Two pools, including an adults-only one with a bar
Loads of fun activities, from outdoor movie nights to dance classes
Good food at both the main dining room and the buffet
Solid evening entertainment includes live music and Broadway-style shows
Wide range of specialty dining: Asian, gourmet, steakhouse, Italian
Many bars, some with live music and/or outdoor seating
Family- and group-friendly cabins with Pullman beds and/or sofa beds
Massages, salon services, and nutritional counseling available at the spa
Modern, well-equipped fitness center with personal trainers and classes
Rock-climbing wall, kids’ club, and arcade, great for younger passengers
Casino features slots, gaming tables, and a bar
Lacks the wow factor of newer ships
Small entry-level staterooms with tight showers
Fewer family-friendly amenities than other Royal Caribbean ships
Apart from breakfast, room service incurs an extra fee
Rhapsody of the Seas is a mid-sized ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, with a capacity of 2,435 passengers. Though it lacks the wow factor and amenities of its newer, flashier sister ships, it features all the basics for a fun-filled vacation, including two pools (one adults-only), an outdoor movie screen, several well-stocked bars, a casino, and an extensive entertainment program. Rates are adequate for a mid-range cruise, and include meals and snacks at three restaurants. Specialty restaurants are an extra fee, as are sodas, alcohol, Wi-Fi, and some fitness classes. Children are welcome and catered to with a kids’ club and a rock-climbing wall, but the atmosphere and amenities onboard are better suited for couples and groups of friends. Cabins range from smallish Interior staterooms with basic (if spotless) bathrooms to big suites with spacious balconies and separate tubs and rainfall showers.
What's Included (and What's Not)
The Rhapsody of the Seas offers good value for money. Aside from your booked stateroom or suite, the standard rate covers basic non-alcoholic drinks, access to the kids’ club, and all entertainment.
The fare also includes buffet meals at the Windjammer Cafe, as well as a la carte breakfast and dinner at the main dining room, and smaller bites, fresh fruit, juice from concentrate, and ice cream cones at Park Cafe. Passengers wanting to try out the specialty dining options can make reservations at their preferred restaurants either before the trip (at a discounted price) or onboard. Those planning to try several may want to consider purchasing a package, which range from $82.50 per person for three restaurants to $158.40 per person (or more, depending on the restaurants chosen) for daily specialty dining.
Included beverages are tap water, lemonade, basic coffee, tea, and juices from concentrate. Guests can also purchase drinks packages, which start at just under $10. The most basic option is the bottled water package (though tap water served onboard is safe to drink), which is $42.90 per stateroom. Other packages, however, are a per-person-per-day charge, and everyone in the same cabin must purchase the same option, which is standard industry practice. For just fountain sodas, the Classic Soda package can be purchased at $9.35 per person, while the Cafe Select Coffee Card includes 15 specialty espresso-based coffees for $34.10. Those not planning on drinking alcohol can purchase the refreshment package, which costs $28.60 per person per day and includes sodas, premium filter coffee, freshly squeezed juices, bottled water, and non-alcoholic cocktails. The full bar beverage package starts at $49.50 and includes all of the aforementioned, plus frozen cocktails, beer, and wine.
Wi-Fi costs can add up quickly, especially for groups with multiple devices. Internet packages start at $15.99 per day for one device, and discounts for additional devices are minimal: It’s $30.38 for two, $43.18 for three, and $54.37 per day for four devices. It is possible to log off on one device and connect with another one without the need to purchase a two-device package. Our VOOM Surf and Stream package worked fine in most areas, but we couldn’t stream in our Interior cabin -- and reliable browsing was limited to the area closest to the stateroom door.
All spa treatments are extra, as are yoga, Pilates, boot camp, and cycling classes. However, free stretch and abs classes are available almost every morning. Guests wanting to stay active during the trip can purchase a fitness class package, which start at $29 for three classes. Use of cardio and strength-training machines, though, is free.
