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Sail Date: December 2014

Sweet serendipity. The words that come to mind over the course of my maiden voyage aboard the reputed royal Caribbean cruise. Featuring a stunning 15 storey structure as well as luxurious interior adornments and embellishments, Royal ... Read More

Sweet serendipity. The words that come to mind over the course of my maiden voyage aboard the reputed royal Caribbean cruise. Featuring a stunning 15 storey structure as well as luxurious interior adornments and embellishments, Royal Caribbean indubitably forges the ideal image of a commodious, pampering, carefree cruise which promises to rid you of all angst. Not withstanding the physical façade of this awe-inspiring vessel, you too can be assured that you'll encounter polite and hospitable staff who will not hesitate to attend to your every whim and woe. Reminiscing my first lunch service on the gargantuan ship, my family and I were greeted by delightful waiters, each of which would be assigned to specific tables to take your orders. I'd like to highlight two particular members of staff , Haisanta, Inyoman and Ace Loyola who serve within the fine dining room known as Top Hat and Tails. Thanks to these fine chaps, my acquaintance and I were returned our handphones which would otherwise have been left lying on the table. Small, as this act of kindness seems, it indefinitely reflects the honesty and sincerity that are innate in the servers aboard the royal Caribbean cruise. Their approachable and helpful demeanour have certainly helped to ease our transition from land to sea, inevitably making this voyage an enjoyable and memorable one.

Apart from the delightful crew members, the stunning array of exercise equipment placed within the gymnasium will appeal to all fitness junkies alike. Indeed, the notion of waiting for others to finish using the equipment is hardly an issue aboard Royal Caribbean as the range simply speaks for itself. Nevertheless, I would argue that the vessel does indeed have some less desirable characteristics. The lunch service for instance, is one such characteristic. While the buffet certainly caters to those who want a wide spread of cuisines, the spread isn't entirely delectable. I do however acknowledge that the food is well heated for consumption. That said, perhaps I may offer a suggestion to that of the cabin crew to maybe add additional flavouring? On another note, I'd like to add that the cruise offers a wide range of entertaining activities for all. Some of these include an arcade and a casino, both of which are located below deck. Others include a rock climbing wall, two swimming pools, mini golf as well as a basketball court; these of which are located above deck. Ultimately, I can guarantee potential patrons of the Royal Caribbean cruise that the voyage promises an all encompassing holiday filled with fun and games for the family to create an entertaining if not relaxing journey for all.

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Sail Date: April 2008
Asian Trip April 21 - May 24, 2008 Rhapsody Cruise to Korea & Japan And Shanghai

April 21st - Finally the day arrived for our Daughter; Julia, to drop us off at Vancouver International Airport for our flight to Shanghai via Tokyo. ... Read More

Asian Trip April 21 - May 24, 2008 Rhapsody Cruise to Korea & Japan And Shanghai

April 21st - Finally the day arrived for our Daughter; Julia, to drop us off at Vancouver International Airport for our flight to Shanghai via Tokyo. Here we are waiting in the Business Class Lounge for our flight.

Vancouver's very modern International Departures area is beautifully decorated with a definite west coast flair.

April 22nd - We arrived in Shanghai at 8:15 pm their time after traveling for nearly 24 hours and loosing a day due to crossing the international date line. In Tokyo we changed planes and airlines. It was here that we met up with my Dad, Fred, who flew from Montreal to join us for this great adventure. We were met by our wonderful Shanghai Guide, Rebecca Tang and our driver, who escorted us to the van which would be our transport during our time in Shanghai. An hour later we arrived at the Bund Hotel ready for some shut eye!

The Bund Hotel is located about 3 blocks from the Bund Riverfront Promenade and about 5 blocks from Nanjing Road. Our rooms were very clean but getting non-smoking is hard. The hotel actually has 3 non-smoking floors but we did not manage to get a room on any of these floors as they were already gone. Our guide Rebecca did manage to get us adjoining rooms and upgraded us to the Concierge Floor for our stay upon our return from our Rhapsody of the Seas cruise. I could see little difference between this room and a standard room (which we had on the night of April 22nd) other than a few more amenities in the bathroom. Actually felt that the standard room was a little larger. The breakfast in the Concierge Lounge was not as lavish as the buffet downstairs in the Cafe. After the first morning we simply went downstairs to the Cafe where we could have our eggs cooked to order by the chef and enjoyed a much larger selection of foods. The beds were very firm (hard); however, upon our request they did put 2 comforters down to make it a little softer. The Concierge Lounge Staff although pleasant did not seem to have any duties to provide extra service to the guests; to mail letters you still needed to go to the guest relations desk in the lobby, the internet was at a fee; newspapers were available in the Cafe as well as in the Concierge Lounge. In other words do not waste your money by upgrading to the Concierge Level in this hotel. The restaurant as is normal in Asia was all smoking and are their cigarettes strong; you can smell them a mile away! The coffee was strong as is normal in Europe and Australia. The hotel also had a wheelchair which we were able to borrow for Dad. The only negative was not being placed on the non-smoking floor when that is what we had booked; however, our rooms did not smell of smoke. I would definitely recommend this hotel.

April 23rd After a refreshing sleep we were ready to go again. Rebecca picked us up and off we went to ride Shanghai's Maglev (magnetic levitation) train, the world's fastest, most futuristic passenger line which whisked us from downtown Shanghai to the airport in 7mins & 20 sec a distance of 30 Km. The Maglev train rocketed to 432 kilometers per hour! Overhead, like a giant scoreboard, an LED screen blinked out our record-breaking progress which was up to 432 km/hr. The Maglev Train is silent and only rocked slightly as we flew along the guide rails. It was hard to believe how fast we were traveling until we looked out the window to see the countryside passing by in a blur! Riding this train is a definite must when you visit Shanghai!

Now it was to the Cruise Ship Terminal to check in for our cruise to Japan and Korea aboard the Rhapsody. Checking in for a cruise in Shanghai is an experience as the cruise ship terminal is in downtown but not the dock or the ship. Rebecca helped us check in and then waved goodbye for a week telling us she would be at the actual dock to pick us up in 7 days. Once thru security and with our luggage handed over we boarded a bus for the drive to the dock some 1.5 hours downstream. The dock is just that a dock... .

We boarded quickly and headed to the Windjammer Cafe for a late lunch. Much later when our luggage had arrived we unpacked before the Lifeboat drill then Wahoo cocktail hour! In the dining room we were seated at a large table for 10; but, to our dismay, NO ONE joined us! As the 4 Australians at the next table had the same problem we joined forces and found ourselves some great table mates! April 24th - A lazy day cruising and catching up on some of the rest we had lost with our long international flights.

April 25th - This afternoon we docked in Kobe, Japan where we met our volunteer Goodwill Guides Norio Kuroda and Morihiro Yagai

Kobe is one of Japan's ten largest cities it was one of the first Japanese port opened to foreign trade, making it a very cosmopolitan city. Located between the sea and the Rokko mountain range, Kobe is also considered one of Japan's most attractive cities. In January 1995, Kobe was hit by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, which killed over 5000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. A decade later, the city is completely rebuilt, and few signs of the terrible event are left. Unfortunately we ran out of time so did not get to visit the Earthquake Disaster Museum and Park.

Norio and Morihiro guided us thru the maze that is Japan's public transit system and we rode the Shin-Kobe cable car up Mt Nunobki for a "Bird's eye" view of Kobe. At the top we walked around the courtyard and herb gardens before enjoying coffee in the restaurant. Once down from the mountain we walked through the Kitano Residential area to view the many old homes built by foreigners who settled here in the early 1900's. Today they have been transformed into shops, restaurants and museums. Nankin Mchi is Kobe's small China Town with its own gate and a street packed with restaurants, stalls selling everything from herbal medicines to souvenirs, and of course the street vendors with lots of interesting food stuffs. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge(Pearl Bridge)] The span of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is 3,911 meters. The distance between two main tower supporting cable (center span) is 1,991 meters. It is the world's longest suspension bridge connecting the main island and Awaji island. The Maiko Marine Promenade was opened on April 5, 1998 and is the visitors centre. The promenade, about 47 meters above the sea level, has a total length of about 317 meters and projects about 150 meters into the Akashi Straight. while from the 8th-floor observation lounge you can enjoy looking out over the entire bridge via a video camera erected on top of the 300-meter tall main pylon. If you want real thrill, try the log bridge: 47 meters above the ocean waves! April 27th Fukuoka, Japan after a late arrival we walked down the gangplank to find our Goodwill Guide Yoshiro Ushida A sightseeing tour using the city buses included a stop at the Tochoji Temple where we viewed the wooden statue of 1000 Hands which is the largest wooden Buddha in Japan. The pitch black exit maze was fun and provided some light entertainment! From here we walked to the Kushida Shrine. A wedding ceremony was underway so we watched and enjoyed the colorful costumes worn by all the ladies. A Kazariyama float is on display; these are built annually by volunteer men and then carried thru the streets on the shoulders of the teams of 26 men in a race held on the last day of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival. These floats are now shorter than in years past as they must be able to pass under the overhead street wires however each one weights several tons.

A stop at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum allowed us to view a merchant's home from the early 1900's. The homes are long and narrow with living quarters upstairs and a lovely walled garden in the rear. Notice the small front entrance door - the size of the door decreed the amount of taxes paid... .

