Sunday, December 08, 2013

Rhapsody of the Seas cruise, November 2013 (Pt I)



I'd heard great things about Rhapsody of the Seas from fellow cruisers who had spent time on her, so I had been looking forward to this cruise. And I wasn't let down - Rhapsody is a splendid ship.

One of the nice things about Rhapsody is her size - she has just over 2,000 passengers - which means it is big enough for some level of anonymity but also small enough that you often bump into people you might have already met. Okay, I'll admit this might not always be a good thing, but you have to take the good with the bad :)

Rhapsody reminded me quite a bit of my first-ever cruise, on Radiance of the Seas. Radiance is one class bigger but much of the layout is the same and it almost felt like being 'home'. Being that little bit smaller than some of the other ships we've cruised on means getting around is quite a bit easier, even though more decks = more stairs = better workout, especially if the buffet is your favourite part of the ship!

With Rhapsody it seems you are no more than a couple of decks from anywhere. My cabin was on Deck 8, which is one deck below the Pool Deck, Windjammer Cafe, the Solarium and Vitality Spa. Then, heading downwards, Deck 6 is the start of the dining and entertainment areas.


*     *     *     *     *

(Above photo - Rhapsody of the Seas docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney, a few hours before we boarded. Normally I would have waited and waited for a seagull to fly into shot but this was one of the few times I put the camera to my face and this was the first frame I took!)


I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).



In case you are wondering about the actual cruise, it was an 11-night cruise up and down the east coast of Australia, the route being Sydney-Newcastle-Cairns-Willis Island-Airlie Beach-Brisbane-Sydney. Some or all of these destinations you have probably heard of except for Willis Island (photo below).

If you want to read more about Willis Island, have a look at my Ports of Call post HERE.




CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG

- Nautical Terms
- Things to do before you cruise
- Rhapsody of the Seas stats
- My YouTube clip of Rhapsody of the Seas
- Junior Suite
- Sea Pass and Gratuities
- The Centrum
- Food and Dining (what's included in your fare/what's not)
- Drinks, Bars and Lounges
- Pool Deck
- Entertainment, Relaxation and R'n'R
- Exercise Options
- Vitality Spa
- Shopping
- Child/Youth Facilities
- Internet
- Clothes (what to take) and Laundry
- Onboard Newsletter and Information
- Photos
- The End of Your Cruise
- Ports of Call

*All prices and information are as of November, 2013. Despite being an 'Australian' cruise, Royal Caribbean operates on US dollars, so all prices are in that currency (except where otherwise noted).



NAUTICAL TERMS

Here's a few that may appear in the blog:

Fore - Near or toward the front of the ship
Aft - Near or toward the rear of the ship
Bow - The very front of the ship
Stern - The very back of the ship
Port - The left of the ship, facing towards the front
Starboard - The right of the ship, facing towards the front
Draft - Depth of water measured from the waterline to the bottom of the ship's hull
Bridge - The 'command centre' in the forward part of the ship
Gangway - The stairway or ramp connecting the ship to the shore
Tender - A small vessel, usually a lifeboat, used to transport passengers from the ship to the shore when the ship is at anchor
Sea Days - days when the ship is cruising between destinations
Port Days - days when the ship is docked/moored at a destination

I will also use the term RCI - Royal Caribbean International

Rhapsody of the Seas moored off Airlie Beach in north Queensland.



THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU CRUISE

1) If you intend using your credit card while you are away, tell your credit card provider that you are going overseas, so they don't think your credit card has been compromised and someone on a cruise holiday or in a foreign land has suddenly started making purchases. The last thing you want to deal with when you get home is a cancelled credit card and having to sort out all your direct debits etc when your bank sends you a new one. While it's good that credit card security works this way, it's a hassle you don't need.

2) Contact your mobile phone provider and have your phone switched to international call roaming. The costs are very high if you do make (and receive) calls but it's a security blanket should you need to use your phone in an emergency. IMPORTANT - turn off data roaming on your phone (or get your provider to do it for you). Even though you may not make calls while you are away, any data that is uploaded or downloaded (emails or app updates, for instance) will be charged at a far more expensive rate.

3) 'Dose up'. Being confined to a ship with several thousand people can be a breeding ground for germs and result in colds/flus (how many of us seem to always get a cold when we fly?). I'd suggest a course of vitamin C and/or echinacea in the lead up to your cruise. While these might not completely stop you from getting a cold/flu, they may help reduce the duration of anything you might get and, thus, give you more time to enjoy your cruise. And, for those of you who have heard of norovirus, there is nothing you can do ahead of time other than get into the habit of practising safe hygiene.

Manly ferry passes by Rhapsody of the Seas while she is docked in Sydney.



STATS

Class & type: Vision-class cruise ship
Gross Tonnage: 78,491
Length: 279 m (915 ft)
Max Beam: 32.1 m (105.6 ft)
Draft: 7.6 m (25 ft)
Decks: 11 (12 if you include the tiny area housing the restaurant, Izumi)
Speed: 22 knots (41 kph/25 mph)
Capacity: 2,435 passengers
Crew: 765

Installed power: 4 × Wärtsilä 12V46C
Propulsion: Diesel-electric, two shafts
Port of registry: 1997–2005: Oslo, Norway...2005–2013: Nassau, Bahamas
Launched: August 1, 1996
Completed: April 22, 1997
Maiden voyage: May 19, 1997



YOUTUBE VIDEO

My YouTube video showing Rhapsody of the Seas in all her glory can be seen HERE.



A wake forms behind Rhapsody of the Seas as she departs Sydney Harbour at the start of the cruise.



JUNIOR SUITE

This was the first time I had booked a Junior Suite. I had stayed in a Grand Suite on my Voyager of the Seas cruise which was nice but found there was a lot of unused space. The Junior Suite was great - everything was contained and had a place, but there was space to move. It was also located aft and, due to the design of many cruise ships, rear aft cabins (those overlooking the stern of the ship) have larger balconies.

However, the big bonus was that any wind generated by the ship or the ocean passed right over. This meant being able to sit on the balcony and read a book, listen to music, or look at the view, and not be blown away. I could also use the balcony as a drying area without fear of a gust of wind blowing anything overboard.

Early on there was occasional vibration, probably due to the fact the suite was above the engines/propellers. After a couple of days the vibration stopped and one morning I woke and thought the ship had docked because there was no movement or noise what-so-ever (a quick look out the back confirmed we were still cruising along). I don't know if the initial vibration we felt was the same throughout the ship and we could only surmise it was because we had to step on it to get from Newcastle to Cairns and the engine room was going at 'full steam ahead'.

The Junior Suite.
I loved it but one thing I noticed was that, unlike my previous Royal Caribbean cruises, it didn't have
a curtain that divided the room into two (good if someone wants to have a sleep during the day).


Kicking back on the balcony, minus any wind.



As you can see from the above photo, the Junior Suite comes with a bath and a
shower attached to the bath tap. 
Fine, I thought...until it came time to get the shower working. Then a plumber would have come in handy.
After a few attempts, we got the shower to work, so we thought we'd pass on
a brief 'how to' in case you book a suite and are as 'plumbing-challenged' as us :)

1 - Lift this to divert the impending flow of water to the shower. Keep this lifted, then proceed...
2 - The 'on tap' and water pressure. Turn this upwards at the same time you lift 1.
Once the water pressure is flowing, you're fine to let go of everything and proceed...
3 - Temperature control. Up is colder, down is hotter.



As well as the bathroom goodies in the photo above, there is a mini-bar with soft drinks (sodas), bottled still water and boxed M&M's, chocolates and biscuits. I couldn't find any prices for the mini-bar but know that drinks are charged at ship prices.


 Plenty of wardrobe space. There are also lots of drawers around the
suite that can be used.
NOTE - there are no extra pillows/blankets in the room but they are
available through your suite/stateroom attendant.