Royal Caribbean increased its automatic daily gratuity in January 2018 to $14.50 per person per day for staterooms, and $17.50 per person per day for suites. On top of that, an 18% gratuity is added to all restaurant, bar, spa, casino, shops, and gym purchases.
Pleasant, low-key vibe, and more adults than children
Built in 1997, the Rhapsody of the Seas is one of the oldest ships on the Royal Caribbean fleet. Though it's not as visually stunning as some of the company’s newest ships -- such as the Oasis of the Seas or the Harmony of the Seas -- the Rhapsody is a popular pick among first-timers and seasoned cruisers alike for its reasonable rates, good food, fun entertainment options, and laid-back vibe. The ship underwent renovations in 2016, with a new Centrum area, minor updates in staterooms and suites, and new carpet in some areas -- but staterooms and common spaces still fall squarely in the mid-range category, featuring generic furniture and somewhat dated golden accents. Dress code is casual during the day (think: swimsuits, shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops), but passengers tend to dress up a little bit more in the evening. Formal nights call for smarter attire, which can be anything from cocktail dresses and suits to business-casual outfits depending on where guests choose to dine.
The Rhapsody is also one of the smallest ships in the fleet, with a maximum capacity of 2,435 passengers and a total length of 915 feet (279 meters). This allows for easy navigation through the ship, and most passengers get used to the layout within a couple of days. There are also interactive screens and deck plans on every elevator landing to help with directions.
Common spaces such as the pools and the buffet restaurant can feel crowded during sea days, but the vibe on the Rhapsody is overall laid-back rather than bustling. That is not to say there aren’t plenty of options for those wanting to have a good time -- from couples’ contests, to fun trivia games, and Broadway-style shows -- but the age range skews older here, and the type of entertainment offered is a reflection of this. Most passengers on our sailing were middle-aged and senior couples, multigenerational families, and groups of friends, the majority of which hailed from the US. We also saw a few families with younger children, but kids would probably have a better time at other Royal Caribbean ships with a wider range of child-friendly amenities, such as the Symphony of the Seas.
Some rust and wear and tear in carpets is to be expected. (We were told the Rhapsody will undergo dry-dock maintenance in late 2018.) But despite its age and busy year-round schedule, the Rhapsody is spotlessly clean and in good shape overall.
Smallish staterooms and spacious suites, some with balconies
The Rhapsody of the Seas has 1,020 cabins ranging from tight Interior staterooms to large two-bedroom suites. Cream-colored walls and blond-wood furniture are a tad bland and dated, but teal accents on bed runners, throw pillows, and carpets add some style. One or two generic paintings decorate walls in all cabin types, though there is little else in the way of ornaments. Higher-tier suites have a few extra touches that make them feel a little bit more elegant, such as wood paneling, a soothing neutral palette, and navy carpets with beige motifs. Overall, cabins reflect a similar aesthetic to mid-range chain hotel rooms.
Lower-tier cabins have small bathrooms with compact showers fitted with plastic curtains, a couple of soap bars, shampoo in wall-mounted containers, and limited counter space. Touches such as mosaic-style backsplashes in green and blue add some style, but bathrooms are overall basic. Suites, however, have nicer bathrooms with marble-style finishes, better lighting, and -- in higher-tier units -- separate glass-enclosed showers and soaking tubs.
Amenities available in all cabin categories include flat-screen TVs with movie, kids’, and sports channels, electronic safes, air-conditioning, phones, and continental European and US power sockets. Additionally, all suites feature coffeemakers and minibars. The beds are a definite highlight here, complete with plush pillow-top mattresses and two pillows each of different sizes, heights, and firmness. Turndown service is standard in all cabin categories, and includes fresh towels and delivery of the daily newsletter with a list of all the activities available onboard, weather forecast, and evening dress code, among other relevant details for the following day.
At 146 square feet, Interior staterooms are the smallest here, with just about enough space for two twin beds (that can be pushed together to make a king bed), a snug sofa, and a desk with three big drawers. Despite the limited floor space available in these rooms, big closets with space for suitcases allow them to feel less cramped. The maximum capacity of these staterooms is four guests, but families and groups wanting to stay together in one cabin may want to consider upgrading to any of the other room categories, as it can get uncomfortably tight in there with more than two people.