Japan was an interesting country to visit - exceptionally clean with it seemed everyone wearing a uniform for their work from the stevedores to the bus driver. Taxi Drivers all wore suits and had pristine white lace seat covers in their cabs. All seemed intent on providing quick and efficient service (even the stevedores ran on the dock). Space is used to the maximum with even bicycle parking lots that are multi-level. Here is a picture of a homes double car garage - an elevator where 1 car is parked and then raised up so that the 2nd car can be parked below....

April 28th Busan, Korea was our 3rd port of call. In each port in Korea we were greeted by a dance troupe welcoming us with folk dances and also given a small gift which ranged from a fan, pen, and nail set to informational brochures.

Today we took a full day ship sponsored tour which was very well planned with a guide who spoke english very well and clearly. It started with A bus ride out to the city of Gyeonglu to view Bulguksa a Buddhist Shrine the oldest and largest in Korea. Here a monk kindly posed for a photo. The colorful eves, carvings and artwork, stone pagodas and many Buddhist statues made this an interesting stop. The winding pathways thru wooded areas, gardens, over arched bridges, and around ponds brought tranquility to the hectic pace set by our tour schedule.

During lunch we were entertained by local folk dancers in colorful costumes. After lunch we visited the tomb of King - Michu and Cheonma Tomb. These huge mounds, which are the tombs are set in a large park area The Emperors were buried with many of their worldly treasures of gold and jewels in a wooden box then covered by tons of stones which in turn were covered by earth - this to prevent grave robbers. The park with its wide paths, treed area and ponds was a lovely spot.

Last but not least was a stop at the Jagalchi Fish Market where we saw fish of all kinds swimming around in tanks awaiting their turn to be someone's dinner. There was lots of processed/cleaned seafood as well!

April 29th Jeju Island, Korea here we again took a tour sponsored by the ship. This morning after taking the tender to shore we headed off to the Hallin Gardens where we toured some of the lava tubes formed by the eruption of Mt Halla. The Hareubang are stone statues made of black sporia pocked with small holes. Estimated to be quite ancient there are only 45 of these left on Jeju Island; they are considered to bring good luck to the people and to ward off evil fortunes. Here also was a preserved Choga which is a stone house with a thatched roof made of grass called "Sae" and woven into Checked shape by using well twisted ropes of straw. These low houses built by the first residents of Jeju Island hundreds of years ago withstood the harsh windy climate of this volcanic island plus used the materials that were at hand. .

The next stop was the Spirited Garden which is a Bonsai Garden. This beautiful walled garden with several ponds and arched bridges was fun to stroll thru. Also a photographers delight!

When we returned to the tender dock we looked over the local commercial fish boats that use lights at night to attract their catch. Then of course the one stroke engine that hauls the catch to market - SLOWLY! The Rhapsody is one of RCCL's older ships and of course of the smaller "Vision" Class. This does not distract from its appeal. We had booked an inside cabin and I am glad we did as the weather would have prevented us from enjoying a balcony. Our time in both Japan and Korea was cool; slacks and a jacket were needed. Going off the ship to enjoy the ports was normal without any hassle by the port authorities. We docked in all the ports except for Jeju Island where we were tendered ashore. As usual our Cabin Stewart kept our cabin immaculate and we always returned to fresh towels and of course in the evening a turned down bed plus the welcoming committee each night was a towel animal. Of course there was the welcome back cocktail party for all repeat cruisers and then near the end of the cruise there was the cocktail party for Platinum Members of the Crown & Anchor Society. This was the nicest cocktail party I have ever enjoyed mainly due to the fact that our numbers were so small that the staff were able to be very attentive to each and everyone of us. The drinks flowed and hors d'oeuvres were constantly being offered by the wait staff. This was an interesting cruise as there was 2 ports of embarkation with passengers embarking in both Shanghai and Busan. Disembarking in Shanghai we enjoyed being able to sit in the special area reserved for Platinum Members of the Crown & Anchor Society where coffee and juice were served. Here we waited for our turn to leave the ship. April 30th Back in Shanghai again and time to say goodbye to the Rhapsody and the new friends we had made on board. Rebecca was on the dock waiting for us and immediately whisked us off to start our tour of this modern city of 13,000,000.

Jade Buddha Temple built in 1918 to replace the temple that was destroyed during the Qing Dynasty revolution is one of Shanghai's few active Buddhist temples. It contains two precious jade Buddhist statues. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved from whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddha's the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid. The Sitting Buddha is 190 centimeters high and encrusted by the agate and the emerald, portraying the Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment. The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on the right side with the right hand supporting the head and the left hand placing on the left leg, this shape is called the 'lucky repose'. The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world. From the Jade Buddha Temple we went to The Bund;

The Bund, Shanghai Shanghai's waterfront promenade stretches for 2km along the bank of the Huangpu River; once the most famous street in Asia, it is still renowned for its strip of Art Deco buildings. One of the grandest of these buildings, is now the home of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. After lunch and a stroll along the promenade it was off to The Bund Hotel to check in and leave our luggage. Then back in the van to continue with a busy afternoon of sightseeing. The Yuyuan Gardens date back to 1559 to the Ming Dynasty, and are the best example of Chinese classical gardens in Shanghai. The relatively small gardens are laid out in an intricate design with pavilions, rockeries, ponds and a traditional theatre arranged in an ornate maze. This Jade Rock was destined for the imperial court in Beijing until the boat sank outside Shanghai. The zig-zag causeway - Nine Turns Bridge - is there to thwart evil spirits, who can only travel in straight lines. We arrived at the Gardens via the Old Town God Temple Market, a warren of shops and stalls. We stopped at the Huxin Tea House which has floated atop the lake in the heart of old town since 1784 for Jasmine Tea served with quail eggs boiled in green tea, candied olives and rice squares. After our tea we visited a silk factory where we were shown how the silk worm cocoons are soaked in water to soften them and then the silk thread is unwound from the cocoon onto spools ready for weaving into cloth. Double cocoons are spread by hand to make silk comforters. Here we got to try our hands at spreading our the silk for a comforter. The comforters & duvets were easy to pass up but the silk tops and pants were another story. After searching for their largest size and much trying on my credit card was given a good workout and I left behind a happy commissioned sales staff.

Our driver now dropped us off at the Bund where we boarded the Bund sightseeing cable car to travel under the HuangPu River. During the 7 minute ride we were entertained by the futuristic light show which is supposed to represent traveling through the earth. The show is produced using optics, acoustics and electric technology, creating a fun, modern adventure. This ride took us to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower where we enjoyed dinner in the revolving restaurant while watching the lights of Shanghai pass below us. Following dinner we took a taxi back to the Bund Hotel on our own. Always an experience when there is the language barrier! This was one of the few evenings we had on our own; however, we had invited our guide to join us for dinner which she did (on her own time). Thus we had a guide to get us to the Oriental Tower and to translate for us thru dinner.

May 1st Another busy day planned by Rebecca for us. We started off with the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall which displays a scale model of Shanghai. In the main lobby is a revolving futuristic model the downtown core of Shanghai. There are also some interesting photos of 1930s Shanghai. The best part of this is the very modern design of the building.. Our next stop was across the street to the new Shanghai Museum, situated on the People's Square, the political and cultural centre of Shanghai. The square itself boasts a giant musical fountain and some attractive green recreational areas where locals dance and fly kites. It is surrounded by the City Hall, an underground shopping centre and the Grand Shanghai Theatre. Opened in 1996 the building is shaped like a giant bronze urn, and contains a collection of 123,000 cultural artifacts. It was the best museum we visited in China however unless one is an avid museum freak than the above two could easily be skipped in favor of spending more time in Old Town browsing the stalls for souvenirs. After lunch is was off to see the French Quarter. In the early 1800's when Shanghai opened its doors to the outside world all of the countries negotiated for an area over which they would have absolute sovereignty. M. Montigny, the first Consul for France at Shanghai, entered into an agreement with Ling Taotai on April 6th, 1849, for the establishment and government of a French Concession. The French, opted out of a move to combine all the foreign settlements in the city. Thus as most of the foreign trade was carried on thru the British Settlement it became difficult to raise revenues, and the French income was largely derived from licenses to opium divans, brothels and gambling houses. In the 1930s the French Concession gained a reputation as a haven for vice and drugs. Many of the French Concession's Tudor-style mansions—complete with colorful flower boxes—still stand on the tree-lined streets off Yan'an Lu. This is now a popular area to stroll with many trendy shops, coffee houses and restaurants. Another area that was not as interesting to see as it sounded. We visited the residence built for the French Consul in 1905 and used today as a crafts institute. Here the students make the crafts that are for sale. We did not see many people working on crafts but lots of salespeople selling souvenirs; however, we were here on a National Holiday. The day was not done as following dinner we attended an Acrobat Show. This was truly and amazing evening of entertainment. How these young men & women fold themselves into the various shapes and manage to balance on 1 hand while upside down I do not know. The whole performance is riveting with the evening ending far too quickly. This show we could have watched more than once and would definitely tell anyone planning a visit to China to make sure that an acrobat show is included in the itinerary.

