Rhapsody is an lovely ship, small enough to fit into tight spaces that the megaships just can’t do which comes in handy for visiting glaciers close-up, which is what this cruise is all about. The food is good, (with 10,000 meals served each day to around 2,000 passengers), service is great, the entertainment had something for everyone- very good each night. The ports were all enjoyable- Juneau, (the state capitol), Skagway, (an old Gold Rush town with a lot of history), and Victoria, (a taste of England).
Rhapsody also misses a beat here and there. Maps are provided for the ports of Juneau and Skagway, in which shops such as Diamonds International, (which pay “a promotional fee to advertise...”) have their stores marked on the maps given to passengers. Victoria does not have a Diamonds International or other similar shops found in various cruise ports, so no maps are provided showing passengers how to walk into the Inner Harbor of Victoria. Having been to Victoria before, I still needed a map because the Empress Hotel and other Victoria landmarks are not seen from where Rhapsody docks. Fortunately, a nice Canadian lady in period costume was handing out maps at the pier which clearly showed not only how to walk into downtown, but how to get around once you got there. In contrast to Rhapsody, staff on one of RCCL’s other ships- Jewel of the Seas- handed out maps to every port we visited on our European trip with them. The helpful staff even marked the maps showing you exactly how to reach the city center on foot. Each port was discussed the day before as well, explaining how to use shuttles, maps, or where to meet up for excursions. Shopping was discussed, but not emphasized as it is on Rhapsody.
Also missing is the Midnight Buffet. Twenty years ago, in the good old days of cruising, even 4 night cruises included a Grand Buffet on the first night in the dining room which included a 30-minute photo op before the buffet opened. They continued each night, albeit becoming less elaborate each night until the last night the buffet was held in the Windjammer and consisted mainly of what appeared to be left-overs from dinner. Although the Midnight Buffet was absent from Rhapsody, there was a “Big Band Buffet” at 11 pm on the sixth night of the cruise in the Centrum, ( or center of the ship), which was a smaller version of the Grand Buffet and very tasty as well as beautifully presented. ( Also missing, at least for us, was the coupon book for Gold Members, and the survey which was to filled out at the end of the cruise; I guess RCCL didn’t want our opinions. Oh, well, that’s what Cruise Critic is for).
A note on the ports- Juneau was first. We took a white painted school bus to Mendenhall Glacier for $14 pp rt. MG is not to be missed- it is breathtaking. The Visitor’s Center is $3 and worth it for the bathroom use alone, (exhibits are nice, too). We walked to the falls, which are wonderful. If you bring an empty water bottle, you can fill it up at the falls with cold, clear glacier water. Do not bring food or drinks with you while walking around due to black bears in the area. Skagway was next. It is a great little Gold Rush town. Had drinks at the Red Onion Saloon, a former brothel. You can take the “15 minutes for 5 dollars” tour of the upstairs rooms if you want. We booked the “To the Summit” tour which takes you up and down the mountain for scenic views of Dead Horse Canyon and other famous sites. Much cheaper than the railroad excursion which takes you up one way or the other on the train and then takes you by bus the other way. Also recommended is the mile hike to Gold Rush Cemetery and up the hill a bit to the falls. Other passengers hiked to a nearby lake. Bring good hiking shoes/boots. Also, there is a nice internet cafe in town which costs $1.25 for 15 minutes. Victoria was the last port. We went to Butchart Gardens using Greyline which was cheaper than the tour offered by the ship. The gardens are just beautiful, a must-see if you are into plants and flowers. Also walked up the hill after our return to downtown Victoria after the gardens to Craigdarrough Castle. They just don’t build homes that way anymore. The woodwork is amazing. On the way back from Alaska, we also sailed to Sawyer Glacier, (another amazing glacier), viewing wildlife along the way.
Back to the ship- a note on internet use while on the ship: the keyboards could use replacement on some of the computers being used. One passenger moved from one computer to another stating that the zero didn’t work on the first computer he tried and he couldn’t log on because his account number had a zero in it. Then, another passenger mentioned that his keyboard’s space key didn’t work and he was using “dots”. Another passenger got so fed up with his computer problem that he announced: “This is &*$#@^”.
Highlights for us included the service, the food, the wildlife, and natural beauty of Alaska. Areas that for us the Rhapsody was out of pitch included the size of room, (much smaller than on other ships), the missing coupon book and survey, and the cancelation of our All American Tour excursion due to lack of interest. That meant that instead of stopping at Safeco Field and the Project Music Experience on the way to the airport, we had to take a city bus from Pier 91 to Project Music Experience and then the monorail and LINK to the airport, along with all the luggage. I stayed with the luggage while my husband checked out PME, which he recommends for all rock music fans.
In summary, there are many wonderful things about Rhapsody, including the ease of being able to get closer to Sawyer Glacier, ( just as breathtaking as Mendenhall), than a larger ship would have been able to do. If you are mainly concerned with nature and scenery, then the lack of picture taking at the buffet won’t bother you if you are too busy taking pictures of the glaciers anyway. Just remember to do your research of each port before you sail- and don’t forget your maps!