Rapture on Rhapsody: Rhapsody of the Seas Cruise Review by wrp96

Rhapsody of the Seas 5
wrp96
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Rapture on Rhapsody

Sail Date: May 2008
Destination: Alaska
Embarkation: Seattle
Booking and planning: Friends chose this cruise for a reason and I didn't think I would get to go. But I was looking at prices last fall on RCCL's website and noticed a grand suite guarantee (which I'd never seen before) and thought I'd book it because I could always cancel later. A few weeks later I opened up my reservation and noticed I'd been upgraded to an Owner's Suite. So that decided it right there - I was going on this cruise. I then transferred the reservation to my wonderful travel agent. And set about researching the ports on this cruise. This was like a homecoming for me as I grew up in Alaska and after I upgraded my mother decided to join me for the return. Best friend decided to join us as well, but actually stayed in an inside stateroom with a friend from CC.

Pre-cruise: We all were booked on different flights because we needed to come and go at different times. We came in a day early to Seattle. I was upgraded to first class on my flights on AA and we landed More really early, then settled in to wait on my best friend - didn't have long to wait as she also landed very early. Mom's flight much later in the day also landed early.

We caught a cab (this was a laugh as they first tried to stick us in an economy car and as I am a member of overpackers anonymous that was not going to work) to the Marriott Waterfront (our pre-cruise hotel). Wow, what a welcome to a hotel. As we got out of the cab, the bellmen offered us ice cold water bottles - and they did so every time we entered or left the hotel. The lobby itself was beautiful as well with a gorgeous glass sculpture. We were given a room with a view of the bay even though I'd booked a city view room (bay view was more expensive). In the morning we had a view from our balcony of HAL Amsterdam and Rhapsody of the Seas sailing into Terminal 30. The hotel was directly across the street from Pier 66 where Celebrity Infinity was docked on Friday but we could not see her from our room. The beds in the room were extremely comfortable and we were pleased with room service and the bar service.

Best friend and I spent Thursday afternoon exploring the waterfront and Pike Place Market. Seattle really showed her beautiful colors and gave us a bright sunny afternoon for exploring. We started out by grabbing lunch at Ivar's - wonderful clam chowder, fish and chips, and other seafood. We stopped at Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe (very fun) and then climbed the stairs to Pike Place. We had fun just going in and out of the little shops and stalls. We were amazed at the beautiful flowers on display and the really big fish. Dinner was at Anthony's Pier 66 where we had a beautiful view of the sunset and wonderful seafood.

Boarding day - Woke up extremely early and saw HAL Amsterdam come into sight around 5:45am, then a few minutes later our ship, Rhapsody of the Seas!!! What a beautiful sight. It was a little drizzly but nothing was going to ruin my mood. The bellmen arranged for a private van to drive the 3 of us and all our luggage to the pier and we left the hotel around 9:45. We were pulling up to the pier around 10am - and we were not the first people there. People were still leaving the terminal from the previous cruise. They opened the doors to the area where we could drop off luggage about 5 minutes later and we handed over our luggage to be scanned and went off to check in. They were not supposed to let us in until 10:30 but somebody must not have known that so we were allowed in and caught seats at the front of the line. They opened the lines at 10:30 and we headed to Priority Check-In. They were very specific about who could use the priority line - only Platinum, Diamond, Diamond Plus and Grand Suite or higher - they were very specific about no junior suites. None of the credit card scanners were working so they had to enter all our info by hand. After we'd checked in they sent us back to the chairs to wait, except there weren't many chairs. About 10:40 they let us into another area (the area where we retrieved luggage at the end of the cruise). They told us to grab what chairs were available (there were very few but they kept bringing more chairs out for everybody). When they got ready to board the ship (shortly after 11am), they asked for all Platinum, Diamond, Diamond Plus, and suite guests to step forward first. Since that was us we immediately stepped forward. After the walk up the long, long, long windy gangplank, we were the first people to step onboard the ship and hear the Ding of our cards being scanned.

