This is my fourth cruise. One cruise was on Princess, one was on Holland America, and two were on Royal Caribbean. In general I like Royal Caribbean the best. I was on the cruise with my husband and two children. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.
We flew to Seattle on Southwest Airlines using credits earned on their credit card program. Free flights are a great start to a cruise. We arrived in Seattle two days before we set sail.
Pre-Cruise Hotel: We got a rate of $70 per night at the Holiday Inn SeaTac right next to the airport using priceline.com. The hotel was a typical Holiday Inn. It is a little run down but they have done some remodeling recently so it is not too bad. The hotel staff was very friendly and helpful. The hotel charges $12 a night for parking so if you are driving there that is one downside, though I think it is like this at most Seattle hotels. The hotel offers a free 24 hour shuttle to and from the airport which we used. There are two bus stops that are within easy walking distance of the hotel. We used the city bus transportation to get around Seattle. It was fairly easy and quite inexpensive ($1.50 for adults, $0.50 for children one way for most trips).
Transportation to and from the Cruise Terminal: For transportation to the cruise terminal we used oneairportonly.com town car and got a stretch limo instead of a town car because of the amount of luggage. The rate from the Holiday Inn to Cruise Terminal 30 was $60. We also had made reservations with oneairportonly.com to pick us up after the cruise and return us to the airport. Unfortunately we could not reach them on any of their five phone numbers and the one cell number we had said it had been disconnected. It was like they disappeared in the week we were gone on the cruise. We saw a stretch limo pulling up to the terminal after the cruise and I went to see if they were from oneairportonly. They were not but was an independent company looking for a ride. They took us back to the airport for a rate of $45. Unfortunately I did not get the name of the company. Also as an aside there were lots of taxis waiting to transport people after the cruise. There was a small wait but it was not bad.
Things to do in Seattle: We did not go downtown but that is a very popular tourist destination. You can see the space needle and go to the fish market. There are a few museums downtown and there is an aquarium. I had visited the aquarium on a previous trip to Seattle and was not impressed, however, we have an excellent aquarium in my home town that I was comparing it to. We highly recommend the Flight History Museum. It is not in the downtown area but is a few miles away. It contains a comprehensive history of flight from the Wright brothers to modern day fighter jets. It has a huge area covering World War I and II. It has tons of airplanes, both really old, and relatively new. It also has a complete history on space travel as well. The visit includes a tour of a Concord Jet and an older Air Force I plane. There is a ton of things to do and see for young and old. Our family spent over 4 hours there and everyone, including our teenage daughter who thought she would be bored, loved it.
Embarkation went very smoothly. We arrived at the cruise terminal a little after noon. We waited in a short line to deposit our luggage for scanning then went into the terminal to get cruise documents squared away. That process went very quickly. There was a very long line waiting to get onto the ship but it moved quickly. By the time we got onto the ship it was nearly 1 PM and we were able to go straight to our cabin where we found our luggage, except for one bag, had already been delivered. Record time. This allowed us to do almost all of our unpacking right away.
Crew: The entire crew of the Rhapsody was wonderful. Everyone was very friendly and eager to please. We had a great cabin steward who got us an egg crate foam cushion to put on the mattress to make it a little more comfortable. She had a little trouble understanding English so communication was sometimes difficult but got easier throughout the week. She made adorable towel animals for us each evening. We also had a very good waiter and head waiter. The assistant waiter was a little slow but was OK. The captain has a great sense of humor. Everyone had a laugh at his announcements. He would wake us sometimes in the late morning with a "Good morning sunshine, wakey, wakey" announcement. He described many parts of our journey as going smoothly or in his words "Easy Peasy". At ports he would let us now what time we were to be back on the ship and if we felt like we needed more time in the port he would advise that we take our camera to take a rare picture of the Rhapsody sailing away without us.
Dinning: We had main seating dinning and had requested to be sat at a large table with other people. Unfortunately the only arrangements they had for us was a small table with just our family. The table was strategically located at the back of the dinning room with a great view into the kitchen and all the noise coming from it. We spoke with the head waiter about this and he found us a large table to sit at in the 2nd dinner seating so we switched for the rest of the cruise. We are very glad we did. We had wonderful table mates and enjoyed the chance to get to know them.
We ate most breakfasts and lunch in the Windjammer buffet. There are several choices but the choices do not change much throughout the week. So it can get a little old by the end of the week. In general I found the food to be lacking flavor and variety. My husband and kids enjoyed the food more than I did.