Every suite on Rhapsody comes with an iPad.
There is more on what your suite iPad does in the Information section of this post. 

The powerpoints in the suite (there were none in the bathroom) US and European. 
You might need to buy an adapter beforehand, although they can be bought onboard. 

I always take a multi-port powerboard.

Rather than finish on a 'techy' note, I thought we'd let these cool dudes have the final word.
It's always a delight to return to your suite/stateroom at the end of an evening and find a towel creation.
The one below had even turned on the TV!



As for the TV watchers out there, you won't go without and, for this cruise anyway, there was always something to watch.

There are quite a few channels that remained constant, while others - mainly Australian terrestrial channels - came and went. Perhaps this was because we were relatively close to land the entire way. We picked up Imparja, which is affiliated with Channel 9 and operates in remote eastern and central Australia, and others such as 7Mate, PrimeTV, GEM, Channel 10 and ONE intermittently throughout the cruise.

Some of the constant cable channels included BBC World and CNN (is there nowhere on this planet you can't get either of these?), ESPN, NHK World News, Australia Network, Variety TV (lifestyle and travel) and my favourite, Tru TV, which had lots of real-life crime shows.

Other channels were on a loop, including two RCTV channels, one of which showed great documentaries about Royal Caribbean (construction of RCI ships etc), two music video channels that appeared to comprise all promo music videos (no big stars), Turner Classic Movies, another inhouse movie channel (all of which played at one point or another in the Broadway Melodies Theatre and the big screen on the Pool Deck), the Cruise Compass channel (see Cruise Compass in the information section of this post) and the Bridge-cam from the front of the ship.

If you like waking up to the 'Morning Show', featuring the Cruise and Entertainment Directors talking about the night before and the upcoming day's events, then Channel 14, the 'other' RCTV channel, is for you!

There were also channels (on a loop) in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese - mainly showing dubbed movies.



SEA PASS AND GRATUITIES

You are given your Sea Pass when you check in at the port before boarding. Once onboard, your Sea Pass acts as your room key and wallet (ship currency will vary). Initially it feels odd leaving your room without your wallet and keys but this is something you get used to and begin to wish it was like this 'at home'. Bring a lanyard if you have one, or buy one when you get on board. 

Previously I've had to get the guest services desk to punch a hole my Sea Pass so I could attach it to the lanyard and wear it around my neck. However, this time, when I checked in and received my Sea Pass, it already had a hole punched in it. If this is your first cruise, don't worry about feeling self-conscious wearing your Sea Pass around your neck. Everyone does it, so you'll fit right in. Anyway, wearing it around your neck works well because Sea Passes have a habit of falling out of pockets and wallets/purses, especially if you've been frequenting the bars, clubs and lounges! I re-use my Royal Caribbean lanyard, the end of which can be unclipped, so you can hand over your Sea Pass for purchases etc. if need be.

Whatever you accumulate on your Sea Pass can either be charged to your credit card (card details given when you check in) or paid off with cash (RCI deal in US dollars). If you choose the cash option, you must put around $300 on the card before you can use it. When you run out it is then up to you to top up the card. If you choose to have your Sea Pass linked to a credit card, you can decide to pay it off in cash but must do so the day before disembarkation. Your itemised account is left at your cabin the morning of disembarkation and Sea Passes linked to credit cards can still be used if need be (very little is open the day you disembark) and charged after you leave the ship.

When it comes to gratuities, you can either pre-pay with your fare or you can pay a sum at the end of the cruise calculated on guidelines recommended by Royal Caribbean. You can also pay additional gratuities as you go if you think the service warrants it. I always pre-pay and like the fact it is taken care of and I don't have to worry about it (I still give my suite/stateroom attendant a little 'thank you').

My Sea Pass with the handy clip for easy removal if need be.



This time around I was a Platinum member in the Crown & Anchor Society, Royal Caribbean's loyalty programme. This brings with it benefits such as a booklet for each Platinum member which I found in my suite when I arrived on Day 1. The booklet has specials that can be used around the ship, including such things as 15% off a Vitality Spa treatment, buy one/get one free drink (beer/wine/soda), dry cleaning discount, Bingo credit, photo and internet discount. All-in-all, over $400 in savings. 

As well, all returning guests that have signed up to Crown & Anchor after their first voyage are invited to a Welcome Back Party - often hosted by the Cruise Director and Senior Officers. In some cases your 'mysterious' captain may be in attendance (mysterious because you hear his voice every day but rarely see him because he works so hard).


The Platinum Member booklet.



THE CENTRUM

The Centrum is a large atrium that acts as the focal point of the ship. Located centrally, it runs from Decks 4 - 9. A multitude of events are held in the Centrum and at night it comes alive with a sea of cascading lights. Two glass lifts enhance the experience for those travelling between the decks.

The Centrum by day.  

The Centrum by night - spectacular! 

The Centrum acts as a great viewing area for people on many decks watching one of the performances. 

Acrobats take to the heights during a performance of 'Baroque'.



FOOD & DINING (what's included, what's not)

If you're like most cruisers, food is high on the list of what you enjoy about your time at sea. I am no different and always embark on the ritual of a pre-cruise diet. While it is no fun at the time, I am spurred on by the light at the end of the tunnel illuminating what appears to be a very large buffet!

While all cruise ships offer dining options that are included in your fare, they now offer specialty dining options for an additional fee. Rhapsody of the Seas is no different and, after going in for a $54 million revitalisation in March 2012, several new dining options were added.

Let's go dining!


What's included in your fare?
You have several options to choose from, starting with...

Edelweiss Dining Room
This is the main dining room and is located on Decks 4 & 5. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast and lunch are walk-up services and only Deck 4 is open for these two. Dinner is when Edelweiss gets busy - very busy - and, if you haven't cruised before, you'll need to know these terms...

Traditional Seating - You choose a set time to have dinner each night and are assigned that table for the cruise.
My Time Dining - You ring each day (or visit in person) and book a time for your dinner. Or, if you want to eat at one of the other restaurants, don't ring and book. My Time is more about flexibility.

You can chance your arm at dinner and walk-up. Staff are always accommodating but there's a lot less hassle if you plan ahead and book. And if you fancy a vino with dinner and order a bottle of wine but don't get through it, they will keep it for you so you can finish it the next time you dine there.

Breakfast:
The dining room is open for 1½ hours but times varies according to sea days and port days, so check the Cruise Compass (see the Information section of this post).

Lunch:
Open from noon-1.15pm on sea days.
Not open on port days.

Dinner:
Main Seating 6pm
Second Seating 8.30pm

Edelweiss at night - busy, busy, busy!



This is the third Royal Caribbean main dining room I've eaten in and the quality of the food is better than good. Often much better.

Serves aren't massive but this leaves plenty of room for a bread roll (or two), entree (appetiser), main and dessert. And should you like one or more of anything you've eaten, you can always re-order. Likewise, if you like the look of e.g. two starters, then order them both...as well as your main and dessert.

There is a choice of around 10 entrees and as many for mains, plus a selection of desserts. Some of what was on offer at one Seating included:

Appetisers
Mediterranean Seafood Salad of Octopus, Prawns, Onions, Capsicum, Kalamata Olives, Citrus Vinaigrette
Chicken Consommé with Roasted Sweet Corn and Chervil
Escargots Bourguignonne - Tender Snails Drenched in Melted Butter

Mains
Saltimbocca di Maiale - Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin Scaloppini, Prosciutto, Polenta Cake, Sautéed Mushroom Trifoliate, Sage Reduction
Linguini with Pomodoro Sauce - Fragrant Tomato, Onion and Garlic Sauce Tossed with Al Dente Pasta
Broiled Fillet of Pacific Salmon - Served with Chef's choice of Vegetables

Dessert
Warm Chocolate Banana Strudel - Crispy Phyllo Dough, Chocolate and Bananas, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce
Sugar-Free Orange Yoghurt Pudding - Squeezed Orange, Yoghurt Cream with an Orange Reduction
Royal Cheese Plate - Daily selection of Cheeses with Fig and Date Compote, Artisan Dried Fruit Bread


*     *     *     *     *

I always opt for My Time Dining, so having a meal in the main dining room is fun because you get put on a table with a collection of new and interesting people. Having said that, there are times when you just want a table for two and there are plenty in Edelweiss. And the nice thing is the tables for two are all together and close enough that you invariably end up talking to your neighbours anyway, while still having the privacy afforded by 30-40cm (12-16in) between tables.