The rest of the cabin categories on the Rhapsody of the Seas have windows, and many feature balconies with enough space for at least a couple of chairs. Outside View staterooms -- which include Ocean View, Spacious Ocean View, and Ultra Spacious Ocean View -- range between 154 and 246 square feet, and can sleep up to six guests in a combination of twin and Pullman beds and double sofa beds.
A step up from Outside View cabins are Balcony staterooms, which have a 35-square-foot balcony. Junior Suites are spacious and pleasant, with big windows and a 64-square-foot balcony. Grand Suites have either one or two en-suite bedrooms, a spacious living room with a sofa bed, and a large balcony with loungers, while Ocean View Suites are the only suites that lack a balcony. At 1,326 square feet (plus a 110-square-foot balcony), Royal Suites are the largest cabins on the Rhapsody. Additional perks for suites include priority embarkation, Champagne and fruit basket on arrival, priority reservations at specialty restaurants, upgraded toiletries, robes, higher-quality pillows, and designated concierges. Suite guests also get exclusive access to a lounge with morning snacks, soft drinks, and happy hour specials.
Solid included dining options, plus several quality specialty restaurants
Though the Rhapsody of the Seas doesn’t offer as many dining options as other larger ships, there is always food available onboard. There are two main venues -- one serving a varied buffet and the other offering a rather short but tasty menu -- plus a snack bar, a cafe, four specialty restaurants, and round-the-clock room service (for a fee).
The fare includes buffet meals at the Windjammer Cafe, a casual spot open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering a wide variety of options, from Indian dishes to salads, meat, pasta, pizza, and fish. The dining room is large and offers expansive ocean views, and waiters do a great job clearing out tables, which means there are never long waits. The only time when the buffet may feel crowded is during days at sea, when all passengers are onboard.
Occupying a large area on decks 4 and 5, the main dining room is a more elegant (and also free) option, open for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast there is tasty and varied, with a small buffet as well as table service with eggs, pancakes, granola, and smoked salmon, and better coffee than at the Windjammer. The three-course dinner menu changes every night, but always includes a soup, fish, meat, and vegetarian option, as well as at least one sugar-free dessert. Passengers are assigned a table and a seating (either 6 p.m. of 8:30 p.m.) for the duration of the cruise, or they can choose the Anytime Dining option, which can be requested at Guest Services on embarkation day.
All guests can also eat freely at the Park Cafe, which is located by the adults-only pool and opens just a few hours per day. The menu here is simple: sandwiches, soups, and a handful of buffet options, plus fresh fruit, ice cream cones, and sweet bites. Cafe Latte-tudes is a coffee counter serving up quality espresso drinks as well as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, cakes, and pastries. Any purchases at this cafe incur an additional cost.
There are also four specialty restaurants aboard the Rhapsody, including three prix-fixe options and one a la carte. The cheapest one is Giovanni’s Table, which serves up traditional Italian cuisine for dinner in a classic space on deck 6. The prix-fixe menu starts at $33. A (small) step up in price is Chops Grille, which opens for dinner daily and for lunch on sea days only. The prix-fixe menu starts at $38.50 and includes quality steakhouse specialties such as angus beef and rib-eye steaks along with a few sides and desserts. There is also a lunch special for days at sea that starts at $24.20. Located on deck 12 and offering panoramic ocean views is Izumi, the only a la carte restaurant on the Rhapsody. It serves up Asian cuisine with a focus on Japanese dishes, and prices are comparable to any smart Asian restaurant in the US.
Serious foodies and those celebrating a special occasion may want to check out Chef’s Table, offering an excellent five-course dinner menu starting at $93.50. Each course is paired with wines hand-picked by the ship’s Executive Chef. The elegant dining room can seat a maximum of 16 guests, which makes it feel even more exclusive.
