South Pacific’s Gem

I’ve heard great things about Royal Caribbean International from experienced cruisers who had spent time on the Rhapsody of the Seas, so I had been looking forward to this cruise.

One of the nice things about Rhapsody is her size – just over 2,000 passengers and is part of Royal Caribbean’s popular “Vision Class”. Which means it is big enough to meet a lot of people and also small enough that you often bump into the people you might have already met.

Okay, so this was my first cruise ship experience and I don’t generally do well on any kinds of boats. But I must admit, giving it go definitely changed my perception of the level of sea/motion sickness. I took all the precautions, kept myself well busy with the many fun activities on board and on-shore. And…didn’t feel ill – however there were occasions where I did feel the boat rock. Motto is: the bigger the ship the less rocky it is – and technology these days, cruise ships has stabilisers that assist with the balance.

With Rhapsody it seems you are no more than a couple of decks from anywhere. My cabin was on Deck 3, a cosy interior stateroom that has all the nice creature comforts.

So where am I off too? I went on a 9-night cruise to Noumea & Lifou Island – New Caledonia and Champagne Bay – Vanuatu. Both islands had beautiful beaches, sun-kissed waters, vibrant villages where the markets and seafood are at bay.

My mission was to capture my every “WOW moments” in a 15 seconds video footage and images and upload them to Instagram. #InstaFilmFest Royal Caribbean International launches world’s first Instagram Film Festival to celebrate the moments in life that take your breath away.

I was given a Sea Pass when you check in at the port before boarding. Once onboard, your Sea Pass acts as your room key and wallet (ship currency was in USD $). Initially it feels odd leaving your room without your wallet and keys but this is something you get used to and begin to wish it were like this ‘at home’. Bring a lanyard if you have one, or buy one when you get on board. Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious wearing your Sea Pass around your neck. Everyone does it, so you’ll fit right in.

Every day on the cruise ship is a new adventure to explore, so you need to know what is happening and, if need be, when and where to go. The Cruise Compass is the ‘go to’ newsletter pamphlet for everything that is happening onboard each day. Like magic, the CC appears on your bed each night while you’re out to dinner. There’s every chance you will carry this around and highlighting all the attractions for the following day.

The Centrum is a large atrium that acts as the focal point of the ship. Located centrally, it runs from Decks 4 – 9. Plenty of main events are held in the Centrum and at night it comes alive with a sea of cascading lights and music. It’s the perfect viewing area for people on the various decks watching on-board performances.

Rhapsody of the Seas offers plentiful of restaurants, café’s and bars, so better make sure you leave a little room in the belly. As I can guarantee, you will want to try a little bit of everything everywhere.

Edelweiss is the main dining room and is located on Decks 4 & 5. It is open for buffet breakfast, a-la-carte lunch and dinner. I was given a set time to have dinner each night and assigned a table for the whole cruise. This is perfect to meet other cruisers and get to know them. I had the best table – “the cool kids”, where experienced and first timers got together and we all had a different experience & stories to tell. The service was fantastic, our waiters remembered our names and beverage preferences. But more importantly we were treated like a family. First seating was at 6pm and second seating at 8.30pm. My Time Dining is available and provides flexibility at an additional charge.

Windjammer Café is the main buffet style café that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be mindful, this is where most families bring their kids to eat. As it offers a wide range of food options; breakfast cereals, yoghurts, fresh fruits, pancakes/waffles etc. Lunch offers salad bars, modern foods like make your own burger/hotdogs, Asian meals, pasta and roasts of the day, dessert buffet and more. Dinner is much the same as lunch. The café gets really packed, so make sure you arrive early to find a table.

Park Café located in the Solarium and offers a very limited selection of pre-made sandwiches, cereals, pastries, yoghurts, roast (carved to order and served on a bun/roll), pancakes, waffles, salads, focaccias. It was nice not having such a large selection to choose from and nowhere near as many kids to deal with.

I recommend choosing the Chef’s Table Dining package before you hop-on board the cruise. For US $130 per person includes four dining experiences – Chef’s Table ($95pp), Chops Grille ($30pp), Giovanni’s Table ($20pp) and Izumi ($5pp + menu prices). The package included a $20pp voucher for Izumi, so, all-in-all, the total value came to $170. The value for money and the quality service and food you get at these specialty restaurants is unbeatable compared to land-lover prices.

Christmas Eve was special – I got dressed up in my dapper Burberry Suit and Louis Vuitton shoes to have an intimate dinner at the Chef’s Table. I met 12 other guests for a degustation five-course menu accompanied by matching wines. With the Head Chef explaining each dish and the sommelier doing the same for the wines.

Soup Trio of Aspargus Consommé, Sunchoke Cream, Tomato Soup with Basil Foam.
Pink Roasted Beef Tenerloin with Black Truffle Spaetzle, Asparagus, Yellow Baby Carrots and Port Wine Reduction.
And for dessert…Orange Crunch Parfait with Mascarpone Fruit Zabaglione.
Petit Fours to finish the evening.

Chops Grille is the popular signature steak house, featuring premium cuts and hearty size dishes.
Giovanni’s Table offers traditional rustic Italian pasta & other cuisines
Izumi is your fine dining Japanese/Asian cuisine restuarnat at the top – deck 12

Food isn’t the only thing high on the list when you go cruising, a good selection of bars, lounges are available at all hours of the day and night. There are a number of drink packages available to suit all needs and budgets. The selection of wines, beers and spirits are quite extensive and are constant in bars and lounges across the ship, although some bars have different cocktails available.

The Broadway Melodies Theatre holds the main entertainment/shows with its impressive 870-seat. Shows like Ballroom Dance Champions, Piano Man, Sam McCool. Another popular cruise past-time, believe it or not is Bingo or try your luck at one of the tables in Casino Royale. Rock-climbing, the art of napkin folding, lion-dancing classes, karaoke, cocktail seminar, art auctions…. oh my! Check your Cruise Compass.

There’s nothing better than being pampered at the Vitality Day Spa with a massage, facials or beauty treatments or even get your hair done. Located at the back of the chip and views of the ocean. When in Rome they say… so I opted for a 50-minute Swedish massage.

The man himself – Captain Rob Hempstead. I had the privilege in meeting him and shared my experience and laugh. For guests looking to get a look at what goes on behind the scenes, Royal Caribbean offers an All Access Tour. Tour includes the ship’s bridge, galley, backstage to the main theatre, engine control room, and more. The tours are 3.5 hours and cost $150 per passenger.

Until next time…Bon voyage and happy cruising!

Royal Caribbean AU & NZ
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Is no stranger to the hospitality industry, having begun his career in hotels in 1996. An avid traveller who seeks luxury and contemporary style through culture, fashion, hotels & destination, food & beverage and meeting local personalities who shape the future. Specialising in promoting five-star hotels & destinations, restaurants, small bars, to conference & events through this online magazine. Attending media & tourism famils, public relations events within the luxury sector.