May 2nd A trip to Suzhou located some 50 miles west of Shanghai, along the old Grand Canal. The city has been famous for its gardens for many centuries. According to a Chinese proverb: "In heaven there is paradise. On earth there are Suzhou and Hangzhou." The city is dotted with lakes and ponds connected by a spider's web of canals. All the canals are lined with whitewashed houses with gray-tiled roofs.

The canals of the town eventually join up with the famous local waterway known as the Grand Canal, located to the west of the city. It is believed to be the largest internal waterway in the world, and was originally constructed to carry grain from the Yangzi plain to the capital. Marco Polo, who visited Suzhou in the 13th century, wrote that "the great Khan... has made a huge canal of great width and depth from river to river and from lake to lake and made the water flow along it so that it looks like a big river. By this means it is possible to go as far as Beijing. Although the canal is not used for long-distance transport today, it is still heavily used by a great number of flat-bottomed boats under sail and engine power conveying agricultural produce to nearby towns as well as being the place for washing.

Built in 514 BC, Suzhou is an ancient city with a 2500 years' history. Some of the ancient wall is still preserved. We stopped by the City God Temple and then continued on to stroll the narrow streets filled with small shops and vendors selling everything from "soup to nuts". Here we were lucky to encounter a "Dragon Parade".

May 3rd Shanghai's Venice - Zhujiajiao is an ancient water town well-known throughout the country, with a history of more than 1700 years. Covering an area of 47 square kilometers, the fan-shaped suburb of Shanghai has been endowed with another elegant name - 'Pearl Stream'. The town is the best-preserved among the four ancient towns in Shanghai. Unique old bridges across bubbling streams, small rivers shaded by willow trees, and houses with courtyards attached create an aura of antiquity, leisure and tranquility. There are 36 distinctive, old bridges all differing in shape, style, construction and built with materials ranging from wood to marble. Fangsheng Bridge (Setting-fish-free Bridge) is the longest, largest and tallest stone bridge, with five openings and built in 1571. On the bridge stands a stone tablet named Dragon Gate Stone, which is engraved with 8 coiling dragons encircling a shining pearl. On top of the bridge are 4 lifelike stone lions. This is taken from where we enjoyed a local lunch at a table overlooking the canal. Lang Bridge (Veranda Bridge) is the only wooden bridge and the most featured span in this town. It has wooden bars on the two sides and upturned eaves above, just like a narrow corridor. Ke Zhi Yuan or 'Ma Family Garden' was smaller than many of the gardens we visited but a nice quiet oasis with some dwellings built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Qibao Ancient Town - Located in the center of Minhang District of Shanghai, only 18 kilometers from the downtown area, has a history spanning over one thousand years, Qibao is the Chinese for 'seven treasures'. Here we strolled down the main street past the square and Qibao Temple. The area was packed with people shopping in the stores and lots of vendors were out selling everything including fighting Qibao Crickets in small baskets woven from bamboo This was definitely the poorer area of Shanghai. The stores sold household goods, clothing, electronics, hardware, food but not souvenirs. I would not recommend adding a visit to this area to ones list instead spend more time in Zhujiajiao.

The People of China were very friendly and generally happy to have their picture taken. I found China to be much more westernized than I expected with most people shopping in small corner type shops which are all independently owned and operated. All of the guides when asked told me that approximately 60% own their own homes; albeit all that have been purchased since 1982 are on a 70 year land lease. The biggest difference was that so much is done by hand whereas here it would be done by machines. Laundry hung from apartment windows to dry is a common sight throughout China. A peddler moving his wares. The family sedan - 4 on 1 poor motor bike. This vendor will set up shop on some street corner selling her oranges A small 3 wheel truck transporting a heavy load of rebar heavy load of rebar, the ends should be good and sharp from dragging on the pavement. What do you need ropes to tie the load down for - the passenger just holds it in place. These were all common sights in China. All over we watched people carrying stuff by hand using bamboo poles or baskets. However the best was probably the washroom facilities and don't forget your own toilet paper! The squat toilets although hard on the knees were actually kept very clean. The driving in China is a ZOO! I never did figure out the street lights system - it appears that red lights are only a suggestion that one might want to slow down. Everyone wants to be first and cuts into any small hole in the traffic. Cutting everyone else off seems to be the national sport played by all from pedestrians to bicycles to motor bikes to cars to buses to trucks! Yet for all the crazy driving we saw very few accidents and they were all minor fender benders. Further the sidewalks are wide so if all else fails drive on the sidewalk especially if you are on a motor bike.

For the second part of my review please see the Yangtze River Cruise aboard the Victoria Prince If anyone would like to read this review with the pictures included please e-mail me and I will send you a copy direct ann at century 21 vancouver dot com

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Sail Date: April 2008
Background and Information: My Family, 6 adults & 2 child, has just arrived from a 5 night cruise on boardRoyal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas which sailed last April 18, 2008 from Shanghai, China. We took 2 suite rooms, 1 Owner's ... Read More
Background and Information: My Family, 6 adults & 2 child, has just arrived from a 5 night cruise on boardRoyal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas which sailed last April 18, 2008 from Shanghai, China. We took 2 suite rooms, 1 Owner's Suite No. 8004 & 1 Grand Suite No. 8006. When taking a cruise, we always take suite rooms. This is not our first time to have a cruise for I can say that I am a experienced cruiser having cruised on different cruise lines before but this was our 1st in Royal Caribbean. Below are the reasons why I consider my cruise Rhapsody of the Seas the worst cruise I ever had:

1.) No Butler / Concierge Service - In all cruise we tried, only this cruise that we did not have a Butler / Concierge. Since we are always on a suite room, we were given this and that Royal Caribbean did not have one for us.

2.) No Priority on Suite Room Guests - Suite rooms guests were not given priority. On lunch in your dining room, we have to take a line and wait for 20 to 30 minutes just to be given a table since it is open seating and that only half of the main dining room is open. On watching shows, other cruise line gives specific seats which are reserve only for suite room guests, your this cruise do not. On disembarking, we suite guests have the option to choose when we wish to depart the ship, what this cruise did was to include us with all other guests which naturally we will be waiting for a long time.

3.) No Special Attention on Suite Room Guests - in this cruise, we suite room guests were not given special attention and that we felt that the attention that have given us is just the same as the attention they give to all other guests.

4.) Food on Main Dining Room - the food in the Main Dining Room is not that impressive and if I could rate it, its just on the average. The taste, quality, presentation and menu is only average which we can eat or have it daily. We feel that we are only eating on a ordinary restaurant.

5.) Food on Windjammer Buffet - the food in the Windjammer Cafe is the worst food I ever had in a cruise ship. The taste, quality, presentation, menu, number of food that was offered in the buffet is very bad. Its like eating in a Las Vegas Buffet for $ 4.99.

6.) Windjammer Buffet - the windjammer is like a public market. Everything is in chaos.

7.) Wine Selection - the wine selection was not that wide and impressive. You only have limited wines to choose from. The variety and quality of wines are also not that intensive.

8.) Location of Suite Room - the location of the suite rooms is not the best location you could get. Directly above, 1 floor up, our suite room is the windjammer cafe. We could not sleep and take a rest since you could hear the noise and steps from the people above. The noise only stops around 2pm at night and will again start around 6pm. We did not have a great time to sleep in our room because of these noise.

9.) Smaller Suite Size - the suite is not that big compared to other cruise lines we tried. If you try to compare the biggest suite which is the Royal Suite versus the biggest suite of Celebrity or Princess Cruises, it is still small.

10.) Limited Menu Room Service for Suite Room - the room service menu is limited compared to the room service menu of other cruise line. Even Star Cruises, which is a asian cruise company has better suite room service menu than this cruise.

11.) Hot Water on Bath is not Constant - the hot water on our bathroom is not constant. The temperature drops after using it midway while taking a bath. So we have to readjust the setting or mixture of the hot water.

12.) Disorganized Disembarking - as I've said, we were not given priority and the option onwhen we will disembark so we have to be with other guests who have to wait for us to becalled. We were to disembark as scheduled on 9:05am but we were already called around9:30am. When its our time to disembark, we have to line up for around 20 minutes before we were off the ship. The time that we were off the ship, we were shocked since they told us to get our luggage first and board the shuttle bus which will take us from the pier to the cruise passenger terminal. This means that we have to carry our own bags and board a bus. The next problem is that there were no assigned bus for each and every group or passengers so we have to find our own bus and be the one to carry and put our luggage to the bus luggage compartment. The problem is that the bus luggage compartment is not that huge and could not accommodate all the luggage of the passengers, so we have to find another bus that would fit our luggage. It took us another 30 minutes before we boarded a bus. In all my cruise, our luggage is taken care of by the cruise line we we will just get it in the terminal. But in this cruise, we will be the one to transport and carry it to the cruise terminal. In other cruise lines, they help on luggage for suite room guests but in this cruise, you do not.

13.) No Transportation Available in the Cruise Terminal - Upon arrival in the passenger cruise terminal, we were just left there and no one helped us and facilitated us on how could we take transportation. There were not enough taxi and even no available other means of transportation. Conclusion: There are many other reasons on why I consider this as my worst cruise which i would no longer share to you. If asked if I would take a Royal Caribbean Cruise in the future - my answer is 20% YES and 80% NO. I am wondering what Royal Caribbean mean of the "Gold Anchor Service" since the service and experience that I and my family got from Royal Caribbean is the worst we had.

