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Rhapsody of the Seas Review

3.5 / 5.0
1,502 reviews

Sunny Alaska!! (Believe it or not, the sun can shine there)

Review for Alaska Cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas
First Time Cruiser • Age 70s

Rating by category

Value for Money
Public Rooms
Fitness & Recreation

Additional details

Sail Date: May 2009
Cabin: Junior Suite

We are just back from a repositioning cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas, May 8, 2009 - May 15, 2009.  Over all, it was a truly great cruise. This was our fourth Alaskan Inner Passage cruise, and our third on RCCL. OUR BACKGROUND: First, about us.  My DH and I love to travel and we do so every summer.  He is retired and I still work part time as a college professor so we have our summers free.  I am somewhat disabled, and I navigated the airports in a wheelchair, although I walked around the cruise ship on my own. We tend to be very active, enjoying nature, photography, and of course, lots of good food!  We decided to take this particular cruise because the price was fantastic.  We were a bit unsure of the itinerary, as many had said that the seas could be rough going in or out of Seattle, and because others had posted that the Tracy Arm Fjord is not as beautiful as seeing other glaciers (Hubbard, etc.)  But, more about that later.VANCOUVER: Arrival at the aiport and passage through immigration and customs was  average in terms of the wait. As I was in a wheelchair, the line was much shorter for disabled passengers.  It took about 5 minutes of waiting in line and it was handled efficiently. The line for able bodied passengers semmed to take about 20 minutes. Baggage was delivered to the carousel quickly.  We rented a car from Alamo, and the distance to the car rental kiosk is quite far.  There is construction in the airport (updates for the Olympics) that requires international passengers to walk through the parking garage and out the opposite side to access an elevator to the rental car level.  There were NO signs outside the terminal telling us where to go, as they had all apparently been removed due to the construction. It's a long way and pretty difficult to tell where to go.  We arrived the evening before the cruise and stayed at the Delta hotel at the airport.  It wasn't fancy, but it was certainly clean and satisfactory.  We made the reservation through Priceline and paid $70. The hotel is right next to the airport. Quiet, with nice personnal. It's in a large Asian neighborhood and there are excellent Aisian restaurants nearby. We ate at the Restaurant Number 9, and we found it to be very authentic Chinese food, with a huge menu.  It was very good. It's a fairly large restaurant in a mall and we were the only Caucasians in the place (and it was full at dinner time). The restaurant is a 5 minute drive from the airport.EMBARKATION: Well, this was definitely the worst part of this cruise.  Normally, RCCL cruises out of Ballantyne Pier in Vancouver.  We had cruised out of Ballantyne three times previously, and while it wasn't an attractive place, it was run efficiently.  I'm not sure why, but for this one repositioning cruise only, the cruise departed outy of Canada Place, the main cruise terminal in Vancouver.  RCCL never otherwise departs from this pier. Therein lies the problem.  We were scheduled to begin embarkation at noon with a 4:00 pm sail away.  We arrived at the pier at 10:00 am because I needed to make sure I could find a place to sit while waiting for embarkation, due to my disability. I did not bring my own personal electric scooter with me on this trip. We had made arrangments to return the rental car right at the Canada Place Alamo office at the pier, which is very handy. When we drove up to the terminal, we found several confused employees.  It was the beginning of the cruise season, and employees directing traffic at the pier didn't know where to direct my DH to drop me off, or where he could turn around, or how he could drop me off and then go the rental car area without his having to exit the terminal garage, drive around three bkocks of traffic and re-enter the garage. There was A LOT of traffic, and it seems there must be a better way to do this, but we never found one. This took about 30-40 minutes.  The terminal itself is beautiful as you look at the outside of the building, but quite nondescript on the inside. There were no chairs available inside the waiting area. There were about five or six chairs total for the entire space where three cruise ships were preparing to embark.  My DH walked outside to the area  where the cars pull up, found a folding chair, and carried it inside for me. There were MANY complaints about the lack of chairs from other passengers. Also, there were two toilets for the entire waiting area (again, three cruises worth of people).  Notice, I didn't say two bathrooms.  There were two generic toilets for everyone to try to share, both male and female. Again, long lines as the day progressed.Check-in was scheduled for 12:00 noon.  That time came and went, as the one check-in line grew and grew and grew into monstrous length. Again, this was one line for all three ships. Then 1:00 came and went.  At this point there were thousands of people in a line that didn't even fit in the waiting area. It snaked all around the room leaving no room for the disembarking passengers to get through as they were departing their ships. Fortunately, I had the folding chair, which personnel were kind enough to let me park near an entrance for the disabled check-in. When I needed to move, my DH carried the chair with us. Then 1:30 came and went.  We were told that the ships were not ready, except for one.  Then they decided to let everyone from the "ready"ship go through the line first. They streamed right through, past quite a number of disgruntled passengers, some of whom had been standing in line for three hours or so. Finally, they told us we could begin check-in!  We were among the first to begin processing through the luggage and personal scanners, because I entered via the disabled entrance.  This was quick, as the personnel all seemed to be trying to rush as fast as possible due to the lateness. We progressed to the RCCL area where you check in for your specific cruise.  