This was our first time on a cruise and we sailed on Rhapsody. We did a lot of research so we picked a midship cabin. When we were in open water the ship rolled and it was a little unsettling. When we were in the inside passages however, it was a smooth ride.
We showed up a couple of hours early and were on board within 45 minutes. They took our baggage and sent us straight to the buffet. This was definitely the best day of the buffet, and it was great to sit there and watch the water through the huge windows in the buffet. The buffet got really crowded as we were leaving - definitely get there early!
We were very happy with the service we received. We were always referred to by name and my husband was very excited that they let him order several different entrees in the formal dining room. The staff is great, and everything was coordinated smoothly. We never had to wait to embark or disembark, they did a great job!
Our one complaint was activities on board. We spent several days at sea, and it was definitely worth it when we got to our destinations. However, there were very few activities on board for our age group. We tried very hard to sit through the shows in the theatre, but they were down right terrible (and I'm easily entertained). IIt was too cold (obviously) so the upper deck with the big pool was never used, but that's not their fault. The indoor pool is very small and was really crowded since the other pool was closed. We brought books and card games, but it was really hard to muddle through two days at sea on a really small ship with few activities. Most of the activities involved trying to hawk us products, especially through Diamonds International.
Juneau was pretty, but right off of the ship is pretty much just a regular city. It is not pretty at all. I would suggest booking an excursion for this port. We did the glacier-view kayaking. It was really cold and the gear they gave me was way too big. If you have one, bring your own waterproof jacket, because mine had huge sleeves which were filled with water by the end. But it was totally worth it! The guide was great. We kayaked up pretty close to Sawyer Glacier and the guide took a photo of us in front of it that is PRICELESS. We also saw a lot of eagles. Be prepared to go straight back to the ship and shower and eat after, you will be wet and tired. We went straight back to the ship and didn't think we missed anything, it was just a lot of jewelry stores. If you want to hike and see nature right off the ship, Skagway is better for that.
Skagway was AMAZING - my favorite port. It seemed more like small-town Alaska than Juneau. If you go to the visitors bureau, they will give you an easy map to walk to Soap Smith's gravestone in under 30 minutes. The graveyard is hokey, but Lower Reid Falls is an extra 5 minutes walk on the same path and it is beautiful! It was 70 degrees when we were there, so we stopped a lot on our walk and took pictures with the trains and mountains behind us. Bring a tripod if it's just two of you! Don't bother buying an excursion here, everything is within walking distance and seeing the nature is way better than going to some hokey "gold rush camp". We spent $0 this day, wahoo!
Victoria, BC- We met a couple on board who had been here just a week before, so we checked out parliament with them and got some ice cream. The parliament building & empress hotel are beautiful and a short walk from the ship. If you want to see more of Victoria, I think the garden tour would be a great one to book, even though it's pricey. We thought there'd be more to see right off of the ship, so we didn't book anything. Other than parliament, it was about the same as any big US city.
Ok, one more complaint- the buffet was very limited and we were starting to get bored of it towards the end. The formal dining was fancy and the food looked nice, but a lot of it was tasteless. I expected more from Royal Caribbean from their reputation. The last night was my best tasting dinner in there, but I ended up having food poisoning the next morning. I verified with our friend that had eaten the same thing and he was also sick. That was a very discouraging end to our trip.
What made this totally worth it: The ship pulled right up to a huge glacier and rotated 180 degrees. We got amazing pictures and were shielded from the drizzle on the library balcony. There was only one person out there with us, whereas there were hundred up on the top deck! They said we got closer than they usually do, and it was amazing. It's a small ship, which allows it to get into the inside passage, so you have to look past the lack of entertainment and see what an amazing experience it is to be able to visit these places for such an affordable price. With my complaints, I would still do it again.
Beautiful trip, and the staff was amazing. If you're going on the cruise for food or entertainment, pick a different destination with a nice new big ship. Also, don't book an inside cabin if you're going to Alaska. The weather was bad so we were in there a lot, and we never knew what time of day it was. We will definitely book a porthole at least next time.