Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 7- Sea Day

In:
24Mar2018

Our last day is a sea day, and I always try to remind myself that it is still better to be on a cruise on your last day, than not on a cruise at all.

After three port days in a row, the family all slept in this morning.  We also had our clocks go ahead an hour to catch us up with local time in Tampa, so in short, we had a slow start to our morning.

Not many breakfast options past 9am, so we rolled into the Windjammer for breakfast and coffee.

After that, we took the kids up to Adventure Ocean while my wife and I enjoyed some relaxing time on the pool deck.  

I started off with a Bloody Mary at the pool bar.

We then made our way to the Solarium for warmer temperatures.

I was talking to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Jacob about a deal he spotted for Izumi in the Cruise Compass, where you could pay $25 and get a $50 credit to use at Izumi.  I immediately ran up to Izumi and they honored the deal, so lunch would be at Izumi!

Izumi is on deck 11, a half deck above the Viking Crown Lounge.  It is a very odd spot, but also a beautiful area.  The vantage point Izumi offers in this location means some really nice views of the ocean and decks below.

They have a special kids menu, and the kids ate free.

I went for a suhi-rific lunch selection, while my wife opted for chicken karage and dumplings.

After lunch, my wife and oldest daughter went to see The Greatest Showman in the theater, while I took my youngest daughter to have her own lunch (room service pizza).

The movie and pizza both wrapped up right at 2pm, which meant an afternoon session for the kids in Adventure Ocean.  It also meant we (read: my wife) could start packing.

I noticed this mail box near Guest Services.  I do not recall ever seeing a mail box before on Royal Caribbean, but I might be forgetting one or two.

As afternoon turned to evening, we picked the kids up from Adventure Ocean and I took an opportunity to get one last nap in on our balcony.

We also got one last great sunset, that I took in from the comfort of the Concierge Lounge.

Dinner was back in the main dining room.  I was really impressed by the fact I had a plate of savory bites on the table.  I had asked my assistant waiter if they had savory bites on day 1 or 2, but to my delight, they had made some for us on the last night.

After dinner, we enjoyed some music with friends in the Schooner Bar. I also managed to use up all of my drinks on my drink card.

Overall, this was a great cruise experience for all of us.  It was relaxing, we spent a lot of time together as a family, and I think each of us really enjoyed our time onboard.

As this was my first Vision class ship, I liked being on this class of ship.  Like the Radiance class, it is easy to get around. We rarely waited for an elevator, easily got between the forward or aft areas by foot, and even on port days never had issues with embarkation or disembarkation.  For tendering, it is simply the best.

Our room worked out really well for us.  While we have stayed in suites before, this may have been the best overall suite experience we had. 

The crew on Rhapsody were excellent from start to finish.  We had a great collection of wait staff, stateroom attendants, Adventure Ocean counselors and everyone inbetween.  The suite concierge alone was incredible with his friendliness, charm, and attention to detail.

Alas, this cruise and live blog must come to an end now. Thanks for following and sharing comments with me along the way.  I really have enjoyed reading them, and responding.  I cannot wait to share my next adventure on Explorer of the Seas to Alaska this summer!

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 6 - Costa Maya

In:
23Mar2018

Our last port stop brings us to Costa Maya, Mexico.

I have been to Costa Maya once, but it was back in 2010 so clearly a lot has changed since then.  We also had odd hours in port, being there from 7am to 4pm.  Not a ton of time, but it does require us to get up early to make the most of it.

We got ourselves ready and on the dock by about 7:30am and walked through the maze that is the Costa Maya port.  The pier is quite long, and then once in the terminal area, it is a labyrinth of shops, bars and restaurants.  Finding the exit is no simple task.

We had pre-booked our day at arguably the best all-inclusive day pass in the Caribbean that I have been to, Maya Chan.  We had to walk out of the port area and a few hundred yards up the street to meet the Maya Chan represenative.

Maya Chan arranges the transportation, so they immediately hailed a cab for us.  Prior to getting in, they informed us the beach (and frankly the whole area) is dealing with an influx of sea grass that has covered the beach.  They have staff actively working to clear it, but it is there and graciously offered to let us cancel for a full refund.  We considered it, but thought it would still be a good use of our time to go there, so went ahead.

The car ride is about 30 minutes and we arrived at Maya Chan.

