The two-tiered Broadway Melodies Theatre is situated on Decks 5 and 6 and seats 870 people in comfortable, upholstered chairs with padded armrests with drink holders. The yellow-and-green color scheme seems subdued in comparison to more flashy areas of the ship. Just about every seat in the house has an unobstructed view of the stage; the seats in the back row (perfect for late-comers and for those who want to sneak out early) also have some table space.
Show times typically run at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. to accommodate both early and late dinner seatings, although there are some shows that have a single showing or start later at night. Productions feature an eclectic mix of entertainers, ranging from cover bands and stand-up comedians to musicals, some with the accompaniment of the in-house orchestra and dancers.
On our sailing, a ventriloquist conversed with his bird puppets, and on a different evening, a New Jersey comedian put on impressions and cracked jokes -- to varied responses (some guffawed, some groaned). On yet another night, a Beatles' cover band, had the audience up on their feet dancing to the band's popular tunes. Even more crowd-pleasing was a ballroom dance night, when the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers groove to the tango and cha-cha alongside a dance champion couple. On one day of the cruise, a screening of "The Lego Batman Movie" was played in lieu of a live performance.
Daytime activities are what you'd expect on a cruise ship: trivia quizzes, game shows and pool games. Passengers always seem to be having a blast. For active cruisers, there's a rock climbing wall, poolside stretching sessions and dance classes in the atrium. Plenty of participants joined table tennis tournaments, ring tosses and cornhole challenges. Passengers can also sign up for cupcake or sushi-making classes for an additional fee. Live music gets the atmosphere going starting in the early evening, with a Caribbean band that plays poolside and a string duo that performs in the atrium.
There are also activities that are designed to sell the ship's services, often with the promise of something free to draw attendance, such as skin consultations at the spa, rum cakes and liquor tastings at the liquor store or free Champagne at the art auction.
The Casino Royale was always hopping in the late hours, despite a smoky atmosphere that pervades the venue. It has a constellation theme and bolts of neon lights and features slot machines, such as Wheel of Fortune and Triple Diamond, as well as blackjack, poker and slot machine tournaments, with an entry fee of $25.
Non-gamers have plenty of other choices onboard. Live music and dancing are hosted nightly: A pianist takes requests at Schooner, "Dancing Under the Stars" parties are organized on the pool deck and a DJ plays at the Viking Crown night club. The multilevel Centrum atrium is always buzzing with activities from karaoke contests and game shows to the captain's reception and dance bands -- all of which attract many passersby that watch from the decks above. By the pool, recent movies or sports are shown on the big screen.
R Bar (Deck 4, midship): The R Bar is a throwback to the bars of the 1960s, with velour chairs, a curvy bar and a menu of classic craft cocktails that includes martinis, whiskeys, gimlets and Champagne-based drinks, some with an innovative twist. There's also a list of beer and wine. The R Bar is always abuzz, thanks to its central location in the Atrium and musical bands, game shows and other activities that draw attention.
Schooner Bar (Deck 6, midship): The decor of this 145-seat bar was inspired by masted ships with maritime-themed elements such as a crow's nest, canvas sails and wood paneling. It's a popular spot for pre-dinner aperitifs with a menu of time-honored cocktails and variations on the classics, such as a tropical version of the Old Fashioned. A piano player jazzes up the ambience at night. Trivia quizzes, crossword challenges and Sudoku are part of the daily happenings.
Shall We Dance Lounge (Deck 6, aft): Passengers head to this lounge -- where a large circular dance floor and a stage is the centerpiece -- more for the entertainment than for the drinks. Karaoke and game shows are hosted here; and the art auctioneers throw seminars, sales and displays of their pieces. The lounge is quiet when there's not a scheduled event, and during the day, some passengers take advantage of the ambience to relax.
Solarium Bar (Deck 9, midship): Part of the Egyptian-themed Solarium, this bar -- near the covered pool -- is the place to get a frozen drink (coconut mango daiquiri, anyone?) post-hot tub or to accompany a sun-soak in a lounger. It also serves hot and cold espresso-based coffee during the day.
Viking Crown Lounge (Deck 11, midship): This is the ship's nightclub, though only at random hours on random nights did it ever seem animated. Adorned with gold-and-red chairs and glass-bubble chandeliers, Viking Crown has a DJ that spins dance songs late into the night and a minuscule dance floor. During the day, the lounge has a completely different identity: People come here for conversation and to soak in the views from the slanted windows that span the room.
