We're from Seattle area, so this worked fine as last-minute cruise. This was our 17th cruise (with 3 more booked---husband is a cruise addict) but first on Royal Caribbean. It's also the only one we've done with just each other; we've cruised with close family, kids, extended family, co workers, and friends, but never just the two of us. It was great fun, and changed the dynamics of the cruise for us. We interacted with other passengers more, found some great friends to hang out with, and plan to do it again. At the end of the week, we love each other more, so I call it a success!
We've sailed on NCL, HAL, Celebrity, and Princess previously. I'm not going to talk about the ports of call, since the ship is done with Alaska for this year and you're not going there...except to say, if you get the chance to cruise to Alaska, TAKE IT.
Our cabin was the smallest ever, not much bigger than a walk-in closet, but it had a surprising amount of storage. Even having packed warm gear and rain gear and formal wear, and I may have shopped just a little, it all fit with space left over. Our cabin steward kept the place clean, and was friendly. My only (mild) gripe was that it took 2 days and three reminders to get some ice.
The ship is worn in places, due to be dry docked, but immaculately maintained. Husband had a broken chair at dinner, the colors are dated, upholstery worn, but even so, the Rhapsody is a beautiful ship. All week, we saw crew painting, polishing, wiping, even new carpet ready to be installed.
The best place was the Centrum, a sweeping, airy heart of the ship with glass and shine everywhere. There was almost always live music there ( Rosario Strings was awesome, but $35 for a cd didn't happen) plus games, demos, dancing, truly the heart of the ship. I really hope they will not ruin the Centrum during the overhaul next Spring. Our cabin was just a few doors off the Centrum on deck 8. We could hear music wafting all the way up there, but the cabin itself was silent. In fact, we never once heard a neighbor or hall noise! One night, the Cruise Director led a Quest game, which ended at 11pm. He suggested "wander to the Centrum. There's a surprise waiting." Oh, it was a dessert buffet, beautifully arrayed on mirrored stands, on three decks! On other ships, the chocolate buffet was mob scene, just crazy. This was wonderful!
The first day, we found the Sanctuary, an adult-only retreat with snacks, a glass roof, a pool, comfy chairs, big windows, and silence. Other ships charge a LOT for this kind of place...I looked forward to enjoying this haven all week. That was the first day. The second day, they filled the pool. The chlorine literally took my breath away, leaving me gasping and choking and coughing when the door slid open. So much for a sanctuary.
We loved the laid back feeling, not being browbeaten to spend more buy more, spend more, play bingo all day long. Other ships have near-constant announcements that feel like badgering. We did not miss that!
The crew and staff was just wonderful, friendly and unfailingly polite. We met the captain the first day, and were delighted with his greeting "Hi, I'm Rick, and I work here." No pomposity there! The performers were talented, and also personable when we met them elsewhere. I liked the unobtrusive bar staff, who hovered, but did not push push push drinks (are you listening, NCL?). The cruise director, Casey Pelter, was all over the ship, and made it fun. He was just hilarious, with a straight face! My stomach hurt from laughing at the cooking demonstration! We played games and participated in many ship activities. There seemed to be a better variety than we are used to on other lines, and we had a blast. The activities staff made it so much fun. I did miss having a naturalist onboard, especially at the glaciers.
We enjoyed the food in the main (only) dining room, but were sorely disappointed in the Windjammer buffet. Food there was uniformly bland and overcooked, with tough dry meat, limp pasta, soggy vegetables, etc. We also found moving around there a challenge, kinda like a polite bumper cars situation. Lovely venue, though, with wide windows. The staff was helpful, offering drinks and refills. The Rhapsody's dining room is only open for lunch on at-sea days. One nice touch was the free all-day-long fruit drinks in the Windjammer. I don't drink iced tea, and get tired of water.
We were told to request any recipe we liked from the head waiter, and it would be given to us the next day. The watermelon gazpacho was SO good, but the recipe never appeared. Anyone know if they are online somewhere? RCCL sells a cookbook, but it was not in there.
I strongly recommend you find your Roll Call on Cruise Critic, and make time for the Meet and Mingle. It was on the first sea day, so we had time. It was nice, with staff in attendance, and snacks provided. We met great people there and it was fun seeing familiar faces all week. Go sign up now!
One complaint I have is the get-your-luggage-in-the-hall time on the last night of the cruise. Eleven pm is way too early! Other cruises lines want it out by midnight or 2am. That last evening, we played trivia, had dinner, attended the show, then went to the Dance It If You Know It game with new friends we met at the Meet and Mingle. That ended at 11pm. When was I supposed to pack? As it was, I left the show a few minutes early, and broke a land speed record for packing a week's worth of stuff in under 4 minutes. I plopped it in the empty hall at 10:58pm. A passing crew member said politely, "Madam~! You are late." I retorted "I am NOT. I have two minutes!" and went back into the cabin to get my wrap. The hall was empty except for our bags. In the time it took me to open the door, grab my wrap off the bed, and step back out, at least 20 other suitcases lined the hallway. 11 pm is just too early!
Overall, the feeling on the ship was upbeat, fun, relaxed with no pressure. There was a lot to do on the ship, and we did most of it! We're hoping to sail the Rhapsody again someday, to see what the dry dock overhaul will change. We loved this cruise!