Upon arrival, the staff greets you and escorts you to your private area.  You will find a palapa, with chairs, hammocks, tables and more.  A welcome drink is provided and once you get situated, you can use any of the facilities available.

A day at Maya Chan is about enjoying the area, such as the bar, beach, kayaks, games, and more.  A full bar is available and the staff regularly walk around asking how they can help.  I loved how the staff was  always around to help.

A full buffet lunch of make your own tacos was available as well.  Everything was made from scratch and it was excellent.  

Despite the beach conditions (the staff set up a floating bar in the ocean with floating chairs for fun), we had a great time relaxing on the beach.  My daughters were content sipping on Shirley Temples and playing in the sand.  Plus, Maya Chan has a few dogs and a cat roaming around that they enjoyed playing with.

Eventually, we had to head back to the port.  I took my oldest daughter for a detour when we got back to the Costa Maya port area for a short swim in the pool they have in the terminal area.

Back onboard, it was time to get showered and changed.  It is actually our second formal night tonight.

Since it worked so well yesterday, we ordered dinner from room service for the kids rather than taking them up to the Windjammer. Just like yesterday, they enjoyed their meals and ability to mess around a bit more than if they were in the Windjammer.

We had hoped to get another photo session in, but the photographers were on break by the time we got to them.  Instead, we enjoyed part of a movie by the pool while we waited for Adventure Ocean to open.

Once Adventure Ocean was open, we headed down to the theater for a ballroom dance show.  My wife thinks she has seen this show on another ship, but did enjoy the performances.

Dinner this evening was in Chops Grille on deck six.  It was a great meal all around.  While my 9oz filet mignon was wonderful, the tuna tartare was still my favorite.

After dinner, I convinced my wife to go to the casino for a bit.  Unfortunately, that's where my luck ran out.  We were in and out of there quite quickly.

We rounded out our evening with drinks and music in the Schooner Bar.

We would have stayed out later, but I got a page from Adventure Ocean and it turns out our youngest daughter had fallen asleep, so we had to come pick her up.

Tomorrow is our final day onboard, and it is a sea day.

Stray Observations

  • This is the first time I have been docked in a port and the ship still rocked a little due to the ocean waves.
  • We had a little friend waiting for us in our stateroom tonight.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 5 - Belize

In:
22Mar2018

Our third stop is Belize City, Belize and it is just my second time going to this port.  The last time was on Navigator of the Seas back in 2014, so it has been a while.

Just like last time, our ship anchored off the coast and operated tenders to bring guests back and forth.  The tender ride was 15 minutes each way (although I thought it was a longer ride from our past time).

We set our alarm and got the kids ready.  Just like yesterday, I went up to the Windjammer to bring food back to the room.

We had booked a private tour through Royal Caribbean, known as Private Journeys.  Just like all excursions booked through Royal Caribbean, you get tender priority.  All we had to do was go to the theater by 9:15am and we were escorted to a waiting tender. Very simple and easy.

The tender ride over 15 minutes and we immediately spotted our tour guide waiting for us at the pier, near all the other shore excursions.

Our driver, Freddie, drove us around in a large van that had plenty of air conditioning (a top priority for any tour I go on) and he provided interesting narration of nearly everywhere we drove around.

We started out with a 30 minute ride to the Belize Zoo, which is the national zoo of Belize.

The zoo has a number of exhibits featuring the animals native to Belize.  Freddie took us around the zoo and talked about the different animals we saw, explaining what the animals are best known for and if they were endangered or not.

Many of the exhibits offered viewing platforms to gain a better vantage point.  

There were more animals on display than I thought.  Most of the animals were there after being rescued from various terrible situations. 

 

The dense foliage around the zoo provided plenty of shade, and kept things cooled down.  

The kids really liked going from exhibit to exhibit and trying to find the animal there.  The jaguars and monkeys were of particular interest to them.

It took a little more than an hour to walk around the zoo and see most, if not all, of the exhibits.  We hopped back in the van and headed to our next stop.

Next was a beach break at Kukumba Beach, which was half-way between the port and the zoo.  Prior to  going to the beach, we opted to enjoy lunch at a restaurant near the beach.  There was a lot on the menu, especially for the kids.  

Our waitress mentioned the special was the catch of the day, which was red snapper.  I opted for that and it was really, really good.  

