Although we got a late start, we have sailed exclusively with Royal Caribbean to date, and we made Diamond Plus in only 12 cruises. Our first two cruises were on the Rhapsody out of Galveston, Texas. Those cruises, the last one being in 2006, were very enjoyable in all respects and therefore, when we had a chance to book the Rhapsody again for our first look at Alaska in June 2011, we were excited. This cruise was particularly important to us because our daughter and son-in-law were accompanying us, and it was their first cruise. Naturally we had hyped the entire experience to the extreme.
We flew from San Antonio, Texas to Seattle via Southwest Airlines without a hitch, and arrived a day early in order to see a bit of the city. We stayed at the Holiday Inn downtown which is walking distance from the Space Needle. The rooms were spacious, comfortable and affordable. We had an unforgettable dinner in the revolving restaurant atop the Space Needle. It was expensive, due to the fact that the cost of transport to the top is included in the cost of the food, but the quality and presentation of the food was excellent and worth every penny.
Check in at the terminal the next morning was seamless, and we were quickly on board and in the Windjammer for lunch. The Windjammer was full of noisy excitement, and we managed to find a table where we had a light lunch before getting into our cabins. Sadly, our first meal in the dining room at 6:00 p.m. was a disaster. Although we met the staff and quickly gave our orders, the food did not arrive until 7:30 p.m. We were only told that there had been a mix-up in the galley, but no details were given. Our four table mates were so miffed, they changed to the late seating and another table.
Dinner service in the dining room thereafter was excellent, and we liked our waiter and assistant waiter very much, but we soon realized that the selections and quality of the food were not what they used to be. This was particularly true in the Windjammer where the food and service was very disappointing throughout the cruise. Beverage service to the table was virtually non-existent, and it did not improve even after we complained to a manager. If we wanted a beverage or a refill, we had to get it ourselves. The worst part of it was the food - meat too tough to chew, rock hard underdone potatoes, cold food that should have been hot. Putting together a satisfying meal in the Windjammer was a real challenge, accomplished only after much trial and error.
We have been on 7 different RCCL ships and while RCCL food has never been exceptional, it has been good enough, and any shortcomings were made up for by prompt and friendly service. The food offered by the Rhapsody in both the main dining room and the service-starved Windjammer was charitably mediocre on this cruise, enough so that we will not sail on it again until we hear that changes have been made.
The cruise itself was great. Whale watching, glacier tours, the train ride over White Pass - everything we had hoped for and more. The tour buses were new and clean, and the drivers were professional and personable. The shopping in the quaint shops of Juneau and Skagway was an added bonus. The entertainment on board the Rhapsody was also first rate. Although we prefer the Voyager and Freedom class ships, we thought the singers and dancers on the Rhapsody were the best we have seen.
Disembarkation was seamless as well, and we left the Rhapsody with sadness and a few regrets. We are hoping that the food/service related problems we experienced are unique to the Rhapsody and will be corrected. We did use the Guest Satisfaction survey to convey our disappointment in this regard. We aren't giving up on RCCL - we have a Celebrity cruise (our first) to Hawaii and back in October, and we are taking our son and his family with us on the Voyager out of New Orleans in March, 2012