I was in a group of 21 people (relatives and friends) that sailed Alaska on August 2, 2013 from Seattle. Many were first time cruisers who tremendously enjoyed the experience. RCL had reinstated the online luggage tag printout. This allowed us to have a porter quickly load our many tagged luggage on cart upon arrival at the pier. Although allowed, we never want to self carry luggage on board. We want to explore the ship easily before staterooms are ready. Before registration, we went through security. A recent rule change allows bringing two bottles of wine per stateroom. Group members informed me that the bottles in carry on were hand inspected. At registration, the SeaPass (passenger ID and credit card) was issued. Upon entry into ship the SeaPass was hand scanned instead of box insertion. This was the first indication of upgrades.
After recent refurbishment, the ship has gone high tech. Each deck near the elevator has a touch screen that shows the layout for that deck. If requested, a path was shown to desired location. Missing is a button that shows the entire ship layout on one screen. The Photo Department has several screens to view your photos in lieu of hardcopies. This was a nice tool previously seen on the Voyager. The day of the week on the elevator floor is gone though.
The stateroom phone was permanently hung over the desk. This is a very poor location. It should be next to the beds. I also miss the curtain that separates the beds from rest of stateroom. The curtain was useful for anyone using a bathroom late at night or watch TV without disturbing
stateroom mate. The Rhapsody earned awards for being green. Part of the reason is the very low water flow from sink. The shower curtain could use more weight to keep it from moving and sticking to you.
The necessary muster station check in was simple. Your SeaPass is scanned and crew member sees your picture. Previous manual check in is history. We stood at muster longer because the people standing on port (left) side of ship were released first. This new idea is welcomed to reduce the bottleneck of everyone going into the ship at same time. (Crew member apologized for the longer muster.)
Dining was always a pleasure. My sister thinks the quality of food was better on RCLs Baltic Cruise last year. However, this cruise has lobster tail. Because we have 2 young boys in our group, kids menu was provided. The dining staff was excellent as usual but the head waiter (female) was the best of all my cruises. She impressed me in two ways. On the first evening, she was content in serving us without interruption. She returned later for introductions when we were not so busy conversing. She easily spoke and engaged with our slightly autistic boy in and out of the dining room. Dinner dining service started at 5:30pm for first seating. The food service does seem slower than on other RCL ships. The Windjammer location is in bow (front of ship), opposite end of all RCL ships I have cruised on.
The kids program was a success for the boys (11 years and 6 years). The parents were apprehensive the first time since they were not allowed to enter with the kids. Parents did receive a pager to contact them. The trip highlight for 6 year old was the rock climbing wall.
During Captains talk, we learned that ground up food is released in the water (released much beyond the 3 mile limit from shore). My sister swears that she saw dolphins chasing after the cruise ship. Sea life was seen by smokers in our group. Deck 5 on starboard (right) side of ship is designated as smoking zones. To see whales and dolphins requires long periods staring out in the water except for our lucky smokers.
The Cruise Director was funny as are all RCL directors. This one is multi-talented with singing and guitar playing skills. Captain was funny and very approachable. He is only American captain in the fleet.
Fitness presentation on Walking in Comfort with Goodfeet arch supports was somewhat deceiving for two reasons. Looking down while walking on the plate for foot imprint can shift center of gravity. Presenters demonstration showed that his product provided more stability than doctor's prescribed soles for my brother.
Back in Seattle, we opted to personally take our luggage off the ship. This eliminates the hassle of searching for your luggage in a large sea of suitcases. Overall cruising experience was excellent.
City, Glacier & Shrine I do not recommend due to deception on whale watching. The 3 hour tour was $300 for the van carrying 11 people plus tip for the driver and we all agreed that it wasnt worth it (see other Cruise Critic post). The City tour was interesting. It rained on us briefly in Juneau but we were allowed only an hour at the Mendenhall Glacier anyway, not enough time to hike an hour to waterfall. Visitors Center accepts National Park annual passes and kids under 16 years are free. An interesting discussion on the glacier is at the Center. Rest of trip was worthless. The Shrine was in use on this Sunday and no whales were seen off the Shrine property as promised.
For $61, this Baked Salmon excursion was worth the cost. See detailed post on RCL site. I only purchased the excursion to join my family members. Not being a salmon lover, I was pleasantly surprised the salmon was tasty due to homemade sauce. The chicken was also soft and delicious. After eating, we were treated to a Western show of comedy and singing. Next was panning for gold. Finally, we had cookies while sitting near a "campfire". This was a great and fun experience for the adults as well as for the children.
In Victoria, we missed seeing the Hop On Hop Off bus parked to the side on the dock. (In Europe, we bargained for half price with large group for short port time.) We selected the Cruise Shuttle with 3 stops for ten dollars per adult. It was sufficient for our purposes to see Chinatown, Fishermans Wharf and Castle. The Castle required half hour walk from Stop number 1. Butchart Gardens was not within reach by our bus. Three in our group took the Hop On Hop Off bus and thought the Gardens was on their route. (Hop On Hop Off Double Decker Bus cost about $38 per adult.) This day was a baseball cap day and sunscreen day for others.
Victoria is a beautiful city. Two members of our group were allowed to enter without having passports. This made their day. The city offered something for all of us. One family went from one pub to another. Others browsed in Chinatown. We laughed at a child's outfit containing a hat with a hanging, long tail. Fisherman's Wharf was very crowded. Tables were scarce and Fish&Chip line was long. Two fish purchased for $15 were average quality. Possibly due to increased sun exposure near water, several people were sunburned. The play area near the food area was perfect for the boys (11 & 6). We split up further because time was short and the Castle group can travel faster without some seniors and young kids. The Shuttle claim to come by every 15 minutes but the double decker shuttle does not stop at 2 or 3. One has to allow more time for bus pickup. the Castle group was fortunate not to wait at all after visiting the castle. They only arrived 30 minutes before the all aboard.