After we ate, we spent about an hour at the Kukumba Beach. The beach is basically a large lagoon of ocean water, with some inflatables to climb on, a giant water slide, and a swing.   

We could have stayed longer, but we prefer to get back to the ship earlier than necessary just to be safe. 
A short ride back to the pier and we said goodbye to Freddie.  He was a terrific guide, and I really appreciated his knowledge of the places we visited.  He brought photo slides to better explain the history of where we went, and was always accommodating for the kids.  

The reason we booked this tour primarily was to have flexibility with the kids and move at our pace. It certainly achieved that, and I think we all had a great time.  I told Freddie after the tour he could tell we had a great time because none of the kids cried and they took a nap during one of the car rides.

We lucked into getting back to the pier area just in time to hop on a tender back to the ship.  We were back in our room by 4pm.

Each night, the main dining room menu is delivered to our suite because as a suite guest we have the option to order from the main dining room from room service. My wife looked over the dining room options, and determined there was not much she wanted to order, so gave that look only a wife can give her husband that says “Let’s go to Giovanni’s Table tonight.”  

We also changed things up by ordering dinner for the girls from room service.  They liked munching on their dinner while playing with their dolls.

We dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean and enjoyed some pre-dinner drinks in the Concierge Lounge.

Dinner was at the aforementioned Giovanni’s Table, located on deck 6 near the Schooner Bar.

My wife went for the steak, while I ordered a few different appetizers as a kind of tapas approach to my meal.

Overall, we enjoyed everything we ordered.  The caprese salad and eggplant parmigiana were my favorites (although the eggplant was thermonuclear in temperature).  My wife has her Giovanni’s ordering down to a science, and loved what she got.

We have an early start tomorrow, so opted to go to bed early and grab the kids.  It makes logical sense, but it pains me to end my evening early.

Tomorrow is our final port day, and we will be in Costa Maya, Mexico.

Stray Observations

  • The Tui Mein Schiff 6 was with us in Belize today. TUI is partially owned by Royal Caribbean’s parent company and this ship looks a lot like a Quantum class (from the outside) to me.
  • The “struggle” of the cruise life: taking a shower at around 4pm and deciding if I should get dressed for dinner early, or put on regular clothes for like an hour. Woe is me!
  • We got a survey from the FCCA about our visit to Belize with our Cruise Compass.
  • I spotted this Royal Caribbean jewelry in one of the onboard shops.
  • They were showing Coco by the pool tonight.
  • The drink card appeared today! 10 drinks for $85 (plus 18% gratuity).

  • The coffee card is available at Cafe Latte-Tudes and specifies it is one hole punch per shot of espresso.
  • The best, worst kept secret about Costa Maya is the Krazy Lobster bar.  What I mean is guests and crew alike all talk about it like it's a secret spot, but I've heard about it from a good 3-4 people on this sailing.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 4 - Cozumel

In:
21Mar2018

Our second port stop brings us to Cozumel, Mexico.  Despite having been in Cozumel dozens of times over the years, we are actually trying out a new place this visit.

We set the alarm and got the kids up bright and early.  My wife got the kids ready, while I grabbed some food from the Windjammer to bring down to the room so the kids could eat and get ready at the same time.

We got off Rhapsody of the Seas by about 8:15am or so, and grabbed a taxi at the port.  No lines and no fuss.

If you read yesterday’s post, you would know we booked Iberostar Cozumel for the day.  We bought a day pass online and printed out the pass in the Concierge Lounge.  $72 per adult, and $30 per kid.

The ride to Iberostar is about 10-15 minutes via taxi, and it a kilometer or two past Nachi Cocom and Mr Sanchos.

Iberostar is a five star resort, and walking into the lobby area you would definitely know it. The grandeur of the entire resort is on display.


 

At check-in, you receive vouchers for towels and the staff hold your passport as collateral (evidently missing towels are worth the same as passports).  Admission gets you access to unlimited food, drink and activities.  Basically, whatever the resort guests can do, you can do. Motorized watercraft and the spa cost extra.

Iberostar has a beach, giant pool area, yoga park, fitness center, kids club and pretty much anything else you would expect to find at a major resort. 

There are a few different bars and restaurants around the resort, primarily in a buffet style. 

We settled on the pool, since our kids love to be able to swim and swimming in the pool is easier for them.