Nothing was supposed to open on the ship until after 12:00, so we parked ourselves in lounge chairs in the Solarium and best friend and I set out to take pictures of the entire ship. We found the ship to be well maintained and shiny, in fact she looked better this time than when I first sailed her in 2005.

They opened up the spa doors around 11:50 so we were the first in line to make appointments for the week - relaxation is key for our group so we had many, many appointments to make, including some for that day!! We then headed to the Windjammer which by the time we got there was PACKED!!! No tables were available so we took one of the tables out by the main pool - a little cool but a sweatshirt made it comfortable. Had to search for the honey stung chicken but finally found it!! Friends sailing with us called around 12:30ish to say they were boarding the ship!!!

Stateroom: At 1pm they announced that staterooms were ready so we headed down one deck to our suite OS 8000 and my best friend to her inside stateroom. Our first impression of the suite was WOW!!! Tons of room, light and airy and well laid out. There are 2 TVs one facing the bed, and then a large flat screen in the living area with a DVD player and a sound system. There is a water kettle and French press on the vanity for making coffee and tea. They provided a large bottle of Evian and a fruit basket. The new bedding was super comfy. We also liked the fact that there was a curtain that could be drawn around the bed to separate it from the rest of the suite so that one of us could sleep while the other one still played. The bathroom was huge as well; mom really appreciated the separate glass shower in addition to the Jacuzzi tub. On her previous cruise, the closed in shower made her motion sickness worse, but the shower in the OS didn't make her feel closed in. One of the things we loved is our balcony was right next to the port side bridge wing so we would have conversations with the bridge crew throughout the cruise. Also, on the day we were in Tracy Arm Fjord the Captain pointed out wildlife to us. The balcony was very large with one lounge chair, 2 regular chairs, and a table. All 8 of the ladies in our group were at the railing for most of the Tracy Arm day to see the beautiful things sailing past. Our suite attendant is Kemuel Anderson. He is friendly yet unobtrusive. Also he is very observant. We were in the suite one afternoon and maintenance knocked - he had reported that one of our closet doors was loose, we hadn't even noticed it yet. He also got the shower door fixed - before we could say anything.

Muster drill was the fastest I've ever seen. We were through in less than 10 minutes and on our way to the spa for various appointments. In our group we basically tried out almost all of the services offered. We kept trying to figure out a way to take Kerry (the assistant spa manager who did manicures and pedicures), Vi (who did facials) and Chrystina (who did the seaweed wraps) home with us but unfortunately couldn't it them in our suitcases. I have used the spa products at home previously and they have worked for me so I told them in advance what products I wanted. They did suggest some slightly different products for my face but did not give me a hard sale on any of them. My mother did get a hard sale on the Ionithermie products but they got the hint and quickly left her alone (don't mess with my mom!).

Dining: We were at table 019 on deck 5 in the dining room. Our headwaiter was Yasa from Bali, our waiter Pedro Lopez from the Philippines, and our assistant waiter was Yun Hue from China. These 3 made this one of my best cruises ever. They laughed with us, and we had fun pulling tricks back and forth. Yasa even hand fed a few of us during the week. They introduced new menus during our cruise and we were very impressed with the offerings - and the quality of the food. There were many nights it was an extremely hard decision over what to order, and some nights they even brought us some items not on the menu, like the night they went searching for orange sherbet for one of our tablemates. The food in the Windjammer was also good but it was not the same as the items being served in the dining room. The solarium cafe was good, best friend liked the pizza, we all liked the grilled sandwiches, and especially loved the coconut ranger cookies! The only food issue during the week came at breakfast, when some days the bacon was undercooked both in the Windjammer and the dining room - but when people brought it to their attention it was immediately fixed. I usually preorder soy milk for breakfast but did not this cruise based on CC posts that told me it was always available. They had troubles finding it on the ship and about halfway through the cruise couldn't find any at all. My own mistake and I will preorder in the future.