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Toasted Almonds.

Ricotta and Spinach Quiche with Asparagus, Arugula and Marinates Cherry Tomatoes.

Lamb Chops with Garlicky Ratatouille, Green Beans and Rosemary Reduction.

Chocolate Sensation - Espresso Sponge, Chocolate Truffle Mousse, Almond Icing and Chocolate Glaze.

Breakfast at Edelweiss.
You can order from a menu or 'self-serve' from the buffet.



The breakfast buffet was similar to what was on the menu - cereals, fruit, yoghurt, eggs/bacon/sausage, to name a few - and the only difference was if you wanted to get up and get it yourself.

I enjoyed the one breakfast we had in Edelweiss but I was still in the process of waking up and it was a bit of a struggle making conversation with the others at the table. The table was relatively quiet but as soon as someone mentioned they were still in the process of waking up, everyone agreed in relief, glad to know that everyone else was in the same boat. It broke the ice.



Windjammer Café (buffet)
There are a few constants on every Royal Caribbean ship and Windjammer Café is one of them. It is the buffet, although, unlike some cruise ship buffets, it isn't open 24/7:

Breakfast: 
6.30am - 10.30am (port days)
7am - 10.30am (sea days)
Example of items on offer: cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, fruit in juice, eggs (various ways), bacon, sausages, cold meats, cheese/s, miso soup, baked beans, black pudding, breads, jams, pastries, pancakes/waffles, juices...and more.

Lunch: 11.30am - 3pm (but times can vary, so check Cruise Compass)
Example of items on offer: various salads, fried rice, make your own burger/hotdog, curry, cold meats and cheese, pizza slices, pasta and sauces, roast of the day, cooked vegetables, bread/rolls, fresh fruit, selection of sweet desserts...and more.

Dinner: 6.30pm - 9pm
Much the same as lunch but with some variations.

There are plenty of tables for two but, unlike other Windjammer's I've experienced, there is no outdoor dining area off the back of the café, although you could exit the front of the café and dine at the tables on the Pool Deck.

I like the food in Windjammer and it is a regular for breakfast and lunch, especially. I told myself that, having put on 6-7kg (13-15lb) on my first cruise - Radiance of the Seas - in 2011, I was going to ease up on the pastries for breakfast. With each subsequent cruise I've found this to be a pointless exercise. Thankfully my already-mentioned pre-cruise diet enables me to to 'go Danish' each morning!

*For the lovers of soft-serve ice cream, there is a machine on the Pool Deck at both entrances to Windjammer!

 'Skippy' was a regular throughout the cruise.

Selection of salads. 

Dessert anyone? 

Lunch - always busy.

Cold meats and cheeses. 

Make-it-yourself burgers and hotdogs - a favourite of mine. 

Contender for the biggest apple pie on the high seas?



Park Café
The Park Café is located in the Solarium (talked about later in this post) and offers a very limited version of what's available in Windjammer Café. Having said that, every time I ate there, I felt there was enough on offer. In fact, it was nice not having such a large selection to choose from and nowhere near as many people to deal with.

Some of what was on offer at various times during the day: Pre-made sandwiches, cereals, pastries, yoghurts, roast (carved to order and served on a bun/roll), pancakes, waffles, salads, sandwiches made to order, focaccias, quesadillas and breakfast burrito (scrambled egg, bacon and cheese).

The Solarium is open from 5am to midnight but Park Café hours are as follows:

Breakfast
7am - 10am (sea days).
Earlier for port days but check that day's Cruise Compass for details.

Lunch
11am - 3pm (sea days)
1pm - 3pm (port days)

Afternoon snacks
3pm - 6.30pm

Late night snacks
11pm - 1.30am




Café Latte-tudes
If you've got the shakes and need a made-to-order coffee, then head for Deck 6 and Café Latte-tudes, which overlooks the Centrum and is next to the art gallery. It's also a good place to get a quick, sweet snack - I'm talking pastry, cake and/or biscuit (cookie). They do have a very small selection of Ben & Jerry ice-creams but you have to pay for them, as you do the coffee.




Room Service
It's free! Well, first-time cruisers will probably get excited about this.

If you stumble in between midnight and 5am and can't bothered heading up to Park Café for a late night snack (before 1am), there is a $3.95 charge.

The room service menu isn't extensive - it's assumed you will be out and about experiencing the ship - and, taking a look at what's on offer, it appears aimed at the late night reveller or the 'day after the night before' ex-reveller.




There is also a breakfast menu which takes the same form as a hotel breakfast menu which you fill out and leave on your door handle.

If you've filled out one of these before, what's on offer is much the same, including cereals, yoghurts, juices, tea/coffee, hot dishes such as bacon/sausage/hash browns/eggs, toast, jams, and my favourite - a selection of pastries.

Just like a hotel. 

A great way to enjoy the view.



Pool Deck Lunches
Even though Windjammer Cafe is next door, the kitchen comes to the Pool Deck on sea days. That way, if you're catching some rays, you can keep doing so as you line up for lunch. 

Some days lunch is a BBQ, while on other days there is a Mexican or American theme. There is plenty of choice, with salads, bread rolls and dessert thrown in as well. Salads, rolls and desserts aside, everything is cooked there and then.

What I saw - burgers, hotdogs and fixins can only mean one thing...American-themed lunch!



What's not included?
If you want to put your hand into your pocket or, in cruising terms, unclip your Sea Pass and hand it over, you can pay a little extra and dine at one of the specialty restaurants on Rhapsody of the Seas.

Even better, you can do what I did and purchase one of the dining packages before the cruise. In my case, I bought the Chef's Dining Package for $130pp, which includes four dining experiences - Chef's Table ($95pp), Chops Grille ($30pp), Giovanni's Table ($20pp) and Izumi ($5pp + menu prices). The package also included a $20pp voucher for Izumi.

There is another dining package - the Royal Choice - which costs $55 and includes Chops Grille, Giovanni's Table and Izumi.

Passengers often balk at the idea of paying extra when there are dining options included in the fare they have paid. This is understandable but the value for money and the quality service and food you get at the specialty restaurants is unbeatable. For instance, the Chef's Table experience would easily be $200+ pp if you were on land, and the cover charge/s in the other specialty restaurants would cost the same as one main meal, possibly even a starter/appetiser, in an equivalent land-based restaurant.

When you first board Rhapsody the specialty restaurants offer a '50% off' deal for that night, so it's even better value and a good chance to get an idea of what we are talking about (Chef's Table isn't available the first night).

The invite arrives in the 'mail'.



Chef's Table
Why pay $95pp? In short, you have to experience it to understand why. This is the second Chef's Table I've taken part in (Radiance of the Seas being the other) and it's been one of the top three highlights of both cruises.

The Chef's Table is a room set aside where 12-14 guests experience a specially-prepared, five course menu not served anywhere else on the ship. Each dish is accompanied by a wine to match and the head chef - in this case, Chef Daniel Ledo - comes out with each dish before it is served and stands at a waist-high bench at one end of the table, explaining what we are about to experience. Likewise, the head sommelier does the same with each of the wines.

