We drove to Seattle. Directions on the Republic Parking website to the new terminal at Pier 91 were very good. You just need to be sure to allow plenty of time as there are a lot of turns involved and traffic gets rather heavy in that part of the city. There is more than enough parking spaces in the lot and there is a shuttle to take passengers and their luggage to the terminal about two minutes away. The wait for the shuttle is negligible as they are constantly running back and forth. Luggage is loaded and unloaded on the shuttle by friendly staff both in the parking lot and at the terminal. You can pre-pay for parking on the Republic website or pay as you depart the lot after your cruise. The cost is the same - $20 per day.
Embarkation in Seattle went off with no problems. It was very quick and easy. We were allowed boarding at about 10:30 a.m. and directed to the Windjammer restaurant which had opened early to accomodate early arrivals. We thought that was a nice touch. Other ships we've been on won't open anything early regardless of what's going on, so this was nice. After a nice lunch, we just wandered around the ship until the staterooms were ready somewhere around 1:00 p.m.
We had an interior stateroom on the third deck. We've found that interior staterooms lower in the ship provide the best ride should the ship encounter rough seas - and we've seen our share of rough seas on a couple trips in the Med and three transatlantics. Plus, we're only in the stateroom to sleep and shower - there's too much else going on on these ships.
We thought the color scheme and layout of this ship was better than the Jewel of the Seas we were on in September 08 for a transatlantic crossing. The whole ship seems to be better run and managed and has a much friendlier and accomodating crew and staff. They really seem to try and please. Example: the Windjammer would often times open early if everything was ready ahead of time instead of waiting until that magic opening hour as they did on the Jewel. Also, the continental breakfast was located inside the Windjammer instead of out in one of the pool alcoves as on the Jewel. Plus, the Rhapsody had a full continental breakfast instead of just coffee and pastries as on the Jewel. We hate to keep slamming the Jewel, but we were reluctant to come on another Royal Caribbean cruise due to our experience on the Jewel. The only reason we did, and now we're glad we did, is because we liked the intinerary for Rhapsody.
We were waitlisted for early dining at a table for 2. When we arrived on the ship we stopped by the dining room and saw A.J., the Maitre d'. He said we were assigned to a table for 10. We told him we didn't care for that. We could tolerate a table for 4 or 6, but not 10. He suggested we switch to Any Time Dining. We told him we like to eat at the same time (early) each evening and also like to have the same wait staff each evening. He said "no problem" as there are always tables available at 5:30. He had us go into the Any Time Dining area on the upper level of the dining room and pick out a table we liked. So for the seven nights of the cruise, we ate at the same time each evening and had the same wait staff. And we weren't the only ones, there were plenty of other couples and families there too. A.J. and his staff made each evening a pleasant dining experience. He and the head waiter stopped by our table multiple times to be sure everything was okay and that we were happy with everything. Normally, you don't see much of the Maitre d', so this was very nice.
The food on the ship, although not of the highest quality, was good and you could always find something you liked to eat. One night they served "butter fish" in the dining room. It was such a hit with everyone who had it that people were asking for it on successive evenings of the cruise, but unfortunately, it was only offered the one time. The cold soup appetizers were very good as was all the desserts. What's nice about having the same wait staff each evening is that once you tell them something, like that we like tea after dinner brewed for 5 minutes in the pot and not in the cup, that's the way you get it every evening without having to tell them everyday. It's those little things that make a difference.
Entertainment in the main theater was good from the guest entertainers to the nightly shows performed by the Royal Caribbean performers. The Unexpected Boys were very good. Don't miss them if you have the opportunity to see them and you enjoy music from the 60's. They primarily perform music by the Four Seasons and do a good job of it. The Rosario Duo and solo piano player who all performed in the Atrium each evening before dinner were excellent too. Brad Upton, a comedian who performed on the first night of the cruise was very funny with clean cut humor for the whole family. It's too bad he was on the first night, because there could have been more people in the theater, but I think all the laughter drew more people in as he went on with his show. He really was funny!
One of our days at sea was supposed to be transitting Tracy Arm, but due to too much ice the captain decided to take us to see Dawes Glacier instead which was pretty good. He was able to get the ship up closer to the glacier than any other cruise ships this year, so we got some pretty good pictures. There was still a bit of ice in this inlet also, but he managed to avoid it all.
The captain and some of the ships officers had an information question and answer session on one of the sea days that was quite interesting and informative. The envirionmental officer did a separate hour long presentation another day of which we only caught the last 20 minutes. What we heard was very interesting and we wished we had heard all of it. He talked about the recycling program on the ship and how they deal with the tons of trash that are generated on the ship each day Sometimes when these things are listed in the daily program, they are misleading because this was listed as "Environmental talk". Sounds boring when you see it listed like that, but actually was quite good.
Our cruise director, Carly B, was probably the best we've seen. She was very upbeat and you saw her around the ship involved in things. She did a video that was shown on the ships TV where she did a tour with the chief engineer showing the inner workings of the ship from the engine room and power plants, to the million gallon fuel tank, to the 3-story incinerator. It was really very interesting and informative and something we've never seen before on a cruise ship.
Port calls will be addressed separtely.
Debarkation in Seattle was okay. It always seems like it takes forever to get clearance from the port authorities before you can depart the ship. We did the Express Walkoff where you take all your luggage with you. We had to wait in the large theater with all our luggage until we got clearance to depart the ship. We had no idea so many people took part in the Express Walkoff service, but it seemed like half the ship was trying to get off all at once when we got the word we could go. But once underway, we were off in about 10 minutes. A shuttle was right there at the terminal waiting, so we got right on and headed to the parking lot and were on the road in another 10 minutes.
All in all, it was a pleasant cruise and we're glad we gave Royal Caribbean a second shot. All our other cruises have been with Holland America. We are going to try Princess in September 09 for a transatlantic crossing.