Passengers planning on dining at several specialty restaurants may want to purchase a dining package, which start at $82.50 for three dinners. (More information available in the What’s Included (And What’s Not) section above.) Travelers with dietary restrictions should know that these are not catered to in specialty restaurants.
Room service is available around the clock, but there is an $8 service fee applied to all orders -- except for continental breakfast, which can be requested free of charge by all guests.
As is common in ships where there are more couples than families, drinking is a popular pastime on the Rhapsody of the Seas -- and there is no shortage of places to get a drink. The daily newsletter sets the mood for the following day with an announcement at the very top of the page of the drink of the day as well as any drink specials available, which can typically be ordered after 9:30 a.m. and can be anything from mimosas to Bloody Marys, margaritas to beer buckets. Additionally, there are often drink-related activities before noon, including Champagne auctions and the so-called Eye-Openers, which are happy hour-style offers at the Pool Bar.
During the day, the most popular spots are poolside. The lido pool has a long bar as well as a few tables under a roof, and waiters can bring drinks to the loungers. At the indoor, adults-only Solarium Pool, the bar is somewhat smaller and quieter, but the menu is similar, with a wide array of frozen drinks, cocktails, and beer.
Once everyone is back onboard in the afternoon, the R Bar is the place to be until late in the evening, with live music, contests, dance lessons and, of course, a constant flow of drinks. Other spots where passengers can go for a cocktail include the adult-only Schooner Bar -- which generally offers mellower music shows than the R Bar -- Shall We Dance Lounge, and the casino bar, though the latter is often empty, as people usually grab their drinks and sit at the slot machines or gaming tables. The Viking Crown Lounge, located on deck 11, is the only nightclub on the Rhapsody of the Seas, but it isn’t as popular as bars in other parts of the ship.
Filter coffee, tea, and water are readily available throughout the ship, but those craving some fancier espresso-based drinks can grab one at Latte-tudes, located on deck 6. Coffees and teas can be purchased individually, but passengers looking to regularly get their caffeine fix here may want to consider getting the Cafe Select Coffee Card, which offers 15 espresso-based drinks for $34.10 per person.
After gratuities and taxes, drinks aren’t cheap onboard (a beer is $8.90), so passengers planning on getting drinks every day may want to purchase a package instead. (For price information and options, see the What’s Included (And What’s Not) section above.)
Passengers are allowed to bring two 750 cl bottles of wine or Champagne per stateroom on boarding day, but there is a $15 corkage fee per bottle. No other outside drinks are allowed after embarkation day.
Lots of entertainment options, from contests to Broadway-style shows and art auctions
As a ship that draws more adults than children, the Rhapsody’s entertainment program is better suited for thirtysomethings and up than for families with young children.
Daily activities start early with a stretch or yoga class before breakfast, followed by a few short trivia games (Airline Logos, General Knowledge, TV Tunes…) and perhaps a workshop at the spa about acupuncture or skin tightening. Don’t expect to find dozens of passengers at any of these, though, as they take place after most travelers have disembarked for the day (on non-sea days). Other daytime activities include family-friendly scavenger hunts, line dancing by the pool, and coloring sessions, but most families simply stay around the Lido pool when the weather is nice, as there is always music and a large movie screen, which sometimes shows kid-friendly films. (During our sailing, the most recent Star Wars, superhero, and Disney movies were being shown.) There are several screenings of the same movie in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
In the afternoon, the entertainment team keep passengers busy with contests, quizzes, and dance classes. Other more mellow activities available during our sailing were art auctions (some of which included a free glass of sparkling wine), and bowling and table tennis tournaments. Fitness classes are also available daily, most for a fee (see Spa and Fitness section for additional information).
The Centrum is the ship’s central atrium, complete with a bar and seating with sea views. This is one of the most popular areas onboard, as much of the evening entertainment takes place here. The mellower Schooner Bar hosts guitar and piano shows daily, while Shall We Dance Lounge is the place to go to sing some karaoke. Smoking is allowed in a section inside Casino Royal, which features a few dozen slot machines and a handful of gaming tables. Note that only U.S. dollars are accepted in the casino.
