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It's All Greek to Me...Rhapsody November 3-10


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3 hours ago, Auto said:

We did a DCL tour in Rome in May, which was...meh. Having the personal attention on both of the private tours we did this cruise was night and day, and totally converted me. I don't mind doing the research to find good ones that suit our family and fit the constraints of a port call.

We did private tours in 2016 when on Harmony, Florence, Rome and Naples, we liked the driver so much in Rome that we asked if he could do our Naples tour and he said yes, so we got back on the ship and he drove through the night to meet us.

We used Rome Private Tours in all 3 cites, they were great. I didn't find them but hooked up with a group from Cruise Critic that ended up being a terrific group.

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Day 5: Mykonos

Today was another day without much of an agenda. Port time was 7-4, but we didn't have early plans, so we slept in a little bit and lazily got ourselves ready this morning. The 7 and 3 year olds (as we call them the evens) opted to stay on the ship while the odds (13 and 5 year olds) tendered into port with us. I had read that Mykonos was famously windy, and today was no exception. It was a bright and sunny day, but the wind was pretty brutal. We had been looking forward to this island for the postcard, whitewashed landscape. However, we were a little disappointed that the roofs were not all blue like Santorini. Expectation management, I guess. We did find a few blue roofs and got the obligatory pics near them.

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We wandered through the maze of streets (no street names here, just find your way around) and up to the windmills that overlook the town. 

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From there, we did some shopping, and my wife bought a pair of sandals, which apparently is what you do in Greece. Since it was the very end of the season on the island, she got a good deal. Next was a great quest for gelato, which is a family tradition for wherever we travel. Again, being the end of the season, a lot of places were closed, so we had just about given up hope when we found a place as we re-entered the port area on the way back to the tender. The tender ride was a bit choppy headed back to the ship, and my wife got some sea spray through an open door on the boat, but we made it back to the ship in time to grab a quick, late lunch at Windjammer.

Following lunch, we dropped our daughter off at Adventure Ocean, and the teen, my wife, and I went to watch the art auction for a little while (mainly for the free champaign). Then it was time to get ready for the second formal night of the cruise. Like I said, the girls love dressing up and we had a good time pretending to be fancy at dinner. The younger three went back to Adventure Ocean, and we went to the headliner show in the theater. This was American Dream, a Motown tribute band, and the show was really good, probably our favorite of the cruise. My oldest didn't know a lot of the songs (parenting fail on my part), but she enjoyed the high energy of it all.

Last night the seas were a little rough, and the motion was more pronounced than we had experienced on this cruise or our one before it. I'm going to blame the motion of the ocean for what happened...my wife and I were walking down a corridor, when the ship rolled a bit, causing me to stagger just a little. As I did, I rammed my watch into the end of the railing on the wall- shattering the glass, making my watch unreadable. So anyway, we ended up in the shops tonight, looking at watches, which was funny because while we were at the airport on Friday, I asked my wife "who buys watches on a cruise ship? I guess enough to be profitable for the ship." Well played Royal Caribbean, well played. But I do have a nice watch now...

Tonight was also the first night I became really aware of crew sanitizing all of the handrails and public spaces around the ship. Didn't think much of it at the time, but it all became clearer on the night before we disembarked (this is called foreshadowing). Unrelated- last night both my wife and I woke up with some stomach discomfort, but we wrote it off to the motion of the ship.

 

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Day 6: Argostoli

Today was another late start day. We slept in again (which was so different from our Western Med cruise in May when we were up before 7 almost every day) and went to breakfast in Windjammer. It was actually more of a brunch, because we went so late, and were scheduled to take a 4 hour shore excursion starting at 11:45. This was our only excursion through Royal Caribbean, but I didn't know much about Argostoli, and a tour of caves sounded interesting. We made our way down to the theater to get herded out to the busses and on our way.

The port is very close to the town (about 5 minutes walk), so the bus had to get through the traffic before we were out in the wilds of Kefalonia (or Cephalonia or Sefalonia, depending on who you ask). It was a beautiful drive up and over the mountains that run down the middle of the island, even though this was the only day of the cruise with clouds and a little bit of rain as we got off the ship. After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the first cave and were given about 45 minutes to explore. The girls counted, and there were 120 steps down into the cave, and then back up again. It was really quite impressive underground, with stalactites and stalagmites all around. We were told that they even hold concerts in the large chamber because the acoustics were so good.

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After we emerged from the cave, we grabbed some water from the nearby snack stand and boarded the bus for the short drive over to the "Cave of the Nymphs." This cave had an underground lake, and part of the roof had collapsed during an earthquake many years ago. There were boats that took you out on the lake and into the enclosed part of the cave. The water was amazingly clear and turquoise, and quite unlike anything I'd seen before. Our oarsman was very friendly, and let two of our girls take turns rowing the boat for a few seconds. It was a very enjoyable visit, and we all agreed one of the highlights of our cruise.

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From this cave, we drove around the island, stopping at a scenic overlook of the most famous beach on Cephalonia for a photo op. The bus then wound its way back down the mountains and back to port. We had a few hours until all aboard, and asked the girls if they wanted to walk around town with us or go to Adventure Ocean. Of course they chose to go to AO, so we dropped them off (they would eat dinner with the counsellors, which was an awesome option) and our oldest elected to stay on board, also. So my wife and I took a walk along the water front, did some window shopping, crossed a famous bridge in town, and had a snack before we came back to the ship.

