works of art that showed up in our cabin were amusing. So cute! We were surprised at the spaciousness of our interior cabin, in fact, were very pleased. We had imagined a closet. But the place was spotless and kept that way every day. Things looked brand new. In fact we never found a speck of rust on that ship. It looked freshly painted everywhere, in fact I saw a crew member painting on the bow of the ship one morning as we breakfasted in the Windjammer. Everywhere you went there was someone polishing, cleaning or wiping down something. I asked one attendant how many times they clean the restrooms, which are spotless, and was told every 30 minutes!
The shows in the theater in the evening were really good. One in particular, Glen Smith, who was a pianist and musician, was awesome. We really enjoyed Peter, our cruise director and resident comedian, whom will not be there for long, he was filling in for another one. We played Bingo a lot, although never won anything. Some lucky man did win the jackpot on the last day at sea, $9000! Anyhow, I can't say enough about what a wonderful time we had. Do sign up for and attend the Meet and Mingle. RCCL does a wonderful job with ordourves and go out of their way to make it memorable. It was great knowing people and meeting them the first day of the cruise. It made us feel welcome. We joined Crown and Anchor, a must if you get hooked, and are already planning our next cruise. You just can't beat the value for your money you get on a cruise. In fact, we almost felt guilty! It was a pleasure to tip the crew above what they suggest. We were in such a magnanimous happy mood on the last day of the cruise, thanks to their efforts. We were very sad to see the gangplank though.
Even though the disembarkation is lengthy, thanks to Bin Laden, we enjoyed waiting in the lounges aboard because we just didn't want to leave the Rhapsody. I was told some people elect to stay on for another seven days quite often. Wish we could've. The Rhapsody was a beautiful boat and we would recommend her to anyone, although, we did dock next to Mariner of the Seas, which dwarfed Rhapsody and looked quite inviting. Bon Voyage and pleasant sailing with the best cruise line we know of, Royal Caribbean!