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Review:  Rhapsody of the Seas - Impressions of Activities, Events & Entertainment

Review: Rhapsody of the Seas - Impressions of Activities, Events & Entertainment

avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 12/22/2018
Posted On 01/30/2019 17:09:13

Destinations | Cruises | Review of Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas | Review of Venice to Rome Cruise | Review of Transatlantic Cruise | Royal Caribbean | RCI | Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Compass

Our December 2018 back-to-back cruises aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas were our 31st and 32nd cruises together. The 21 days cruising from Venice to Barcelona and then to Port Canaveral, Florida marked our third Transatlantic Cruise.

Although there are positives and negatives about every cruise line, ship and itinerary, we always make the best of any opportunity that we have to travel. Our goal with this post is to provide thoughtful feedback (both positive and not) to both Royal Caribbean as well as to anyone considering a cruise with the line or more specifically on the Rhapsody. As many readers are interested in seeing activities offered on certain itineraries, we have also included the Cruise Compass for all 21 days that we were aboard.


The first of our back-to-back cruises departed from Marittima Cruise Port in Venice, Italy. Since our hotel was located just off of the Piazzale Roma, we walked the couple of blocks to the Venice People Mover. I guarded our luggage while Scott waited in line at the ticket-vending machines. Once he paid the fare (less than $3.50 USD for one-way transport for two), we pulled our luggage to the entrance check point and scanned our tickets.

Passengers have a choice of elevator or escalator to get up to the train platform. Once aboard the regularly scheduled trains, the ride to the port takes less than two minutes. After exiting, we made our way downstairs and, since the station is outside of the port entrance, walked the distance to the passenger terminal. (Royal Caribbean did have a bus stop inside the port entrance, however we opted not to wait for the bus. We were, however, surprised at the distance that we had to walk while dragging our luggage. Maybe waiting for the bus wouldn't have been a bad idea!)

The passenger terminal is comprised of two buildings - one for luggage drop-off and the second for passenger check-in. The luggage check line was actually the longer of the two, but we proceeded through both pretty quickly and were ready to board. Well, we were ready, however the ship wasn't ready for us! Although the boarding line was not terribly long, for some unknown reason boarding was halted twice while we were awaiting our security scan.

The good news about the delay was that staterooms were ready, so we dropped off our backpacks right away. Since we had slept in and skipped breakfast, we headed straight to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch!

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas

Prior to "boarding" the second leg of our journey, we attended the Consecutive Cruisers Get Together for an overview of turnover day in Barcelona. (I still keep chuckling at one of the quips made by a young speaker as he looked out at the much older audience, "... since 90% of you have prescriptions ..."!) The great news is that turnover day was very easy. Our new key card was delivered by our stateroom attendant on the evening before our arrival. All that we had to do was exit the ship with our "old" card and when we returned, use our "new" card!

Mandatory Life Boat Drill

All passengers sailing on back-to-back cruises are required to participate in the lifeboat drill at the start of each sailing. For us, it was interesting to compare the two drills as some members of our muster team had changed.

The Rhapsody of the Seas muster stations are all located outside on deck five. I never thought that I would have high praises about any muster team members, however I was proven wrong. During the first of our sailings, Tanya was the leader at muster station 16. She said something that resonated with me that I haven't heard in my previous 30 cruises - "look for two paths to your muster station". Her point was that by doing so, we would know the routes in case one is blocked during an emergency.

Tanya departed the ship on turnaround day, and our second muster drill had a completely different feel. First of all, I was near the back of one of the lines, and I couldn't see anything (good thing that I already know how to put on a life jacket!). Secondly, the drill took much longer than just one week earlier. Finally, while the leader of the muster drill was more similar to previous muster leaders, she was no Tanya!

Rhapsody of the Seas Crew and Officer Staff

Our stateroom attendant Neisha Mckenzie from Jamaica took great care of us every day from the first day until we departed 21 days later. She brought us an ice bucket, filled it twice daily and even frequently brought wine glasses. While we didn't have a new towel creature every night, we had some unique towel art that we haven't seen before!

Towel Art Courtesy of Neisha Mckenzie

Towel Art Courtesy of Neisha Mckenzie

Neisha was extremely personable and always called us by name. Her biggest asset was the huge smile on her face every time we saw her. We truly enjoyed meeting her and visiting with her throughout our time on board.

Elvis Pinto Robles was the hard working Cruise Director during both cruises. I was amazed at his energy - from morning to night he was busy, busy, busy ... including a mid day Zumba class that he led regularly in the Centrum. While I did tire of his "schtick" to introduce the nightly entertainment ("they can hear you"), I was happy that he changed it slightly toward the end of our second cruise.

One of our favorite members of the Activities Team was Eric Lopez. We predict that he will relinquish his title of Activities Manager soon ... and move into the role of Cruise Director! Eric is funny, has a great personality and has the ability to laugh and joke around with guests. From Cruise Critic Meet and Greets to activity introductions and even as emcee of the men's bellyflop competition, he kept us in stitches!

