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First home port cruise - Rhapsody Of The Seas, Sep 23-28 , Greek Islands


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Here we go , finaly a cruise we do not catch a flight to nor hotel.

5 days cruise which starts at Hifa , Israel and stops at:

1. Limassol Cyprus.

2. Rhodes , Greece.

3. Santorini, Greece.

And one sea day.

Lots of locals and first 5ime cruiser which is always interesting to see the reaction. Will try to do some short love blogs as it's can be a different experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is RCL take 2 trying to call Hifa an home port. First they tried when C19 was still a major thing , it was at summer 2021 with Odyssey of the seas. We had two cruise booked on it but then it was cancelled, RCL changed the plans and we once again had to catch a flight to cruise from the US (back 2 back and one of them was on a star class so no complain ).

This year they brought Rhapdody over and we gave it another try.

The plans were simple , no need to worry about and  flight  being delayed nor to book hotels ,just board. Well plans are one thing and reality another. I had to fly for a business trip (yes they are also back) to handle some crises in  one of our projects and fly back in , yes , less than a day before the cruise .  At least it was not a long one  over the Atlantic flight but short European one and I got to be there during historical times.

Plans was to arrive home , do laundry, pack and get ready. Getting to Hifa port might be one of the easiest things to do as the port got a train stop adjust to it. Only issue is that due to maintenance the train is not working between Tell Aviv and Hifa at Fridays 😞 which is the embarking day. Since parking is very limited near the port I decide to take the car and park it near the first Hifa train stops (free parking near a football stadium) and catch a short ride to the port . That's what we did , 50 minutes drive , parking and walking with the suitcases to the train. As we arrive we just missed one of the train so we had to wait 15 minutes to catch another. We boarded the next train and waited, 5 minutes before it started I felt something is wrong , I got my suitcase but wait something is missing, yes my backpack with my passport. I left my spouse with the suitcases and went back to the car , let her wait for me at the port train station. Apparently some times it's good to miss the train , if we board the earlier train I would found it out only at port... So I found my backpack in the car , walked back to the train station and board the next train, at least my spouse got some new jokes to tell about me 🙂 Embarkation process will come next.

 

 

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Embarkation:

Short walk from the train station RCl put a tent for drop off luggage. That was a long line as only few people handled the luggage and one queue for all. Apparently this was a good time to check and ask questions as whoever was in a suit or bought the key could go directly to the front of the line and drop the luggage. Since we are sailing in JS we did just that and after 5 minutes we went to the next station. To so you need to go over a bridge (elevator available) the next station is a security check were they scan the hand luggage. Once this is done you go to another tend (with very good and needed AC) to do the check in following passport control. The next tent is the duity free and a station were they collect your passport (to get it back the day after). Once done you go out and take a shuttle to the ship , it's one minute ride. Sounds complicate but all in all  from the minute we gave  our luggage to the time we board it took maybe 10 - 15 minutes, not bad. Hifa port authority are in the process to build a new terminal which will make things easier, we will see.

 

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Few observations:

Food - WJ has the same food as every ship + some middle eastern food (Pita bread, Humos, some salads) no Kosher restrictions.

Main dining room is split to two, regular one and Kosher one. Park Cafe is Kosher.

Room service breakfast dose not show the free continental option , hope it is mistake.

The safety drill is now even easier , no need to watch the video just to sign in in the muster station.

Cruise compass is 70% in Hebrew.

Drinking package is 50$ per day , it was 40$ in the cruise planner sell.

 

 

 

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Day 1 - Hifa.