I will write up a full review after the cruise of Iberostar, but we liked our time and I think we made a good decision going there.  The two negatives of Iberostar were the pool chairs went very quickly (it makes the “chair hog” situation on Royal Caribbean seem trivial) and the food available was anything but authentic Mexican food.  Burgers, hot dogs, salads are plentiful.  There was a taco station and some decent grilled choices, but no guacamole, quesadillas or the kind of Mexican food we particularly enjoy.  

The best thing about Iberostar is the pool area, which is massive and offers swim up bars, waitress service, and different pool depths (great for younger kids).  There is also lots to do besides swimming.  Archery, exercise classes, playground, tennis are just a few of the activities you can work in.

Plus, the resort features lots of wildlife literally roaming the grounds. Flamingos, turtles, cats and iguanas are easily spottable as you walk the grounds.

Like I said, we had a really good time and enjoyed what was offered.  

Eventually, we had to head back to the ship.  We took a cab back and I dropped the kids off before making a detour to a local grocery store to pick up Mexican chips to bring home.

Back onboard, the kids claimed they were not tired and then promptly took some deep naps.

Sail away was promptly at 5pm, and it was back to our usual “routine” onboard.  Showers, getting dressed, Windjammer and then off to Adventure Ocean.  

We headed up to the Concierge Lounge for some pre-dinner drinks, and then off to the main dining room for dinner.

I opted for the lasagna and spaghetti, making my own Italian night theme.

The dessert tonight, warm dark chocolate cookie topped with ice cream requires special attention. My wife and resident “dessert whisperer” Jacob noted this dessert was really, really good so I had to try it out. You know, for reasarch.

It really is amazing! I think the fact the cookie is not fully formed, so combined with the ice cream you get a marriage of “considering ordering extra desserts” proportions.

There was a show in the theater dedicated to country music, Pure Country. There were songs from nearly all decades of country music, although my wife took particular enjoyment out of the fact someone at Royal Caribbean included most of her favorite country music songs from high school.

We called it a night and headed back to the room for the evening.

Tomorrow we will be in Belize!

Stray Observations

  • I heard from a bartender the drink card  (10 drinks for $75-85) may make an appearance tomorrow morning.
  • When in a taxi in Cozumel (or really anywhere), you can ask the driver to turn on the air conditioning. Most times it’s off to save the driver money, but you can ask to have it on.
  • Vision of the Seas was also in port with us, but she was docked downtown.  I do not recall the last time a Royal Caribbean ship docked downtown in all the times we have been there.
  • A nice feature of Rhapsody of the Seas is there are coffee dispensers on the pool deck on both sides of the deck.  Very convenient in the morning.
  • It was standing room only for the country show this evening.  Granted there was only one showing, but I was still surprised to see the entire theater as full as it was.
  • We got our free spins in the casino (from being a Crown and Anchor member).  We got 3 coins per person, but I don’t recall there being more than one per person. Or I just have not been paying close attention to the many times I have won a key chain. I'm sure someone will set me straight in the comments.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 3 - Sea Day

In:
21Mar2018

Our first sea day on Rhapsody of the Seas is here, and we started off by sleeping in.  The ship’s time went back one hour to keep us on local time, so we got an extra hour of sleep in the process.

We had breakfast in the Windjammer and then partook in the time-honored tradition of dropping the kids off at Adventure Ocean for the morning session.  I have to tell you, it felt great!

My wife and I headed down to the Schooner Bar for morning trivia. We joined a team, but did rather poorly (who knew elephants were pregnant for 22 months!). Still, it is always fun to play trivia.

Since we were already on deck 6, I made a pit stop in the nearby Diamond Lounge for a latte.  

We also took this opportunity to finally figure out what we are doing in Cozumel tomorrow. There were a lot of options, but we booked Iberostar Cozumel all-inclusive day pass.  We are hoping for a not super crowded day, with plenty of time at the pool and flowing drinks and food.

We rounded out our morning enjoying some quiet time relaxing at the Solarium.  

We picked the kids up from Adventure Ocean and went back to the room for a bit.  My wife and the kids went to a drawing activity listed in the Cruise Compass, while I attended the reception for suites guests in Giovanni’s Table.

There were complimentary cocktails, along with some finger foods.  There was even sushi!

