We're a little late in getting our review together, but since we had such a fabulous time, we still want to share our experience and thoughts with others.
So here goes...My childhood friend and I promised each other 9 years ago we would take an Alaskan Cruise together the year we both turned 60 (this was that year). We'd spent our elementary and high school years together in Nova Scotia but now live 3000 miles apart on opposite ends of Canada, me in Nova Scotia and she on Vancouver Island, BC (since 1971). We booked our cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas in Oct’12 and had many Skype visits together making final plans.
I flew to Victoria a day early and on day of departure, we used the Pacific Coast Lines bus to take us from Victoria to Vancouver. That was a good choice as they handled our luggage from pickup to ship, so we were free to enjoy the crossing. Our cruise was out of Canada Place in Vancouver. There were three cruise ships in port boarding for Alaska that day, so there were thousands of people all gathered in one room, each given a number. The wait was rather long, but once our number was called the lines went fairly quickly, we were issued our blue Sea Pass Cards, the usual Welcome Aboard picture was taken and then we boarded The Rhapsody of the Seas.
We had booked a ‘large’ outside cabin with a picture window on Deck 3. Once aboard and after we made sure our luggage made it on the ship, we went to find the cabin and then orient ourselves with the ship a little bit before the compulsory muster drill. The room was quite small but once our luggage was delivered, we were able to find a place for everything. The room was adequate for a weeks stay and there was enough room for each of us to have our own spaces. And after-all we weren't planning to spend all our time in our room anyway..too many other fun and exciting things to do.
We had chosen Open Dining in the Edelweiss Dining Room which gave us the flexibility to dine when we wanted, so we were never confined to being there at a certain time. The menu was always quite varied, we found the food very good and attractively presented with lots of choices, and our waiters were always very attentive and entertaining. We didn’t visit any of the Specialty Restaurants on the ship as we always found the food in The Edelweiss very enjoyable. Our favorite was the night they served lobster and prime rib - actually listed separately on the menu, but no problem - we ordered both as one meal and it was delicious Our waiter Ian cut our lobster for us and even served the first bite.
We went to the Windjammer Buffet most mornings for breakfast and found the food good with lots of variety. We never ran into a problem finding a place to sit and the waiters were always attentive, bringing coffee, taking empty plates away, etc. On sea days, lunch for us was usually a quick bite wherever we happened to be when we got hungry. And of course, we enjoyed the delicious complimentary soft ice cream a couple of times. There are a few drink stations around the ship where you can get ice tea, lemonade, mango drinks, ice and water, coffee/tea, hot chocolate, etc. No need to ever go hungry on this ship.
One of our favorite things on the ship was the digital “Wayfinder” signage, which were large touch-screens, posted by the elevators that let you browse daily activity schedules and directions to wherever you might want to go on the ship. They’re fun to play with and really helpful when you can’t remember whether you’re forward or aft on the ship.
We enjoyed the shows in the Broadway Melodies Theatre – they were for the most part well done - some better than others. We also really enjoyed the Baroque Aerial Spectacular Shows performed by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers held in the Centrum.
OK..here I must stop and tell the amazing thing that happened for me and my friend that helped make this our trip of a lifetime and one I personally will never forget. On the first afternoon at sea, my friend talked me into going to play Bingo in the Shall We Dance Lounge. I'm not a huge Bingo fan, but gave in and off we went. Long story short - we won the grand prize (for that days games only) which was the next six days and nights in the Royal Suite with all amenities and perks. We quickly traded our Blue Sea Pass Cards for Gold Sea Pass Cards, went to our original cabin on Deck 3 to pack up all our things, and off we went to move into our new accommodations ...1140 sq ft of pure heaven plus a huge balcony on Deck 8 next to the Bridge where we stood every day and took in all the spectacular views an Alaskan Cruise has to offer. We were often on the balcony when the Captain and/or some of his crew were outside doing their checks, and we got a friendly 'good morning' each day. We had a very helpful and friendly butler (Joel), a wonderful and funny Concierge (Amit) and a great bartender in the Concierge Lounge (Sam). We met several friendly people in the Concierge Lounge where we'd go each evening for a glass of wine after our days activities before heading off to dinner and the evenings entertainment. Our families and friends couldn't believe us when we got home and showed them pictures of our accommodations.
Ports of Call:
Our first Port of call was Juneau and we docked on a beautiful sunny, warm day. We took a trolley town tour and bus to/from to Mendenhall Glacier which was my first ever glance at a glacier - I was quite enthralled. Miriam was our driver on the way to the Glacier and gave us a very good narration. We got some beautiful photos of the glacier and nearby waterfall before heading back to town where we enjoyed a nice cold beer at the famous Red Dog Saloon before stopping in a few shops on our way back to The Rhapsody.
Our second Port of Call was Skagway - another gorgeous day. We had booked a tour to Yukon, Carcross and Emerald Lake online in January thru a private tour - Dyea Dave. It was an amazing tour with a very good guide who made many stops so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery. Emerald Lake is really something to behold..the most amazing colors I have ever seen. We even got to stop at Carcross Desert (hard to believe there's actually a 'desert' in the Yukon..quite a site, snow capped mountains and desert fine sand all in one shot). Again, upon returning from our tour, we walk around town for a while and headed back to the ship. The weather was was hot and sunny all day.
The next day was a 'sea day' during which Captain Sullivan took the ship up Tracy Arm to Dawes Glacier. Due to the phase of the moon and high tide, we were able to get quite close to the Glacier. He later told us it was probably a once in a five year opportunity, so he went for it. The views were breathtaking, with so many beautiful blue ice flows/bergs in the calm waters. We got some amazing photos and videos and made memories to last forever. On our way back out of Tracy Arm we saw a few pods of whales and several dolphins playing near the ship. That afternoon we were invited to a Private Cocktail Party hosted by Captain Sullivan in Chops Grille where we enjoyed lovely appetizers nice drinks and even a song performed by the Captain.
Our last Port of Call was Ketchikan – the only day it rained, and then only part of the day. We bought a tour from a Kiosk on the dock that made an informative stop at Totem Park plus several other stops for site seeing and photo opportunities. We did the tour of Dolly's House upon our return to town. On our way out of Ketchikan we saw several eagles flying and perched in the port area while enjoying a glass of wine and chatting with the new friends we made in the Concierge Lounge.
On our last day at sea, on our way back to Seattle (and reality), we were invited on a tour of the Bridge along with several other Suite passengers. The Captain welcomed us, gave us a short talk and then passed us on to his Second Officer, Oliver, a VERY knowledgeable young man who could answer any question thrown at him - we were very impressed by him.
We came into Seattle on a cloudy morning that quickly turned into a sunny day. We met Amit for the last time for one last special escort off the ship, making our disembarkment smooth and easy. We quickly found our luggage in the terminal, and got thru the customs line with no difficulties and then headed off to wait for The Victoria Clipper that took us back to Victoria.
We really couldn't find anything to complain about during this entire cruise. Sure, everything wasn't perfect all the time, but with over 2000 people to look after for seven days, we think the Captain and all his crew did an excellent job of keeping things running pleasantly smooth and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of those seven days. I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Royal Caribbean and Rhapsody of the Seas.