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Sail Date: March 2008
We arrived outside the Marco Polo hotel in Hong Kong in plenty of time. This was the muster point. There were about six staff there with RCCI t-shirts, but when we asked for instructions, we were interrupted by the 'supervisor', a young ... Read More
We arrived outside the Marco Polo hotel in Hong Kong in plenty of time. This was the muster point. There were about six staff there with RCCI t-shirts, but when we asked for instructions, we were interrupted by the 'supervisor', a young lady in her late 20's who rather impolitely told us to wait, and 'not to go into the hotel'.

After a while we saw the supervisor give a briefing to staff and they were positioned with arrow signs pointing to the back of the hotel. Unfortunately, due to bad positioning, passengers were being sent all over the place. Lots of people remonstrating with the supervisor who was getting impatient with both passengers and her underlings. Anyway not a good start.

Eventually we were herded onto coaches and bussed to the ship which was docked in a container port some 40 minutes away. Again, lots of lining up. We tried to join a shorter line, but were told that this was for passengers who had not checked in online. On the way through passport control, the rather over zealous Filipino security supervisor was separating people according to whether they looked Chinese or not. No one told him that it was in fact possible to be a Hong Kong resident and not be Chinese. Hence a lot of people were sent to the wrong line - and got rather upset with the racial profiling.

Onboard, our table reservations had been mixed up. We were a party of 5 but were given a table for 2 - the head waiter sorted it out, but it meant getting in another line.

Food in the main dining room was very bland. This suited the roughly 50% of passengers who were from the UK, but did not cater for the other half who were Asian. Very few Americans onboard. Even by UK standards though, the food was pretty awful - especially in the Windjammer.

Service was OK - evidently the newly recruited Asian staff were not used to American tipping policy and did not feel they needed to make a connection with passengers. Indeed, I observed that most passengers had their tips deducted when they paid for the trip, so it probably felt to the staff that the company was paying their tips - not the passengers.

The ports were pretty lousy. I felt I paid over the odds for a coach trip to the war memorial at Okinawa - it rained the whole day, and we didn't get as much as a soft drink from the local tour operator.

Disembarkation was uneventful, though the color coding system was not followed by the majority of passengers. I blame the ship's staff for failing to properly make announcements. Likewise I tried to pay my tips on the last night - but was told it was too late by a completely indifferent purser.

Overall, I would say there was a big lack of cultural awareness from both crew and passengers - but the blame must go to the ship's management for failing to fully brief itself and deal with unexpected behavior from people who simply did not know or understand American cruising conventions (and most of the staff fell into this category too!).

The ship itself was OK - although a bit frayed at the edges. RCCI have plenty of room for improvement if they want to return to Asia next year.

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Sail Date: March 2008

Hong Kong - China Sea - Shanghai (triple cruise) 27.3. 2008 to 8.4.2008 We chose Royal Caribbean because of a very good experience about three years ago round the Med with our 3 children but it was a mistake to do the three back-to-back ... Read More

Hong Kong - China Sea - Shanghai (triple cruise) 27.3. 2008 to 8.4.2008 We chose Royal Caribbean because of a very good experience about three years ago round the Med with our 3 children but it was a mistake to do the three back-to-back cruises because of the lack of customer care during the cruises, emphasized the more because the second cruise was definitely geared to the Chinese - we all felt very unimportant and unwanted. The third leg we never got because of Chinese immigration - our travel agent asked for multiple entry visas but we were issued with a one entry one which we then thought (wrongly apparently) would be sufficient as the period it covered was that of the three cruises.

Boarding at Hong Kong, even though we had completed the SetSail forms on the net (two thirds of the passengers had also done so) was extremely slow, queuing for well over an hour. We were told we could board from 1.00pm, all aboard by 3.30pm so there was complete chaos. Admittedly the purser staff on their desks were good and efficient but there just weren't enough of them. We arrived at 12.45pm prepared to wait until 1.00pm and so did virtually everyone else. Cruise Hong Kong back to Hong Kong There was no one to show us to the cabins, not made easier by absence of a layout map of the ship, and no welcome aboard. The cabin was fine - clean and tidy.

The Edelweiss dining and the Windjammer restaurants seemed quite good particularly in view of everyone arriving at once. In the Edelweiss the staff seemed prepared to help my wife find food without garlic to which she is allergic becoming violently sick if getting any in her food (too late by the time one finds out). The waiters tried hard on her behalf and so did the dining room manager for 2 days! The service was very, very slow, possibly more due to the kitchen than the waiters. The cabin PA worked on and off meaning we had to open the cabin door to hear many of the announcements eg. re passports, tours, events.

Breakfast the next morning in the Edelweiss was paralytically slow to full stop - sometimes the next part of the order (hot, i.e. eggs Benedict) was left sitting on the side for 10 minutes. Toast was soggy and cold. The breakfast menu never changed which limited one's choice considerably by the end of the cruise. The lunchtime Bistro menu was even more limited and we didn't expect to have to eat burger and chips every day as everything else was very spicy or loaded with garlic.
There wasn't the usual small card map of the ship (which we've had on previous cruises) so considerable time was wasted finding where places were - a small point, but easily rectified. The main emphasis was on tipping - more announcements were made on this topic than any other and one of our friends who has a world-wide hairdressing and beauty business even offered to give a free seminar on customer relations to RCL.

Of the available tours, we booked for three days (one day at sea so obviously nothing doing there) and two of these were very good in Viet Nam whilst in Sanya it was just an exercise to get us into the silk factory (very expensive) and tea shop - we went through the Li and Miao village at full speed in our guide's hope that we would spend more in these shops - not good; many people were complaining. Tour description didn't much match what we got in Sanya and to be told, with pride, that we could have an extra 20 minutes in the silk shop to continue purchasing things produced quite a bit of grumbling. Previously a member of the ship's staff used to accompany a tour, as well as the guide, but this was not done. There were supposed to be two tours of Hong Kong when we returned but both were cancelled due to "lack of demand" (any excursion staff worth their salt would have arranged for taxis, small vans etc as required); instead we had to leave the ship for three hours waiting to re-board. The immigration/emigration was fine thanks to the ship's prior arrangement and the blue cards.

Cruise from Hong Kong to Shanghai There was one evening on board, then a day at sea followed by arrival at Shanghai at 1.00pm - we were told, eventually, that the ship wasn't allowed to even get to the ocean terminal and we had to berth an hour's drive away.

The menu each night in the Edelweiss was a repeat of the previous cruise - one would expect the chef to have, say, a 12 day menu and the service was again incredibly slow although the ship was well underbooked (about 1000 to 1100 passengers) and the upper floor of the restaurant was totally closed. The main courses were divided into Asian and Western, the latter having 4 out of 6 spicy/garlic dishes so my wife had to have steak and baked potato again for the third time in 7 days. Her appetizers were limited to fruit.

The show on the first night was a rehash of parts of three cabaret nights and the second night a repeat of the Broadway cast production whilst they had, they told us, a third show which we hadn't seen - poor organization. The cookery demonstration was awful and we've never been to one (covering about 20 cruises) so badly organized. Health and Safety would have had a fit - child leaning on table whilst chef setting fire to steak Diana, rest of the Chinese (maybe other similar nationalities) leaning on the table which meant that no one else could see.

Most of the pursers were pretty useless, with poor command of English, which made trying to find out about the visa even more frustrating. Eventually we found one, Sandra Shreiber, who was very helpful with trying to reason with the Chinese officials, phoning our travel agent and giving us credit on the internet as we had a lot of arrangements to try and make with 12-18 hours to go and a time delay of plus 7 hours to England limiting our window for communication.

Disembarkation was a disaster. We had colored labels to go off in some sort of order and presumably the baggage was similarly colored and collected in groups. We never found out as our coach didn't stop for us to get it! We were deposited after an hour at the dockside and told the luggage was 10-15 minutes behind the coaches - some of which had their luggage on them. Thinking about it, this must have been a lie, because until the last coach had left the berth they couldn't know which bags needed to put on lorries. We waited for about an hour and a half on the quayside.

The Chinese people on the ship didn't believe in following the system and crowded round the gangway so it was an hour after we should have left that we did so - we realized, later, that this is how they behave but the pursers should have been able to control them. They didn't bother with lifeboat drill, refused to move chairs from the gangway in the theatre etc. but then, that's them, presumably! The whole thing was done on a wing and a prayer  we expected that you would have a rec crew organizing and sorting out all the problems well before the ship arrived - if there was one, it was pretty lousy.

We lost the last cruise, suffered considerable stress due to uncertainty; the ship's staff apparently were unconcerned, their contract was to get us from A to B, dump us and then push off. We were told we could get off in Japan (the previous time the ship called there it wasn't allowed to dock) or Korea (for which we understand we would need another visa) and then make our own way home from there. This was not a viable option and with my wife in tears I had to decide that we would leave on the first call at Shanghai. We partly went with RC because that way we could feel safe under their cover but, with the one exception above, this was not the case. Very disappointing.

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Sail Date: March 2008
I am very disappointed on the RCCL back to back cruise that sailed out from Hong Kong on 3/26/08 to Vietnam and China, and on 3/2/08 to Japan and Taiwan.

