We now understand why everyone we have ever spoken with who has taken a cruise to Alaska has had nothing but good things to say about the journey. Before I get too wound up extolling the virtues of this scenic and adventurous excursion I need to separate the elements that have to do with nature, and thus out of the control of the cruise line, from those that have to do with Royal Caribbean and the Rhapsody of the Seas.
First, Royal Caribbean and the Rhapsody of the Seas. To begin with Captain Rob Hempstead, the captain of Rhapsody of the Seas, is one of those seemingly unique cruise ship commanders who has a hands on approach to the daily running of the vessel. He was visible every day, and often observed stalking the passageways and dining venues making sure his crew knew he was watching them. Rob’s routine announcements were informative and humorous. We looked forward to them. Not since out 2012 voyage on the Mariner of the Seas with then Captain Flemming Neilson have we seen a skipper so interested and engaged. Next was the crew, who were outstanding. Far and away the best we have experienced in all our years of cruising. In terms of nationality, most hailed from the Philippines and Asian locals. All were pleasant, efficient and helpful. The handful of Eastern European staff, notoriously sullen, morose, disengaged and unhelpful, seemed to have been hidden away in the bowels of the ship and working where they did not come into contact with passengers. Hurrah for Royal Caribbean! Please do this on all ships!
The vessel itself is practically twenty years old and sadly it shows its age. Although public areas have been revamped it is not possible to camouflage the low ceilings, passageways that seem like rabbit warrens, and out of date ships fittings. In spite of these shortcomings the cabins were quite up to standard, clean and well maintained. The theaters were extremely well fitted and most attractive. Same holds true for the common areas. The dining venues were clearly inadequate for the number of passengers, and were the main thing worthy of grousing about.
Breakfast, dinner and supper time at the Windjammer was more like feeding time at the local zoo’s monkey island. Royal Caribbean has gone through a lot of effort to offer a grand assortment of food at the Windjammer that should be sufficient to suite most all tastes. Some was good, some average and some a disappointment. On balance the Windjammer was a let down. The main dining room, on the other hand, offered a nice variety of choices. We dined there six of the seven nights and thoroughly enjoyed each and every different entre. We took dinner and supper once each at Giovanna’s. We loved this restaurant on the Navigator and the Mariner but were sadly disappointed with our experience on the Rhapsody. Food was just not at all good or well prepared. Service was adequate. Nothing special at all. We couldn’t wait to get out of the place and were afraid to try Chop’s.
The ship’s entertainment was not a highlight. It did not need to be of course, as the scenery, ports and adventure trips are what one goes to Alaska for. We had no expectation of good onboard entertainment and did not sign on to this cruise for the evening offerings. That expectation was fully met (unfortunately). There were some very talented singers and musicians that we thoroughly enjoyed. The remainder of the offerings was not very good. Most notable was the Pure Country show. The program was over acted and poorly done. It seemed more like a comedic parody of He Haw than serious entertainment. After four songs we walked out. The cruise directors affected, over acted style coupled with his thick Australian accent was a turn off, and made it double difficult to understand what the heck he was saying. It would seem to me that Royal Caribbean would select persons with good diction and voice projection to do the announcements but that’s just me!
OK…all that said we still give Royal Caribbean and the Rhapsody of the Seas a very high score. About an 8 ½ or a 9 out of 10. The things that count to us they did extremely well and we love em!
As for the voyage to Alaska itself, it is by far the most magnificent cruise we have ever taken. Very different than most in that one has something picturesque to look at all day every day, virtually from either side of the vessel. Most of our voyages have been to the Caribbean, when one has a lot of ocean to look at until the ship reaches a port. Not so on the Alaska cruise. The public areas of the ports we visited (Juneau, Skagway and Victoria B.C.) were spotless and attractive. Everything looked well kept and we never once encountered a crabby person! We loved it. The White Pass and Yukon rail trip is fantastic. We highly recommend it. We were blessed with exceptionally good weather all day every day. Clear and dry with temperatures in the high 50’s and low 60’s each day. Captain Rob commented several times that we were very fortunate to see the glacier as well as the Alaskan coastline under such spectacular conditions. We are sure that on a grey, cloudy and rainy day it would still look spectacular.