Our Honeymoon – Day 10 Sailing for Venice

img_6677This morning we awoke to the sound of the Rhapsody of the Seas slowly making her way north through the Adriatic as this trip of a lifetime comes to a close. This has been an amazing trip and we are sad it’s coming to an end, but excited for our next adventure. We had nothing but a lazy day planned. After getting up and going, we enjoyed our last breakfast in the dining room and then I ventured around to get a few more photos of the boat. The dreaded task awaited as we came back to our stateroom to pack and worry about how much our bags were going to be over the weight limit. After packing, tossing stuff we didn’t need to take home, we grabbed the iPads and made our way to the Solarium. Relaxing by the pool, reading and people watching as we steamed back to Venice was the perfect way to spend the last day at sea. The toughest part of the cruise was saying goodbye after dinner to some amazing people who had become our family while on the cruise. We exchanged contact information and have kept in touch with some of them through social media.

Our 10 day venture through the eastern Mediterranean has been quite possibly the best 10 days of our lives thus far. Admittedly, I was a bit leery of a cruise, given that, I’ve watched too many documentaries on the Costa Concordia and read about boats being a drift at sea. If something is going to happen, chances are high it’ll happen when I’m going to be on it. But, I could also take a trip on an Allegiant flight and lose an engine, so I digress.

img_6672The Rhapsody of the Seas, while one of the smaller, and older ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, has provided an intimate, yet fun first cruise. We can definitely see ourselves cruising again in the future, and have several choices for our next one.

If you’ve never been on a cruise, it’s a great way to see various ports in a region, get a taste of each one and then be able to plan future trips to visit them more in depth. But the actual time on the ship can be just as fun. If you go hungry or get bored, then I’m not quite sure what to say. There is always something going on from shuffleboard on the top deck to a movie in the theater or just lounging around the pool with a good book and a whiskey drink.

The Rhapsody of the Seas is 20 years old, with an overhaul coming in 2012. It is showing some minor signs of age, but the crew does a great job keeping it clean and repaired. Holding 2400 passengers and 700 crew, it’s a small boat, but great for a first cruise.

When we booked the cruise, we opted for an off peak trip because it was cheaper, but also due to our work schedules. With the offseason pricing, we were able to get a balcony room for a little more than we would’ve paid for an interior room in the summer. It was well worth the wait and the money spent. A few nights, we would leave the door open to the balcony to hear the water crashing against the hull of the ship. If that doesn’t put you to sleep, I’m not sure what will. The room wasn’t exactly huge, but it was bigger than I expected it to be.

Walking in, there is a closet to your left and the bathroom to the right. If you’ve ever seen an ADA portable toilet, that’s about the size of the whole bathroom. Shower included. That doesn’t allow for much room to shower if you’re 6’3″. I’m enjoying my self inflicted male pattern baldness, and it was a feat to self inflict it without hitting the walls with an elbow or 2. Also, I had to practically kneel to rinse my face.

Inside our balcony cabin.
Inside our balcony cabin.

As you walk into the cabin there is a queen(ish) size bed with another small corner style closet with shelves inside. Past the bed is a couch with coffee table and a desk area with drawers, a mirror and tv. There was plenty of space for everything we brought, although we had to stuff the suitcases between the end of the desk or couch and the windows. The balcony was a nice size with a table and 2 chairs on it. Perfect for eating an early breakfast in Athens or enjoying a day at sea with a cup of tea and a good book.

We brought a lot of stuff people said we would need, but in the end, realized we wouldn’t need it(like Command Strips to hang things in the bathroom). In the cabin, the outlets are American, but there aren’t many, so a travel size power strip is a wise idea. Especially one with a couple USB plugs. In the desk area is also a small fridge along with a digital safe to lock things in.

Our cabin attendant, Doug was exceptional in helping us with anything we needed, from ice to bottles of water. He was also one talented towel animal maker. Doug was also helpful with us first time cruisers to give us pointers and tips along the way.

img_6681In the front of the ship is a large Broadway style theater which has a show, just about every night and during the day, movies. We caught 3 shows while we were there and I have to give credit to the entertainers, to run and jump around like you do, while the ship is pitching and rolling, wow. I would blow out a knee in about 3 seconds.

On one of the previous days at sea, we grabbed a cup of coffee and settled into the comfortable chairs in the balcony and watched Finding Dory. This was one of the many children’s movies that played while we were at sea. The other we took in was the Jungle Book, which showed one night on the pool deck.

img_8680Like stated before, if you go hungry on a cruise, it’s you’re own fault. Between the Windjammer Cafe(buffet style dining), main dining room and the other restaurants on board, there are more than enough food options to keep you going. They cater to many dietary needs in the Windjammer and the nightly menu options in the dining room were varied for all tastes.

Being our first cruise, we had nothing to compare it to, but many people we spoke with had mixed feelings on the food. Service was top notch but they said there were other lines they had been on where the food was better. Initially we would eat breakfast in the Windjammer but found the main dining room to be a better option. The food in the Windjammer wasn’t bad, but it was your typical mass produced fare in a buffet setting. If you got there during the peak dining times, it could be an all our free for all so we learned, when we did eat there, to stagger it enough so we missed the rush.

The main dimg_8712ining room was exceptional. Our waitstaff was phenomenal. Sadly our waiter, Carmelo, who was only with us for 2 nights, had to leave as during our trip, a hurricane was hitting his native Dominican Republic so he left us in Montenegro to fly home to be with them. Elizabeth from the Philippines who usually worked in Izumi, the Japanese restaurant, came down to take his place. She was assisted by the amazing Maria from Russia. Each night in the dining room was a different themed menu with new items on it based on the theme. If nothing caught your eye, there were some standard selections to chose from as well. From appetizers, hot and cold soups, salads, main courses and deserts, it was tough to decide some nights. Throw in the never ending supply of rolls, there were some nights I didn’t think I’d eat the next morning. But I did, because I’m a champ when it comes to eating.