Quality musicals, dance performances, and adults-oriented contests take place every night at the Broadway Melodies Theater. Two of the most popular shows during our sailing were a couples’ contest and an adults-only treasure hunt that made the audience roar with laughter. Those looking to show off their moves until the wee hours can head up to the ship’s nightclub, the Viking Crown Lounge, though we rarely saw more than a handful of passengers.
Shops selling everything from jewelry and designer watches to Royal Caribbean hats, sunscreen, and clothes give another type of diversion. But those looking for a quiet place to read or work may be disappointed to discover the Library is just a couple of bookshelves in the atrium.
Adults-only and family pools, complete with whirlpools, lots of loungers, and bars
Deck 9 is home to the Rhapsody’s two pools, each with its own distinct atmosphere. The main pool is family-friendly and lively, with music, a popular bar with chatty waiters, a movie screen, and lots of loungers, both in the shade and in the sun. This pool can get busy, especially on sea days, and some passengers we talked to complained that some guests ignored the "No lounger reservation" signs, which made it even more frustrating.
The whirlpools flanking the main pool are a coveted spot for watching movies on the large screen, and they were usually full in the afternoon. There are typically activities such as line dancing classes or live music taking place by the pool, and the bar keeps drinks flowing throughout the day. Aside from a few stools at the bar, there are also a few tables placed along the windows. There is a coffee, tea, water, and ice cream station nearby as well, and the entrance to the Windjammer Cafe is directly adjacent to the main pool. The towel desk and ping-pong tables are also nearby. The Rhapsody of the Seas does not have a kiddy pool.
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, the adults-only Solarium Pool is the place to be. The pool isn’t huge and there are fewer loungers, but the vibe is mellower, with some soothing music, two whirlpools, and a glass roof that keeps the deck comfortably warm on colder days. Many of the loungers here are placed facing the sea, and most are generally occupied by passengers quietly enjoying a book rather than chatting drink in hand. There are also a few tables and a full bar, and snacks, fresh fruit, and coffee are available at the adjacent Park Cafe.
A rock-climbing area is also onboard, although it's only open a few hours per day.
Small but pleasant spa, with big windows and a modern gym
Vitality at Sea spa may not be ultra-luxurious or decadently decorated, but it does feature large windows offering panoramic sea views, and it has a soothing atmosphere that makes it relaxing and pleasant. The spa menu offers a wide variety of treatments, ranging from acupuncture to body wraps, scrubs, anti-wrinkle treatments, and couples’ massages. Prices are high but on par with industry standards -- body therapies start at $109, and couples’ treatments at $169 per adult. Hair services, facials, and special packages such as mother-daughter, teeth-whitening, and teens facials are also available.
The gym is located above the spa and features several small but airy spaces with modern machines and polished wooden floors. Free classes -- held in an open space with a large mirror -- typically include morning stretch or abs sessions, while yoga, Pilates, indoor cycling, and bootcamp are available for a fee. Passengers who expect to take several classes can purchase a class pass, which start at $29 for three sessions. There is also an outdoor jogging track on Deck 10, though some passengers we talked to said that the material used for the surface could cause some discomfort on their knees after a long run.
Small kids’ club with a few activities for children 3 to 17
Though there are usually fewer kids on this ship than on others of the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Rhapsody does have a few good areas dedicated for children between the ages of 3 and 17, all located on deck 10 and free to use. Babies and toddlers up to five years old have their own designated area, complete with an indoor playground, lots of educational toys, a TV, and a room with cribs.
Adventure Ocean is for kids up to 11 years old, and features a library, a lounge with lots of seating and large windows, bins full of toys, a couple of computers, and an arts and crafts area that can also be used for indoor sports. Teens have their own hangout room, featuring a video arcade and a disco with long, padded benches, TVs, music, and a long bar with age-appropriate magazines.
Babysitting services are available for a fee, and the crew runs "My Time Family Dining" where little ones are escorted to the kids' club from the dinner table, allowing parents to finish their meal in peace.