The main outdoor pool on Rhapsody of the Seas, located on Deck 9, is one of the most packed places on the ship during warm days. You can count on a lively atmosphere both day and night, with splashing children (the pool has a wading area and family pool games), musical bands and occasional contests (such as the Guess the Weight of the Nano Lopez sculpture), table tennis tournaments and under-the-stars dance parties, during which only the four shaded hot tubs are open. Plenty of chairs and loungers surround the pool and on the deck above, and a big screen projects box-office movies after sundown.
Around the edges of the main pool, is a shallow wading area, where junior cruisers get their feet wet. Connected but separated by a barricade is another wading area where children can splash to their heart's delight without disturbing adults.
The glass-covered Solarium pool is for passengers ages 16 and over, but the ship makes exceptions on days when there's inclement weather. During this time, young cruisers -- supervised by parents -- are allowed to frolic in the Solarium pool for a limited number of hours. Otherwise, the typically adults-only enclave acts as a sanctuary from the more trafficked outdoor pool, with two hot tubs and cushy loungers in an ancient Egyptian-themed setting with columns, pharaoh statues and hieroglyphic motifs.
At the aft of the ship on Deck 10 is where one of Royal Caribbean's signature activities takes place. The 30-foot rock climbing wall -- open for just a few hours each day -- has different paths to the summit to accommodate both beginner and advanced climbers. Crew supervise sessions and can help with the provided equipment. For the more nimble, there are speed-climbing competitions with prizes to take home. Also on Deck 10, cruisers can play shuffleboard 24 hours a day.
The sun deck around the main pool -- set up with vinyl-strap chairs and loungers -- tends to get crowded during sunny days. Fellow sunbathers are friendly and polite though, and chair hogging is rarely a problem. For sun worshippers who want a more tranquil spot, there are areas around Deck 10, above the main pool and forward above the Windjammer Cafe, to lounge out. Note: These areas are also used as a jogging track, so you may have to share space with -- or strategically avoid -- pedestrians.
The adults-only Solarium, which has a retractable roof, is another option for serene sunbathing, though the temperature in the enclave tends to be hot and humid compared with the pool outdoors. The loungers and chairs here are cushioned -- unlike on the pool deck -- which makes for a more comfortable bask or snooze under the sun.
Deck 5 is the promenade deck -- a peaceful spot for taking a walk or pulling out a chair to take in the sea breezes under shade.
Most of the ship's services are concentrated on Decks 4 to 6. A 24-hour internet cafe is located on Deck 4, adjacent to the Next Cruise office, which helps current passengers reserve future sailings -- often at a small discount. Those who prefer Wi-Fi on their personal devices can purchase a VOOM! internet package that costs $12.99 or $17.99 per day for each device, the latter of which includes streaming. Across the atrium is the location of two out of the ship's three conference rooms (the third is on Deck 6, near the Shall We Dance Lounge).
On Deck 5, the guest service desk assists passengers with everything from lost room cards to billing. Nearby, the shore excursion desk is where you can get more information on ports and tours. You'll find an enclave of shops, which sell jewelry, duty-free liquor, clothes, watches and handbags near the Broadway Melodies Theatre on Deck 6. You'll also encounter the art and photo galleries here, in addition to the Loyal Ambassador's Desk, for all Crown & Anchor loyalty membership-related questions and concerns.
Rhapsody of the Seas has a Book Corner, which is essentially just a few shelves with a seemingly random selection of books and magazines that passengers can borrow and return at their leisure.
The ship has no self-laundry services but offers professional cleaning. A wash and fold laundry special costs $34.99 for a bag of items, such as socks, underwear, T-shirts, pajamas, swimwear and shorts. There's also a pressing service that charges per piece. Prices range from $1.99 to $14.99 depending on the piece of clothing. Options included washing and pressing, pressing and steaming only, or dry cleaning and pressing. Same-day services charge an additional 50 percent express fee.
The ship has a for-free medical facility tucked away on Deck 1, where passengers can go for first aid.
Just off the Solarium, the 14-treatment room Vitality Spa occupies a serene spot on the ship. Once you check in at the reception desk, a long corridor leads to a relaxation room, which has cushioned wicker chairs that face slanted floor-to-ceiling windows, and herbal teas and fruit-infused waters to sip while you wait. The light woods and neutral tones of the spa create a sense of calm; in some areas, the Egyptian theme carries over from the Solarium. The crown jewel of the spa is the couple's suite, which can be booked for luxurious bathing rituals or side-by-side body treatments. Women and men have separate changing facilities, including a sauna, steam room and showers.