I shared a table with RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers Kathy, Jeff, Zach and Jacob.

We missed lunch at the Main Dining Room, so we went to the Windjammer.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a Make Your Own Gyro station.

I also overheard a Chops Grille waiter walking around mentioning a discount.  I asked him about it, and scored 30% discount and a free bottle of champagne if we booked!  Looking forward to Chops Grille on the second formal night. Never be timid about talking to crew members.  A simple "no thank you" is all that is needed if what they are offering is not of interest.

For the afternoon, we let our youngest nap while the older one went back to Adventure Ocean.

The kids requested to be picked up early to partake in a special family edition of trivia in the Schooner Bar, which was Disney trivia. It was a heated competition and packed!

It was formal night, so we headed back to the room for showers and changing into our formal clothes. I took the kids around the Centrum to take photos with the professional photographers.

After getting our photos in, we took the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner.

Once again, there was a beautiful sunset to enjoy. Weather has been holding up nicely each evening.

After dropping the kids off at Adventure Ocean, it was time for our usual evening “routine”: drinks at the Concierge Lounge and dinner in the main dining room.

This evening they had a show in the theater, The Piano Man. It is a tribute to singers such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, etc.

For those keeping score at home, we managed to make it past 10pm before picking up the kids!

Tomorrow is a port stop in Cozumel!

Stray Observations

  • The curtains that surround the master bed do an excellent job at blocking out the sun.  It get as dark as an interior stateroom with the curtains deployed.
  • On Rhapsody, parents get pagers for kids in Aquanauts (ages 3-5).  We have rarely, if ever, gotten pagers/phones for Aquanauts. 
  • Drink specials galore!
  • Speaking of drink packages, I asked a bartender in the Schooner Bar about the drink card but she was not aware of any plans yet for it to appear.
  • Coffee of the Day is evidently a thing on Rhapsody.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 2 - Key West

In:
19Mar2018

I usually begin my live blogs with some excitement about the day ahead, but today’s live blog post is the exception.

Last night I was writing up yesterday’s live blog post from the pool deck, when my wife texted me that my oldest daughter had thrown up.  I headed back to our stateroom and we called housekeeping first to get the bed and surrounding area cleaned up.

In a matter of minutes, a team of housekeeping staff descended upon our room to begin the clean up process.  Frankly, I was impressed and amazed at the speed at which the team arrived, and the hard work they did to clean it all up.

As you might imagine, Royal Caribbean takes guests getting sick very seriously for their safety, and the safety of everyone onboard.  As the team cleaned, the nurse on duty from the medical facility onboard (yes, there is a medical facility on all Royal Caribbean ships, complete with doctor) called to check on my daughter.

I spoke with the nurse about what happened while the cleaning team did their thing.  We agreed to see how she does, and to head down if anything worsens.  

Luckily, things got better from here.  As I mentioned, the room was cleaned up immaculately and despite being frazzled by the experience, my daughter eventually fell asleep.

Right at 8am the nurse called us back to see how she was doing.  It was his recommendation to come see the doctor onboard and get a full examination, just to be safe.  Since we are in Key West today and there is a sea day tomorrow, it made sense to take a precautionary step. 

The doctor’s visit on deck 1 went well, and unless something else transpires, it looks like she may have eaten something that did not agree with her.  He prescribed some anti-nausea medicine and we were on our way.  

The doctor’s visit on Rhapsody was really no different than any visit to a clinic you might find on land.  They don’t accept any insurance, but do provide an itemized bill so that you can submit it back to your health provider for reimbursement.  Luckily, I purchased travel insurance for this year, so I will begin with them when I get home.

Now that we were all on track and cleared to go, we had a quick breakfast in the Windjammer.  

I grabbed coffee from the espresso machine in the Concierge Lounge.

We docked in Key West right on schedule, and the ship was cleared by 11:05am.

We booked a hop-on hop-off trolley tour through Royal Caribbean last night (the Concierge attendant was able to do it, allowing us to skip the Shore Excursions line) and we met at the main theater.

After the usual shore excursion gathering and whatnot, we were on our way and on the trolley.

Rhapsody of the Seas docked at the U.S. Naval Base in Key West, which means we are not allowed to take photos while on the base grounds.  The trolley actually picked us up right from the ship, and we began our tour.

