I booked this 6 weeks prior to our June 1 departure. It was a 3 year anniversary cruise for my girlfriend and I. Embarkation was very smooth in Seattle. From the airport, we took the shuttle bus (RCCL) for $30 bucks and it was very efficient. Once arrived (we came early at 11:30) the check-in process was easy. I was a gold member, so there was only one person ahead of us. We had pre-printed everything, so there were no delays. Next, we went outside to take a few photos on the dock and board the ship.
We quickly went up to the pool bar and grabbed the drink of the day. Not bad for $6.25. Within 45 minutes we were told the cabins were available. I was excited to see the extra space I had paid for. Within an hour or so, our suite attendant Oliver came by to chat with us. We briefly described our preferences and things that he could do for us. Oliver ended up being one of the best attendants I have ever had. Whenever he left our room, he was usually not too far away checking to see if we needed our room cleaned. He always had fresh ice available. I booked an Accessible JS located near the bow of the ship and was about 5 balconies away from the RS. Definitely a plus if you want the best of the best attendants/service.
While exploring the boat, I tried to keep in mind its age, but there were many places that I felt were untouched from the dry dock. I understand that it was a short 3-4 week visit, but as I was dining near a window in Giovanni's (a pay extra restaurant)I could see the massive amount of rust on the outside of the window. Slightly disappointing that they missed such an easy to see area. It wasnt just one small area, it was all around the exterior windows. There were many of those places around the public areas of the ship. It certainly did NOT spoil my vacation, it was just noticeable.
One place I was never disappointed was the newly remodeled R Bar. The two "mixologists" I had all week were Louis Aspasie and Valentino. Two great guys who remembered my name and once I tipped them a few times, I got priority service (or so it felt). The drinks were AMAZING and they took some quality time preparing it. Not just thrown together like the pool deck bar. Although I saw the same employees occasionally working the other bars, it seems the R Bar specifically makes custom drinks that require extra attention. Also, the drinks were reasonable in price ($8 for a fresh Mojito and $9 for a delicious Whiskey Sour). I can still taste my fist delicious sip...mmm mmm mmm.
Windjammer: I was surprised to see it was not too crowded and the food was not as bad as expected. My only gripe was that the toast was rock hard when I bit into it. Sadly, I think it is a cultural difference in preference. Some people enjoy hard toast, just not me.I normally do not tip employees in the windjammer, but Stany, the assistant waiter, did an outstanding job of finding me a table and quickly cleared any plates off that were there. Not always easy when the beauty of Alaska is keeping people sitting in the windjammer for long periods of time. I know this doesn't seem like a lot of extra service, but from what I saw, the other Un-tipped waiters hardly stopped to clear extra plates on the tables unless you bought a drink...or my favorite "fresh squeezed orange juice". Believe it or not, that OJ is really tasty, and worth 4 bucks.
I bought a few pictures and the cruise DVD, but found the cruise DVD is generic footage of the ship spliced in with actual footage taken on the ship. Very short and not worth the high fee. Of course, I was in the video a few times so I can't complain as much, still pricey.
After 7 days of pampering, over-tipping, specialty drinks, and more, I was depressed to set foot on Pier 91 in Seattle. But over the past week or so, I have realized the cure for my depression, more cruises. It's costly, but if planned properly (with some good cruise critic reviews)you can enjoy a cruise anywhere these ships go. Oh, a big hello to our Texan family we met onboard and who we could not have enjoyed more! Thanks for the memories and (hopefully) the exchanged pictures we both took of each other.