The Vitality Spa, operated by Steiner, offers a full range of services. Most treatments are Elemis-branded, including seven types of facials, plus a range of seaweed wraps, salt scrubs and deep tissue or "aroma stone" massages, which all incorporate the British company's products. Non-Elemis offerings include coconut poultice and bamboo massages, and medi-spa treatments, such as Botox and skin-tightening treatments. There's also a beauty salon that performs manicures and pedicures, waxing, hairdressing and barber's services. An acupuncturist and teeth whitening clinic are also available for consultations and remedies. Prices run on the high side but check the Cruise Compass for daily specials.
Accessible from a staircase near the entrance of the spa, the fitness center on Rhapsody of the Seas is far from being the most spacious at sea, but it largely serves its purpose -- and only before dinner time is it packed with gym-goers. The complex is equipped with elliptical machines, stationary bikes, treadmills, free weights, mats and a handful of weight machines. Some of the machines could use some updating -- a few were even out of commission while under repair. Passengers must be at least 16 years old to use the gym.
The fitness center offers classes, many of which take place on a dance floor/stretching area in the gym. Body Sculpt Boot Camp, a three-class series, costs $35 per class and $90 for all three, while Pilates, yoga and spin classes go for $12 per session. Stretching, ab strengthening and body conditioning classes are free.
Additionally, there's a quarter-mile jogging track on Deck 10 for passengers who want to get some exercise while breathing in the fresh ocean air.
Although Rhapsody of the Seas has children's programs for all age groups starting at six months, the number of young cruisers onboard varies for each sailing. Summer breaks and school holidays are when youth are most numerous; otherwise, there could be as a few as a handful on a single cruise. No matter how many kids are onboard, staffers are adept at keeping them amused. But, beyond the rock climbing wall and arcade, Rhapsody doesn't have any family-friendly attractions, and its children's facilities are modest compared to Royal Caribbean's larger and newer ships.
Royal Tots & Royal Babies programs tend to children aged 6 to 18 months. A daytime and evening drop-off program is available for an hourly fee of $6 and $8, respectively. Complimentary activities, which require parental supervision, are organized on a daily basis. Parents and tots can expect sing-a-longs (including instruments and props), games-centric play groups, and arts and crafts sessions. Toddlers up to 36 months can also benefit from a toy lending program, where parents can borrow and exchange toys specially designed to stimulate development.
Adventure Ocean is Royal Caribbean's children's program, which caters to young cruisers from ages 3 to 11 years in three groups: Aquanauts (potty-trained 3 to 5 year olds), Explorers (6 to 8 years) and Voyagers (9 to 11 years), who can sign themselves in and out of the club on their own. During sea days, Adventure Ocean is open for three sessions: 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. When the ship is docked, the club operates for the entire duration of the time in port. Additionally, Adventure Ocean offers a "Late Night Party Zone," a group babysitting program for ages 3 to 11 years, which runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. (or until the last child leaves) for an hourly fee of $7 per child.
Each session at Adventure Ocean is centered on a theme such as "Circus of the Seas," "Pirate Night" or "Medieval Times." Depending on the age group, participants may partake in memory challenges, dress-up sessions, scavenger hunts and arts projects such as mural making. Young cruisers can also participate in the Adventure Science program, which offers hands-on science experiments on topics such as volcanos. Hosted family activities include giant bubble-making and bingo.
Adventure Ocean also offers a "My Family Time Dining" program, where crew pick up children at the dinner table and escort them to the children's club for activities so the parents can finish their dinner in peace.
Adventure Ocean can accommodate children with autism and developmental disabilities with designated activities and toys, specially trained crew members, and pager and phone lending to parents.
Teens (ages 12 to 17) have their own dedicated space, Optix, next to the video arcade and across from Adventure Ocean. In this no-adults room, they can hang out on curvy couches, play video games and music, and take to the dance floor. Crew conduct activities, such as dodgeball, scavenger hunts, pool games and superhero trivia. Movie nights, hosted dinners and themed bashes such as "Tacky Tourist" and "Dusk" parties keep the group occupied in the evenings. Teenagers may come and go as they please, but they must adhere to a curfew of 1 a.m.
* May require additional fees