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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman


Rhapsody of the Seas
Mexican Riviera
January 7-14, 2001

by Mary Ann Rizzo

This is a brief review of my quick getaway to join good friends for a one-week cruise to celebrate two birthdays – the husband’s and mine. I have never been at sea for my birthday, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped. Since the ship sails round-trip San Pedro, I flew in and out of LAX on America West.

Rhapsody of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s “Vision Class” ships... she made her maiden voyage in 1997. She’s 78,491 grt, 915 feet long and her passenger capacity is 2,435. Having inspected two of her sisterships in Miami – Enchantment of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas – it wasn’t difficult to remember Rhapsody’s general deck plan when I boarded. True to the descriptions ascribed to these ships by many people, she has an aura of light and airiness throughout. She’s quite a beautiful ship, with lovely music-themed décor. Names such as the Broadway Melodies Theater (her showroom), Edelweiss Dining Room carry out that theme.

The Broadway Melodies Theater has excellent sight lines, and I would judge the most comfortable seating of any ship I’ve sailed on in 51 years! That covers a multitude of ships!!! The Edelweiss Dining Room is bi-level, and I was favorably impressed by the fact that tables are not crowded one next to the other. Soundproofing is such that there is relatively little noise, even at full capacity. Serving stations are plentiful and strategically placed throughout the room.

Her Centrum, I feel, exemplifies the bright feeling of the ship. A well-stocked library and a card room surround the Centrum to starboard and port on Deck 7; the Crown & Anchor Study and the Explorer’s Club (now serving as an Internet Café) do the same on Deck 8. When music is played on the lowest deck of the Centrum (Deck 4) near the Champagne Bar, it is most pleasant to either sit in a comfortable chair or stand and listen for a while on one of the other decks.

There are several bars and lounges, the most notable of which I found to be the Schooner Bar with nautical motif and deep, comfy leather chairs and sofas, and the Viking Crown Lounge. The latter is pretty (I wasn’t there when it converted to a disco at night), but we found one, major drawback that dissuaded us from using it. The reek of cigarettes (and cigars?) from its smoking area seemed to permeate the entire room, making it quite unappealing for that one reason. L

There are the shops – ranging from logo wear, perfumes, clothing, and jewelry to sundries and duty-free liquor. The Casino Royale, with the usual table games and various slot and video poker machines, was rather small for the size of the ship if you’re really into gambling. I, on the other hand, found it quite refreshing! The fitness center and spa are located aft on Decks 8 and 9. The covered  and white-tiled pool area is beautiful, named The Solarium, and has an Egyptian motif.  It is also here that one can order pizza or freshly grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.

I occupied a Category C “Superior Ocean View Suite” on Deck 8.  At 241 sq. ft. for the cabin and 64 sq. ft. for the balcony, it was spacious and very well designed. I stopped counting drawers and cabinets at 17 – I know there were more! There was a queen size bed (also convertible to two twins), sitting area with sofa bed, refrigerator (beverages not comped), large bathroom with tub/shower, vanity area, closed circuit TV, radio, telephone, more-than-ample closet space, safe, and spacious balcony. I could find only 3 faults:  the bed was little more than an upgraded cot with rather thin mattress, so that it was not very comfortable;  although the cabin was immaculate, it was badly in need of “sprucing up” (as was the whole ship) – the upholstery and carpeting were spotted and frayed in places throughout the entire ship; the balcony was wonderful, but had no privacy at all – the partitions were only partial and it was quite easy to look into neighboring balconies and cabins!

My cabin Steward, Reggie, was excellent. He kept my accommodations immaculately clean, and I never returned to my cabin without it having been made up already. The pillow and towel sculptures were really amusing. Friends had my cabin decorated for my birthday, but I must admit to one puzzle. Among much appreciated gifts that I received was a bottle of Asti Spumante (my favorite) from my dog, Pucci. To this day, I have no idea who actually sent it!! Now, I realize Pucci doesn’t know he’s a dog, but he isn’t capable of arranging that. Or is he? J

Service and food in the dining room were excellent. I know there has been some discussion about the quality of RCI food, but I honestly could not fault anything in the dining room. Our Steward, Assistant Steward and Table Captain were most efficient and very friendly. What was lacking, however, was a variety in the buffet served in the Windjammer Café for breakfast and lunch. That was quite meager compared with other cruise lines. We dined one evening in the Windjammer (tables were set nicely with linen tablecloths, and lighting was subdued) and that wasn’t bad at all.

Our sailing was full. To our surprise, there were quite a few children on board – from tiny tots to teens. Some were well behaved; others were... well, the type who better belonged at home. We soon remembered and realized that more and more school systems have year-round classes, which explains why so many children were not in class!

Embarkation and debarkation were remarkably efficient, particularly with the numbers of passengers involved. Rhapsody arrived late due to fog on our day of departure, so we were delayed about 1-1/2 to 2 hours embarking. “Crowd control” on the pier was quite good. Once boarding began, it was only a matter of minutes before I was on the ship and being escorted to my cabin by a crewmember. Although I was dreading the thought of 2400+ passengers disembarking, it could not have been better. We were alongside the pier shortly after 7:00am, passengers began disembarking around 8:20, and I was on my way to the airport by 9:30. In fact, I was able to catch a flight 4 hours earlier than the one originally booked! Kudos to Royal Caribbean! Far better on this cruise than some other lines at San Pedro.

Since I really was on board to relax for a week, I hadn’t planned on taking any shore excursions, but one of my friends and I decided to go on the luxury catamaran, Kaleidoscope, in Cabo San Lucas. Ostensibly, it was to spot whales and other sea life in the Sea of Cortez, however, it was too windy and the ocean had too many whitecaps to be able to see any whales. But the ‘cat’ was gorgeous, the scenery was lovely, and it was a delightfully refreshing afternoon with Margaritas, soft drinks and tortillas with salsa served to us on deck as we lazed in the sun with the fresh breeze blowing in our faces and hair. I highly recommend this tour for anyone going to Cabo. Kaleidoscope was hand-built by her owner-skipper in Riverside, California (for those not immediately familiar with California, Riverside is inland—almost at the edge of the desert). She was then trucked in seven segments to San Diego, where final assembly and fitting-out took place. Although I didn’t see them, she has 9 luxurious, private cabins and 11 heads. What a beauty!!! The other “beauty” was seeing Crystal Symphony at anchor near us in Cabo. My heartstrings were tugging!

Our other two ports of call were Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Quite frankly, I was too lazy to go into town in either port. I souvenir-shopped near the pier in Mazatlan, and only spent a short time ashore in Puerto Vallarta. The vendors in the latter port were far too pushy, whereas I found the locals quite friendly in Mazatlan.

The weather throughout the week was generally excellent, but as we were heading north again, we encountered heavy swells from a severe storm that hit California while we were away. Although the pitching was quite noticeable at times, it didn’t bother me at all. And it did not delay our arrival in San Pedro.

All in all, it was a pleasant respite for a week.


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