Embarkation - Luggage drop off was a scramble.
We were dropped off to a huge mob in the parking lot in front of our pier. They needed more Royal Caribbean employees to direct things, and they also needed more signs. No one knew anything, and I waited in one mob around a table, and was told that’s where we would pick up our Seapass cards (sounded a little weird), but once I got a little closer, I learned it was the luggage tag table. I think it would have been a lot less hectic, if we all got luggage tags (sent automatically) like Royal Caribbean used to. There was also the added confusion of seeing porters for Rhapsody AND Solstice. My husband finally handed his bags to a porter, and we headed for the building labeled Rhapsody. There we met another long line, but this one was more organized and moved faster. In the next room, we found the priority boarding line, and met a sweet man, Chris, who took our set sail form and scanned our passports. He also took our picture for the database. A short while later, the gang plank gates opened, and we were led to the photography people, we had no way to opt out of the embarkation photos, because they were using those photos to sync to the face recognition software. We also found these photos later in the photo gallery on deck 6.
We ate lunch in the Park Café and around 1 PM, they let us into our rooms.
On the way to muster drill, we saw our luggage (and many more suitcases) out by the elevators. Returning from a long wait on deck 5, we noticed all the luggage by the elevator had disappeared. But ours still hadn’t been delivered. We told our steward, who promptly delivered it from wherever it had been moved. We prefer the way the Princess ships do muster drill, because they let us sit comfortably in public room. They do it that way because they’re worried about passengers being swept off the decks by winds. While standing at attention at muster, we spoke with a man that mentioned he’d almost been swept away at sea while in the navy! If the winds are bad, let’s hope the ship has an alternate muster station.
Dining: Service in the main dining room was painfully slow. At breakfast on Day 2, we ordered our prunes and milk in the Main Dining Room (MDR), and the waiter told us that we would have to serve ourselves these items. My husband muttered something about increased gratuity and decreased service. He said if he wanted to serve himself, he’d visit the Windjammer. This was the only time we visited the MDR for breakfast. We usually eat Breakfast in the MDR every day it’s open. At night, the main dining room was also horribly slow. The Head Waiter visited our table every day to check up on the service. We’d lucked into a table with a couple that had over 300 cruise points. They were sweet people and very approachable. Unfortunately, we were served last every day, even with our 300 point VIPs. On the various ships we’ve cruised over the years, if we got at a station that served last every day, it happened each night. I suspect they have a system where waiters must serve their tables in a certain order each cruise, so no one gets forgotten. However, it would have been nice to rotate the order of service. I wish they would have the gratuity split out on our bill: Waiter, Assistant Waiter, Head Waiter, Windjammer Etal (all dining options except MDR) and Cabin Steward. We may have docked the dining staff, but increased the cabin steward’s portion. I don’t know why the service was so slow, but I suspect it has to do with the specialty dining service. I think they have the same number of waiters, but they are now spread over four restaurants instead of just the main dining room. Once we got our food, it was tasty. Our assistant waiter remembered our standing order of skim milk with dinner, and he fixed it fast the night we got sour milk.
Specialty Dining: Service was polite but slow. We tried the Royal Dining Package, which meant we visited Chops, Giovanni’s and Izumi’s. We loved all three restaurants. But still unconvinced it’s worth $55 for the package. At Izumis, we loved the sushi and tempura, but didn’t care at all of the hot rock. You get unseasoned meat and vegetables, and have to cook them yourselves. They also provided dipping sauces. If the meat had been seasoned, I think it would have been much better. But our MDR table mates seemed to like it that way. We were glad we got the beef, because we may not have cooked the chicken safely. With the Royal Dining package, Izumi’s gave us a $15 credit per person. Our meal actually came up to a little more than the $30 total credit we received, but we didn’t mind paying a couple dollars extra. The noise level at Izumi’s and Chops was quite good. But Giovanni’s was too loud like the Main Dining Room, because they seated everyone in the same room, instead of spreading us out. I had Giovanni’s Surf and Turf, and this is the first time in over a dozen cruises, they didn’t shell the lobster tail. We picked the main course, and appetizer while our waiter picked the dessert sampler. I had the surf and turf at Giovanni’s. . In addition to this, we Giovanni’s picked the appetizers for us: Antipasto and focaccia bread (yum yum)!
Cabin Steward: One of the best ever, and we presented him with the WOW card. After the second day, we never returned to a dirty room! Which is pretty unusual for us due to our strange schedule! All our requests were carried out. We heard no excuses, such as the clearing the mini-bar being room service’s responsibility. Philip handled it! Since we were responsible to iPad damage, I requested they remove it. He took a few hours to do so, since he needed permission first. There was a strange smell coming from the bathroom sink, and they tried to fix it, but I still smelled it unless we stopped the sink. We were headed up to the Park Café to fill our ice bag, and our steward took it and insisted he fill it himself.
We had an aft Junior Suite. So, we had a wonderful view from our balcony. If you’re doing Alaska and can afford a balcony, be sure to indulge yourself. The other two cruises, we had an outside stateroom with a picture window, and an inside stateroom, and a Junior Suite is the way to go. During Dawes Glacier sail away, having the aft stateroom we got to see the glacier for most of the afternoon. The only drawback to that room, with no aft elevator we had a long march back to the Centrum. But I think the long march helped with the weight gain. They had no aft elevators. But they did have a staircase only a few steps from our stateroom that led directly up to the spa which is a hop, skip and a jump from the Park Cafe.. We also had some confusion, because our stateroom mentioned a different muster station than what was printed on our seapass cards. My husband checked with Guest Relations, and they said the muster station on the card was correct. A few days later, I lost my card, and so I went to guest relations for a replacement. It didn’t take long, but they’d changed the muster station to reflect what was posted in the room. They also reissued another card for my husband with the corrected muster station. Not sure what would have happened if we arrived at the new muster station, instead of the one we drilled on the first day. Lots of drawers and little nooks and crannies for storage. Other than the cabinet above the television, none of the drawers for cupboards would hold the packing envelopes for shirts or pants, which is a first for us. Usually, the drawers by the desk will hold the Eagle Creek Pack-it 15, but not on Rhapsody. Our bathtub looked pretty conventional, though we still had to climb up to use it. The sink was about the size of a giant mixing bowl. It made washing clothes in the sink a little difficult, but not impossible.
Loyalty Ambassador: We purchased two open bookings, and requested both email and hard copy. It’s good we also requested hard copy, because we only received an email for one of our open bookings. It took several days to receive them, because the internet was down.
Transfers: Be sure to get a porter! We usually get a porter in the sea port, but it’s also a good idea at the airport. We waited on the transfer bus until it was full which is typical with cruise transfers, then it dropped us and our luggage off way past luggage claim. We had to walk a pretty long distance to the ticket counter.
Library: No actual room, a small section of the wall on the Centrum Deck 6 called the Book Corner. Only a handful of shelves, but they were double stacked.
Starting day 2 while we were at sea, the ship felt very cold, especially in the Centrum area. And the shops on board were doing a fantastic business selling jackets. It was especially cold on our hallway from our aft stateroom to the Centrum. Once we stopped in port, it wasn’t as cold. But once we got back at sea on day 7, it got cold again. I remembered it had been pretty cold on the Vision in 2006. We didn’t notice the chilliness on the Diamond Princess in 2010. So, it may be a design of the Vision Class ships.
I was happy I brought my thermal vest, and wore it most of our cruise. That and a waterproof/wind resistant jacket seemed to get me through. We left our heavy winter jackets at home. We also brought knit caps and gloves that we needed in Juneau on the water and Skagway. In Victoria, we used our sunhats!