RCCL was no help on the pre-cruise visa information. I tried to find out if a ... Read More

I am very disappointed on the RCCL back to back cruise that sailed out from Hong Kong on 3/26/08 to Vietnam and China, and on 3/2/08 to Japan and Taiwan.

RCCL was no help on the pre-cruise visa information. I tried to find out if a visa is required to China and RCCL avoided the answer and just refer me to other web sites. As it

RCCL was very disorganized at check in at Hong Kong, we were told the ship will be docked at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong, and the ship was actually docked at a container port some 30 minutes away by shuttle bus. There were not enough people and signage at Ocean Terminal to let people know where to go for check-in especially where some of the people came through the terminal from the adjoining shopping center. All the RCCL workers were temperately workers and no one can give me a straight answer on when is the last shuttle bus to the port.

I paid top dollars for a balcony and got a great view of the cargo containers after checked-in from a temperately tent on the dock. To my surprise that robes were not even provided.

My dinner room waiter was excellent, however, the assistance waiter was on training and she was not the person who wants to do the job, I had to ask for everything such as cream for the coffee and refills on my ice tea. When hot tea was requested, no selected of tea bags was offered. The only good food was the prime rib on the first night, all others were bad, no lobster on the menu.

Food in the Windjammer was terrible, most of the food was over cooked and dry, both juice machines were broken for the entire cruise. Fresh fruits ran out in no time.

First port o call was Ha Long Bay, there is not much to do here except a night market which they open at day time for the cruise passengers. We did the boat cruise and visit the cave which was very enjoyable. The Hanoi excursion which takes you to another big city and look at a local market which you can do that at home.

The cruise ports were very deceiving. Chan May port was a joke, this is in the middle of nowhere, the closest main road is 8 km away from the port. Da Nang and Hue is one hour away and two hours away respectively. Cruise compass indicated shuttle bus will be provided and there was none, only limited taxis were available. If you do not have a shore excursion, you are stranded.

The final port of the first cruise was Sanya, again the ship information via the television indicated the complimentary shuttle bus became a $5 round trip shuttle bus. It's not the $5, it's the principle, if we were told there will be a $5 charge, we would have accepted that gladly.

Since we are doing a back to back cruise, going in and out from Hong Kong port was a breeze for us. However, I heard that some of the passengers had to wait over three hours for check-in and this is the first time that their luggage beat them to their cabins.

Our ship never made it to Naha, Okinawa due to "strong wind and high sea" which I did not believe that is the case as the sun was out and the sea was not even rough, and if the ship is dock inside the harbor which I assume that is the case, the sea would be a lot calmer. Nevertheless, the ship missed one third of the ports on this journey.

The next two ports in Taiwan were decent as the Taiwanese government went out of their way to provided currency exchange, tourist information and even free shuttle bus right at the port.

Entertainment and diner menu just repeated themselves for the back to back cruises, the juice machines at Windjammer were still broken.

I have sailed with RCCL four previous times and this was my worse cruise experience with RCCL. I believe RCCL is cutting corners on food and service and I don't know if I will sail with RCCL again.

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Sail Date: March 2008
Pre and Post Cruise Hotels - We stayed at the Stanford Hillview pre-cruise and BP International post-cruise. Both are close to the cruise terminal and cost ~$100/night. Of the two, BP International is the choice. It's modern, clean and has ... Read More
Pre and Post Cruise Hotels - We stayed at the Stanford Hillview pre-cruise and BP International post-cruise. Both are close to the cruise terminal and cost ~$100/night. Of the two, BP International is the choice. It's modern, clean and has great views.

Visas - a major point of contention. I had been emailing RCCL for weeks asking if a visa was necessary for Sanya, China. The replies I received either avoided the question or pointed to information on their website. Well, the information is incorrect. Save yourself $260 (for a couple). No visa is needed for Americans in Sanya. RCCL provided Vietnamese visas for $30pp.

Embarkation - Total Chaos - Check-in at the Marco Polo Hotel was a model of disorganization. We were sent to three different locations for check in, all incorrect. We were sent outside the building twice and sent in the wrong direction. Be prepared for long lines, more long lines and confusion.

Ship - Rhapsody is a nice mid-size RCCL ship. It's clean and has fairly nice art work. Unfortunately there is no Concierge Club. Instead, they have installed a "High Rollers Room," obviously hoping to attract Asian gamblers. Strangely, the casino was virtually empty most days.

Dining - The typical RCCL menu with additional asian dishes. Each night a delicious vegetarian curry dish was also available, which we shared as an extra order.

Ports - Vietnam was great. We took ship tours around Halong Bay (the cave was fantastic) and "Hoi - An Ancient Merchant Town." If you thought there were shopping bargains in Hong Kong, wait til you see Vietnam! Be prepared for more chaos with the organization of the tours since virtually the entire ship is getting off. In Sanya, we toured a local cultural village before the obligatory and boring stops at silk and pearl factories.

Debarkation - Once again a lack of communication. We docked at a pier about twenty minutes from the Cruise Ship Terminal and had to be shuttled to the Marco Polo. This was not announced, either before or on the day of debarkation.

Over-All - By all means visit southeast asia and especially Vietnam, but be prepared for confusion, chaos and a lack of information.

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Sail Date: February 2008
Trip Review: Rhapsody of the Seas Vietnam (Hanoi and Hue) and Sanya Feb. 16, 2008 + Hong Kong Review

Introduction

This was my 54th cruise. The first day this cruise came out for sale in December of 2006 we grabbed it. We've been ... Read More

Trip Review: Rhapsody of the Seas Vietnam (Hanoi and Hue) and Sanya Feb. 16, 2008 + Hong Kong Review

Introduction

This was my 54th cruise. The first day this cruise came out for sale in December of 2006 we grabbed it. We've been planning an Asia cruise for years and this seemed like a great itinerary as well as giving us a chance to go back and have fun in Hong Kong again; it's been a few years since we last had that opportunity. Our original plan was to arrive into Hong Kong a couple of days early, take the cruise, and have a couple of days before we went home to visit either Macau or Shenzhen. Last fall, a friend of ours decided to come with us, and he later added his sister to his booking as well. They are both big Disney fans and convinced us to try out Hong Kong Disney instead of going to either of our other two options.

To Hong Kong

13Feb08 AS 212 F PDX-SFO 737-900 N319AS Seat 2F

Again our original plan changed slightly. At exactly 329 days before departure of each flight, I was able to obtain business class seats using miles. Our original routing was via LAX, but since our friends were flying from SFO, I was able to change our connecting point a couple of weeks prior to departure.

Our new flight left at the 650AM, which meant we had to leave the house no later than 435AM. We got out right when we planned and had no traffic on the way to PDX. Shockingly we found a great parking spot in Economy Blue lot and I managed to get all of our bags onto the bus and we arrived at the counter and were checked in by about 515AM. Security was very quick this morning, and my wife was soon in line for her Starbucks fix before we headed off to Alaska's Board Room. We had a couple of munchies (and used the nicer bathrooms in the Board Room) and off to the gate where our flight was already boarding. We left right on time, and a snack was served which consisted of a muffin and 3 pieces of fruit. A quick hour and twenty minutes and we arrived to a beautiful day in San Francisco. Since our aircraft was continuing on to Puerto Vallarta, we arrived at the International Terminal which saved us a walk.

13Feb08 CX 879 J SFO-HKG 747-400 B-HOX Seat 11K

We had our bags checked straight through to HKG, but we did have to go back out to the Cathay Pacific counter to meet our friends as well as to get our boarding passes and lounge invites. Our friends had purchased the lowest coach fare they could get, and after we had checked in, they asked how much it would cost to upgrade to business class with us. The answer was $1700 per person and to my surprise, out came the AMEX card, and now we were all in business class. We schmoozed for a while before going though security which again was very empty and then on to the British Airways Terraces Lounge which Cathay Pacific uses. My status on American Airlines allowed us into the first class part of the lounge. We didn't have a lot of time until we boarded, so I just had a drink, while my wife and friends had some snacks. The aircraft was boarded directly from the lounge, so we didn't have very far to go. We were downstairs on the 744 which I prefer and the seats were the previous business class type, 2-3-2 and not the new 1-1-1-1 configuration. I like the older seats, and since this was a day time flight, I wasn't planning on sleeping very much.

The menu order was supposed to be Lunch/Snack/Dinner, but our ISM instead organized it as Lunch/Dinner/Snack. Menu choices were:

Lunch: Starters: Seared ahi tuna and a seasonal salad with Asian vinaigrette. EntrEe choices: Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Sea Bass, Braised Chicken, or Wild Mushroom Risotto After: Cheese plate, fresh fruit, marble cheesecake, tea, coffee, and pralines

Dinner: Starter: Fresh seasonal fruit EntrEe choices: Pan Roasted Chicken Breast, Stir-fried egg noodle with shredded pork, or Seafood congee After: Pear frangipane, tea, coffee, pralines

Snack: Smoked chicken Panini Baked barbecued pork bun Wonton in noodle soup

CX has a great AVOD system (audio visual on demand) in business class, and I watched three movies plus a couple of TV shows and still had time to read my book on this leg. We had beautiful views all the way to Hong Kong. Horrible head winds made for a more northerly flight route that went directly over the Anchorage airport, over Siberia, and then south off of the west coast of Japan, skirting Taiwan, and arriving into HKG 14 hours and 46 minutes after taking off from SFO. We had great service from CX across the Pacific.

