No Americans in the South Pacific (Not Quite): Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Review by rlb1950

Rhapsody of the Seas 4
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No Americans in the South Pacific (Not Quite)

Sail Date: January 2013
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Sydney (Australia)
The title is a tad misleading -- but there were only a handful of Americans on this cruise. This was a roundtrip from Sydney to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and two other islands. Most Americans opt for other itineraries. It was also the end of the Australian school break. There were 700 kids on the cruise (kept the staff exhausted by using room service a lot). Think of a spring break cruise to the Caribbean, but in the South Pacific.

We'd also just gotten off a two-week Princess cruise from New Zealand, so that gives me occasion to compare the two cruise lines.

It takes two days each way to and from the ports -- and "Mystery Island" was skipped because of high winds, meaning five days at sea and three in ports for this cruise. That was fine with us.

The first island we did visit was the Isle of Pines, a great island for beaches and snorkeling. RCI offers no shore excursions on the island. The beaches are in walking distance of the tender dock, and the More locals offer $15 local tours if you want to see more.

The next island was Lifu, slightly more populated, but again, no ship tours. There are great beaches, and the locals show up to offer tours. We had a woman in her battered car. Went fine.

After a day at sea because the winds kept us from tendering, we docked at Noumea, New Caledonia. Like the other islands, it is a French territory, but this island is really French. The city is pleasant (although since we docked on a Sunday, most shops were closed). RCI does offer tours here, but they are not needed. For $5, several vendors will sell you all day hop on - hop off bus tickets, as well as a variety of other reasonably priced tours. We went to the zoo, which is a good one.

In sum, a relaxed itinerary with great beaches and lots of Aussies (a good thing).

Our cabin was 3100, which was well located and comfortable. The cabin steward was admirable.

In comparison with Princess, I found the dining room staff more harried. I don';t think this was their fault -- I think they had more tables to handle. I used to be a waiter, and remember the evenings when I was five minutes behind. One never seemed to catch up. On the six Princess cruises we've taken, the dining room staff was always unobtrusively attentive. They almost always are on top of things. On this RCI cruise, the dining room staff usually looked to be working hard to keep even. Little things consistently got missed.

Princess also does four-course dinners -- an appetizer, a soup or salad, a main course, and desert. This cruise did three courses. I missed the extra course.

The food quality was close. I liked the fish on the Rhapsody more than on Princess, but both do a good job of producing good, but not outstanding, food in large amounts.

One significant disappointing difference was any-time dining. On Princess, we have been able to show up at any time and get a shared table, which we always enjoy. That happened at lunch on the Rhapsody, but we had a table for two every night. I don't know if that is typical -- there were lots of families on this cruise, not nearly as many couples. We did miss the chance to dine with interesting people on this cruise, however.

We liked the glass in the Rhapsody -- there were better views from most places than has been true of the Princess ships we have sailed on.

Altogether, we were happy with the cruise. If you're American and going down to Australia for a single cruise, it's not the one you want. If, however, you are familiar with Australia and New Zealand and looking for something different, this one is worth thinking about. Less

Published 01/27/13

Cabin review: G3100 Large Ocean View Stateroom

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Port and Shore Excursions

There is no need to use the ship tours -- the same tours are available for much less at the cruise terminal building. I recommend the zoo -- good views and a nice variety of birds and beasts.
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