Most of the information regarding the embarkation I already described in the previous posts , all in all not too bad, I do hope they will finish building the new terminal. Once we board and done with the muster we went to the WJ , food is regular WJ food nothing to write home about. Looks like the WJ will be busy. We wanted to drink a coffee so we went to check the diamond club but 8t was closed or more likely our card did not open it. I think they did not prepared to have any diamonds from Hifa 🙂 . We went to the concierge club in the 10th floor. It was open and no cards was required, coffee machine was working. Rooms were ready at 1:30 and the luggage arrived already. The JS suite is smaller than in the new ships but still allot of space for both of us. Tour at the ship, deck 5 outside deck is one of the best in the fleet , wide and open. Around 6 pm we left the port , always a  nice view . The other side of the port is the military ship docking location , no pictures from that side , still planning quick return home 🙂

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This was the pilot ship , funny 

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We watched the sell away while I heard our neighbors trying to convince the cabin attendant to put some blocking fence on the balcony so their kid will be safe I thought that that's why you have a door to the balcony but what I understand. Dinner was in the main dining room . It was very organized and fast for the first day. I took the cheese plate, antipasti plate and the rib eye . Always make me smile when they ask me how I want my steak cooked as no matter what I will ask it will always be well done (at least in the MDR) anyway , it was good.

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Post dinner we went to contribute some money playing in RCL, it was not that crowded but still tight as always. At 10pm we went to watch the welcome on board show. The cruise director was followed by an Hebrew spoken assistant who explained the show and next activities, it took around a minute. The main performer was a comedian juggler, he was funny and performed some nice juggling tricks.

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Day 2 Limassol.

We arrived quite early to Limassol, well at least that I have been told as I overslept, got a good excuse I have two hours jet lag 🙂 . The crew use Limassol port as a mini hub both to practice safety drills and also to replace crew (I guess it's easier with the visas) the Captain and many other were replaced today. 

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We went quite late to the WJ for breakfast, many stations were already closed so we got the scraps, that's what happen when you over sleep. One thing Finlay happen , first time ever, vegetables for breakfast in the WJ ! Hope it will be copied in other ships/routes. 

We did not had special plans for this port so we just went on the shuttle buss (10 $PP) . The bus takes you to a big mall (which we skipped) and continue to the Marina. We stroll around the Marina for a while and walked to the old city very the very nice promenade which is full with resturants and coffee shops. I must say some people that leave in the Marina don't need to think which flight to take or where to park their car for their next cruise 

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Well that's a good option I sure need to think about it for next time , much less stressed. I wonder if they have also at home PCR service.

We spend few hours at city and took the shuttle back to the ship.

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I do recommend to visit there , it's quite relaxing and the city is nicely kept including the old city.

Back on the ship we went again to the WJ , the problem on such small shop is that you don't have many options for lunch on port days but it was Ok. 

Unfortunately the show for the evening got cancelled due to one of the participants injury, hope she or him will get well soon. There were other activities like 70s party and some live music. They showed some movie in the main theater but we skipt it.

Dinner was again in the MDR , service is very good but did not find any main course I liked so I took a soup instead. We decided to split , wise spouse to rest and me to continue and make sure royal will have some more revenue, although I must admit this evening they may have lost some 🙂 now I am writing this post thinking how to wake up in time for our shore excursion in Rodes. 

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Day 3 - Rhodes 

Got some few our sleeping (not enough for sure) and went to eat breakfast at the diamond club , the useal selection was there and it was nice to start the day in a quiet location. How quite well let's just say that beside the diamond concierge we were the only one there until now , oh maybe beside the loyalty ambassador that comes to visit from time to time. No wonder as only 12 diamonds and above are on the ship (and no any pinnacles). 

The cruise port is very close to the old city, only 5 minutes walk and you are in the main tourist attractions in the old city.

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As it was my first visit ever to this island (my spouse was there already) we took a RCL tour . Oh what a big mistake. The tour went to a hill with a nice view of the island and an old church to visit followed by old city walking tour. The tour was Ok and the guide was very good and gave allot of information about the island or at least that's what we guessed she did as it was very hard to listen. The tour was full with small kids who kept shouting and screaming in the bus. The tour was in English which small kids not yet practice too much so I guess they got board. Well lesson learned for next time , take a tour that includes alcohol 🙂, it will reduce the chance  of too many small childrens. If you just want to tour the old city you can do it early by yourself. 

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This guy also tried to inspect if we have some extra corn. 

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The old city is very interesting with Meadville like building and forts , you can spend early few hours there although the city was very crowded (Jewell of the seas was also in port). To me some of the street looked like as they were par of the Lord of the ring -The two tower.