It took a bit for our bags to come out (CX did not intercept the bags and put a business priority tag on the bags like they usually do), but we took one of the hotel busses and got to our hotel around 9PM and collapsed soon after.

Hong Kong Pre Cruise

I used Marriott points for our stay at the Renaissance in Kowloon. It has a great location, and we woke up to an overcast day. As I mentioned, this was not our first visit to HKG, and we easily moved into our routine, which is grab a quick breakfast at the closest Delifrance, and then get on with our day. Today, Feb. 15 meant a ride on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island, a ride on the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak, and lunch at one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, Cafe Deco. My wife will tell you that there was also some shopping involved here. Later in the afternoon we reversed our tracks and dropped the shopping bags back at the hotel. We tired out our friend's sister, but the three of us had dinner at Murphy's Pub on Nathan Road.

The next morning both of our friends were still tired out and wanted to save their energy for the cruise; so we went back to Delifrance for our breakfast. We could see that the Rhapsody was at the pier. When we were done with breakfast, we made our way back to the hotel via Mody Road. Again, my wife will tell you that there was shopping involved on our walk back.

Embarkation

We left half of our bags with the bell desk since we would be returning to the Renaissance after the cruise, and we started out walking to the pier; our friends grabbed a taxi. Our documents stated that check-in took place at the Marco Polo Hotel. In front of the hotel, porters were readily available to grab our bags, and we were directed via an outside passageway to a ballroom at the rear of the hotel to the actual check-in desks. We arrived at about 1130AM and checked in at the Diamond/Platinum line and had just started the process when our friends started checking in next to us; we beat them by about five minutes. We were advised that boarding of the ship would start at 1PM, and once on we could not disembark. The ship was docked at Ocean Terminal which is a combination cruise pier and shopping mall. Since we had some time, we wandered around the mall, and decided to have lunch at the Quarterdeck Restaurant. We figured that we would have five days of cruise food, but we love to eat in Hong Kong, and it did turn out to be a good choice as you'll soon see. After lunch, we wandered some more and my wife will tell you that there was one shopping stop on the way to the ship. There were plenty of port employees showing the way to the ship. We joined the relatively short line to go through the doors, but once through doors we were directed the back of a humongous line that was parallel to the ship. While in line we went though a cruise card check, and then security. The line lead up the gangway to the ship and we entered on deck four. We were lead into the dining room, and passed through Hong Kong exit immigration. Time elapsed from when we joined the big line, until we passed immigration was a little more than an hour; it was 230PM when we were finally on board and on the ship.

Our departure was delayed by 90 minutes as we had to wait for Vietnamese authorities to board the ship to process us for our Vietnam arrival. We ended up with an after sunset sail away to a spectacularly lit up Hong Kong harbor.

Our Cabin

A couple of days before we left the upgrade fairy paid us a visit, and upgraded both of our cabins to an Owner's Suite. We had cabin 8502 which as with all the top suites on Rhapsody was forward on deck 8. We had two large rooms, lots of storage space, and a bathroom (complete with bidet) that was bigger than some cabins that we have had on other ships. You could tell from the soft goods though that this is a 10 year old ship.

The Ship

The Rhapsody is almost 11 years old and she shows it in some places; while we were waiting in the long line to board I saw quite a few rusty spots that could have used some paint, and some dents that should come out in the next dry dock. The interior/deck space however is in good shape, especially the Solarium (covered pool) area with its Egyptian dEcor. The restaurant was in very good condition as well. You can tell that the Windjammer buffet restaurant was recently re-done. It was much easier to get around and less cluttered than some of the other Vision class ships.

Service

I had heard rumblings about the service on board before we ourselves boarded, but for the most part, we had no complaints. Our waiter Ronald was outstanding. He has been with RCI for 8 years, and you can tell. He did let it slip later in the cruise however that he was recently transferred to the Rhapsody because some newly hired staff weren't working out as planned.

I do unfortunately have to mention one event which made quite a few cruisers upset. Upon boarding in HKG, all passengers had to relinquish their passports to RCI, so that Vietnam immigration authorities could have access to them while we were sailing to our first port. The night we left our second port in Vietnam, we were told to reclaim our passports at 930PM. We had second seating dinner, and so we went to the conference center on deck 6 to claim our passports after dinner. We joined the line, and it didn't move. No announcements, nothing was said while we were in line. Almost an hour passes and the time is getting late (plus we had to set our clocks an hour ahead as we were entering China), and you can hear the rumblings of a riot as the line is stretching all around deck 6. Eventually, close to 11PM, they let a few British citizens into the room, now making it two lines, one for Brits, and one for everybody else. Again, there were no announcements from anyone. Finally at about 1115PM they started letting people into the room. The entire time, we never saw a uniformed Royal Caribbean representative letting people know what was happening. When we got back to the cabin, my wife called the purser's desk who was blissfully unaware of the happenings a deck above. They said that the problem would be taken care of.

When we entered Sanya, the Chinese authorities kept our passports and returned them en-masse to the ship. This time, there were plenty of announcements (in fact it seemed like we were being begged to pick up our passports) and plenty of uniformed personnel around.

Service around the rest of the ship was fine.

Ports of Call

The reason we took this cruise was for the ports. We called on Hon Gai port which is where Ha Long Bay meets land and you can get to Hanoi, Chan May port which is the port for both Danang and Hue, and finally Sanya on Hainan Island. At the Captain's reception, he told us that we would be sailing through a channel to get us closer to land than the last couple of cruises. Previously it was a 30 minute tender ride, but he would get us close enough so the tender would only be a few minutes. It meant sailing through Ha Long Bay in the pre dawn hours. When I got up that morning, it was shortly after sun rise, and you could just start to make out the limestone monoliths. As the sun came up, the view got better and better, and it looked spectacular as the Rhapsody let go of her anchor.

We did take the trip to Hanoi. I knew it would be a long day with lots of time on the road, but I still wanted to see the city. The trip into town was just about 3 hours with some interesting scenery on the way. There was one comfort stop about half way into the trip. My wife will tell you that there was some shopping at that comfort stop. When we finally got into town, the first place we went was to Ba Dinh Square and Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum. We were not allowed inside the mausoleum because Uncle Ho only allows visitors until 11AM and we were there at 1130AM. We did however get to see the changing of the guard there. We then went to the Temple of Literature which was beautiful and from there we went to lunch. The Intercontinental Hotel in Hanoi was our lunch provider this day, and they put out a very nice repast. After our lunch break, it was time for old Hanoi; our options were walk or cyclo (think bicycle taxi). We decided on taking a cyclo, and that was a great option. We were zoomed in and around traffic as we got to see sights from street level. After the cyclo ride it was back to the bus for the long drive back to the port. We again had a comfort stop about half way through the ride, although this time there were no bargains to be had according to my wife. Back to the ship we went, again fighting the motorbikes and bicycles all the way back into Ha Long Bay.

The next day we docked at Chan May port at 10AM, and immediately set out on our tour of Imperial Hue. We still had a bit of a drive, but nothing like the day before. One of the other passengers on the bus asked the guide what people in Vietnam thought of Americans. It was an interesting answer, "we forgive, but we do not forget." Our first stop was actually for lunch at the Century Riverside hotel. Again the food was very good, and varied, but not as good as the day before. This time there was a local musical group entertaining us during lunch. We were given an exceptionally long lunch time, so once we finished, we took a walk around Hue for about half an hour. My wife will tell you that there was much shopping involved. When we got back on the bus, we headed over to the tomb of Tu Duc who was famous for his 104 wives. The garden area around the tomb is gorgeous and very picturesque. Our next stop was the Citadel and the Imperial City. We saw quite a bit including the Forbidden Purple City. There was a good deal of the area that we could not see because it was bombed by the U.S. during the Tet Offensive. It was again time to board the bus and head back to the ship; this time making one stop for photos - rice patties on one side of the road and beautiful mountain scenery on the other.

Our last port of call was Sanya, China on Hainan Island. This was Royal Caribbean's inaugural call in Sanya and the Rhapsody is largest ship to date to dock there, so there was plenty of pomp and circumstance for our arrival including a loud band, and media interviewing passengers as we disembarked. The port building is beautiful and clearing Chinese immigration was very quick. Our original excursion that we signed up for was Luhuitou Park and Yalong Bay. A couple of days before we left home, the excursion was cancelled for English speakers, and was only available for Chinese speaking passengers, We weren't thrilled by the rest of the options, but ended up on The Big Shopping Trip or as it is known in our household, The Big Bust. Our first stop was the Sanya Jungrun Pearl Cultural Center. We learned about Pearls and of course there were some available for purchase. My wife will tell you that the Pearls here were very nice and reasonably priced (the only place on this excursion that you will hear that). Next up was a government tea house where we had a tea ceremony, tea tasting, and of course the opportunity to purchase any tea that you wanted. That was not our favorite stop. Next up was a government silk shop where we bought some placemats, but figured they were probably over priced, but we did like them. Nothing else appealed to us there. A few passengers ganged up on the guide and told him to take them somewhere that they can buy bags. We drove around for a bit, and ended up at a store that was probably owned by a friend/relative of the guide, but instead of copy bags that people wanted, these were gray market bags, so prices were still high. No one on the bus purchased anything there. Our last stop was at the beach promenade where we were given some free time and were able to look at shops that were not government owned. We didn't have very long here so all we did was walk around the local mall where prices were just OK. One thing we did notice in that area was that there were a large number of signs in Cyrillic. Apparently the island (which granted is a resort island) attracts a large number of Russian visitors. While wandering around the local mall, my wife kept getting addressed in Russian. We were only in Sanya for half a day, so it was back to the ship after that.