The Chef's Table is a very intimate dining experience and within minutes the room was a cacophony of laughter and banter. After a couple of dishes (and glasses of wine) the head sommelier had to wait at the head of the table, like a school master waiting for his students to quieten down, so he could explain the next wine.

The Chef's Table occurs nightly and is more of an event than a dining experience. I highly recommend it to anyone cruising on Rhapsody, or any other RCI ship where it is a part of the dining experience.

We were a noisy bunch from the get-go!

 First things first - the maitre d' turns photographer and makes sure everyone who brings
a camera (you'd be mad if you didn't) gets a photo taken.

If you drop a piece of your cutlery, there is always the chandelier...

 Chef Daniel Ledo explains with some gusto the next dish.

Spinach and Ricotta Blini with Graved Lax and Smoked Halibut.
Wine - Thierry et Pascale Matrot Meursault Blanc, Chardonnay, Burgundy, France.

Soup Trio
LtoR Asparagus Consommé, Sunchoke Cream, Tomato Soup with Basil Foam.
Wine - Penfolds Koonunga Hill, South Australia.
These three soups were, for us - and others, the highlight of the meal.

Miso Brushed Barramundi with Sauteed Baby Corn, Bok Choy, Parsnip Puree, Candied Meyers Lemon and Carrot Buerre Blanc.
Wine - Belle Glos, Pinot Noir Blanc, Rosé, "Oeil de Pedrix", Yorkville Highlands, California.

The Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa County, California, is poured before we are served our... 

Pink Roasted Beef Tenerloin with Black Truffle Spaetzle, Asparagus, Yellow Baby Carrots and Port Wine Reduction.

And for dessert...Orange Crunch Parfait with Mascarpone Fruit Zabaglione.
Wine - Chilled Disaronno, Amaretto Liquor. 

Petit Fours to finish the evening.



Chops Grille
Steak is the name of the game at Chops Grille - and they do it well. You can also get seafood and several decadent desserts.

Dinner - $30

A sample menu from Chops Grille can be seen HERE.

I must apologise for only getting photos of dessert. I'd met a lovely couple from California* at Chef's Table and joined them at Chops Grille a couple of nights later and were so engrossed in conversation and red wine (more on that later), I forgot. Mind you, they were spectacular desserts!

*Initially I couldn't remember their names, so dubbed them 'Candy and Randy' - they were from California...it seemed to match :)



Red Velvet Cake layered with Cream Cheese filling - you have no idea how delicious this is! 

Chocolate Mud Pie with Peanut Crunch - (ditto above and, if chocolate is your thing, x 10!).


Regards both of the above desserts...cue Homer Simpson!



Giovanni's Table
As you might have guessed from the name, Giovanni's Table is Italian and there are plenty of pastas and the like, although they do have a selection of meat dishes as well. It's all good.

One thing to keep in mind when you eat at Giovanni's Table is 'pace yourself'. I took up the first night 50% off deal and, while I didn't have a huge lunch, in true Italian style, bread played a large part in the meal. Also, the menu is set out so you have an appetiser, pasta and then main meal (usually a meat dish), as well as bread and dessert - yikes!

The second time around, I took things easy and refrained from bread and just had an appetiser and a pasta, in order to fit in dessert.

Lunch - $15
Dinner - $20

Giovanni's Table offers the same menu for lunch as that which can be seen HERE.






Izumi
If you like Japanese cuisine, Izumi is for you.

Unlike the other specialty restaurants, both of which are on Deck 6 (Chef's Table is in a room at the back of the Edelweiss Dining Room on Deck 4), Izumi is located at the very top of the ship on Deck 12.

There is a cover-charge to eat at Izumi but it is far less than the other specialty restaurants. However, there are menu prices but these are good value for money and starters/appetisers are around $5, while mains are around $10.

Part of my Chef's Dining Package included a $20 voucher each and my dinner came to exactly $20.

This menu is from the RCI website but there are no prices. Still, it gives you and idea of what to expect. Menu HERE.

Lunch - $3 (+menu prices)
Dinner - $5 (+menu prices)



California Roll with Imitation Crab Meat, Avocado and Cucumber wrapped in Seaweed Nori .

 Shrimp Gyoza Dumplings (crispy) served with Ponzu Sauce.

Chicken and Beef Skewer Hot Rock - Chicken and Beef Tenderloin Skewers, Assorted Asian Vegetables
accompanied by Steamed White or Fried Rice. 

Assorted Mochi Ice Cream - Green Tea, Strawberry and Mango.



*     *     *     *     *


If you like the photography in my blogs, it's because I am a professional photographer. My photos don't merely show something, they tell a story. And visual stories i.e. photos, are more interesting than pictures that merely show something. 

If you'd like to know how to turn your images into visual stories, I've published a book that takes a whole new slant on photography and 'translates' the art of taking photos into a language we all understand.

To read more about my book and see some of its 100+ visual examples, please click HERE.

***I use all the tips and hints from my book in every photo I take, including those in Travel With Giulio.


*     *     *     *     *


DRINKS, BARS AND LOUNGES (including drinks packages)

Food isn't the only thing high on the list of what people want when they go cruising and, for many, drinks, bars and lounges are right up there.

Drinks are one of the ways cruise ships make money and it's possible to get a drink - alcoholic or otherwise - just about anywhere you go and at just about anytime. The Solarium Bar is open at 6.30am and Pool Bar at 7am on sea days, while the Casino Bar and Viking Lounge Bar are open into the wee hours.

Before you board and on the day of embarkation you are able to purchase drinks packages of all sorts. Some of the deals will save you a good deal of money and the bigger the package the better the deal.

As for bringing alcohol onboard with you, read HERE.


Drink Packages
Royal Caribbean announced an array of new drinks packages, including two new packages, just before we cruised (below). The new drinks packages can also be seen on the RCI blog.

The other big change is that the unlimited alcohol package can be purchased by any eligible guest in a stateroom. Previously, all eligible guests in a stateroom had to purchase a package. All these changes will be up and running by mi-late December, 2013, so please check with your agent or Royal Caribbean.

NOTE - all drinks packages include gratuity.

(Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean)



Bottled wine packages are also available:

5 bottles - $190 ($230 value)
7 bottles - $250 ($322 value)
10 bottles - $345 ($460 value)
12 bottles - $385 ($552 value)

To view the list of wines available in the wine packages, see HERE.

At the very top of every Royal Caribbean ship you'll find the Viking Lounge.



Soda and both bottled juice and water.

Juice (Minute Maid):
6 bottles - $23.90 (15% saving)
8 bottles - $29.10 (20% saving)
12 bottles - $40.95 (25% saving)

Water (Evian still, 1 litre/1qt):
8 bottles - $32.75 (14% saving)
12 bottles - $46.40 (17% saving)
16 bottles - $58.20 (22% saving)
24 bottles - $81.90 (28% saving)

Soda (unlimited):
17 and under - $5.25/day
18 and over - $7.50/day

Going by what you pay in Australian pubs and bars, the (alcoholic) drinks prices are quite reasonable. Some might even say "Bloody good!"

The selection of wines, beers and spirits are quite extensive and are constant in bars and lounges across the ship, although some bars have different cocktails available (I'm sure they can be made, no matter which bar you're at, if you ask). There should be something to cater for everyone's taste.

Schooner Bar (above and below) - right in the midst of it all and one of the most popular bars on the ship.



Prices
Drink prices are also constant and below are a selection to give you an idea of what to expect.

Beer
Bottled beer prices range from $5.50 - $6.50. I counted 20 beers available on one menu, some of which include:

Amstel Light
Dos Equis
Michelob Ultra Aluminum 16oz
Peroni
Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (I had a couple - loved it)
Red Strip

A few beers were available on tap and were around the $7 - $8 mark.

Royal Caribbean also states they feature beers 'unique to their itinerary', so quite a few Aussie beers were available.

 The 'Shall We Dance' lounge (above and below).