Activities: CD is Keith Williams, there are always activities just different ones than on warm weather cruises, and not as jam packed - partially because the scenery really keeps you focused. There was daily trivia just not as frequent and usually at the same time as 2nd seating dinner. They have had daily dance classes and enrichment lectures on things like handwriting analysis. Plus there was a college professor giving lectures on Alaska and the ports we were visiting. Games like Love and Marriage and Quest were still offered - and were extremely fun, especially Quest where the CD changed it up a little.

Crew: Captain of this ship is Bjorn Broch Johansen. Loyalty Ambassador is Lynn Ngo. Enough can't be said about how wonderful, friendly and helpful the crew on the Rhapsody is. The Captain woke us up every morning with a "Good Morning Sunshine, Wakey Wakey." But it was the smiles of everyone else on the crew that kept lighting you up throughout the day. All were helpful and friendly. Ports:

Juneau - we followed HAL Amsterdam and Celebrity Millennium into Juneau on a beautiful, warm, sunny, clear day. We docked at the AJ dock which is the farthest from town. The AJ dock has a very steep gangway depending on the time of day and the tides. If you are not on a cruise line excursion, you can either walk into town or take the shuttle for $3 for all day. The shuttle drops you off outside the Mt. Roberts Tram. If you don't want to pre-book an excursion there are tons of kiosks around the Mt. Roberts Tram where you can book an excursion or pick up a shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier. We were supposed to dock in Juneau around 11am but did not dock and get cleared by the local authorities until after 11:30. This was worrying because we had booked an independent whale watch excursion through Captain Larry's (http://www.orcaenterprises.com/) and were supposed to meet at their office across from the Mt. Roberts Tram at 11:30. As soon as we got off the ship around 11:45 I called them to let them know that our ship was delayed - and they said not to worry they would wait for us. When we finally got to their office we checked in paid, and then walked across the street to board their shuttle out to Auke Bay. There were about 20 of us on the whale watch tour and almost as soon as we left Auke Bay we saw a humpback whale. Then it was quiet for a while - and they had to keep explaining to one family that wildlife doesn't perform on command. But the wait was worth it as we eventually were surrounded by Orca Whales that just kept coming up all around us. We also saw sea lions and sea otters. We were very impressed with Captain Larry and his naturalist Tony. Captain Larry's offers a combo tour that also takes you to Mendenhall Glacier which you need to book in advance. We didn't know about it so went back to Juneau. There we did a little shopping, and then caught the $7 each way shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier (buy your tickets for one of 2 companies at the kiosks). If you want to use these shuttles do this first as the last shuttle runs to Mendenhall at 4pm and returns at 5pm (might be earlier so check). Mendenhall was beautiful and we wished we had more time out there. But we still got to see a glacier and see some icebergs. We then headed back to Juneau - the drive was very fun for me as my mother kept pointing out the places she knew from when she lived in Juneau previously. We still had plenty of time so best friend headed off for more shopping while mom and I tackled the Mt. Roberts Tram (cost is around $25 for an adult). It is a very quick ride to the top and well worth it for the view from the top. Juneau had over 200 inches of snow over the winter so there was still a lot of snow up top and the trails were still closed. Still it gave me a chance to put my hands in the snow. Mom and I had some fish and chowder at the Alaskan Brewing Company restaurant up there - and the food was very good. After we were finished at the Mt. Roberts Tram we took the shuttle back to the ship and then sat on our balcony to talk with the bridge crew and watch the late comers arrive.

Skagway

Another warm beautiful sunny day in Alaska. Rhapsody was at the Railroad Dock, and again had a steep gangway (not quite as bad as Juneau). Mom was off the ship early for the first White Pass Railroad excursion of the day (booked through the ship). I went and picked up our rental car from Avis, and then explored Skagway. Mom and best friend returned from the Railroad with grins on their faces, describing beautiful scenery and the wildlife they'd seen (bears!!). Mom and I then set off to the Yukon using Murray's Guide to the Klondike Highway (http://www.murraysguide.com/) which was so helpful and worthwhile. It tells you what you'll find all along the way with mileposts (kilometer posts in Canada) and pictures. It was great to know what was coming up and the stories. The Klondike Highway follows the same route as the White Pass Railroad into Canada (opposite side of the valley) and then heads up from BC into the Yukon Territory. We were stopping constantly for the gorgeous views and pictures. One note, bathrooms are scarce so go when there are facilities. Also remember to take your passport with you, we even got ours stamped when we reentered the US. When we got back to the ship, we got to watch Empress of the North, which had docked next to us, depart.