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When we got back on board, we got ready for dinner, Chops Grill tonight, and went to the show. Tonight was Piano Man, a mixture of songs from Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and other "piano men." It was ok, but all I could think about was how every song it seemed that the singers and dancers came out in a different wig. My wife and I then went to Chops for dinner to celebrate my birthday. We really enjoyed the food, and the service was attentive if not great. We saw another waiter that was much more personable with his table, and felt like we missed out a little bit. For desert, they brought out a red velvet cake and sang happy birthday (which was the first time that has ever happened to me, mostly by choice). We even got a to-go plate with another slice of cake to take back to our room.

After dinner, we picked the kids up from AO, dropped them in the room, and then went to the Centrum to listen to some music for a little bit. 

Tomorrow was a sea day and the impending sadness of having to end the cruise.

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Day 7: Sea Day

Continuing our trend for the week, we lazily woke up and headed to breakfast today. After we ate, my wife took the younger girls to the pool and my oldest and I went to the Captain's Corner. I really enjoyed hearing the senior officers talk about the ship and our thoughts about Captain Tobias were confirmed- he looked really young, and indeed he was only 4 years older than I am (of course, I still think of myself as a recent college grad, even though I just turned 40). The best question was about where is the brig. Turns out there are 2 brigs on board, but as the captain said, they usually prefer to put unruly guests in "time out" in their cabins until the next port.

Following that, we did some shopping at the 2/$20 t-shirt sale, and got the girls showered. The 5 year old and I went to Meet the Stars, a meet an greet with the singers and dancers. Most of them were on their first contract with Royal Caribbean, and all seemed to enjoy what they were doing. One of the singers was on her 6th contract. We then met up with my wife and the evens in the Centrum for a salsa lesson, which the girls enjoyed learning to dance, and that was followed by a Baggo contest. Much to my chagrin, I failed to advance past the first round, but my wife went 3 for 3 to advance. This consisted of trick shots from increasing difficulty, including trying to make a shot from the 6th deck balcony. Unfortunately, my wife did not make any more shots, but it was a lot of fun to watch and for her to have her 3 minutes of fame.

After lunch, we went to the Schooner Bar to play Family Children's Character trivia, which our family won on a tie-breaker. Our girls thought that was just the coolest thing ever to play trivia, and win. A couple of counsellors from AO were the emcees, and they genuinely were excited to see our girls- have I mentioned how awesome the kids' staff was? After trivia, we took the girls to Adventure Ocean, the teen ran off to meet up with her friends from the teen club, my wife went to workout, and I went to the hot tub and listen to the live music on deck. It was a nice sunny day, if a little windy up on deck.

We then all rallied to get ready for dinner and go play family bingo before we ate. Dinner was good, and we got our picture taken with our server, who also got a picture of us. We took the girls back to AO and went to the Centrum to watch Dancing with the Superstars. Some of the crew could legitimately dance! Then it was, sadly, time to pack our bags to get them out in the hallway. Packing at the end is so much easier that being neat and organized on the front end. Just dump everything in a suitcase and make sure it weighs less than 50 lbs. 

That done, we collected the girls from Adventure Ocean for the last time and got some photos with the girls and the counsellors, especially their favorite: "Tinkerbell" Tamara. Back in the room, we put the younger girls down to bed, and the teen stayed to watch them while my wife and I went to watch some karaoke. Someone sang "Friends in Low Places," which the Brit cruise staff member said she had never heard before...which I found hard to believe if she had hosted karaoke before tonight. Once that broke up, we headed back to the room, and turned in for the last night. 

Earlier, the captain had announced that we would arrive in Venice about 6 hours early, I think to beat the fog that was building up. So I was able to watch through the porthole of our cabin as we entered the lagoon and up the canal. We were on the port side, though, and the main sights were on starboard as we sailed into Venice.

Also tonight, we found a letter saying that some guests had experienced gastrointestinal illness during this cruise and asked if anyone in our cabins has experienced any symptoms. It also explained that extra sanitation measures had been taken throughout the week, which accounted for all the crew members I saw wiping down everything for the last few days. 

And with that, I finally fell asleep well after midnight, knowing that all good things must come to an end.

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Day 8: Boooooooo!

We woke up early, and sadly packed our last things to carry off the ship. Leaving our bags in the room, we got breakfast at a semi-leisurely pace, and then went down to say goodbye to our cabins. We then did a lap around the pool deck, and started to head for the theater to wait for our disemarkation number to be called. A crew member saw us headed that way, and told us we could wait in the Centrum, and she would come find us when our number was called, which was nice. When our number was called, we walked off the ship for the last time, and into the terminal. We were able to quickly locate our bags and walked on out. A benefit of sailing through the European Union is there are no customs/passport checks while leaving the port (at least for US/EU citizens). Our car service met us right at the exit of the terminal, and whisked us to the airport. Unfortunately, we had to sit in the airport for about 4 hours waiting on our flight, but the girls barely noticed since they all had their iDevices and wifi. I dozed off a little on the short flight home, and before we knew it, we were in the van and driving home.

 

Final Thoughts:

- I really enjoyed our cruise, ship, crew, and port calls. I was concerned about being on one of the oldest ships in the fleet during an off-season cruise, but my fears were nowhere near founded.

- We were keeping a running scorecard of the Disney Magic vs. Rhapsody of the Seas, and I must admit that Rhapsody stacked up favorably. Even in the areas where the Magic won, I kept telling my wife "if we were on a bigger and newer Royal ship...."

- I cannot say enough about how much my girls enjoyed their time in Adventure Ocean. Even though there were not as many kids on this cruise, the staff kept up a high level of programming and gave my girls all kinds of personal attention.

- With the exception of the tender debacle in Kotor, embarking and disembarking the ship was smooth and painless.

- I can't wait to try the other ships and itineraries Royal Caribbean offers. I am fully a "cruise person" now and constantly schemeing for the next one. 

 

Thanks for following along!

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