We were on the June 8th-15th cruise to Alaska on the newly renovated Rhapsody of the Seas. This ship was roundtrip from Seattle going to the inside passage (Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria were the ports of call). This review will be a little detailed for the more experienced cruiser. From Seattle to the Inside Passage of Alaska it is magnificent. The snow-capped mountains, the beautiful glaciers, the calm of the Inside Passage made this a wonderful trip.
When we arrived into Seattle we found a large van taxi that held half of our group for about $10 per person (tip included). Packing in all the bags was tight, but it was accomplished without too much trouble. We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Seattle before the cruise. We booked this through Hotwire (blind bid) for $137 plus taxes for the day before the cruise. (I personally booked these rooms and paid for all of them myself -- getting reimbursed later from everyone. That guarantees everyone in your group will be at the same hotel.) This is an excellent hotel -- great location, very clean, and comfortable beds. We had 14 in our group so we all wanted king beds on the same floor. I had called ahead several weeks before hand to request king sized beds. They assured me no problem. When we arrived everyone had two double beds due to the hotwire bid price. It was only one night, but the hotel was worth it.
The hotel was about 5 blocks from Pikes Peak Market where we had lunch. The market was packed, but we eventually found a restaurant that could hold us. We spent the afternoon there and then walked to the monorail station for the Space Needle. After that we went back to the hotel for drinks. Across the street in the back of the hotel is the Cheesecake Factory where we ate dinner.
Friday morning (June 8th)we got into two large taxis again and went to the ship (Pier 91). The fare for us was $70 for each van (tip included). We arrived about 10:45AM and the ship was already boarding. We proceeded directly to the Windjammer for lunch and explored the ship. As a Diamond Plus Crown and Anchor Member I found out at check in (not the day before) I had been upgraded to a Junior Suite (Cabin 8098) at the back of the ship. This was a huge surprise. Because our bags and excursion tickets were ticketed for our old cabin, we retrieved the bags ourselves and asked the cabin attendant to get us our tickets and Crown and Anchor Coupon books. The only thing was that the new passengers in our old cabin were already tearing out the coupons and they say they never saw our excursion tickets. I went to the excursion desk and the Crown and Anchor desk to get new tickets and coupon books (real hassle). The bags for everyone arrived just after 2:00PM. This was the earliest I have ever received them.
The renovated ship had many new features -- specialty restaurants, easy to understand displays, and many new other items. My disappointment was the Centrum. I normally love this area on every Royal Caribbean ship. They took out the sculpture and installed aerial dance platforms. I saw them practice twice, but NEVER actually saw them perform. Anytime they were performing we were at a show. The decor of the ship is really nice except the Centrum. It was really different -- comfortable chairs , but really different colors and sculptures. As a Diamond Plus Member I am entitled to go into the Concierge Lounge (free drinks and appetizers after 5:00 PM). Because all of the others were just Diamond Members, I joined them in the new Diamond Club. Abigail was the host and she was fantastic. For those of you that remember the Concierge Lounge, the new Diamond Club was just as great. Free drinks and appetizers made our 5:00 PM meeting place the place to be just before our dinner.
Royal Caribbean is always known for their great entertainment. The Singers and Dancers were very good on this ship. The two main headliners were Gary Mule Der (comedian) who was very funny. The other headliner was Tribute, which they do a tribute performance of the The Temptations.
Heading north we going about 21-23 knots. For the first time in 34 cruises I felt motion sickness. I went and took an emergency pill before the worst happened. At every stairway there were motion sickness bags to give you some idea. The week before the crew was telling me that the ship was really "rocking" and a lot of the passengers were sick. If you are going, get yourself a prescription just in case. When the ship went faster than 19 knots it felt like we were at a cheap hotel room where someone put 50 cents in the bed vibrator. All night long the room made vibration noises. I am a light sleeper so I was tossing and turning all night. On the day to Juneau and the day at sea back to Victoria were the only "vibration" days. The other days the room was great. We had everyone to our room to look at the glaciers when the ship was headed out. Being on the back deck of the ship our balcony was huge that could easily accommodate the 14 of us.
Based on the excellent reviews in Cruise Critic, in Juneau we booked with Harv and Marvs direct. We had our own boat for the captain, guide and the 14 of us. We must have seen 30 whales with two Orca killer whales that swam very near our boat. We then spent an hour at the Mendenhall Glacier. They provided transportation to and from the ship. The light rain, the cold temperatures, and being on the water took the energy out of us. We were exhausted so we went back to the ship.
In Skagway we rode the Yukon and White Pas train. It was amazing going up to see where we were going. I read in several reviews that you could save some money going into town to catch the train. Don't bother, book direct through the cruise line. The train pulls down on the dock and leaves early (about 8:30AM) and at noon. The town train leaves about noon also. After the train ride we explored the town. My wife and I ate a shared pizza and beer at the Red Onion Brothel (a brothel that is now a bar and restaurant). It was OK and fairly inexpensive, but seeing the girls go through their act was worth it. A few others ate at a seafood restaurant at the pier entrance. It was definitely a tourist trap with high prices and OK food.
The Crown and Anchor Loyalty desk has the Special Platinum and up party normally after the second formal meal. However on this cruise we had a Breakfast at 9:00 in the Shall We Dance theater in the back of the ship while we were looking at the Glacier. It was nice that we were not rushed to leave dinner early as in years past. It was a FULL breakfast -- nothing left out. Champagne, Mimosas, and Bloody Marys were served as well as Orange Juice and Coffee. They had two dancers perform a Ballroom dance. The Captain was busy driving the ship around the ice and glacier.
In Victoria most of us went to the Butchart Gardens. They rented a limo for the 6 of them at $50 each for three hours that included a tour of the town and the entrance fee to Butchart Gardens. My wife said it was really beautiful, but two hours is enough. Two of us went on the Adrena Line Zip Line. This must be booked through the cruise line. This was my first zip line experience. On some zip lines they brake you and on others you have to brake yourself with gloves. A good friend did a zip-line at another location and he ran into the tree with the glove method. This place does all the braking for you. The guides made you feel comfortable and were very safe the entire time. They have 8 lines with the longest 1,000 feet. They are working on a 3,000 foot line! Other than seeing the whales this tour I would recommend for anyone. I thought it was great and I would go back again in a heartbeat.
My most disappointing moment was at dinner. Our Waiter, Dominic, and our assistant Waiter, Big Ben from Grenada were fantastic. The Head Waiter came to our table to "wave" twice. On lobster three of us love lobster and for 33 cruises if we wanted an extra lobster tail we received it. However on this cruise we only received one and that was all we were getting -- at the direction from the chef. They also discontinued escargos which I also loved having on ever other ship. I was talking to another waiter and he had just come from tthe Oasis and he said he had never heard of that until this ship!!VERY DISSAPPOINTING!!!
The final day at sea we were going very slow back to Seattle. This was an enjoyable cruise and I can check this off my bucket list. If anyone has any questions contact me at s1magruder at Comcast dot net.