While the information provided at Guest Services sometimes differed between staff members, all were nice and helpful during our visits to request statement print-outs and search lost and found for Scott's sunglasses. Although we only visited with one Next Cruise employee, she didn't seem interested in making a sale. The lines were often long to visit with Peter Ngene, the Loyalty Ambassador. It seemed that one cause for the lines was his painfully slow computer!

Last, but certainly not least, we were surprised at how young Captain Tobias Oster appeared to be! He too was very personable, and although his noon time updates were often hard to hear, I enjoyed his daily "did you know" quotes.

Activities and Events

There was a variety of activities and events every day of both cruises making it difficult to choose what to do knowing that we'd miss out on something else. In addition to the Cruise Compass delivered each evening, the Daily Morning Show hosted by Elvis and Eric promoted some of the day's happenings on stateroom TVs.

7 Day Adriatic and Italy Cruise

14 Day Canary Islands and Bahamas Transatlantic Cruise

Outdoor Activities and Poolside Games

Scott and I "walked across the Atlantic" with Sandra each sea day morning during the Walk a Mile (or more) activity. Likely due to the average age of passengers aboard, it was often difficult to recruit contestants for poolside games. The Scavenger Hunt, World's Sexiest Man and Men's Bellyflop Competition that we did catch were a hoot to watch!

Parties and Game Shows

Most of the evening / late night parties and events were hosted in the ship's Centrum, which unfortunately is small and often had very poor microphones. (Standing just one floor above, it was virtually impossible to understand the speaker.) Although we only observed a small percentage of the goings on, we enjoyed plenty of laughs during some of the game shows including Love & Marriage and Finish the Lyrics. The popular "70's Disco Inferno" Street Party was so crowded that it was nearly impossible to avoid being trampled!

We enjoy watching the International Parade of Flags, an event unique to Royal Caribbean. It's fun to see some of the behind-the-scenes staff members show pride in their heritage.

International Parade of Flags

International Parade of Flags

Passenger Karaoke

The first karaoke event that we attempted to watch was a bust due to the unannounced time change. Although the sound system in the Shall We Dance Lounge needs serious improvement, since we had befriended one of the regulars, we enjoyed listening. The passenger talent aboard the ship was showcased during the Guest Talent Show and Super Star Karaoke Finals afternoon shows.

Our Table Mate Clint performing in the Guest Talent Show

Our Table Mate Clint performing in the Guest Talent Show

Christmas Decor and Events

As we were aboard during most of December, the holiday decor got more elaborate as we traveled. First the Christmas tree, then the appearance of poinsettias and finally an elaborate Christmas village.

Rhapsody of the Seas Christmas Tree

Rhapsody of the Seas Christmas Tree

Poinsettias surrounding the Centrum Balconies

Poinsettias surrounding the Centrum Balconies

Christmas Village on Deck 6

Christmas Village on Deck 6

There were also holiday themed events throughout both cruises. For those traveling with young ones, family Christmas activities included story time, ornament / card making and even ugly sweater events. I thought I was going to make it to one of the scrapbooking, card or jewelry making workshops, however never found the time.

A select group of passengers committed to attending a number of MOB dance or choir rehearsals during the transatlantic cruise culminating with a Holiday Concert complete with snow for all to enjoy!

It's Snowing in the Centrum during the Holiday Concert!

It's Snowing in the Centrum during the Holiday Concert!

Cruise Critic Activities and Events

We attended both Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle events in the Shall We Dance Lounge. I have to admit that, when sailing with Royal Caribbean, I actually expect more from these events. Since the cruise line takes ownership of coordinating the date, time and venue, I am surprised at the short duration and lack of officer participation when compared to events on competitor ships.

The two crew members hosting the event were the Activities Manager and Group Coordinator. On a positive note, Eric has the perfect personality and enthusiasm for emceeing a prize give-away and the Group Coordinator organized a large number of give-away items. However, with over 250 registered for the transatlantic crossing event, it was extremely poor planning to have a religious service in the same room just 45 minutes later. We were basically kicked out before those leading our planned events had any time to make themselves known.

The only other Cruise Critic event that Scott and I participated in was Left, Center, Right. The room that the ship made available was the upper floor of the main dining room where several other group games were being played. Unfortunately, space was limited and it was difficult to find enough room for all that wanted to play.

Showtime and Musical Entertainment

One of our favorite things about cruising is the variety of entertainment included in the price of a cruise. Performances in the main theater rank very high on our list, however we also enjoy listening to music both day and night.


Evening headliner performances in the Broadway Melodies Theatre did not disappoint. The ship's singers and dancers performed production shows Ballroom Fever, Piano Man and Pure Country. While the same three shows were offered on both sailings (common among cruises), we attended and enjoyed all six performances.

Pure Country

Pure Country

Musical headliners included Motown performances by American Dream, an Elton John tribute and a Big Band concert. Kyle Southern, one of the ship's singers, delivered his first ever matinee performance on our first cruise. The performance was well received and those of us who saw the show were delighted to return to his evening performance on our second sailing. My only disappointment was that Kyle was not introduced by the Cruise Director or Activities Manager who introduced every other headline act. (In my opinion, it sent the wrong message to passengers about the show's quality.)