Cocktails
Once again, going by prices in Aussie bars, cocktails onboard are cheap, so they are often my choice of drink.

Prices vary from around $7.50 (B-52) to $10.75 (Long Island Iced Tea) and there are quite a few choices, and prices, between these.

Frozen Mudslide ($8.60).
Crushed ice, vodka, coffee liqueur and Irish cream liqueur, with chocolate syrup
drizzled down the inside of the glass.

The R Bar at the bottom of the Centrum on Deck 4.


***Follow me on SOCIAL MEDIA for more fun, interesting cruise news and information.


Wine
When it comes to wine, there are a multitude of options and prices to match. I splashed out a bit when I dined at Chops Grille with Candy and Randy and indulged in a couple of bottles of 2011 Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley ($106) and another Napa red around the $150 mark. Both were sensational!

Other than that, when I dined in Edelweiss I bought a couple of $30-$40 bottles that were fine drops.

Looking at the menu from the R Bar, wines come from far and wide - France, Australia, California, Italy, Spain, Chile, New Zealand - and range in price from $8/$33 a glass/bottle to $19/$77. The specialty restaurants, where we enjoyed the Napa Valley wines mentioned above, had a more extensive range.

If you prefer to go by the glass, then you're going to start at around $8 and go up from there. A decent glass of wine will set you back around $10-$11.


The Viking Lounge.



Spirits
If something a little harder is your cup of tea, then there is a good selection of vodkas, gins, rums, tequilas, whiskies (Scotch and other), bourbons, brandies and cognacs available, as well as others that don't fit into any of these categories, such as Baileys, Tia Maria, Drambuie, Frangelico and Grand Marnier.

Finding a menu with spirit prices on it was quite hard - I looked at a few - so I only have my whisky prices (below) to share with you.

I savoured a few 'wee drams' - a Balvenie 12yo, The Macallan Select Oak and one I'd never seen before, Hive, from Wemyss in Scotland. All were around the $8-$8.50 mark.

A great thing about Royal Caribbean ships is the bar staff free pour, so you more often than not get more bang for your buck and a couple of my drams were, shall we say, 'overweight' :)


The Pool Bar



POOL DECK & SOLARIUM

For many, the Pool Deck is where it's all happening! And it's true, the Pool Deck has an energy all of its own. On sea days, especially, it well and truly comes alive and there are games, music, food, drink and a whole lot more.



The belly-flop competition is always popular. 

Overlooking proceedings are the Deck Patrol. 

Pool volleyball - this time the Officers (apparently undefeated) take on several passenger teams. 
At least one of the passenger teams beat the Officers, making me
think the undefeated tag was a load of, shall we say, codswallop :)

Pool Deck + band + several beers/wines/cocktails = dancing with hands above head.



Solarium
If you're not wanting the 'Pool Deck + band + several beers/wines/cocktails = dancing with hands above head' experience, then the adults only Solarium is the place for you. There is no live music, belly-flop competitions, pool volleyball and line-dancing classes but there are plenty of deck chairs, tables, the Park Café, a pool, whirlpools, retractable glass roof...and a bar that opens at 6.30am some mornings!

Some public transport systems have quiet carriages on their train services - the Solarium is the quiet carriage next to the Pool Deck :)



The roof opened during the afternoon on port days.



ENTERTAINMENT, RELAXATION & R'N'R

If you want to do a line-dancing class or a towel-folding class, you can. If karaoke is your thing, knock yourself out, or if you want to have a few beers and catch some rays, then lather up! Alternatively, if a good book a view of the ocean is all you need, then go right ahead and do that. In short, there's lots to do and something for everyone - at all hours of the day and night.

Did someone mention karaoke?

And line-dancing?



The main entertainment theatre is the 870-seat Broadway Melodies Theatre, where the nightly production number is held. This can be a number of things but is usually a song and dance production or something with a comedy slant. It is a full on production theatre capable of moving backdrops and the like.

It is also used during the day for things like feature movie viewings, guest lectures and other events.



A big musical production one night - Pure Country, a 'high energy tribute to country music'.

 A guest lecture - this one on the upcoming port of Brisbane.


Watching the 1pm feature movie.



I became quite a big fan of the 1pm feature movie, which had quite a few up-to-date movies, as well older ones, including:

Iron Man 3
The Great Gatsby (Leonardo di Caprio version)
Rabbit Proof Fence
Man of Steel
Super Buddies
White House Down
After Earth

All these movies were replayed on the giant screen on the Pool Deck at 6pm and 9pm.




Another popular cruise past-time is Bingo, which always seems to jackpot EVERY cruise (a ploy to get us all playing?) and is played by young and old. I went along to photograph/film the bingo and was reminded how much fun it is  - "All the 4s...44..."

 "Bingo!"

Photograph your cruise.
Cruise ships are more than happy for you to go 'snap-happy' with your camera so, hopefully, you can 
show all your friends their wonderful cruise ship. After all, word-of-mouth is the best publicity of all!
And, having spent over 20 years working as a news photographer, I can tell you that some passengers
would make great paparazzi - just ask this sea bird!

Every cruise ship these days has an art gallery and art for sale. 
Art auctions are regular occurrences and usually involve a free glass of champagne.

 There's plenty of art scattered around the ship, so you can easily spend
a good amount of time wandering between the floors
having a look (good way to get fit, too!).

There isn't a library on Rhapsody but there is a book exchange next to Café Latte-tudes.

Does the absence of a library mean you will you be looking for a good book to read on your next cruise? If so, then how about one - or more - of my three books? Have a look and see which you might like.

Once you've got your book, then kick back and relax.
Deck 5, where this photo was taken, is the Promenade Deck on many ships, and is a quiet
place to retreat and read, catch up with friends and/or watch the view. It's quite sheltered compared
to the Pool Deck and walking/jogging track, and not too many people know about it - even better!

Port Side on Deck 5 is a smoking side, with ash-bins along the wall.
Starboard side - no smoking is allowed at all. 
Stateroom/suite balconies have now been banned as smoking areas but there are certain other places
around the ship for smokers. To read more about RCI's smoking policy, see HERE.

Nothing as relaxing as catching some rays.
Having said that, our cruise went to Cairns in the tropics and there
were a few passengers who didn't know about the bite of the sun that far
north and turned an evil shade of red - ouch!

If you prefer to step it up a gear, there is the video arcade.




Casino Royale

For many, an integral part of any cruise ship's Entertainment, Relaxation and R'N'R programme is the casino. Rhapsody's Casino Royale has all the tables - black jack, poker, craps, roulette - and quite a few pokies (slot machines).

NOTE - this is a non-smoking Casino.





This payout won't quite be enough for the next cruise :(



EXERCISE

After all that food, drink and entertainment, you're probably wanting to do a bit of exercise. You'll be glad to know there's plenty of opportunity to work off any of your excesses. I was two decks directly below the Fitness Centre, so this was the first time I've become well-acquainted with the gym.

The Fitness Centre aka the gym (above and below).

The walking/jogging track on Deck 10 - very popular first thing in the morning.

No point trying this after around 9am. This bloke was doing laps at 6.30am.

For the more adventurous among you, there is the rock-climbing wall.

The table tennis tables are somewhat hidden away on either side of the Pool Deck down
near the Windjammer Café, but they still got quite a work-out. 



This seems like as good a place as any to include the next two photos. The first message appeared on this stateroom's door a few days into the cruise, while the second replaced it a few days later. I have no idea if there was a table tennis champion declared during the cruise but it made for some light-hearted reading (for international readers, The Australian is Australia's national newspaper).






VITALITY SPA

There's nothing better than being on a relaxing cruise and pampering yourself at the onboard spa with a massage...or two.

I like to visit the spa on each cruise and one of the discounts in the Platinum Member booklet was 15% off a spa treatment, so I went along for a 50-minute Swedish massage. Marina, from Croatia (there were two consultants called Marina), gave me one of the best massages I've had in a long time.