The trolley traverses pretty much all of Key West that you might care to see, including the “old” part and the “new” part.  It is a narrated tour, with stops near popular spots to get off and see more.  You could certainly never leave the trolley and see the whole island (roughly 90 minutes).

We got off fairly early to grab lunch.  We walked to Duval Street and ate lunch at Caroline’s.  Food was fine, but something happened to our order and it took forever.  The staff were gracious, and made it up to us by giving the kids free dessert.

Back on the tour, we walked down Duval Street and then grabbed the trolley to see more of Key West.

It was warm, but not too hot. In the grand scheme of Key West weather, this was pretty good, but it was still hot enough to be sweating easily.  The heat and walking took a toll on the kids, so we did not see much on foot.  I am a little disappointed we did not get to do more, but I was trying not to push my oldest daughter too hard and with kids in general, sometimes you just have to “keep it in second gear.”

We got back to Rhapsody of the Seas at about 4pm.  The kids were exhausted, so they took a nap.

Sail away was right at 6pm, and I decided to take it in from the comfort of our balcony. Turned out to be a great spot!

The children had to be coaxed out of their coma-like naps and we got them ready for an evening in Adventure Ocean. We opted to order room service for the kids to simplify things, and also because all they ever want is some combination of pizza, burgers or hot dogs.

We dropped the kids off and headed up the Concierge Lounge for some pre-dinner drinks, and to enjoy another perfect sunset at sea.

Dinner was in the main dining room again this evening.

I had requested Indian food last night from the head waiter, and since our head waiter was from India, he took an interest in my request. He brought out biryani (a rice dish) for me to enjoy in two different styles.

We took a walk after dinner to burn off some of the biryani calories along the outside deck on deck 5.

The kids were wiped out from their day, (and from a lack of sleep) so we opted to make it another early night.

Tomorrow is a day at sea!

Stray Observations

  • Here are some photos of the Concierge Lounge.

  • Since we had not visited any foreign ports yet, there was no immigration process we had to do in Key West.
  • My “million dollar idea” is to create a place in popular tourist towns called “Nap Shack” and offer heavily air conditioned, dark rooms for rent, where one can nap for an hourly rate.
  • We set our clocks back one hour tonight. Hello Central Time Zone!
  • There was far more entertainment this evening, but we are enjoying taking things easy. I do have a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), but I just keep reminding myself that I am on a cruise and it's fun no matter what! Also, sleeping 8 hours is a great feeling.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
18Mar2018

Our Rhapsody of the Seas cruise has begun and we could not be more excited. In fact, I am pretty certain my children are more excited for this cruise vacation than I am (which means I have raised them well).

We live in the Orlando, Florida area and since our cruise departs from Tampa, Florida, we are able to easily drive over the morning of the cruise. We got our things together and were on the road a little before 9am.

The drive from Orlando to Tampa is roughly an hour, and uneventful.

Rhapsody of the Seas is docked in Terminal 6, so I dropped the kids and wife (and luggage) off at the terminal right at 10am. Parking is at a surface lot adjacent to the terminal, which is very convenient.

We are in a suite, so there is a dedicated security line. It was so early that the line barely saved us anytime, but I just love having a special line. Check-in was a breeze and by 10:30am, we were onboard Rhapsody.

This is my first time on a Vision class ship, but it reminds me a lot of the Radiance Class. There are a lot of similarities.

The Windjammer was not quite open yet, so we enjoyed some time at the pool deck and the sunny weather.

Lunch at the Windjammer opened around 11am (it said it was to open at 11:30, but it opened a bit earlier). I enjoyed the selection of food available, and we all found plenty to pick from.

After eating, we got changed and headed to the pool. We practically had the pool to ourselves for quite a while, as most people do not have their swimsuits with them.

At 1pm our stateroom was open, and we got our first look at our Owner’s Suite.

We are staying in stateroom 8002, which is known as the Beethoven Suite.

There is lots of space, and I like that the master bed has curtains surrounding it, which will provide some privacy when the kids go to sleep.

We took the kids up to deck 10 to register for Adventure Ocean. Bing that Rhapsody of the Seas is a smaller ship, the Adventure Ocean space is on the small side.

It’s essentially one large room, separated into three sections. The counselors described the set up as the Aquanauts having a glass door separator, but Explorers and Voyagers are basically together since the space is so small.

