Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 4 - Cozumel

By: Matt Hochberg

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

By: Matt Hochberg

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.

Spectrum of the Seas Construction Update: Mega-Block Journey Down the River Ems

By: Matt Hochberg

Spectrum of the Seas is one step closer to completion. Having undergone a unique construction process, Spectrum’s FERU (Floating Engine Room Unit) mega-block which was built in Rostock, Germany travelled 296 nautical miles down the River Ems to the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany to be joined with the rest of the ship, which is scheduled for delivery in 2019.

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 2 - Key West

By: Matt Hochberg

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.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd names Adam Goldstein Vice Chairman

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd announced today it has appointed Adam Goldstein, to serve as vice chairman.

Goldstein will assume his new post in May 2018. In his new role, Goldstein will continue to oversee RCL’s global government relations and destination development efforts, and will represent the company in industry associations.  Both areas have been a constant focus for Goldstein across a career filled with challenging assignments.

Goldstein ia a 30-year veteran of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, has served as RCL’s president and chief operating officer since 2014.  He also served as the President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International prior to Michael Bayley.

RCL’s chairman and CEO, Richard Fain, said, “Adam has played a pivotal role in our success since he joined the company in 1988. He has exerted a positive influence across the company and provides exemplary leadership in our industry and in the communities we serve. As Adam transitions to his new role, I look forward to working with him to continue to build on these successes.”

Goldstein said: “It remains an incredible privilege to work with the men and women of RCL, who help create the memories of a lifetime for our guests, and who know the importance of doing good while we do well. I look forward to focusing my efforts in a few key areas where I can help advance the cause of both RCL and the cruise industry.”

Rhapsody of the Seas Live Blog Day 1 - Embarkation Day

By: Matt Hochberg

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.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: March 18, 2018

By: Matt Hochberg

This was a busy week with Royal Caribbean news, and we have a summary of all of the news from this week to make certain you did not miss any of it.

Royal Caribbean made headlines around the world this week with the announcement of CocoCay upgrades and ship enhancements.

Royal Caribbean will spend $200 million to transform its private island of CocoCay in the Bahamas and add a ton of activities, aimed at offering, "the ultimate family destination in the Caribbean."

In addition, Royal Caribbean also announced it will invest $900 million to reimagining its fleet through a new modernization effort called Royal Amplified.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 241st episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, and we are previewing Matt's upcoming cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas.

In this episode, Matt is about to cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas, and shares why he picked this ship, what his plans are onboard and some of the new experience he has lined up.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

In The Loop Travel shared its top 13 spots on Brilliance of the Seas.

TradeWinds reports one of Royal Caribbean's co-founders has passed away.

CocoCay construction progress photo report

By: Matt Hochberg

If you are wondering what the progress is like for the new pier Royal Caribbean is building at its private island of CocoCay, we have a new look at where it stands.

Annette Jackson from MEI Travel shared with us photos of the pier construction, as seen earlier today during a stopover on Enchantment of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean updated the completion date of the pier at CocoCay will be September 2018. The pier is just one piece of the massive $200 million transformation that will take place over the next year needed to create the Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Friday Photos

By: Matt Hochberg

Friday is here and we are sharing our readers' favorite Royal Caribbean cruise photos so that we can all get into a "cruise mood" for the upcoming weekend!

We begin with a look at some of the food from Samba Grill on Allure of the Seas, as seen by Kinny Lee. This would be perfect in our Royal Caribbean Dining Facebook group.

Steve Buch sent in this photo, taken from North Star on Anthem of the Seas while docked in St. Kitts.

Michael Kho sent in this "painful" photo from his partially obstructed ocean view balcony.  It was painful, because his cruise was over at the time of the photo.

HappyBurger sent in this photo as he/she was arriving to Anthem of the Seas.

We warm things up with this photo by Doug B. of a beautiful day in CocoCay.

Ross and Pam sent in this beautiful photo of Explorer of the Seas at the Isle of Pines in the South Pacific.

Thank you to everyone who shared their photos with us this week. As always, we welcome all of our readers to share their favorite Royal Caribbean photos by using this form to submit them. Have a great weekend!

Henry Greenfield shared this photo from lunch at Giovannis Table.

Royal Caribbean CEO apologizes for website upgrade issues

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley issued an apology letter to its guests for the issues related to a recent website upgrade that has resulted in many guests unable to access their account at all.

Bayley posted the letter on the Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society Facebook page.

"I know that many of you are wasting valuable time and energy migrating to our new Guest Account system. Please know that we hear you, we read everything and we have mobilized the necessary resources to fix the problems."

Bayley went on to note the root cause of the problem is a combination, "many guests having created multiple accounts over the years, the elimination of being able to select amenities and preferences online for our loyal Crown & Anchor members, and mistakes we made in developing and implementing the first release of this new capability."

To remedy the issues, Royal Caribbean has assembled a team to fix the issues.

Bayley also noted if you are continuing to have issues, we’ve also created an email account at guestaccounthelp@rccl.com to reach the dedicated team.