This was my first ever cruise. My husband and I went with a group of about 60 people – most of whom we hardly ever saw during the cruise, except at dinner. The first day at sea had very rough waters and high winds. The ship was bobbing and swaying constantly. Many people experienced severe motion sickness. My husband and I were not sick, but I was very unsteady and in constant fear of falling. I was assured by experienced cruisers and crew that this was unusual. As soon as the ship reached the Alaskan inside passage, things calmed down. For the rest of the cruise I did not experience any instability apart from my normal clumsiness.
Below I have listed several areas with my ratings – on a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being most excellent, and 1 being something that nobody should have to experience on land or at sea.
Embarkation -- 2
We arrived at the cruise terminal at about the same time most other cruisers did. We stood in line for almost an hour to get in-processed. I didn’t realize that I could have sat down while my husband stood in the long line. Nor did I have any concept about requesting priority processing, for which I would cheerfully have paid a few extra dollars. I don’t consider myself a handicapped person, but I do have some physical issues that make it difficult for me to stand for that long. By the time we finished in-processing and boarded the ship, my feet, legs and back ached so much that all I wanted to do was sit for the rest of the day. I had little energy or enthusiasm for exploring the ship.
Staff and service – 8
The captain, cruise director and several of the staff often bragged about what a friendly ship Rhapsody Of The Seas is. These were not empty boasts. The servers in the main dining room, the Windjammer and the bartenders and waiters in the various lounges were very helpful and pleasant. By the second day they were greeting us by name and were willing to do anything for us. Two of the dinner waiters even helped me in removing the shells from lobster and shrimp dishes when I was having difficulty. Ronoldo, our cabin steward, was most attentive and kind. He cleaned and tidied our room on average – about 2 times a day. I especially enjoyed members of the cruise director’s staff with their cheerful banter and teasing as they conducted games, classes and dances throughout the trip.
Food – 7
Most mornings we ate breakfast in the Windjammer. The food there was typical buffet fare. There was a wide assortment to choose from. It was nothing out of the ordinary– except for the made-to-order omelets. I did have to wait in line for five minutes or longer while the chefs prepared my omelets, but it was worth waiting for. I usually skipped lunch while my husband either went back to the Windjammer or grabbed a lighter meal at the Park Café. We ate all our dinner meals in the main Edelweiss dining room where we had reserved seating. The lobster I had one evening was a bit rubbery and tasted like it may have been overcooked. Aside from that, the dining room food was well-prepared, presented in an attractive manner and tasted very good. The portion sizes were perfect. And as mentioned above, the service was outstanding.
Entertainment – 6
There were several different instrumental combos and singers who performed in the Centrum as well as the Schooner Bar which we frequented for drinks before and after dinner. The Schooner Bar was also the main locale for trivia games which were held two or three times a day. While I only participated in a couple of the games, I always enjoyed listening to the banter of the cruise staff as they conducted the games. Evening entertainment in the Centrum and the various lounges tended to be a little too loud and not to our conservative, introvert tastes. The nightly shows in the theater were typical Las Vegas type productions. The mime comic performance on the first night was poor. “Sideshow Bert” who performed on the last night obviously had much skill in balancing and juggling, but his act was not to my taste. Singers Patrick McMahon and Kenny James were world-class and I thoroughly enjoyed their performances. The two productions from the ship’s singers and dancers were okay. The quality we are used to with concerts and live theater productions at home far exceeds anything that the Rhapsody singers and dancers could offer.
Ship’s lounges and public areas – 6
When “Rhapsody” got its overhaul in 2012, a lot of attention was given to modernizing and updating public areas of the ship. The lounges, the Centrum and the various dining venues are attractive, comfortable and pleasant. All the public areas tended to be quite crowded and noisy, especially the Centrum and the pool area including the Solarium. The lounge area in the spa and the Viking Crown Lounge were designated as “quieter” areas. But these places could also become crowded and noisy when lots of people gathered to talk.
Scenery and port excursions - 9
The landscape and scenery along the Alaskan inside passage is fabulous. This kind of natural beauty and grandeur has to be seen and experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated. My husband described the whale watching excursion in Victoria, BC as the highlight of the trip for him. Our tour guides found a mature mother humpback and her calf, which the naturalists aboard estimated to be a year old. The two whales were very playful and put on quite a show. My husband got a good photo of the calf jumping up out of the water. I think that made it worth the price of the fancy new camera that he bought for the cruise. The trip through Tracy Arm Fjord to Dawes Glacier was a scenic delight and another wonderful photo opportunity.
Our Cabin Home Away From Home -- 4
For two introverts who are used to sharing a 1700-square foot, four-bedroom house with two spoiled cats as the only other occupants, our less-than-60-square-foot stateroom seemed kind of cramped. The air-handling system was loud. We were usually in bed by 11 pm just as the ship’s night-life, dancing and partying was cranking up. We could hear the loud music from the Centrum. I had to put on my headphones or use ear plugs to block it out. The cabin was clean and we had plenty of storage space in the closet, drawers and cabinets. There was a nice window for watching the beautiful scenery. The room had one comfortable lounge chair plus a desk chair. The only other occupiable space was an uncomfortable two-bunk bed that was pushed together to make a queen-sized sleeping surface. Few people sleep comfortably away from home no matter how thick the mattress. However I think our cruise ship mattresses were thinner and more lumpy than the bunk I had as an army private in basic training. I heard several complaints from other people about the uncomfortable beds. We spent a lot of time in our cabin because it was the most relaxing and secure place we could find to escape the loudness and noise of the ship’s public areas during the day. In hind sight, I wish I had invested the extra money to upgrade to a larger suite with an outside patio.
Debarkation: -3 (minus 3). Understanding and participating in the debarkation experience was the fulfillment of some my worst travel nightmares. I thought this had been taken care of and paid for through our travel agent in our initial planning. I was wrong! The ordeal included completing extra forms that seemed to contradict each other and paying more money for poor service due to Royal Caribbean’s failure to follow through. There was a lot of disinformation, misinformation and defensiveness from the guest services staff person who was supposed to be helping us. They lost one of my bags. We ended up having to juggle and drag around all our luggage by ourselves as we went through the port terminal to the bus and then off the bus and through the airport. It’s a very long sad story. Though I would not label it a happy ending, we did have a successful outcome. The lost bag was found and we made it to our flight on time.
This cruise was a first-ever luxury vacation for us and a celebration of our anniversary. (We will have been married 30 years in September.) Despite some of the problems and discomforts, it was generally an enjoyable experience. If we do take another cruise, we will try to find a more modern and more comfortable ship.