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Day 4 Santorini.

Santorini is a lovely island but it's a quite busy one. It's always a tender port so we chose to take RCL to bypass the tender lines. The RC excursion which we choosed was Santorini island view but we got noticed it was cancelled and we got 15% discount to any other excursion. We took the Oia &Fira excursion which takes you first Oia follow by wine testing and ends in Fira. We figured due to the wine testing less chance to have many childrens. The only problem was the excursion meeting point 7:20 Am , night time. Royal wanted to send all the excursions on the first tenders. I was sent to bring some food from the WJ and we started our day. After 20 minutes waiting at the theater we went on the tender and got to the new port. A bus took us to Oia for few minutes of guided tour followed by 1.5 free time. We used the free time to take the required pictures and to eat some very good frozen Greek Yogurt. 

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We went on the bus and continue to a local winery, lucky for us we were the first bus so the place was just for ourselves, it a lovely place with wonderful view of the bay. They gave use three wines to taste and some cheese, crackers, olives and tomatoes. It was only 11 am but I am sure it was 5 pm somewhere. We relaxed for an hour at the winery and went to the last stop Fira we're we got tickets to the cable car to go to the port so we could stay as much as we want before returning to the ship. We went to a local supermarket to buy some olive oil, wine and local sweets. We tour the village for a while before we decided to return back to the ship to beat the cable car line (or so we thought)

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As you see we weren't the only ship in the island.

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Making sure everyone knows who are the real local residents and already dressed for the official night (they did not heard it's dress your best)

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We went to the cable car line but it was just too crazy, it was very long and nearly moved, people that went to check estimated at least one hour. I hate lines, I hate lines that not seems to move but most I hate lines which many seems not to respect. We decided to walk down... We forgot one thing, sun screen. The way down is shared by people and donkeys which means it is full with mines and the steps are very slippery. It takes about 20 minutes to go down during I got reminders I have some mussels which are not that I use most of the time. I also felt sorry for the poor donkeys that beex to go up and down all day under the sun. 

Here is what my spouse called picture of three donkeys (she used other words but hey it's PG rated blog)

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Once down at the port we located the RC tender tent and we're so happy to use the cold water station they had there. Back at the ship first thing we done as to take a shower , most needed after our adventure and some close encounter with the trail partners. We went for some drink and food in the diamond club ,finally we saw two other people there, we are not the only one. Leaving Santorini at evening time is always good time to take sunset pictures

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We skipped dinner as we eat at the diamond lounge and went to see the Piano man production show followed by some recreational time in the next door smoke lounge (which some referring it as the casino) missing the non smoking golden room at wonder. At least we got a jackpot. 

 

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Day 5 , Sea day. 

This was the last full day of this 5 days cruise. Sea day is a good time to test other things for breakfast so we went to the MDR , it's a buffet with white maps and (against all logic) bigger lines. Seems many people wanted to try it. Post the late breakfast we tour the ship to see how busy it during sea day. The pool deck was very busy as expected and many people also participate the trivia. We decided to go back to the room to get ready for the top tear event , well more like gathering. It took place at the diamond lounge and I think there were almost more crew then participants. The advantage going on such cruise is that it allow us to be the top cruisers 🙂 got the picture with the Captain and we had a long chat with the hotel director about the experience of this ship , how it's crusing from Hifa, what they can do better (bring bigger ships , bigger ships)and so on. He told us he is now written a report for the RCL headquarters regarding Hifa home port. Funny enough each cruise they got different experience as the Israeli market has many sub markets. It might be that a bigger ship will find it's way here. 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
15 hours ago, MichelleB1234 said:

Do you know if the shuttle bus in Cyprus was for just Royal Caribbean or is it port offered?  Stopping at Limassol on a non-RCL ship.

I think it was just for Royal as the only way to pay was to put it on the room. I do believe any ship that will arrive to this port will arrange same way of transportation. Many times the companies will not publish it before the cruise as they want people to buy shore excursions. 

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