Each spa treatment has a 18% gratuity added to the amount, so my 15% voucher, in effect, negated the gratuity, and the amount came to $123. At the end of the massage I was offered a return massage deal of a 75-minute Aroma Stone Therapy massage ($201) for the price of a 50-minute massage ($154) if I made an early morning booking (the spa opens at 8am). This I did and with the 18% gratuity, it came to $177.

A list of prices can be seen below.

TIP - On port days, when many of the passengers are on shore doings tours or having a look around, the ship is quiet and, to drum up business, the spa will have special deals, so either ask them or keep an eye on the Cruise Compass.

Room with a view (out to sea from the stern of the ship).
 This is where you get to sit and relax before and after your treatment. If I could have jumped out the window right next to where I took this photo, I would have landed on the balcony of my suite.

Vitality Spa doesn't just do massages. You can get pampered in other ways - getting your hair
and nails done, among other things. Price list is below.

One of the massage/treatment rooms.

 Vitality Spa had a 'his' and 'hers' steam room/sauna area. I'd never done the steam room 'thing' and
am totally converted! I hope every cruise ship has a set up like this. Outside this wet area
was a change room with lockers. The steam room is to the left and the sauna at the back left. 





SHOPPING

It's time to either get the credit card out or put it away!

Shops and shopping are another staple when it comes to cruise ships and the shops - Centrum Shops - on Rhapsody were the best laid out shops I've seen. You actually felt like you were in a mini-shopping mall.

Shops on cruise ships tend to lean towards high end purchases but there is still enough there to cater for all budgets and I walked away with a couple of coffee mugs and a fridge magnet.

Centrum Shops comprised Facets, Marco Polo, Port Merchants, Solera and The Shop, where you can buy your supply of Royal Caribbean coffee mugs and fridge magnets. There is also a small General Store section in the duty free store where you can purchase sunscreen, goggles, adaptors, advil, toothpaste and general small items you may find you need - or forgot to pack!

Just like being in a shopping mall. 

Booze is always a big seller. 

Something for all budgets.



CHILD/YOUTH FACILITIES

"What about the kids?" is the question asked by non-cruising friends with children.

"Kids Club!"

The 'Kids Club' on every Royal Caribbean ship is Adventure Ocean. It's a fabulous programme and I've seen kids of all ages scurrying to get to Adventure Ocean. It gives them freedom they don't often get at home and there's no issues such as running across a road or getting lost. It's peace of mind for parents knowing their children are in good hands and it means they (parents and kids/teens) get to relax a bit more, which is a good thing and the point of any holiday.

Speaking of not having a worry, there is also an in-stateroom/suite baby-sitting service. Children must be at least 1yo and the rate is $19/hr for up to four children.

I met one 9yo - the daughter of Candy and Randy - who loved Adventure Ocean and the activities, the staff and the fact she had parental permission to sign herself in and out of Adventure Ocean.

Kids/Teens also get their own version of the Cruise Compass, which is discussed in the Information section further into this post.

To read more about Adventure Ocean, see HERE.

To read more about activities for Kids, Teenagers and Families, read HERE.

Adventure Ocean on Rhapsody is divided into three areas:

 Royal Babies & Tots (kids under 3)

 Above and below...
Kids (ages 3-11) - comprising Aquanauts (ages 3-5), Explorers (ages 6-8) and Voyagers (ages 9-11)

Above and below.. 
Teens (ages 12-17), who are broken into two groups ages 12-14 and 15-17.
The Teens area leads through to the Video Arcade.



INTERNET

In this day and age, even while relaxing on the Pool Deck with a pina colada in hand, the urge for some of us to keep in touch with the world remains.

Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship but you pay 75c/min for it. This price also applies to the computers in the ship's internet café. Otherwise, you can purchase an internet package that works on the ship's internet café computers and Wi-Fi:

$24.95 for 38 minutes (66c/min)
$49.95 for 90 minutes (56c/min)
$99.95 for 208 minutes (48c/min)
$199.95 for 555 minutes (36c/min)
$399.95 for 1666 minutes (25c/min)

I don't think Royal Caribbean made too much money from their internet service on this cruise because, being an Australian cruise with predominantly Australian passengers, many people - myself included - waited until we were in port to access the internet via our smart phones etc. I use Optus and reception dropped off not far offshore whereas I was told Vodafone worked quite a way out to sea.

Devices such as Telstra Mobile Pre-Paid Broadband work well (when in range) for uploading photos to e.g. social media.

The ship's internet café - it wasn't the busiest place onboard.



CLOTHES & LAUNDRY

Royal Caribbean only have an in-room laundry service, so don't bring loose change with you expecting to find a passenger/guest laundry where you can do-it-yourself. I now pack for around half the cruise and allow for the fact I will use the laundry service to recycle, for want of a better word, what I have already worn.

A couple of times throughout the cruise they had 'wash and fold' bag of laundry specials for $25/bag (they provide the bag). If you are a Crown and Anchor member you will get a discount voucher in your booklet to use towards wash and fold specials.

Below is a list of the laundry prices.





*I'm going to jump in here and ask/suggest a couple of things...

Firstly, if this post has inspired you to book a cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas, can you send me a quick email and let us know - TravelWithGiulio@gmail.com - so I can tell Royal Caribbean what a great job I do promoting their cruises.

Secondly, if you want to book a cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas, you can do so via 'Looking to book a cruise?' at the top right of this post. These posts take around 100 hours to produce and I don't get paid to do them, so making a booking through this blog ensures I get a little something back.




NEWSLETTER AND INFORMATION

Every day on a cruise ship is a new adventure, so you need to know what is happening and, if need be, when and where to go. As a result, there are many ways of getting information to you.


Cruise Compass
The Cruise Compass is the 'go to' news service for everything that is happening onboard each day. Like magic, the CC appears on your bed each night while you're out to dinner (or is left in you 'letter box' outside your room). If you're a bingo fan and have brought your bingo marker pens, then there's every chance it will get a good workout on the CC highlighting all the attractions for the following day.




The CC contains all sorts of information, from the weather forecast to specials on around the ship to opening times of the various restaurants, cafés and bars (which do vary). The back page of the CC is dedicated to a timeline of events throughout the day, so you can plan accordingly (this is where the bingo marker came in handy).

Below are the four pages of a CC, including the back page of a CC from a sea day, when there is more happening due to the fact no one is off the ship as would be the case if it was a port day.





The back page of the CC with a slight workout from the bingo pen.



Kids and Teens also get their own, scaled down version of the Cruise Compass. It isn't delivered to your stateroom/suite but can be picked up from Guest Services and Adventure Ocean.




Suite iPad
Every suite on Rhapsody of the Seas has an iPad. Among other things, you can order room service and peruse Shore Excursions (can't book them), as well as access the internet and find out information about the ship and all it has to offer. You can also keep an eye on your onboard account - very handy!

I did notice that some of the menus - Chef's Table and Izumi, for instance - didn't match up, but it was a useful source of info all the same.

In the photo below, the tabs down the right hand side give info for (top to bottom):

Diary - in which you can write reminders.
Activities and Entertainment
Dining, Bars & Lounges
Spa, Fitness, Pool & Sports
Shopping, Photos & Art
Crown & Anchor Society
Casino Royale
Shore Excursions (you can peruse but can't book through the iPad)
Kids, Teens and Family (activities)
Ship Info - things like celebrations, anniversaries, dancing classes, conference centre, dry cleaning etc




Captain's update
At midday the Captain's update is made through speakers around the ship, including your suite/stateroom. The man in charge of our cruise, Captain Rob Hempstead, had a very dry wit and was often a constant source of amusement for the passengers. The update includes information such as the depth of the ocean - to the inch - and the weather forecast.

