The embarkation/debarkation process was very smooth at both ends. The hardest part of the embarkation was dealing with the luggage while keeping track of your paperwork. But the lines were short and the process was well managed!
I would highly suggest opting for the express departure from the ship. It means you have to carry (or roll) all your luggage yourself but it saves you time (and money) avoiding the congestion. The ramps are not steep and did not present a problem. We were docked at 7AM. Express departure was only from 7:15 AM to 7:45 AM. It was very quick. We were back in our hotel room by 8AM! I understand that the exit for Pier 91 gets very congested as the bulk of the passengers are leaving. You have to be off the ship by 10AM anyway. One factor I didn't consider is that our cruise ended on a federal holiday (Friday of 4the of July weekend). Maybe the much lighter Friday morning traffic was the reason for our easy exit.
I understand now why this ship has such a loyal clientele. Here are a few things that we enjoyed most:
- Dinner at the Edelweiss (much preferred over the WindJammer's buffet).
- Enjoying made-to-order omelets for breakfast at the Windjammer.
- Views from the WindJammer to the front of the ship.
- All the entertainment was top-notch - especially the evening shows.
- Relaxing in the hot-tubs - especially the ones in the Solarium.
- Running on the treadmill with a view from the back of the ship.
- Climbing the rock climbing wall.
- The ability (albeit expensive) to get to the internet and read email.
- Munching far too many soft-serve ice cream cones between meals.
- Meeting people whose friendship will last longer than the duration of the cruise.
- The informative discussions about the bridge crew and cruise destinations.
- The opportunity for quiet activities like reading or working a puzzle.
The service on Rhapsody was amazing. I've never felt so pampered. There were always smiling faces and a greeting from the hostess upon entering the WindJammer in the morning. And when servers told us that it was their "pleasure" (to serve us), I appreciated them even more for their professionalism. Once I attempted to clean a food mess in the WindJammer . I was stopped and was told, "It's not your problem." They treated the passengers like royalty.
This is only my second cruise and I don't know if it is common or not - but there was a very low frequency vibration from the engines that was felt from the floor. You barely noticed it when on carpet. The amazing 6-story sculpture in the center atrium (called "Diadem") was suspended by long cables. I noticed that this engine movement created a slight sympathetic vibration in these cables. It wasn't a safety issue. I just found it interesting that even the sculpture was tuned somewhat to this vibration.
"The Quest" was off-the-hook hilarious. The "Love and Marriage" game (like the old "Newlywed Game") was funny. We also enjoyed the trivia games. Keith and Frankie were wonderful cruise directors.
I wish we had chosen "My-Time-Dining" as many of our friends were on the opposite dining schedule. Because of entertainment scheduling conflicts, we ate several meals off the main menu but served in our cabin. All the food looked absolutely delicious but I can't remember a meal that achieved that high mark in taste. I loved the Indian food as a vegetarian option.
Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier
We were redirected to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. I was disappointed. Maybe it was because the very gray morning mist muted much of the color. Maybe it was because I was excited by the lecture onboard about the Tracy Arm Fjord. Or maybe it was because I woke up at 4:50 AM to see it. I don't know - maybe it was all of the above reasons.
It was our first Royal Caribbean cruise. We enjoyed it so much that we committed a deposit on another RCI cruise in the future. And I would not hesitate to cruise on the Rhapsody again!
It was our first trip to Alaska. I guarantee it won't be our last!
We exited the ship and boarded a bus for the Whales and Rainforest Trails excursion by "Gastineau Guiding." Audrey was an amazing guide. She shared her passion for nature in Alaska and we all learned from it. After an unforgettable whale watching experience, we boarded the bus for Mendenhall Glacier. We were learning from Audrey about the Alaskan rainforest when she heard about a bear ahead on the trail. We quickly walked and came within 20' of a brown bear. Wow!
We spent some time enjoying the beauty of the Mendenhall Glacier. I wish we had the time to explore the trails. We were truly satisfied with Gastineau Guiding.
Once back in town, DW went to the library for some free internet time. I had a drink at the Red Dog Saloon and we walked around town for a little while. We had the best meal of the week at the Twisted Fish. The salmon was better than any I've ever had!
As the time was winding down, we made our way back to the ship. The rain never happened and the afternoon was sunny and warm.
We boarded a bus for the first excursion of the day – a float trip at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. We boarded a high speed tour up the Chilkat River to the town of Haines, AK. We traveled again by bus to the put-in point where we boarded inflatable rafts (held 6-8 people). Eagles were everywhere and they were not threatened by us floating humans. Our guides worked hard in rowing us around but the water table was low and we kept getting stuck.
As good as it was, this excursion just fell short of our expectations. But we had a second excursion planned for Skagway – White Pass and Yukon R/R to the summit. We had split opinions on this one – I loved it and my DW didn’t. We didn’t see wildlife here but the beauty of the mountains were indescribable!
We spent the last 2 hours shopping in Skagway. It is here, where so many gold seekers lost their meager earnings, that I too was scammed! I don’t remember the name of the store but it was between 6th and 7th street on Broadway. They sold two souvenir coins containing the faces of Barack Obama or Sarah Palin. They displayed them in their window. It was $3 per coin or two for $5. You put your money in a machine and chose either button - A. the Obama coin or B. the Palin coin. What you don’t realize is that it is the same coin with Obama on one side and Palin on the other. Some things about Skagway just don’t change.