Matinee Showcase:  Kyle Southern

Matinee Showcase: Kyle Southern

Additional headliner performances included comedy, juggling, magic and more. A "hand puppet" Shadow Show was one of the most unique cruise ship acts that we've seen.

Carlo Truzzi & Simona's Shadow Show

Carlo Truzzi & Simona's Shadow Show

I do wish that the headliner performances were on a more regular schedule (or announced in advance) to make it is easier to make dining reservations that would not conflict. It's impossible for late night diners to attend all performances as some evenings only had one offering (8:00 PM, 9:30 PM or 9:45 PM). For "my time" diners making dining room or specialty restaurant reservations, 5:30 PM was the only time that guaranteed the ability to see all headliner shows. (The starting times for the first evening performances ranged from 6:45 PM to 8:30 PM, with the final performance starting between 8:45 PM and 10:15 PM.)

Daytime Poolside Music

We were regulars in the hot tub from late morning until early afternoon. One reason that we chose the time was to listen to live poolside music. The good new is that the bands performed nearly every day and both bands (Caribbean Force and UP & UP) were enjoyable. (We've been on cruises where it seemed that bands were in search of excuses not to perform.)

I would recommend that someone take a close look at the scheduling of poolside music. With the captain's Noon daily announcement, starting live music at 11:45 AM is crazy. The band performs for 15 minutes and immediately stops when the announcement begins. At the conclusion of the captain's update, the message is then translated into one or more languages. Finally, when the announcements are over, the band returns with another 10 - 15 minutes of live music before either a break or ending for the day. It would be great if the bands were scheduled from either 11:15 AM - Noon or 12:15 PM - 1:00 PM.

Evening Live Music

From Piano Bar Entertainment with Harry Rios to more subdued orchestral music by La Strada Duo to dance music by both UP & UP and Caribbean Force, there was music for everyone! The Centrum performances by the Royal Caribbean Singers are unique to Royal Caribbean and also very enjoyable.

"UP & UP" Dance Band performing in the Rhapsody of the Seas Centrum

"UP & UP" Dance Band performing in the Rhapsody of the Seas Centrum

Crown and Anchor Society Benefits

We started with Platinum status in the Crown & Anchor Society and were "promoted" to Emerald at the conclusion of the first of our two cruises. We did attend both Exclusive Top Tier Events held in the theater (due to the large number of qualifying passengers). Unlike other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean does more than just recognize those with the greatest number of sailing days. While it is amazing to hear the numbers, I'd be willing to give up the "promotion ceremonies" in place of the appetizers and additional drinks offered by competitors!

Of the remaining benefits, few were of interest to us. Using the BOGO benefit we tried an Iced Frappe, however it wasn't our favorite so we didn't use the remaining three. We also tried our luck at Spin to Win in the casino with no success in our five spins each (2 with Platinum and 3 with Emerald benefits).

We visited with Peter Ngene (Loyalty Ambassador) to ask about one additional benefit offered to Emerald passengers (welcome waters, snack and beverage). As we asked about the benefit on day three, we had to return later once the system had been updated. When we returned we each got to choose a beverage, but there was no mention of the waters and snack. Since we had plenty to eat and drink, we weren't concerned, but I was surprised that an offer for the entire benefit was not extended. (Peter also covered the words "Platinum" on our key cards with a sticker that said "Emerald Member"!)


Two days before the end, our disembarkation port was changed due to threatening weather conditions. Just before departing Nassau, the captain announced that we would sail to Port Canaveral on Florida's east coast rather than Tampa on the west. Disembarkation actually was ahead of schedule, and our luggage was easy to find in the cruise terminal. (The customs lines, on the other hand, were long and painfully slow moving - just as the last time that we sailed into Port Canaveral. I was, however, less bothered by our one hour plus wait on this occasion since the arrival of our ship was unexpected.)

Next Cruise

We continue to enjoy cruising, however don't see significant differences between the cruise lines on which we've sailed (Celebrity, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean). One noticeable difference between the lines is the on board future cruise offering. While we have regularly purchased future cruises on the other three lines, with Royal's offering of non- refundable deposits (or higher rates), we don't see a big benefit. The only time that we might consider a purchase is when we have a specific cruise that we are planning.

The Rest of the Rhapsody Story

For part one of our review of this Royal Caribbean ship, take a look at Review: Rhapsody of the Seas - Impressions of the Public Areas, Our Stateroom & Dining. In addition to photos from our stateroom as well as many of the ship's venues, you can also read about our dining experience while on board.

Favorite Cruise Ships

Here's a couple of questions for you:
  • Based on activities, events and entertainment, what cruise ship is your favorite and why does it rank as your number one?
  • Based only on loyalty club benefits, what cruise line is at the top of your list, and why?

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Review:  Rhapsody of the Seas - Impressions of Activities, Events & Entertainment


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