This years cruise was a last minute decision. Our family's reunion in Texas fell through 72 days ago. So, my wife suggested looking for a last minute cruise. We found the Alaska; inside passage cruise on the Rhapsody of the Seas with Royal Caribbean.
We flew in to Seattle on the morning of departure. I prefer to fly in the night before the cruise leaves however, my Mrs. had other plans; happy wife, happy life. No delays at the airports or flights so getting there went smooth and we arrived on time at 10am. We used Shuttle Express to get from SeaTac to the pier. This is the cheapest way to get back and forth, $36 per person round trip.
Embarkation took longer for this cruise than our previous 2 trips. The documentation lines moved rather slow and apparently the company is quite proud of they're terminal because they had us walk around the whole thing to get the the gangway. We boarded the ship around 12:30pm. The stateroom attendants had the rooms ready very early so we went straight to our cabin. The luggage on the other hand did not make an appearance until 5:35. Yup, we went to dinner with wrinkled clothes.
We booked our cruise fairly last minute, there were plenty of window and balcony staterooms available. This being our 3 trip we realized that as pretty as the views can be; we are never in our cabin to see it. We always seemed to be out on deck or in a lounge on our last 2 trips with balcony rooms, so we opted for an inside room to see what that would be like. We both agreed that this is how to go for now on. The room is cheaper and we did not miss the balcony. One perk is that it stays dark. No sunrise to wake up one who does not wish to wake up.
The crew was FANTASTIC! Absolutely no issues with the crew, from our stateroom attendant, bar service and dining room. Our 3rd cruise, all on Royal Caribbean, and the 3rd time that I can say Royal Caribbean hires the best people to crew their ships.
On this note, the food was Fantastic. The dining room was exquisite. The Windjammer had plenty of variety and good quality. We did not visit the solarium, but I didn't hear any one complain.
Well now its time to talk about the entertainment. Not great. So bad that I don't remember any names. In fact we walked out of every show.
We found ourselves at the Schooner Bar every night to hang out Derek Lewis and is Adult Day Care at Night show. He has a Kamikaze Karaoke show that was great. Thank god for Derek.
The Rhapsody of the Seas, the ship is clean and was stable in stormy seas. However, way over due for a renovation. For example, the carpets are worn out, the the lounge chair cushions are flat, we had a picture tube TV in our cabin. We also did not have a mini fridge. A bar service manager told us that the ship is due to be dry docked in February 2012 and undergo a major refit.
He believes they are adding an ice skating rink, more on board shopping and specialty restaurants. They will also be adding the interactive TVs in each cabin that you can find on most of the modern ships in the fleet. The Rhapsody did launch in 98'.
Juneau, We did what I call the trifecta. Or ca Point Lodge for a salmon bake on the beach, whale watching and the Mendenhall Glacier.
The high light was the whale watching. We saw a pod of about 10 swim by, they then began hunting using what the guide called "bubble netting". They did this about 5 times then they started breaching. Jumping completely out of the water. The guide said the whales usually only do this when mating during the winter months in Hawaiian waters. Seeing this in Alaska is rare.
The only negative about this port was our duration. We only had 8 hours and our tour took up most of that. There was no time to explore the shops in Juneau.
Skagway; I don't have a passport so excursions here were limited as you need one to go to Canada. The most popular activity was a train ride on the White Pass Railroad. However, we spoke to a couple that went on and said it was nice but wouldn't do it again. It was a giant loop, they never got off the train to get a close look at anything.
We were in port for about 10 hours. More than is needed. The shopping in town is limited to one street about 9 blocks long. I will say that they did have some amazing local art work. I found a wrist watch made of wood. Absolutely beautiful. Also, don't miss the Sarah Palin store. Whether you like her or not, theres no denying she's a pretty lady. You can get a picture of yourself with her likeness.
Tracy Arm Fjord; This was the part of the trip I was anticipating most. Sailing between mountains while sheets of snow and ice fall off the cliffs, splashing into the water. Not so much.... You do sail through a Fjord with steep rock mountains on each side. The rock walls go straight down to about a thousand feet or more in some spots. There were also icebergs, blue as the sky and as big as large houses (above water). Alas at the end is a glacier that does break off into the water, but this is not the scene I was waiting for, the one I have seen on videos and advertisements. That is apparently another cruise that takes you to Anchorage.
Victoria; All I can say is WOW. Clean and beautiful. There is a European feeling about the city. There aren't too many tours to take. My wife and I shopped. Our favorite hobby. Be careful and set a limit, there are many stores offering many goods. You can get caught up in it fast. Walk Government Street to Market Square first, window shopping. Then go back to the stores that stood out on your walk. You can't go wrong.
If you like Japanese food and sushi, you'll want to go to Zen Sushi on Fort Street. They make a Katsudon just like Mamma's Kitchen outside Futema MCAS on Okinawa.
Leaving the ship was a lot easier than getting on. We used the express departure call at 7:30am. We were off the ship and through customs in 25 minutes. A quick ride on the Express Shuttle to the SeaTac airport a full airplane ride and we were home. This was really the only rough spot. The excessive heat wave on the east coast caused some delays at Newark airport. Took 45 minutes to get to the gate after landing.
The final word on this cruise is this. My wife and I are not fans of heat, humidity, sunburns and sand. This was the cruise. We are already talking with family about doing a group trip next summer. We are also looking into the 9 day trip which goes to Anchorage and the Fjord trip I thought I would see on this one. There should be a newer or refurbished vessel doing the itinerary next year so those aforementioned issues should not be a problem.