Food

The food was typical Royal Caribbean fare with the addition of some Asian specialties. The Asian food was excellent, and the standard food was fine. The Windjammer buffet was always busy and the food there was decent. Spa

When we walked in soon after boarding, I was ready to make an appointment for a massage, and as soon as we entered we were asked if we wanted to take a spa tour. We said OK, and you would have guessed that you were on a Caribbean cruise - we were shown everything including the teeth whitening demonstration. I did have one massage at the Spa on the first day out which was our only sea day. The massage was very nice, and there was no hard sell at all for their products.

Entertainment

We had such a busy five days; we did not attend even one show the entire week. There was some music around the ship that was nice, and we went to the casino twice for about a total of 20 minutes between the two visits. We came out over $300 USD ahead, so no complaints about the casino for us.

Debarkation

Shortly after leaving Sanya, our captain advised us that we would have some headwinds on our trip back to Hong Kong and it was possible that we would be a little late. He also said that disembarkation might take a while. True to his word, we docked about 30 minutes late at 930AM, but since it was a later arrival than most for a cruise ship, we were able to watch a very beautiful arrival into Hong Kong harbor. Remaining true to his word, disembarking did take a while. We had white tags and were invited to leave the ship in the first group, but again we had to go through Hong Kong immigration in the dining room of the ship. We had to take a walk around the pier to get to our bags, but once in the baggage claim area, the authorities were allowing taxis to pick up passengers instead of sending us back out to the street. So we hopped into one taxi and our friends into another, and within a few minutes we were back at the Renaissance Kowloon.

Hong Kong Post Cruise

The hotel was very good and let us check in early, even though it was only 11AM. Again I used Marriott points for our stay, and was very happy with our room. We were reunited with our bags that stayed in HKG, and we got our stuff together and out we went for the day. We wanted something light for lunch, so we made a stop at our favorite Delifrance before heading out. Our immediate goal was the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) MTR (subway) station, but we walked there via Mody road again, and again my wife will tell you that much shopping was involved on the way to the MTR. We took the MTR north to Yau Ma Tei, and walked to the Ladies Market where we spent a couple of hours. I can tell you that way too much shopping was done there, and we walked back to Mong Kok station and took the MTR back to TST. We collapsed at the hotel for a while and decided it was time for dinner. When we called our friends, they were already in their pajamas and about to call room service, so we headed out on our own. Our original thought was the San Francisco Steak House, but they keep moving (when I first started to go to HKG they were across from the Hyatt Regency which itself is gone these days, then they moved to one of the malls by the pier and then they moved again to a bank building in Kowloon), and I wasn't in the mood for tracking them down, so we ended up at Outback of all places. I will say that we had a very good dinner before heading back to the hotel. OK, I have to admit that after dinner, I did buy myself a new pair of shoes.

The next day, Friday Feb. 22 was our last in HKG. And we did promise our friends that we would go to Hong Kong Disneyland with them, so after our usual Delifrance breakfast stop, it was back on the MTR to Disneyland. It was very painless to get to, and the last leg from the Sunny Bay station to the park in the special Disneyland train cars was very cool. Admission was $295 HKD (about $38 USD) and the park was not very busy on this day. The major difference between Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland/Disneyworld in the US is that the park in HKG has fewer rides, but more shows. I still managed to get on Space Mountain twice (no wait at all), and go on a few other rides as well as seeing a couple of attractions that are not in the US yet (the Festival of the Lion King show and Mickey's PhilharMagic) and of course what would be a day in Hong Kong Disney without quite a bit of shopping (for Hong Kong Disney items) involved. We actually really enjoyed ourselves at the park, more than we expected to. We headed back to the MTR after having our fill of Disney and our friends wanted to go back to the Ocean Terminal Mall to pick something up, so this time we took the MTR back to the Kowloon Airport Express Station and then took the free shuttle bus to the Marco Polo hotel. After making their purchases, our friends wanted to go back to the Quarterdeck Restaurant again, so after a very nice dinner, armed with bags, we jumped back into a taxi and was back at the hotel within a couple of minutes.

From Hong Kong

Here we parted ways with our friends. They were booked on the Cathay Pacific 210PM flight back home to San Francisco (and they did fly home in coach), but since we were using miles, we had to take what we could get, but what we got was pretty good.

23Feb08 JL 736 C HKG-NRT 747-400 JA8087 Seat 2A

We took a taxi from the hotel and got to the airport at about 730AM. Japan Airlines had just opened up their check in, so there was no wait at all, and soon our four bags were checked all the way to Portland, and boarding passes were issued. There was only a short line at outbound immigration and we were through security in a very short time as well. We immediately headed for the Cathay Pacific first class lounge, and had a very good breakfast (their catering is done by the Peninsula Hotel) before taking the long walk to our gate. My wife had a hankering for strawberry gummi candy, so we made a stop at the Aji Ichiban store where a huge bag was purchased. Boarding started right on time for our flight, and we found our way to our business class seats in the nose of the 747. This was one of JL's older 747s with the regional interior. Take off was right on time and shortly the service started.

Lunch: Starter: Crabmeat terrine, salad EntrEe choices: Tenderloin of Beef Steak, Guinness Pork Stew or Japanese Lunch featuring Braised Mackerel with the appropriate starters After: Cheese and crackers, pineapple crumble and coffee and tea. There was also an ice cream service after the dishes were taken away.

Our in-flight service was very nice and soon it was time to land. My wife kept looking across the aisle because the passenger on that side looked very familiar, I finally told her who it was (Karl Rove - no political commentary here as much as I would like to) as we were getting ready to land. We arrived at Tokyo's Narita airport 3 hours and 16 minutes after leaving Hong Kong.

We arrived at the terminal 2 satellite building and were off the plane quickly, and through the very professional and polite security recheck extremely fast, and we took the train over to the main building to go to JL's first class lounge. As soon as we entered we each signed up for one of the complimentary 15 minute massages, and went to wait our turn by having a bite in the lounge. I had been to this lounge once before, and remembered that the beef curry was to die for, and it was again. The time for our massages rolled around, so went downstairs to the business class lounge where our massages would take place. That was the fastest 15 minutes of my life, but I did feel quite a bit better when I came out; my wife also thought it was a great perk to have. We left the lounge and took the train back to the satellite terminal to await our flight.

23Feb08 JL 2 NRT-SFO 747-400 JA8076 Seat 20A

I still like a window seat when I fly, and when I am on 747s, I prefer the main deck over the upper deck because the viewing is so much easier. However, when I changed our flight to connect via SFO instead of LAX, the only seats together were in the upper deck. I admit it is much quieter and feels like your own private jet, but I still like having the big window downstairs. Again we pushed back right on time, but we stopped our taxi to the runway as the runway closed temporarily due to a disabled aircraft (this seems to happen quite often at Narita). The runway re-opened fairly quickly, and we took off to the north, before making our turn east. Dinner and breakfast were served on this flight as well as a snack between meals if desired.

Dinner: Starters: Terrine of Foie Gras, Tartar of Crabmeat and Scallop with mackerel, terrine of Pike Conger and Shrimp, and salad. EntrEe choices: Grilled Filet of Japanese Beef Steak, Meuniere of Grouper and Rockfish or Japanese dinner featuring a choice of Braised Beef Roll or Red Snapper and Greenland Halibut with the appropriate starters After: Chocolate Nuts with Custard Sauce, coffee and tea.

Mid flight snack: JAL noodles - Ramen de Sky, Udon de Sky, or Soba de Sky. Sandwiches

Breakfast: Western: Grapefruit, Apple Crepe with Blueberry Sauce, Scrambled Eggs and Sausage, Yogurt, coffee and tea Japanese: Gilled Fillet of Salmon, Japanese Poached Egg, Braised Spinach with Mushroom Radish Sauce, Grilled Fish Cake/Yuba Crepe Roll/Pickled Plum, Fresh Fruits, Green tea.

JL's AVOD service is not as complete as Cathay Pacific's. There was a choice of about 6 moves (compared to 50 on Cathay), but I opted instead for about 4 hours of sleep after dinner. This flight had JL's shell flat seat which doesn't go entirely flat, but close enough so I can get a decent sleep. Before I knew it, the California coast appeared through my window. I knew before leaving Tokyo that it was supposed to rain (OK make that pour) at SFO later in the afternoon, but that the winds were already present. So I was not totally surprised when we landed opposite of normal on runway 10 at SFO, 8 hours and 31 minutes after takeoff. Again, fantastic service from the JL crew.

There was a bit of a wait for US immigration as three flights came in at once (our friends' included, and they got through before we did), but once through, our baggage was already on the carousel, and we got through customs very quickly. Instead of dropping our bags at the transfer desk, I opted to just wheel them to Alaska Airlines. We never have good luck with baggage being interlined, and we had a cart for the bags, so off we went to terminal 1.