We were handed a form to fill out regarding the Swine Flu and it was collected as we approached the RCCL counter.  The employees at the counter looked up at us and said, "We're not ready.  It will be at least an hour more.  We are just beginning to set up our computers. They shouldn't have begun letting you in here."  So, they gave us all back the filled out Swine Flu forms and told us to sit in the waiting area. The RCCL employee told us that there were only 250 seats there and she didn't know what she would do with the other passengers,  as the scanning area was continuing to send passengers through to this RCCL area. She was right, it was a mess.  People were sitting on the floor, standing in front of the seating area in hopes of cutting the line (which was established by seat row).  The did serve us cookies (and strangely, they were better than any cookies we had on the ship!) Eventaully, RCCL was ready to receive us and they had three lines: one for suites, one for Platinum & higher plus disbaled, and one for everyone else.  They loaded all three lines at once, but there didn't seem to be any advantage to being in a priority line. The employee telling people when to approach the counter gave no prioity to any particular line.  This resulted in many disabled having to wait (or stand in my case) for 30 minutes or more.  It really could have been handled so much better.  Everyone was grumbling by this point.  When it was our turn to approach the counter, it was a lengthy process because the employee was being trained by another, it was her first day, and she needed to repeat every action a couple of times before it was done correctly. From what I could see, this seemed to be the case at every work station. Finally, at 2:30 we boarded!! And we were among the first 50 or so to board.  Well, this was such a mess that we didn't leave the port until around 5:30 or 6:00. It was without a doubt the WORST enbarkation we have experienced. RCCL employees told us: 1. that there was a problem with the gangplank, 2. that the pier wasn't prepared, 3. that the employees on the pier didn't know what they were doing so they had to bring employees off the ship to help....etc, etc., etc. I don't really know what the truth was, but at 5:00 people were still boarding.FINALLY ONBOARD: We went straight to register for My Time Dining, which had a sign-up desk right as we entered the ship.  This process was fast and easy.  Then, on to the Windjammer and the honey stung chicken! OK, so I know it's just frozen fried chicken pieces, but eating it tells me I am finally on my cruise!  CABIN: Our cabin was a handicapped JS, 8550, our first time in a JS.  I don't think I can ever go back to a balcony! It was so nice to have the extra room. While the decor was a bit tired, the bed was very comfortable, and there was plenty of storage.  I loved it.  As far as accessability goes, the cabin is easy to navigate in a wheelchair, even in the bathroom and shower (with built in seat). The only accessability issue is the balcony, which has a lip of about 2 inches to cross.  We had pre-ordered wine and it was waiting for us. I had also pre-ordered extra pillows via the handicapped request form, and they were there upon our arrival.CABIN SERVICE: It was just fantastic! Our attendant, Wilton, was always available and eager to fulfill any of our requests.  One night, when I didn't go to the dining room for dinner because my back was giving me too much pain, the housekeeping supervisor stopped by the cabin to make sure I was OK.  Wilton had told her that I wasn't feeling well. I really appreciated that concern.FOOD & MY TIME DINING: The food was pretty good. After all, it's hard to feed 2000 people three (or more!) times per day on a ship. Given that, most of the meals were good.  Not great gourmet cuisine, but prefectly acceptable.  The only exception was the lobster tails, which were mushy and tasted pretty fishy.  We could not eat them. We ate at both the Windjammer and the MDR during the cruise.  The standout entree was the prok medallions on the first night.We liked My Time dining mostly because it seems to result in a faster service.  We generally finished our dinner in about an hour. When we did not have a reservation for a given night we were seated within 5 minutes. The flexability is great. This was the first cruise that Rhapsody has offered MTD, and it went very well.  It seems that the waiters don't love it because they have no breaks during the dinner service.The Windjammer gets very crowded for breakfast and lunch, but that's always true on every ship. I thought that the Windjammer on this cruise was superior to the last couple of cruises I've been on. The only exception was the bacon, which looked like it was barely cooked (but then, I shouldn't eat it anyway!). ENTERTAINMENT: This ship had the best entertainment of any ship we have been on (RCCL or Celebrity). The ventriloquist act on the first night was the best.  He is fabulous.  We also had an Elvis impersonator one night.  This sounded like it would be awful, but he was actually quite entertaining. On another night there was a comedian that was truly funny. The only inconvenience was that we needed to arrive at least 20 minutes before the show to get a seat.PORTS: We enjoyed at our ports of call.  We only did one excursion, as we have been to these ports many times before. However, this was our first time passing through Tracy Arm Fjords.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that we enjoyed it more that either Hubbard Glacier or Galcier Bay.  While you don't get super close to a glacier, the ride going through thre fjord is just breathtaking. We preferred it to the other two glacial areas we have seen.DISEMBARKATION: We were concerned about disembarking at pier 91 in Seattle as it is a brand new pier, just opened a few weeks ago.  But, the process was VERY fast, seamless, and five minutes after leaving the ship we were aboard our bus to the airport.  They had MANY helpful employees directing passengers.  It was an excellent experience.OVERALL: Another wonderful vacation, and I'm sad for it to be over....until next time!

Cabin Review

Junior Suite

Cabin JS

Cabin 8550: Huge handicapped cabin, with a large balcony.  The balcony has no overhang above it, which is a plus. There is no cabin across the hall, also a plus.

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