There were 3 other restaurants on board, though we didn’t try them, our table mates did and said they were top notch. Chops Grill is a steakhouse, Izumi, as mentioned before a Japanese restaurant with sushi, Chef’s Table, an intimate dining experience and Giovani’s Table, an Italian restaurant. On future cruises, we will definitely check them out, but honestly, our table rocked and we had a blast with them.

img_8723Speaking of our table, when booking, we were given options for dining, either dine at our leisure, or have a set time. Then select how big of a table to sit at. Our travel agent suggested we sit at a larger table to meet more people, but also, we sat at a smaller table, it could be possible to run into some less than ideal individuals. We could always switch once we got there if we decided we didn’t like who we sat with. We did have a couple who didn’t really fit the laid back atmosphere at our table, at all. Honestly, our other tablemates were some of the nicest, funniest and outgoing people would could ask for.

In between meals, should you get a hankering for a snack, in the Centrum area there is a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream stand as well as a coffee shop called Latte-tudes with coffees and assorted pastries. These are alternatives to the free coffee and ice cream available on the pool deck and in the Solarium by the pool. While these options will cost you, sometimes you just need some Cherry Garcia.

img_6685The Rhapsody of the Seas has 2 pools on it, the outdoor, main pool and then the indoor Solarium pool. The main pool has 4 hot tubs, a bar and 2 ice cream machines. The ice cream machines are key here. Who doesn’t love walking up to an ice cream machine for a cone? On the video screen are videos to correspond with the music that plays most of the morning and afternoon. In the afternoon, a band played various live music.

The Solarium pool was a bit smaller and only had 2 hot tubs. Inside was a small snack cafe and juice bar. It provided a more quiet setting than the outdoor pool so if you wanted to read, it was a better option than the outdoor pool.

img_8674If you’re looking for exercise options, there was a well outfitted fitness center with cardio equipment, weight machines and free weights. On the top deck was a climbing wall at the back of the ship along with a walking/running track that provided some of the most amazing views while working on your fitness. While we were tempted to go to the fitness center, the amount of walking we did on the shore excursions, coupled with not using an elevator but only a few times, we got more physical activity than we bargained for. There is a spa for pampering yourself which also offered classes on various topics throughout the trip.

During the day and each night, the multi story Centrum, in the main area of the ship comes alive with various activities from learning to dance, trivia and live entertainment. The grand stairway leading down to the main floor is beautiful and provided a grand entrance for the Captain’s Reception. Each night before dinner there would be different activities, usually trivia, dancing or whatnot and then after dinner a live performance by the very talented music and dance teams. They touched on all types of musical tastes from several areas of the world.

img_8683Once at sea, the Casino Royale opened if you were feeling lucky. The casino, towards the front, almost to the theater, offered a mix of slot machines, card games and more. Though it’s not Vegas, it still provides a great atmosphere if you want to try and double down on your Euro. This also provides you with some top notch people watching options. Even if you don’t gamble, you’re going to hit the jackpot watching people interact with one another.

Shall we dance?
Shall we dance?

At the rear of the boat, is the Schooner’s Bar and Shall We Dance. Depending on the night, there was karaoke or dancing with different genres of music on the Shall We Dance floor or you could enjoy a drink at Schooner’s Bar seated around the piano. Each night was something different and if you don’t dance or sing well, like me, there are always others who don’t dance or sing well either. But it doesn’t stop them!

The cruise was very child friendly as well. On the top deck there is a huge room with video games and other activities for kids to blow off some energy and sugar excitement from their 48 trips to the ice cream machine. Throw in the climbing wall and walking track, you’ll have those little rug rats worn out and retired to the stateroom in no time!

Finally, there are several shops on board with jewelry, clothing, supplies you may have left at home and a duty free shop for some cologne or cognac. There is also an ongoing art gallery sale which offers shipping in the event the 4’x8′ Mona Lisa won’t fit in the overhead compartment.

While I think I covered just about everything for activities on the boat, there were a bunch of activities I probably should have mentioned but forgot about. Like I said, if you get bored or hungry, that’s you’re own fault. There is literally something to do from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Whenever that may be. The days we had at sea, we were content sitting on our balcony with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine(or a “domestic” Guinness for me) and reading or just breathing in the fresh, Mediterranean air. As I said I was a little sketched out but after this trip, I can’t wait to go on our next cruise, maybe on a different cruise line to see how Royal Caribbean and the other stack up with one another.

Some things to consider when going on your first cruise:

  • Pick excursions ahead of time. You can generally change once you get on the ship, but they fill up so it’s better to have something lined up ahead of your trip.
  • If you can, go in the off peak times, we got a deal on our balcony room, when if we had gone after our wedding in June, we wouldn’t have had that luxury.
  • Try to arrive in the port city a day early if possible. That way you have plenty of time to get on board and get situated before the rush.
  • Disconnect. Seriously, the best part of this cruise was having no cellular or internet connection. Wifi was available, but for 10 days we weren’t glued to our phones. And it was fantastic.
  • Take the stairs and skip the elevator. Look, I was scared to get on the scale when I got home. I ate like a pig and lost 2lbs overall. Between taking the stairs and all of the walking on the excursions, I didn’t have worry about the 3 rolls, 2 deserts or whiskey drinks I had.

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