The AS counter quickly checked in our bags, and it was off to security. The lines were short, but for some reason, I beeped going through the metal detector (WTMD). I walked back through the other way to try again and no alarm as I went back. OK, so I tried a second time, and alarmed again. The only metal that I have is my wedding ring and a belt with as little metal as possible, I call it my airport belt, and I never have an issue, anywhere. The TSA rep gives me a bit of a hard time and says to always take my belt off. I ask him why I didn't beep when I walked back through to line up; he didn't have an answer. Anyway, my wife wants a bit to eat now, so we stop at the Max's deli in the terminal so she could have a matzo ball soup. When she was done we headed to the AS Board Room for a few minutes before our flight was to depart.

23Feb 08 AS 345 F SFO-PDX MD80 N960AS Seat 2F

I noticed that the plane was already at the gate when we were going to Max's, and I was sort of surprised that it was there so early. Our flight was scheduled for 1PM, with boarding at 1220PM, and at 1225PM the crew boards, only to walk off a couple of minutes later. I overhear the captain saying to the gate agent that he would not accept the aircraft, and the gate agent replied, that yesterday's captain of the same flight said the same thing to her. So the aircraft had been at SFO for at least 24 hours. Maintenance is called, and they post that more information will be available at 115PM. There is still no word by 125PM, so I very quietly ask the gate agent to protect us on the 445PM Horizon Air flight, just in case. A couple of minutes after I sit back down, they changed the more information time to 3PM. We head back into the Board Room and after about 2 minutes I over hear an announcement from our gate about bussing passengers to San Jose. The Board Room concierge calls the gate for us, and gets all the info, and tells me to recheck at the gate for rebooking. I go back out to the gate and of course the line is horrendous. Right as I am pulling out my cell phone to call reservations, a further announcement is made that the counter (outside of security) will also help rebook passengers, but we would also have to go out to baggage claim to reclaim our bags no matter what. I go back into the Board Room and get my wife and we head back out to the counter. Instead of being bussed to San Jose, since we were protected on the later Horizon Air flight, we were issued new boarding passes and instructed to reclaim our bags. Back downstairs to baggage claim we go, where things were very organized, and our bags were already waiting on the side of the carousel. I asked the luggage rep if she could just recheck them for us since we were one of the lucky ones not going to San Jose, but no, they couldn't do that, so we pick them up, take an elevator back upstairs, and recheck them at the counter.

Now we have to back through security again. It's the same check point. Did I take my belt off this time? No. Did I alarm the WTMD? No.

23Feb 08 AS 2524 Y SFO-PDX CRJ-700 N613QX Seat 4A

Since it's Saturday, the Board Room closes at 230PM, and of course it's now 235PM, so we wait at the gate as the weather gets worse and worse, and it starts to pour. Flights all over the place are starting to have 2+ hour delays. An Alaska flight coming in from Seattle diverts to Oakland. Alaska busses people that were on the outbound flight back to Seattle to Oakland to meet up with the airplane. Our aircraft? It arrives only 20 minutes late, and we board quickly. Due to the weather we have a nice tailwind and the captain announces a quick flying time, but with plenty of turbulence as we leave SFO. After we stop bouncing, the flight attendants come through with an express beverage service and before I know it, we are landing at PDX. We have only an hour and ten minutes flying time today with a very competent Horizon crew. Our bags are again on the carousel very quickly, the bus to the parking lot is waiting for us and closes its doors after we get on and we make it home to the joy of our three cats. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on this trip!

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Sail Date: January 2008
The Rhapsody of the Seas is an old ship but has an old time elegance. As a cruiser that has gone over five trips with Princess, I found that this ship was better in everything except the Buffet, which serves the same old foods everyday. ... Read More
The Rhapsody of the Seas is an old ship but has an old time elegance. As a cruiser that has gone over five trips with Princess, I found that this ship was better in everything except the Buffet, which serves the same old foods everyday. The entertainment was a "B" as compare to Princess's "D" rating. You can option in to giving the mandatory tip. This system is much better, the service was much better and friendlier. This applied to the room steward and the waiters. The foods in the seating was also much better than Princess. So, I was very please overall with the cruise.

Our cruise was the second trip of the route and I expected them to get the logistic problems solved. They give misleading information about visas. They told us that we need to get individual visa for Vietnam and Cambodia, but at the ship, they were able to get a ship visa for the whole ship. The head office and the cruise ship are not communicating with each other. Getting off the ship, whether to leave or to go on a tour is also a logistic nightmare. Getting your passport, inorder to stay overnight in Hanoi or Bangkok is a adventure.

Regarding tours, we use non-ship tours in Vietnam and Thailand. We have always done this in Australia, New Zealand, Rome, China and Russia and always got great service. In Vietnam, DO NOT USE BUFFALO TOURS, as recommended by Frommer. They do not honor their own contracts and always ask for more monies that they original agree to. They also do not call to find out where the ship will dock, therefore they are always 2 hours late. I would recommend that in Vietnam, just arrange a tour with the people that are waiting. Get an written agreement as to the price and go from there. In my opinion there is nothing in Hanoi worth going for a 4 hours bus ride one-way. Stay in Ha Phong Bay instead. Saigon is better than Hanoi for shopping, especially designers silk outfits. But it is also a long bus ride and there are not much sights worth seeing. Thailand was very interesting, except for the traffic which is worse than New York City at rush hours.

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Sail Date: January 2008
Overall: If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Vietnam and Asia I am sure the broad range of feedback on this site must be confusing. My wife and I thought for a long time about taking a trip to Southeast Asia and my wife was probably ... Read More
Overall: If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Vietnam and Asia I am sure the broad range of feedback on this site must be confusing. My wife and I thought for a long time about taking a trip to Southeast Asia and my wife was probably the most studious passenger in terms of planning our own excursions. People referred to her as "the woman with all the notes." I think some of the variation you are seeing in reviews is related to how adventurous people wanted to be.

Southeast Asia is AMAZING and a wonderful place to visit. Do not expect well developed tourist entertainment. These are newly emerging cities, which are dirt cheap, exciting, friendly, and full of energy. The people in Vietnam were incredibly friendly. You will have no problems with communication. Many people speak English and if they don't they will find you someone who does. Just do some research before you go and do not rely on RCI to be your tour guides off the ship. There were also some lovely Asian passengers and if you hang out with them they'll take you to great places in the ports. Bring your own maps, tour books, and talk to other people who have been to Vietnam before you go.

Organization: We found RCI to be utterly disorganized at almost every step of the way on this journey. In their defense, I spoke to a crew member on the last day who told me they just were not prepared for this journey and had not done their research, so they were learning as they went along. They had unusually high numbers of people signing up for their excursions, because people were afraid to travel on their own in this unknown part of the world. We called RCI several times before leaving the U.S. to inquire about visas and could not get any information, other than we were to take care of that ourselves since they couldn't determine that for every nation. We went to N.Y. city and paid a great deal of money for Visas on our own. Then when we arrived they offered Visas to the passengers at a reduced rate. They said we didn't need Visas for Cambodia, then the day before they quickly tried to issue Visas for 1,500 passengers. Unfortunately some people decided to skip the hassle and missed Cambodia. Cambodia was AMAZING, but the ship scared off many people with their faulty information that it was dirty, unsafe, etc. We also had major problems getting our passports from the ship to travel overnight. I think you will find the people who thought this was organized didn't try to do anything creative. RCI was not open to anything creative like staying overnight in Hanoi on your own. On the return from Bangkok a crew member was collecting passports in the line as we boarded the ship. Security had an alarm set on their computer for everyone who had a passport. Guess what? They were missing 10 passports after everyone got on board, which delayed sailing. Well why was the woman collecting passports in line and bypassing their check and balance system of having security collect the passports? Little things like that, had me concerned about the leadership staff in general. And if you politely asked for help, I found them to be quite rude, especially at the Purser's desk, which should be the epicenter of customer service.

Suggestions: If you're going to do this trip get some travel books and learn about Southeast Asia. Do NOT rely on RCI to provide accurate information. I agree with other reviewers who commented about the confusion related to port locations, cab costs, etc. I'll tell you one quick story. We became friends with a family who were visiting relatives in Vietnam. The ship changed the port at the last minute and these people were never able to hook up with their family. That is a sin. All that distance. Why did RCI have to change ports at the last minute? And why couldn't we know?

Food: We found the food fine. We liked the diversity of food selections. We ate with 3 Asian couples who fully appreciated the Asian menu available every night. Personally I liked it too. We were in Asia, why would I want to eat meat and potatoes? I can get that anytime at home. I also liked the Indian food and had that many days.

Entertainment: Very variable at times. But on this cruise you should be spending a lot of time ashore and be coming back to the ship exhausted. You're there to see Southeast Asia. If you want to hang on the ship, it's a lot cheaper to cruise somewhere closer to home.

Summary: Southeast Asia is amazing. Do go there. Just do your homework and you'll be fine. Do not expect this to be like other cruises where the cruise line takes care of everything. On this one RCI missed the boat, so to speak. You need to do your homework.

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Rhapsody of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 3.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 3.0 4.2

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