At the end of this seven month travel itinerary, we found ourselves on board a cruise ship for the first time in five years. Over the past thirty years we have cruised about a dozen times. There are some really great things about cruising….and some not so great things. But overall our one week aboard Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean (Royal Caribbean) was a good experience, and a relaxing week after our whirlwind in Bolivia.
Let Me Be Honest
So I’m going to be brutally honest about the things I enjoy about cruising and the things I don’t. So if you are a big fan of cruising fair warning…you might get defensive. But this is my opinion and you can take or leave it, so here we go.
Not Like It Used to Be
Alas, cruising is just not like it used to be. Our very first cruise, in 1992, still to this day remains one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The service was impeccable. The food was unforgettable. The ship, though small (we were on Norwegian Cruise Line) was spotless.
Today service and food both are not near up to the standards of that first cruise. Unfortunately I would say the food on this cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas was the weakest I’ve had. And although our nightly wait staff ( Emily and Princess) were lovely…the dining room seemed understaffed and a bit harried. Our room steward on this cruise was Roxanne and she was great.
Today the cruise lines nickle and dime you for everything. Years ago a cappuccino was part of breakfast…not anymore. Pay extra. Years ago yoga or cycling class was free in the fitness center…not anymore. Pay extra. Years ago room service was included if you wanted it. Not anymore…pay extra (except for continental breakfast). Back in the day everyone dined in the dining room and a buffet was a special event…now its a cafeteria style all day long feast where people over indulge to excess. But at least you don’t pay extra.
Relax and Enjoy
Today we cruise from time to time (last one was pre-pandamit in 2018) and when we cruise we approach it with low expectations. We enjoy the pool and always get a room with a balcony if possible. We love sitting on our private balcony. We enjoy the dining room, but are not fans of the buffet. We enjoy the Broadway style shows, but aren’t big fans of comedians or magicians.
This seven day cruise on board Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean departed from Barbados where we had spent a relaxing week in an Airbnb. We docked in five island ports over the seven days; Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao and Trinidad & Tobago. Three of these were new to us, bringing our country total to 125.
We chose to do only two excursions during the week. We did a bicycle tour in Bonaire, which was really beautiful but difficult due to the high winds. And we did a kayak bird watching tour in Trinidad & Tobago which we loved. On the kayaking tour we saw an astonishing array of birds and wildlife in Caroni Wildlife Sanctuary on the island of Trinidad. In the other ports of call we enjoyed just strolling around the colorful Caribbean ports.
My favorite cruise itinerary was eight years ago when I took my mom on a cruise for her 75th birthday. My sister came too and we visited St Petersburg Russia, Copenhagen, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. It was great.
The longest cruise I’ve ever done was 28 days! This was when my husband and I used a cruise ship that was repositioning to get from Australia to Seattle. Even though it was LONG, it still was one of the funnest, most relaxing and most interesting cruises we have done. We made stops in Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Hawaii. I would consider a repositioning cruise again.
My Favorite Things on Rhapsody of the Seas
This ship is one of the smallest in the RCL line. For a short cruise like this one I like a smaller ship. I loved our dinner wait staff, but like I said before the food was unfortunately just mediocre.
Our room was very spacious and surprisingly had a lot of storage. I am always amazed how they squeeze storage into every nook and cranny in these rooms. We were very comfortable; thebed was great and the balcony was awesome. Our room steward was fantastic, and the room was very quiet.
We only went to a couple of the shows, but the ones we saw were just okay. I think the larger ships tend to have better entertainment. On our one day at sea the cruise staff had so many different things to do and that gave us lot of choices. I enjoyed the cake competition and the parade of flags the most.
Everyday we played trivia at least once, it’s one of our favorite things to do on board any cruise.
I love formal night in the dining room, although most people don’t dress to the nines like back in the day. But since I don’t really have much of a reason to get dressed up very often, I like to have fun in a pretty dress. On this seven day cruise we actually had two formal nights on board Rhapsody of the Seas Southern Caribbean.
My Least Favorite Things
The buffet is annoying to me…people get so worked up over food. I only ever had the salad bar in the buffet during this cruise because fighting for food is not my idea of a good time. There was never a line for salad bar…hmmm. I must point out though, this buffet on this smaller ship was extremely small compared to some ships, so that played into my annoyance.
I’m not a big fan of dining with strangers, so we always try to get a table for two in the main dining room on our cruises.
Anytime you throw a couple of thousand people together there are going to be people who are entitled. This is a big issue for me in any group situations…loud, pushy, or just plain rude. I do my best to take a deep breath and move along.
The ship seemed understaffed, particularly in the dining room during breakfast. One morning we waited 45 min for our food. Not acceptable.
On the final day disembarking was the most disorganized I have ever seen. What a cluster! No signage and no helpful personnel as we tried to find the right bus to the airport.
I’ve cruised enough times on RCL to have Platinum status. It’s a low ranking frequent cruiser status that comes with a couple of minor perks. But the really big time cruisers are Diamonds and they get some awesome perks. Because cruising is not something I want to do very often, I have no plans to reach Diamond. But for those who do love cruising, all cruise lines have great loyalty programs including Royal Caribbean. I suspect we would choose Royal Caribbean again, although we usually choose based on itinerary not cruise line.
For the price, cruising is an economical way to explore multiple destinations and is particularly good for families, singles or the elderly. It has a lot of advantages, and despite some of the disadvantages you can’t beat the price per day for what you get. It’s also really nice to wake up in a new place each day without having to pack your bags. However, a short port of call will never give you the opportunity to really get to know a country deeply – which is something we value highly. So we will only cruise occasionally.
Thanks for reading my post Rhapsody of the Sea Southern Caribbean. However you like to travel, it’s time to get back out there people…start making some travel memories today.
Our next stop is the USA. We begin with a three week tour from Atlanta to Boston before returning to our home state of Washington for the entire summer. Looking forward to being home in the USA for four and half months before heading international again mid September. Blog posts coming about our Eastern USA stops.
See last week’s post Barbados Beaches and Beyond.
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What an honest review. I loved it. I have only been on one cruise, nearly 30 years ago, on an older, smaller ship than they have nowadays. I’m more interested in taking a river cruise than a sea cruise, but I’d like to explore the Caribbean and Pacific Islands on a cruise. Hopefully, they’ll improve.April 22, 2023 at 1:40 am
I totally want to do a river cruise…I hear it’s so fun. So hopefully in the next year or two.April 22, 2023 at 1:52 pm
Having cruised a lot, we have to agree that both food and service have slipped. On our last cruise, when it was good it was great. When it was not, it was awful. So no consistency. We still love cruises to taste test new places and get a feel if we would like to go back. And are still adding far more places than we are taking off. But glad you had a relaxing week and a few good port stops.April 22, 2023 at 8:51 am
Thanks Linda – I am sure we will cruise again…gotta chose the right one!!April 22, 2023 at 1:51 pm
Right there with ya girlfriend! We’ve become spoiled by sailing the seas in our own sailboat. And because my husband was the Cap’n on out Blew Bayou, he can’t handle NOT being in charge..heheh. And we just can’t handle that many people anywhere, anymore ♀️!!!April 23, 2023 at 12:07 pm
I am with ya.April 24, 2023 at 3:43 am
I would not have liked to share a table with strangers aswell, when I go to dinner I would rather get to choose my company myself 🙂
Totally off topic, You look absolutly amazing by the way!May 5, 2023 at 2:39 am