February 7, 2012 Updated February 10, 2012
The 15-year-old Vision-class ship -- middle age in cruise ship years -- will head into dry dock in Singapore for the multimillion dollar overhaul. The refurb is part of Royal Caribbean's $300 million, three-year Royal Advantage initiative, which calls for the addition of many of the popular features found on the 5,400-passenger Oasis and Allure of the Seas -- plus a handful of twists -- to more than a dozen veteran ships.
Changes on tap for Rhapsody include:
New Dining Options
A number of Oasis-class dining options will be added to Rhapsody, effectively doubling the choices. New venues include Izumi (Asian, $3 cover, then a la carte); Giovanni's Table, an Italian restaurant serving family-style dishes ($10 per person for lunch, $15 for dinner); and the Park Cafe deli, a casual bistro concept borrowed from Oasis and Allure -- minus the setting in an actual park (no added cost). The ribbon will also be cut on a new Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean's signature option for grilled meats and seafood ($30 per person), and the Chef's Table, a $95 wine-paired dinner hosted by the executive chef and sommelier.
All cabins will gain flat-screen TV's, and Wi-Fi will be made available bow to stern. New digital "Wayfinder" signage, which debuted on Oasis of the Seas, will be added throughout, and an outdoor movie screen will be installed by the ship's main pool. (Royal Caribbean, a long-time poolside-jumbo-tron holdout, has been steadily adding the mega-screens to its ships.) Post-dry dock, Rhapsody's cabins will also feature iPads, an inclusion introduced on the recently refurbished Splendour of the Seas. The iPads can be used to access daily schedules and onboard accounts and make restaurant reservations.
The line also is implementing "electronic mustering," which means that during Rhapsody's post-dry dock muster drills, crew will take roll by swiping cards. The technology, introduced on Oasis of the Seas is "implemented via guest SeaPass cards, allowing for real time accountability of all guests and crew to the evacuation command teams," said spokeswoman Janet Diaz. Currently Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas feature electronic mustering.
New Lounges and Spaces
Rhapsody's 60-foot-high, seven-deck Centrum will get a makeover just like on sister ship Splendour of the Seas. The massive hanging sculpture will be removed to make way for cirque-style aerial performances, which can be witnessed by up to 1,400 passengers at once. The Centrum's Champagne Bar will be transformed into the R Bar, featuring a 1960's vibe, complete with iconic furnishing and signature cocktails. Check out the before picture to the left.
Like other recently refurbished "mid-size" Royal Caribbean ships, Rhapsody will gain a Diamond Lounge, a dedicated space for Crown & Anchor Society loyalty-program "Diamond" members, and a concierge lounge for suite passengers and "Diamond-plus" member. (When the "concierge" lounge, found on select ships, was restricted to Diamond-Plus members in mid-2009, the resulting uproar had the line scrambling to appease its stalwart customers.)
For more on how lines reward loyal guests, see our feature on cruise line past passenger programs.
Unlike Splendour, which received 124 new balconies, Rhapsody will not be getting any private outdoor cabin spaces.
For the Kids
A Royal Babies and Tots Nursery -- another Oasis innovation -- will be added to Rhapsody. The space provides childcare and activities for children from 6 to 36 months old ($8 per hour, per child).
--by Dan Askin, News Editor