We ate all our dinners in the dinning room. There were a lot of fish dishes. You could have salmon every night. In fact you could have salmon for every meal. They also served cod, trout, and a few shrimp dishes and lobster tails and the 2nd formal night. I don't care for seafood so I did not eat any of these dishes. I had a choice generally between a chicken breast, top sirloin, or some pork dishes. I tried a variety of dishes and did not find any that I loved. Some were slightly better than others but again I thought the food was very bland. I think they go easy on the seasonings and I know some people prefer there food that way. I am used to a lot of seasonings and I love spicy food so in general the food was a disappointment to me. My husband and kids again enjoyed the food more than I did so it may just be me. By the end of the cruise I was really looking forward to going to Chili's Bar and Grill for some seasoned tasty food.
On-Board Activities and Entertainment: We checked the cruise compass everyday for activities to do. This was one thing I was really looking forward to after loving all the activities that were offered on my Bahamas cruise on the Sovereign of the Seas. There were interesting things to do each day but the number and length of the activities was limited compared to the Sovereign cruise. I found myself with nothing to do on several occasions and I got a little bored. This is a very laid back cruise. It is always nice to watch the scenery as Alaska is beautiful, but the weather on our ship days made this difficult. I would have preferred more activities being offered by the crew with the crew sponsoring some card games, or domino games, or board games. There was one or maybe two trivia games (generally last less than ½ hour) each day and few talks and lectures mostly geared towards fitness.
There was more to do in the evenings after dinner with Karaoke, dancing, and the shows. The ships singers and dancers were good. I really enjoyed the comedian, the juggler, and the Gaucho show. The Gaucho show had a group from Argentina that was very talented dancers, drummers, and they worked with whips and chains. They also had a very unique puppet show they would put on. The show was great. The love and marriage show and the Quest game were fun. The passengers on this cruise were not as lively as the passengers on the Bahamas cruise so the cruise director had to work hard to keep the love and marriage show going but it was still fun. They did a superstar Karaoke game with the passengers. It was like American Idol. Some of the passengers were amazing and could have easily made it onto American Idol. It was very enjoyable.
Our kids participated in the teen program on-board. They met some new friends the first night and ended up hanging out with them the rest of the cruise. Halfway through the cruise the kids introduced us to their friend's parents and we made some new friends also. It was great. The scheduled activities for the teens I found to be lacking. It was similar to the activities in general, with not much scheduled during the day and more activities to choose from at night. The daytime was a general "hang out" in the team room. Our kids spent as much time in the pool as they could. Since this is an Alaskan sailing they let the kids use the indoor pool for a few hours each day. Normally kids are confined to just the outside pools, but since no one could go in the outside pool they made an exception. Our kids did not like this too much because the indoor pool got very little use by the adults and they really wanted to swim when no one else was in the pool anyway.
Cabin: We had a family ocean view cabin on deck 3. It was fabulous. There was tons of storage space and a fair amount of room to move around. There is a separate sleeping area with bunk beds for the kids. Their sleeping area includes a good size closet and a night table with two drawers. We had a large area for our bed with a desk next to it. We also had a closet (space is small, but there are two hanging racks with lots of hangers. We were able to unload everything we had brought in 7 suitcases to either hang up or put in drawers. The bathroom has a double sink and two medicine cabinets to store items. It made it easy for multiple people to get ready in. There is an oversized couch that can also make out into a bed. The couch is really long and can comfortably sit 4 people. There are only 6 of these cabins on board Rhapsody. So if you are interested book early. We got lucky because someone canceled and we switched from our two inside cabin reservation to the family ocean view cabin. You have to have a minimum of 4 people to book this cabin.
Ports of Call: We visited Juneau, Skagway, and Prince Rupert. In Juneau we went on a whale watching excursion with Orca Enterprises Captain Larry. It was wonderful. We saw about 5 whales, several sea lions, and lots of eagles. We were watching whales for a good portion of the 2 ½ hours we were on the water. I highly recommend this. Juneau is the most beautiful port in Alaska. There is some interesting shopping to do, but since we are not into shopping we just walked around town some before our whale excursion. In Skagway we went on the Yukon Rail/Bus Excursion with Chilkoot Charters. It was beautiful scenery. We rode the train up, then transferred to a bus, passed into Canada, and drove up into the Yukon area. We got to see a bear up close and personnel. Luckily we were in the shuttle bus and the bear was right on the side of the road eating dandelions. We were very fortunate with wild life viewing on this trip. We saw whales less than 30 feet away, eagles less than 12 feet away, and a bear less than 5 feet away. We did not do an excursion in Prince Rupert and I wish we would have. There is nothing to see in the town. There are not really even any tourist shops. You can walk down the street and see the grocery store, the welding shop, and the hair cut place. It was all local stores. We spoke with other passengers that went on the Rainforest Hike, Kayaking trip, and whale watching trip in Prince Rupert and they all had a good time.
Overall it was a great relaxing cruise. Royal Caribbean has wonderful crew members. I look forward to sailing again sometime in the future. I will likely go back to the Bahamas or the Caribbean for a little livelier cruise and hope for more flavorful food.