Rhapsody of the Seas-Hawaii to Auckland September 21-October 6, 2011. 7 nights pre cruise Hawaii
Flew Auckland to Hawaii on Air New Zealand, Pacific Economy class. A 9 hour flight, which left on time, 11am NZ and arrived Hawaii at 9.45pm, USA time, and gained a day as crossing the dateline. Nice flight. No problems getting through Security etc at Hawaii and Waikiki bus shuttle ($9 one way) to Waikiki Ohana West hotel. The hotel was well located, Tourist standard, excellent air conditioning, pleasant pool, and big Supermarket across the road. Two blocks back from beach, lots of restaurants, but only High end or tourist shops in this part of Waikiki-very similar where ever you went. The Waikiki Beach, Zoo, Diamond Head all very accessible from this location.
Nice visit. Like Surfers Paradise in Australia, dont feel any compulsion to return, but its very pleasant and also an entry point to further USA travel.
Did a couple of bus Tours, both with pick ups from the Hotel, Pearl Harbour, Aviation Museum, and Mini Island Circle Tour, both good value, and musts for 1st time to Hawaii visitors .
Ship departed from Terminal 2, Ala Moana Building, ($20 US, taxi from our Hotel) and virtually no queue. Full marks . Royal Caribbean very strict on no alcohol in either your carry bags or luggage, many had their luggage delayed, due to alcohol within the bag. Long delays in getting bags delivered to room due to security approach
The ship in general
Rhapsody of the Seas built in 1997, refitted in 2007, is again going into refit 2012, getting 3 specialty restaurants in the area of the current Schooner bar. For the age of the ship it was in excellent condition,. 78,491 tons, 2000 passengers with 750 crew, and last yr it won the Royal Caribbean internal award for best ship. With lots of newer ships in their fleet, some feat. We are Princess Cruisers, and with this ship and a repositioning cruise, my expectations were not high, but I was pleasantly surprised, a nice ship, very well set out, and spit polish clean with lots of glass, the Broadway Melody Theatre was a lovely venue , the Atrium area impressive, spanning 6 decks, with spiral affect and glass window view lifts, and the Two tier Edelweiss dining room elegantly furbished.
There was a well stocked and large Library, a smaller internet Caf, a stand alone card room, and late release movies played each day in various locations.
The ship Dancers and Singers Group were solid, without the X factor of a number of recent Princess Cruise shows that I have seen, but the quality of the individual entertainers headlined each night e.g. Singers, Comedians, etc was as high as any I have experienced on any other previous cruises. Excellent formal lectures, on this trip with a Pacific, with reputable United States University lecturers doing the presentations
Royal Caribbean cruises, like others add a US 10.50 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with you on the ship can also receive something. If you dont like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish, and envelopes for tips are available. In this instance we prepaid, took any emotion out of the issue.
The bars and public seating areas of the Rhapsody of the seas were excellent, roomy and stylish e.g. Navigator Bar, excellent piano playing throughout and a piano/violin father and son combination, played wonderful music in the atrium area. Gym was well equipped, with nice outside sea views, and the Viking Crown lounge at the top of the ship, quiet in the day, and wonderful place to grab a book and soak up the sea view, as the ship proceeds at about 17 knots.
The quality of formal lectures/presentation was excellent. I missed wine appreciation and tasting on this ship, Princess does that very well, but not available on this cruise. I did not climb the rock wall, they are a feature on all the Royal Caribbean cruise ships, but many did. No art auctions either, thank goodness; Princess Art auctions have their place, but be wary of their claims and values!
The cruise was calm throughout; with a small increase in swell motion as New Zealand got closer I have in previous reports mentioned weather motion sickness is a real issue on NZ/Aussie cruises and up the Pacific Rim area. This can be managed by good planning, patches/tablets if one is prone. The reality is cruises in this part of the world are often not calm, and I continue to be surprised at the passengers who do not understand that reality and are not prepared or ill advised.
Traditional 1st or second sitting evening dining room sitting versus My Time dining are great options. I found the Royal Caribbean My time dining option somewhat complicated to understand in practice. I had requested a table for 2 1st sitting Traditional dining, but was given seating at 1st sitting at a table of ten, so switched to my preferred option at the 2nd sitting. It worked well for us, often the Headline shows were 7pm for the 2nd sitting customers, followed by dinner, and those in 1st sitting had their dinner first and then went to the 9pm show.
Due to age of ship Rhapsody of the Sea principally had only two substantial dining venues, the Traditional dining room Edelweiss for meals or the Windjammer Buffet. Room service with a pleasant set menu, was also available and excellent, and there were a couple of limited menu cafs and Burger joints. The formal dining room quality was better than Princess, seemed to have more taste, the buffet on par. Lots of choice at the Buffet, once you learn to select carefully, you can enjoy very good food. Royal Caribbean room service was also more extensive than Princess, who has a poor reputation for the limited menu they provide for room service, but even so its nice to have an ordered meal, delivered in style to your room, day or night. Celebrity provides the best room service menu, followed by Royal Caribbean, and Princess at the rear. Personally I am a breakfast addict, and both venues above, served comprehensive stylish breakfasts. It is nice to sit at the table, nice table cloth and appointments, and the staff serving you egg benedict, followed by peach slices and oatmeal, followed by prunes, a choice of breads, lots of fruit, squeezed orange juice, coffee of choice, muffins galore, dainty jams and assortments all personalized to you. The evening menu in the Edelweiss was very comprehensive, excellent service and style right up there with any international hotel, one of the obvious delights of cruising.
We had a 7th floor interior stateroom Number 7145, which exceeded my expectations. As this was principally a sea voyage, with only 3 Ports in 14 days, I decided a Balcony was not justified, and our room was spacious, and pleasant, and the air conditioning excellent
The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximize space. The open space wardrobes provided plenty of hanging and excellent storage space for our requirements. Small TV, but excellently positioned. The room configuration made it seem very spacious. Nice soft armchair too. Our main cases fitted side by side quite comfortably. Bathroom shower pressure excellent. There is a safe in every room.
PORTS OF CALL- Only 3 on this repositioning cruise
Rhapsody of the Seas like all cruise lines formal ship tours at each Port of Call, they are well organized, and lots of options, they are costly, but the premium you pay, is perhaps made up for by the convenience?
Papeete-Tahiti. Ship moors in the City Centre proper, which is great, and a lovely Boardwalk Promenade with Parks reaches out from the wharf gates. The City itself is seedy, very much 3rd world, and like all of French Polynesia pricey. Dont look for shopping value here. Pearl Museum near to ship was interesting. We did not do a tour here, just strolled around, and took lots of photos, when hungry back to the ship?
A lovely Tahitian Island. Ship tenders of the Island, but the view is magnificent and the tender ride to the small wharf also lovely. Nice welcome by locals.
Another island paradise lives up to its reputation. Ship tenders off the wharf, coral reef nearby, wonderful views. Did a coral reef, glass bottom viewing tour here. Lots of fish, plenty of time, simple and effective. The small boat ride (20 passengers) took about 30 minutes to get out to reef, and pleasant commentary, which could have been improved by guide using a mike or similar.