The man himself - Captain Rob Hempstead speaks at a Crown & Anchor function.



Further to the Captain's update, the Cruise Director will come across the ship's speaker system (not in the cabin, though) updating you on what's coming up that morning/afternoon/evening. The information he/she passes on is in the Cruise Compass, so you won't be missing out on anything if you, and your highlighter pen, have already been hard at work.

And, if all this isn't enough, Channel 14 on your suite/stateroom TV has the Rhapsody of the Seas 'Morning Show', featuring the Cruise and Entertainment Directors talking about the day's events. Also, Channel 39 is the Cruise Compass channel.


Ship Guides
Scattered around the ship and close to the lifts are both 'old school' and 'new school' ship guides - very much in the 'you are here' vein. Sometimes you're not sure which way fore, aft, port or starboard and these certainly come in handy.

Old school. 

New school, with touch screen technology and much more info than the old school version.


The crew members staffing the Guest Services Desk (Deck 5) must be among the busiest on the ship because the desk is open 24/7 and, while I didn't go down at 3am to check, if it was anything like the rest of the day/evening, there was probably a passenger there sorting out something.

The Guest Services Desk - expect to queue.



PHOTOS

Every cruise ship has its own team of photographers snapping away left, right and centre. If you don't get your photo taken, or are asked to have it taken, at least half a dozen times on a cruise, then you've been hiding out in your cabin w-a-a-a-y too much. I even tried out-running one of the ship photographers in Cairns and he chased me down, even while dragging along a prop for me to stand behind! Of course, it was all done in good humour :)

There is a photo-shop onboard, where all the photos are displayed for you to peruse and purchase. It's also fun to have a giggle at some of the expressions on other people's faces.

Deals and packages are available, some of which can be seen below:

1 x 25x20cm (10x8 inch) - $24.95 for one .
Buy one 25x20cm and get a matching 20x15cm (8x6 in) free.
Buy four 25x20cm and get another 25x20cm free.

Packages
12 x 25x20cm - $199.95 
18 x 25x20cm - $274.95 
Unlimited x 25x20cm - $349.95 

CD of 70 ship images - $49.95

Burn all your cruise photos to CD - $14.95

Get photos printed from 40c

Photo canvas' available from $99.95

Formal nights are always a big night for getting photos taken.
Even on other nights, the photographers have studio flashes (like the big one in this photo) and
backdrops set up around the Centrum ready to take your photo.



THE END OF YOUR CRUISE

The end of a cruise is always a sad time and, while I think about chaining myself to my balcony railing at the end of every cruise, it's never come to that. We departed from and arrived back into Sydney Harbour, one of the most beautiful destinations in the cruising world, so we were granted a spectacular start and end to our journey...but this also enhanced my desire to get the chain and padlock out when we docked at Circular Quay!

A plane arrives as we depart. 

Even at 5.50am, quite a few turned out for our arrival into Sydney. 

A seagull buzzes the ship after we docked.


One piece of advice we highly recommend is to start packing early on the day before you disembark. Your stateroom/suite becomes your home for the duration of your cruise, so, if you're anything like me, things tend to get spread far and wide. Also, if you start packing early, you can take your time and there isn't a mad rush at the end. This is especially the case if you aren't disembarking under your own steam the next morning and leaving with your bag/s.

If you have a shuttle booked or are in no rush to leave the ship, you will need to have your bags tagged and outside your door, ready to be picked up, by around 11pm the night before. The last thing you want to do is get in from a show, or dinner, or a few drinks, and have to rush to squeeze everything into your bag/s. Remember to leave out clothes and items you will need the morning of disembarkation. Don't pack everything or you may need to leave the ship in your bathrobe (if you have packed that, then you are on your own!). 

When it comes to the tags mentioned here, you will be given a form during the cruise asking you how you intend to disembark. If you aren't disembarking under your own steam, then you will be provided with tags relevant to how you intend disembarking, as well as other information. If you are disembarking under your own steam, you can do so from around 7am. If not, first departures happen from around 8am - but all disembarkation information will be provided.


Disembarking process explained:

Whether you leave under your own steam or not, all passengers get a disembarkation form during the cruise which you have to fill out, letting the ship know what your plans are the morning the ship docks. Understandably, getting a couple/several thousand passengers off a ship in time to get a couple/several thousand new passengers on, all in the space of a few hours, requires planning.

Disembarking under your own steam means you leave the ship with all your bags. Normally, if you do this, you are the first off the ship, so the ship can then start the process of disembarking everyone else. By 'first off', this normally means 6.30-7.30am or thereabouts - these aren't specific times. You can leave under your own steam later than this but the ship prefers if you leave early so, as mentioned, they can concentrate on disembarking other passengers, as explained here...

Your disembarkation form will also ask, among other things, if you are flying and what time. RCI has shuttle buses, for a fee (I think we we paid $25 each), organised to get passengers to the airport. While the train station is close to where the ship docks, the shuttle bus takes a lot of hassle out of getting to the station with your bags (500-600 metre walk), then onto the train etc, all for the saving of a few dollars (train is around $15). If you are inclined to save a few $$$, the walk to the station in the rain or on a hot summer's day might have you thinking otherwise.

If you choose the 'non-under-your-own-steam' option, you leave your large bags outside your stateroom the night before (see photo below) and they are collected during the night. In the morning, you usually have time to get some breakfast (buffet) and get to your assembly area. Each area is then called to leave the ship, so as not to cause a major log-jam, and, when you do, your bags are waiting for you in the cruise terminal.

This is how the corridors will look at around 11pm
the night before you disembark.



*     *     *     *     *     *


This post isn't over just yet. I've split it and our ports-of-call into two posts, so, to see all the fabulous locations we cruised to, have a look at the ports-of-call post HERE.

*A reminder of where we visited...

Newcastle
Cairns
Willis Island
Airlie Beach
Brisbane


*     *     *     *     *     *


I hope this post has been of some help and I'd love to hear any feedback or questions you might have.

Until next time...Bon voyage!

Giulio



See and read about more of my cruise experiences/reviews.

Love photos of cruise ships? Have a look at my 'Ship Spotting' photo gallery.


If you like what you have seen here, follow me on SOCIAL MEDIA for more fun, interesting cruise news and information.





All photos, video and text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
© Use of photos/video/text must be via written permission

40 comments:

Kelly said...

Great blog (as usual)! I especially enjoyed this as I am looking into a repositioning cruse with RCI in 2015. We usually travel p&o but are looking for a change and you may just have convinced me!

Angelo said...

Brilliant write-up and pictures. Very much appreciated. Comparing with the Sun Princess cruise I just did and am now keen to experience an RCI ship. Thanks.

Val and Ian said...

We love Rhapsody and, Kelly, we are on the repo B2B from Singapore to Istanbul in 2015 - really looking forward to that.

I think Rhapsody is a better ship than Radiance. However, with the repo, we are interested to learn which ship will replace Rhapsody for the Alaska/Hawaii/Australia runs

Travel with us! said...

Thanks Kelly, Angelo, Val and Ian,
We're glad you like the post and thank for your kind words - they're a lovely reward.
This is out third Royal Caribbean cruise and we've loved them all. We're not sure what's lined up next but a blog post will surely follow any cruise we do!

Legault said...

Wow Bruce and Sheila ;0 I mean Giulio and Natalia! You covered it all so brilliantly. We miss your sweet and fun company so much! Ya, our "Chef's Table" was like no others I bet, and the chef and wine expert are surely thrilled about that! We hope in our hearts that we are able to holiday with you again sometime in the near future. It was a blast!!! with love, Candy and Randy (aka, Cyndy and Joe)

Alexandra said...

Absolutely love your blogs. We have just been on Radiance and had a ball. Looking at booking our next cruise and trying to decide which ship we should sail away on. Which ship is your favourite, or which did you enjoy the most? Your perspective would be valuable. Thank you, Alexandra

Travel with us! said...

