Land and Cruise review Rhapsody of the Seas, Sydney, Australia to Honolulu, Hawaii via Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Lahaina, Hawaii. Departed Reno, Nevada on April 1st and arrived early April 3rd in Sydney. Our good friends picked us up at the airport with another couple we were traveling with. We spent the day catching up and visiting with folks at a Ski Club on the Hawkesbury River. What a great place. Folks were very friendly and we felt very welcome. We also have a trailer/caravan so this was not a new experience for us and enjoyed it very much. While at the park we got a chance to explore the surrounding area. Windsor was wonderful. We took the train into Sydney several times and that was a great time saver. Trains are clean and well kept. There were some interesting folks on the train I must say. Great Pubs, good food everywhere we went. We went to the Blue Mountains, also got to go to a Wild Animal Park, Terrigal, and various parts of Sydney including Manley, Bondi and The Gap. So much to explore, we most certainly will have to go back again to see more. My husband was lucky enough to do the bridge climb on a weekend and get a view of the harbor that could not be better with all the boats out for the day. Enough background, on with the cruise! We arrived at the port at about 11:00 as we had a rental van that needed to be returned. Porters were somewhat scarce, but we managed to locate one who took our mountain of luggage away. Process went smoothly and was pretty efficient. Check in staff should ask cruisers if they would like a floor plan of the ship in my opinion. Got the photo taken and proceeded on board. Met the quintessential “Ugly American” in the elevator. She started the cruise with an attitude and kept it up! Felt sorry for the crew. Now don’t think I am giving Rhapsody and RCI a free pass because that is not going to happen. Many items were what I consider far below the bar. There were many instances this could have turned into great cruise, but just could not seem to get there. Meet and Mingle with the Cruise Director was good fun and we also had a gift exchange. We had 62 CC attendees there, great turn out. I am sure someone who took a pic will post it soon. I will be doing a link to my photos once I am done downloading them. Room – we had a balcony cabin that was fair in size – seemed a bit smaller than others we have had and very well used. Cabinetry was dated and very worn, the sofa bed was falling apart, looked like the carpet may have been replaced recently but a poor job was done on the install. It was peeling away against the walls. Balcony chair ripped when it was sat in and took a day and a half to get something to replace it. Bathroom was a nice size. Layout of the cabin could have been better but was serviceable. Balcony could have been used much more than it was but the SEWER ODOR was overpowering. One our fellow travelers also mentioned the odor to staff and were ignored. We both paid for a balcony that really could not be used very much because of this issue. She used hers much more because she is a smoker and there were very few places for her on the ship to smoke.
Food and Beverage– HUGE OPPORTUNITY for improvement here! Let me say that the best meal I had on the cruise was the raw tuna sandwich I had in Papeete. It was outstanding. Sadly, the food was fair at best. I must also add that that our friend ate the Indian/Indonesian meals most nights and was very impressed by the flavors and presentation. Most of our dining room meals were warm. Not hot, just warm. Presentation was ok – now we were the table located closest to the door so that food had to travel quite a distance before it got to us. Dining staff of Shan and Alvin were good, trying very hard to overcome the challenges of poor food quality. We did have a few good meals, but most were only fair. Lyndon our Head Waiter was very attentive he really made the extra effort. Maitre D’ came and visited with us after a dinner that we did not complete until 10:45 pm. Blamed food quality to us on the Australian suppliers and (SURPRIZE!!!) blamed American suppliers to the Australians. Our table called her on it and she chose to ignore the comment. By the way, did you know that Australians don’t like lobster? That’s why they don’t serve it on the Rhapsody. Of course we all prefer “fresh” – but don’t tell me you would not eat it if available. Windjammer basically served the same thing the dining room did – so if you did not like that menu you were more or less out of luck. Pizza in the Solarium was yuck – hot dogs poor – and when they “BBQ’d” it was warming things already cooked up on the grill and putting it into pans warmed by Sterno. I was sick one evening no doubt from something left too long in the buffet. Only one ice cream machine most likely so that it could not compete with the Ben and Jerry’s on board. To get a decent steak you had to pay for it. Bars ran out of ALL Australian beers with days left in the cruise. Now I know that those beers don’t sell well in American waters, but the crew told us that if there were any left they went to the crew bars – so no loss there. Ran out of Bundy too, but not until we were almost to Oahu. Bar waiters seemed to make their own drinks and that could be a challenge at times, but Katarina was the best we had – she was great. Pursers Desk – Rude, Rude, Rude! Asked a few questions and honestly gave up going back there as I was treated so badly that it was not worth the effort. When asking simple questions, customers should not be treated with disdain. I inquired about the internet service being slow, double charges when we crossed the international dateline – and asked for an accounting of time used and was told the info was not available and I should keep track of it myself. Found out later that they certainly could give me a printout – this person was either badly trained or just lazy. I did manage to get a credit for the overcharges they put onto my internet account though. Internet is very slow and if I did not need it for business, I would not have bought the package.
Activities – Boy did we have a great time here. From Trivia games to Bingo – great staff under Carly and Rachel. I won a medal in a scavenger hunt, won another contest in song lyrics and got to perform in the talent show. Daniel from the band was fantastic and put together music so I could sing a Gershwin song they said they had no music for. We did the Wish Walk which is a great program for the Make a Wish Foundation. The Captain and his family walked with us as well. Crossing the Dateline and the Equator we really good days. We are no longer Pollywogs! ANZAC Day was great and very moving. Thanks to the Captain and crew for making it possible. Public Rooms – Main Theatre very nice venue. Shall we Dance Lounge very comfortable, not many bars on board, but we made do! Only in the Casino for brief periods, but enjoyed the fact it was non-smoking. Entertainment was very good! Lots of variety, we went to just about every show. Spa and Fitness – Did not use the Spa, used the Gym once (I know, I know – should have used it much more!) but the equipment is in good shape even if I am not.
Fellow Passengers – mixed group onboard. Largest group was Australian with Germans coming in second. Small group of Americans onboard. Most folks were great – like I mentioned in the beginning, at least one ugly American who drove the crew crazy.
Ports – I realize there were difficulties caused by the merchants in Papeete not being open on Sunday and that is not Royal’s fault (we had to get fuel!) – I understand they tried diligently to get the shopkeepers to open – but apparently our dollars were of no interest to most of them. But like I mentioned – had a great sandwich! We had a driver for the day (private tour guide) and got to see the real Tahiti. Moorea was great, went on a Ship Excursion – but again Royal lacked any real planning – no signage for people with tours booked as to where to go etc. I know you are only in these locations a few times a year, but planning goes a long way. Went into Cooks Bay and bought fabulous pearls and had a great lunch. Bora Bora, did the FABULOUS Patrick’s Circle Island Tour. Do this if you get the chance. Spectacular! Raiatea, waste of time for a stop other than threading through the reef to depart - that was breathtaking.
Debarkation was a Breeze! Best exit from a ship that I have ever had. One more funny thing – I was checking my emails on day 10 of this cruise and Royal sent me one asking how my cruise was – I had to remind them I was still on their ship. Overall I would say I had a really good time meeting the folks that I did – made some lifelong friends I am sure. We most likely will not sail on Royal again as it just was not a good fit.