Tracy Arm Fjord

We entered Tracy Arm Fjord very early. Yet another sunny and clear day (though not as warm - possibly due to all the ice floating past). Tracy Arm is a very narrow fjord with constant scenery rolling past. I believe it is around 30 miles from the entrance to the Sawyer Glaciers. As you enter the Fjord mountains rise up on either side and you see icebergs rolling post. There was a professor from the University of South Carolina onboard narrating what we were seeing (being careful to be silent when we were in the quiet zones). We watched the scenery slowly sail past from our balcony - all 8 of us in our group. It was like watching a living documentary complete with interesting narration. Unfortunately due to the ice pack we did not get all the way in to see the Sawyer Glaciers - we made it within 6 miles though. Still the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. We even had the Captain and bridge crew pointing things out to us from the bridge wings.

Prince Rupert

This is the port that there is the least information about because it is not visited very often. Yet, this is the port that we looked at the cruise ship excursions and went wow; we want to do most of them. We were also excited because it wasn't overdeveloped and full of cruise line shops. This port did not disappoint. We woke up to fog as we approached Prince Rupert, and by the time we were docked the fog lifted but it was still cloudy. Mom and I did the Canadian River Float through the cruise line while best friend did the Native Storytelling Excursion. We met our guide on the pier and boarded the bus for the 45 minute ride to where we would put in on the Skeena River. On the way our bus driver spotted a brown bear by the side of the road and backed up so we could take pictures. By the time we got to the put in site the skies had cleared up, the sun had come out, and it had warmed up. They have the capacity to take 45 people in 5 boats, but there were only 16 of us and they divided us up among 3 boats - lots of personalized attention. We were kitted out with life vests and rubber boots. Anything we wouldn't need on the rafts was left on the bus which followed us down to the pick up site. Due to lots of snowmelt, the river was moving extremely fast, and the banks had been swallowed up by the river. But the scenery was still gorgeous and our guide was very knowledgeable about what we were seeing and answering all our questions. The float lasted about an hour. When we got out of the river, we were greeted with our shoes and a snack plus hot and cold drinks. We then boarded the bus back to Prince Rupert. Along the way we had a huge bald eagle fly directly in front of the bus. It was so close the bus driver had to swerve.

When we got back to Prince Rupert, we were hungry so headed to Breakers Pub near the pier. This place had good fish and chips, great adult coffee drinks, and free wireless internet!! Then we headed back to the ship to get ready for formal night.

When best friend got back to the ship, she raved about the Native Storytelling excursion as well - she was fascinated by the museum and the totems and the dancing. The excursion itself only last a couple of hours, but you have full access to the museum afterwards to explore on your own.

Inside Passage Cruising - the last day on the itinerary is described as Inside Passage Cruising. What this means is there is constant scenery sailing past including wildlife and small and big towns as you sail inside Vancouver Island.

Disembarkment:

The gangway was located on deck 5 and you left the ship from the doors on the portside in the Centrum. The first group off the ship is the express group. This was supposed to start at 7:30 but did not begin until close to 8am. You had to sign up for this in advance as they had limited spaces. You must carry off all your luggage if you sign up for the express group. The 2nd group off the ship was the red tags the priority group consisting of Platinum, Diamond, and Diamond Plus C&A and suite guests. The Platinum and higher C&A members were invited to wait in a lounge on deck 5 of the dining room, where a continental breakfast was provided. When they called the red group (about 30 minutes after scheduled time), we were escorted directly out of the dining room and out the door onto the promenade deck. We waited in a short but moving line to scan our seapass cards one last time then began the slow walk down the long, long gangplank. Right before we got to the terminal building the gangplank from our ship joined up with the gangplank for the HAL Amsterdam so those lines combined. As you entered the terminal, US citizens were directed to the right and everyone else was pointed to the left. We were told to have our passports open to the picture page as we walked into the building. Can't speak about non-citizens but all we did was wave our passport with the picture page open as we briskly kept on walking past the CBP officer. We then entered the luggage room. They had barricades surrounding the luggage for the red group that we opened just as we entered the terminal - no other luggage was in the terminal yet so do not leave the ship earlier than your color is called. One of us grabbed the luggage while one of grabbed a porter, and then we were walking out quickly handing our customs form over right before the exit door. We then headed outside to where a long, long line of taxis was waited for us. Friends grabbed a shuttle for the airport, while mom and I grabbed a taxi for our post-cruise hotel. From the time they called our color to us stepping in the taxi it was less than 15 minutes but we were at the head of the line. I do not know what happened to all the groups after ours.