Thanks Candy and Randy! Remember, Oz is only 14 hours away on a plane (or vice versa)! :)

Alexandra, our favourite Royal Caribbean ship (so far!) is Radiance of the Seas but we cruised on Celebrity Solstice in March this year and that was special, to say the least - http://cometravellingwithus.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/celebrity-solstice-where-do-we-begin.html

Suzie said...

Hi There

Great blog. We got off Rhapsody yesterday and had an absolutely fabulous time and we re-booked on-board for 25th November 2014.

I note that you had mentioned that there are iPads in all staterooms. We were on deck 3 in and outside stateroom and did not have an iPad. I think they may only be available in the suites but not entirely sure.

Magdolna Ori said...

Thank u so much for yet again a fantastic blog. Your blog on Radiance was my bible as first time cruiser......w r leaving in 48 days on Rhapsody n now looking forward to it even more! I love reading your blogs! Thank u Magdy

Travel with us! said...

Hi Suzie,

We have subsequently found out that iPads are only available in suites.

We strive to provide the right information in all our blog posts, so apologise for this and have corrected the Rhapsody blog post.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog. Will sail on Rhapsody in June to ALasska and this gives me a good "feel" of the ship. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great blog! We are going on Rhapsody in Feb 2014 and it was great to hear all about your trip!

krafts.travel said...

Thanks for a great blog. We were on the same cruise as you. My only tiny comment/correction? is regarding the power outlets - you said there was none in the bathroom..... we had one (the usual international type so no need for adaptor) - but it was on the ceiling above the mirror!!! Admittedly not everyone would find it there!!!
I definitely recommend a multi-power board if you have a few devices.

strtrek said...

Stumbled across your blog looking for info on ROS...best info I have received and so straight forward, answered 95% of my questions and the pics were great....thanks again
Karen

Anonymous said...

WOW! What a fantastic overview. Hubby and I are embarking on our first RCI cruise in March (Radience of the Seas) and your blog has definitely answered a lot of our questions. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great overview of ROS. Like John The Baptist "you have prepared the way" for us 1st timer cruisers. Love having the "heads up" before stepping on the boat. Little confused re disembarking though. We were hoping to walk off leisurely,(with bags), around 9am, any chance?

Kay Fountain said...

We are off on the Rhapsody in April for our 20th wedding anniversary. We are not big drinkers so won't be getting a package, but would like to know if water is available other than buying bottles. Thanks

Travel with us! said...

Hi Kay,

The water on board is definitely safe to drink - however we tend to buy the bottled water package as well as buy waterwhen in port.

What a great way to spend your 20th anniversary! Congratulations and enjoy!

Nat (& Giulio)

Travel with us! said...

Anonymous - thanks for reading!! Glad you enjoyed the blog and watch out for more! :)

Cheryl from Brisbane said...

This has got to be the best blog I have ever read!! Thank you so much. We cruise Alaska in 2 weeks on Rhapsody and can't wait. First time with RCI. Have previously done P&O, Princess and some European river cruising. We have booked a junior suite and loved your photos and really appreciate the plumbing instructions!! thanks again, Cheryl

Unknown said...

Loved the Rhapsody!
We cruised to Cairns in great weather and we visited the Chefs table after reading your blog
Was such a great experience
Thanks so much!
Can't wait for the next RCI cruise
Jules & Gitta

aspen power said...

A great post without doubt. The information shared is of top quality which has to get appreciated at all levels. Well done keep up the good work. I will provide us some more information like this.Trawler Catamaran.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I found this blog! We will be first time cruising on Rhapsody in January 2014, and you have provided so much fantastic information and answered so many questions that I had.

Now I just can't wait to go!

Anonymous said...

Great blog...thank you. Looking forward to our cruise in Feb 2015.

Do you know if you can use a Travelex Visa Cash Passport to set up and finalise payment for your onboard expense account?

Do you know how to reserve a play yard for your suite?

And.....do you need USD for the slot machines or does it go on your seapass card?

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi can you tell me what room number you had?

Travel with us! said...

We were in 8598.

Jeff G said...

Nice blog, we just finished a 7 day cruise on rhapsody (Isle of Pines, Noumea). It was our first time on the ship and we loved Rhapsody however wished we had read your bog earlier so that i could have been a little more prepared (ie. taken the chef's table suggestion).

Thanks again for a great post and will reference you again when i booked with RCI next

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review. Just what I was hoping to find, and had all but given up on expecting to see. All the detail on restaurants and facilities, with good pictures. This is the really useful information that should be provided to customers.
We're sailing this coming weekend, and this has really helped work out what we need to take or can leave behind. And glad we booked the 4 restaurant deal.

Travel with us! said...

Thanks Anonymous. The reason I started this blog in the first place was because, like you, I couldn't find one location to answer all the questions I was asking.
Enjoy your cruise!

Travel with us! said...

Jeff G - sorry for the late reply. I'm glad you loved Rhapsody. It's a wonderful ship (I love RCI ships!) and I can't wait to cruise on her again.

Marcelle said...

Hi Guilio - WOW this was amazing - such detailed information on EVERYTHING - and the photo's were abundant and beautiful. Thanks I feel so excited as we prepare to leave on RIS on 28 Jan for 10 nights doing South Pacific with some overseas friends of ours (from Cape Town, SA). Just one question (and I may have missed it in your detailed blog)..... what is the minimum drinking age? I presume it's 18, and not 21? I have an 18 yo daughter who is travelling with us and she will be devastated if she can't drink alcohol! Please advise, and thanks again - this was amazing reading. Marcelle

Marcelle said...

WOW Giulio this was incredible reading and great preparation for our upcoming 10 night South Pacific cruise on the Rhap of Seas at end of January. We have o/seas friends of ours from Cape Town, South Africa joining us for the experience - now I am so excited after reading this. And as for the photo's, they are amazing and give an excellent review of anything we could want to know. Now just one question I have (and I may have missed it as you've covered everything) - what is the legal drinking age on the ship? My daughter is 18 and very concerned that she will not be able to drink alcohol.I'm sure it is 18 and not 21 (as in USA) but if you could verify that would be great. And thanks again, I loved reading this blog! Marcelle

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review! Brought back memory's, so sad Rhapsody will be leaving Australian waters later in the year, but I do look forward to reading a Radiance review just as good :) Thank you Giulio !

Giulio Saggin said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm glad you liked my review! Thanks for letting me know :)
Ciao,
Giulio

Giulio Saggin said...

Hi Marcelle,
Firstly, my apologies for not replying to your message sooner. I see that, as I write, you are on your cruise. Hopefully your daughter was nicely surprised to find out that drinking age is/was 18 and enjoyed a tipple or two.
Ciao,
Giulio

judy walker said...

WOW what a fabulous review thank you so much, this will be my first cruise and I must admit I was a little anxious the information you have given is invaluable ..

Nancy said...

What an awesome write up about Rhapsody. My husband and I along with our 3 children ages 10, 8 and 5 hop on to Rhapsody in 1 weekon the Asia, India cruise. So excited, especially after reading all about it ! Thankyou !.

Dede Smith said...

Giulio,
Thank you for the informative review. We are on Rhapsody in 11 days for a 10 night Aegean cruise out of Istanbul. I took notes!
Dede

Sammie said...

Thank you so much for your post! I haven't found any post more informative than yours! I am booked to go out on Rhapsody in 5 days!

Giulio Saggin said...

Hi All,

Thanks for the lovely comments and sorry I haven't been on here in a long time. I haven't cruised in over two years now - am hoping to change that in 2017 - and Travel With Giulio has been neglected as a result. I am going to make more of an effort moving forward.

Your kind words make me want to get back on board a ship somewhere and make more blog posts.

Happy cruising!

Giulio