I also took photos of the nursery onboard, in case you were wondering what it looks like.  The nursery was surprisingly larger than I was expecting.

And here is a look at the teens club/area.

Back to the room for some rest and putting clothes away as we got ready for Muster Drill.

Following muster drill, we went up to the pool deck for sail away on a picture-perfect party.

We headed back to the room to shower and get ready for our evening.  After everyone was dressed, we took the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner. 

The Captain made an announcement that we were approaching the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which marks the entrance (or in this case exist) to Tampa Bay.  Sailing under a bridge is always such a fun experience, and the Captain indicated we cleared the bridge by 9 feet!

On the first day, Adventure Ocean does not open until 8pm, so we had the kids with us for a bit leading into the evening.  We went to the Concierge Lounge, which is located on Deck 11 on the side of the Viking Crown Lounge. The Concierge attendant was extremely kind and welcoming to our kids.

We did a bit of exploring, checking out primarily deck 6 and the Schooner Bar.

Sunset was slated for 7:45pm, so I raced up to the pool deck to catch a perfect sunset at sea.

We dropped the children off at Adventure Ocean at 8pm and then went down to deck 4 to the Edelweiss dining room for our own dinner.

Rhapsody of the Seas has the "new" main dining room menu, which meant I automatically ordered the spaghetti bolognese (see my Anthem of the Seas live blog for backstory on my infatuation with that dish).

There was just one show this evening, a comedian, but it was at an earlier time so we decided to take it easy and grab the kids for a relatively early night.

Tomorrow is our first port stop in Key West, Florida. We should be there at 11am.

Stray Observations

  • Someone always asks, so the pool water is salt water and I am pretty sure the hot tubs are not salt water.
  • No drink package for me on this cruise.  Hoping for the drink card to show up, especially since I completely forgot to bring my own wine onboard.
  • Being the mature kids that my children are, their favorite thing about our suite is the bidet.
  • I think this is our first cruise with the bread basket served always on our table in the main dining room for dinner.
  • According to paperwork in our suite, it looks like we will switch time zones at 2am in the cruise(I think on day 3) and then switch back on the last day. That way, we will be on the same time as local time for the ports we visit.
  • The Voom internet has performed well enough to facilitate this blog post. I did a speed test in the main dining room (what else would I be doing while waiting for my appetizer) and got 2.74 Mbps down, 2.06 Mps up and a ping of 712ms.  Performance can vary greatly, depending where I am, but I was able to stream classic music without any interruption while writing this blog post.
  • This is our third time sailing out of Tampa, and this might be the best weather we have ever had, both in terms of atmospheric and oceanic conditions.

Live Blogging from Rhapsody of the Seas - Preamble

In:
13Mar2018

Welcome to my live blogging adventure on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. This is an opportunity to take you on a virtual cruise with us, as we strive to share the cruising experience.

Photo by Royal Caribbean

This time around, I am sailing on Rhapsody of the Seas for a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise.  We will visit some new ports, try a completely new class of ships, and stay in a type of room that we only dreamed of booking earlier.

Why we chose this cruise

Photo by Royal Caribbean

With so many Royal Caribbean cruises to consider, the choice of the right one can sometimes feel daunting.  Sometimes, however, it seems to fall into your lap.  

We booked Rhapsody of the Seas because I was "kicked off" another sailing.

A while back I booked a cruise on Jewel of the Seas for this time of year, thinking it would be a sailing I would like to take again.  In the months that followed booking it, I saw new opportunities and cruise choices appear and my interest in sticking with what I booked waned.  My wife and I decided we would cancel that Jewel of the Seas cruise in lieu of something else.  While we came to that conclusion, I was slow on the trigger to actually cancel the booking (canceling any cruise pains me).  

I was so slow in taking my time to cancel that a group chartered the Jewel of the Seas sailing we had booked (but were planning on canceling) and as a result, Royal Caribbean canceled our reservation and gave us bonus onboard credit for "the inconvenience"! I always knew my mother was wrong about not being lazy!

We knew we wanted to sail this particular week because it is my daughter's spring break, and after considering a few other sailings picked Rhapsody of the Seas.  We did it for two primary reasons:

  • It was the least expensive option for a 7-night cruise out of Florida
  • It offered us an opportunity to book an Owner's Suite (and it was still the cheapest option).