Seattle Post-Cruise:

Post cruise we stayed at the Seattle Sheraton. We arrived there shortly after 8:30am. Our room was not ready yet but they stored our bags for us while we headed off for some coffee and shopping!!! The Sheraton is right near a ton of shopping, including the flagship Nordstrom's store. We spent the morning and part of the afternoon helping out Seattle's economy then headed back to the hotel to get our room and check in. Our room was on the 19th floor with a partial view of Elliott Bay. The bed was comfortable - the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, and we liked the rounded shower curtain in the bathroom. The staff at the Sheraton were all very helpful, especially Jerry the bellhop and the concierge desk. A family member from the Seattle area was joining us for dinner, and we had the concierge at the hotel get reservations for us at Cutters Bayshore, which offered a shuttle from the hotel. This place is right near Pike Place Market with a great view of Elliott Bay. The food was wonderful, we loved the seafood, while my cousin loved his steak. The concierge really steered us in a great direction. The shuttle driver was also very informative about various things in Seattle. Mom was up early the next morning for her flight (beware the long lines at SeaTac, even early in the morning, she was glad she could skip them due to elite status on American).

I stayed over for an extra day in Seattle. Friends picked me up and drove me north up to Snoqualmie Falls; we even spotted a deer on the side a road along the way. The falls were beautiful sending up a mist along the sides of the ravine. The park area surrounding the ravine was full of gorgeous flowers in vibrant colors. At Snoqualmie Falls is a resort called Salish, that my friends said has a wonderful brunch buffet - I personally noticed (and filed away for future use) that it has a spa. We then headed back to downtown Seattle where we had lunch at an Irish Pub called Fados. I had a wonderful (but huge) corned beef sandwich, and my friends and I all shared a wonderful apple bread pudding. We then walked off lunch by strolling along the waterfront to pick up a Harbor Cruise on the Argosy (http://www.argosycruises.com/publiccruises/default.cfm) It started raining while we were on the cruise, and the narrator was obviously reading a script (badly reading I might add) but it was still worthwhile for the beautiful view of the harbor and the Seattle skyline, plus the 3 cruise ships in port that day. After the harbor cruise it was still trying to mist, so we walked over to the Seattle Aquarium. Lots of people had the same idea so it was pretty full, but we had fun walking through out our own pace, and looking at all the different colored fish and birds, and the really huge octopus!! After the Aquarium we met up with more friends for dinner at the Crab Pot. There are lots of food choices there, but the specialty is crabs (Dungeness, king crab, and snow crab) that they serve by rolling out a piece of a paper on the table, handing you a bib, a wooden board, and a hammer, pouring out the crab and fixings on the paper and placing the bowl on the floor at your feet to drop the shells in. It was with sadness I said goodbye to my friends that night and got onto the plane home the next morning (again long lines at security). This was probably one of my best cruises, if not my best cruise, so far. The crew was outstanding, the ship in wonderful shape, the weather and seas perfect, and the ports beautiful and welcoming with lots of things to do. Less


Published 06/05/08
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Cabin review: OS8000 Owner's Suite

Great location, quiet hallway, balcony is right next to bridge wing so you may get to talk to the bridge crew when they are out there

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wrp96
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