Our plans onboard

This will not only be our first time on Rhapsody of the Seas, but our first time on a Vision Class ship.  I have always wanted to go on a Vision class ship, if for no other reason than to be able to speak about it better on the blog.  

Sailing out of Tampa means we do not have to travel a great distance (or at great cost) to get onboard, and the itinerary Rhapsody offers sounds really intriguing (more on that later).

We booked an Owner's Suite for a steal of a price.  One big advantage of the smaller, older ships is you can find some really good deals on them.  And as Master Yoda said, "size matters not."

We have stayed in suites on a few ships now, and we are by no means "suite snobs", but when the price is right, the perks are quite lovely.  With the kids, having priority embarkation and added service from the Concierge really helps.  Simply put, it is nice to have.

While Rhapsody may not have as much to see and do onboard as the larger ships, my kids are at the age where they simply want any and all opportunities to swim, eat ice cream, and then swim some more.  I think we will find plenty to fill our time.

Our plans on shore

Photo by Michael Poole

The itinerary for this cruise is particularly intriguing, because it brings us to a lot of different places.  

We have four port stops on this sailing:

  • Key West, Florida
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Belize City, Belize
  • Costa Maya, Mexico

My wife, nor my kids, have ever been to Key West.  Living in Central Florida, driving to Key West is just far enough away to fit into the "we will eventually go there, but not anytime soon" category.  A cruise ship stop there is perfect for our needs.  My kids (ages 7 and 3) are not quite mature enough to appreciate the history of Key West, but I think they will find a fun adventure in exploring the area.

For Belize, I decided to take a page out of Carrie Underwood's playbook, and instead of letting Jesus take the wheel, I let Royal Caribbean do so.  We contacted Royal Caribbean's private shore excursion option Private Journeys to have them help us plan a day.  I essentially said I have no idea what to do here, give me an idea.

Private Journeys came back with a personalized 5 and half hour private tour, which begins at the Belize Zoo, with up-close encounters with wild baby animals.  We then head to the at Kukumba Beach for Beach, a man-made watering hole where adults will find waterfront relaxation while sunning on beach chairs while the little ones go swimming, playfully bouncing on a floating trampoline or everyone can bravely descend a 90-foot waterslide.

It has been 8 years since my last visit to Costa Maya and we are going back to Maya Chan resort for a day of indulging at one of the best all-inclusive day passes I have ever been to.  This means more time at the beach, and unlimited Shirley Temple's for my older daughter.

We have no plans for Cozumel yet, but we are pros when it comes to Cozumel.  We may do another beach day with the kids, or leave them in Adventure Ocean and enjoy a day in town with my wife.

Our Itinerary

Three things I am excited to try

3. Vision Class ship

While I tend to gravitate towards the larger ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, I cannot deny the appeal of going on a smaller ship that offers a more intimate experience. 

When it comes to cruising with my kids, I find that the more I can slow the pace down and let the vacation come to them, the better everyone fares.  Sure, I want to run around and "do it all" in the first two hours onboard, but cruising with kids has shown me that things work better when we let them dictate the pace.

I think going on Rhapsody of the Seas will offer all of us an opportunity to do more relaxing, or at least me watching them splash their heart's content out at the pool from dawn to dusk.

Of course, each class of Royal Caribbean ship has its own nuances and I am excited to try a Vision class ship first-hand.

2. Belize shore excursion

This is our second go around with Private Journeys, and I am excited to see how this one stacks up to our first experience.

We tried Private Journeys last year in Curacao and our guide was wonderful.  The primary reason I really like this option is because traveling with children is not simple. They tire out, get hungry, act out, and otherwise are a challenge in a group tour setting.  When we tried Private Journeys last time, it was so nice to have a tour guide who allowed us to skip a scheduled stop, stay longer at another and even work in a snack break at....McDonalds.  

1. Owners Suite

I firmly believe staying in a suite is a great way to splurge, but not the end-all be-all way to cruise.  When the cards work out in my favor to be able to afford one, I am all for it.

While being in an Owner's Suite means sleeping in the same room as my kids, I think the extra space offered in the room will make up for it.  Plus, my kids are a little bit older and theoretically slightly better at sleeping through distractions (I can already hear the cackling from other parents who are reading this).

What's next

Our Rhapsody of the Seas cruise begins on Sunday, March 18th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!