Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – Pros and Cons


Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – Pros

Scenery – awesome
Wildlife – good, but we didn’t see enough, probably should have sprung for a tour
Meals onboard – almost always good, sometimes excellent
Service onboard – friendly and capable
Music onboard – good and sometimes excellent
Ports – interesting and sometimes unforgettable
Change of itinerary – trading wind and rain in Skagway for beautiful Endicott Arm, worth it

Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – Cons
Change of itinerary – it felt like we traded cruising the Inside Passage to being out of sight of land for gambling, yuck!
Coffee – made double strong all the time, almost made me a tea drinker
Cabin – I knew I was getting an inside cabin, but never dreamed I would have to crawl off and on the end of the bed
Sneaky fees – park the ship at the most distant pier and then wait in line and pay an extra fee for a shuttle to where we were supposed to be in the first place

You can see our photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/pastorscott.com

Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – August 19, 2009 – at sea

Our Wednesday was spent at sea and the rocking and rolling continued.  However it was only mildly objectionable.  Again, my objection was that the itinerary showed us being in the inside passage for this part of the cruise.  When I booked the cruise one of the negatives for this particular cruise was that it went out to sea as it traveled north in the first days of the trip.  I decided I’d risk the possible sea sickness to get north as quickly as possible and then enjoy the inside passage the rest of the trip.  Instead, in addition to the journey north, it seemed we were out of sight of land at every opportunity.  Thankfully, Jackie and I weren’t suffering from sea sickness.  Still, though, the constant motion was somewhat disorienting and, instead of watching the beautiful green mountains and occasional wildlife, we had the rolling sea with whitecaps in all directions.

This was an interesting stage of the cruise, as people had pretty much figured out what is what on the ship.  Rather than exploring the ship, one could pick an area and go straight to it.   For instance, I settled on the 11th deck with its large, ceiling to floor slanted windows as my favorite hangout.  Sitting here I could see a great distance.   The ocean view highlight of the day for me was seeing two dolphin crest in perfect unity right next to the ship.

Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – August 17, 2009 – Was supposed to be Skagway but ended up being Endicott Arm

We woke early Monday morning and I was surprised at how distant land was on either side of the ship.  It was raining and the wind was blowing, creating whitecaps on the water around us.  Jackie and I went forward for breakfast.  I usually have a very good sense of direction and I felt the ship was going west rather than northeast as it should be in making its way to Skagway.  Of course, cruising, of all activities, seems especially designed to confuse one’s sense of direction.  After all, one day, when walking some interior hallway forward one is walking, say, east.  Then, you go to bed, wake up the next morning and walk in the same direction, but you are now going south.  Again, it’s easy to get turned around.

Still, as we ate breakfast, I remarked that I wouldn’t be surprised if we were diverting from Skagway.  The widening waterway and the “feeling” that we were going in the wrong direction was soon confirmed as it was announced that when Rhapsody arrived at Skagway at 4:00 a.m. that the whole area had rain and 50 mph winds.  The captain had gotten permission to divert us to a day of cruising Endicott Arm down to Dawes Glacier and then going to a yet to be announced port the next day.
I was pretty disappointed that we weren’t going to Skagway because we had a car rented and planned a drive up the Klondike Highway into the Yukon for the day.  However, doing that in weather conditions such as those wouldn’t be much fun anyway so we decided to go with the flow and look forward to our unexpected visit to Endicott Arm.  This also meant we wouldn’t visit Tracy Arm as was scheduled.  The cruise people spun it as something special because the big cruise ships generally don’t get permission to go up Endicott and this would be only the second time for Rhapsody to visit it.  Since I’ll probably never see Tracy Arm I can’t compare the two, but, honestly, I can’t imagine it being more beautiful than Endicott Arm turned out to be.
The ship cruised through a fairly narrow passage with sheer cliffs on each side.  Waterfalls were abundant; some dropping over 1000 feet and many were quite large.  At times, the mountains on either side were higher than could be seen looking out the windows.  We saw, literally, hundreds of waterfalls.  Ultimately, we arrived at the glacier.  It was taller than Mendenhall, which we saw the day before.  I couldn’t believe how close the ship came to the face of Dawes Glacier.  In anticipation of the scenery, Jackie and I had staked out a couple of window seats on deck 11 and it turned out to be the perfect place.  We took over 200 photos, although I managed to cull the number down quite a bit.  The trip back out enabled us to see the opposite side of the Arm and weather conditions had improved a bit so the photos we took on the way out were somewhat brighter than those we took going in.

Back out in the Inside Passage we saw several dolphin and a few whales.  We decided to skip the main dining hall again and eat at the Windjammer buffet.  By being there when they opened the doors we were able to get a window table right at the front of the ship.  The view from there was neat and we even saw a couple of whales as we ate a leisurely supper.  All in all, in spite of the change of itinerary and the inclement weather, we thoroughly enjoyed the day.  Because of the diversion, we were told we were headed to Ketchikan on Tuesday.

I was rather disappointed when the ship began to rock and roll mid evening.  I’m not sure, but I think we went back out into the open sea for the overnight journey.  Maybe it has something to do with opening the Casino.  Also, there was some kind of poker tournament going on during the cruise.  Since the pre-cruise information said we were supposed to cruise the Inside Passage on our journey south and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that we were, once again, moving out of sight of land.  About 9:30 I went to bed to escape some of the discomfort of walking around in the up and down, back and forth motion of the ship.  Jackie and I had no problem with sea sickness, but after a while I started feeling somewhat dizzy.  Just in case I took some motion sickness pills and then, in the night, I ate a few Rolaids.

[pe2-gallery album=”http://picasaweb.google.com/data/feed/base/user/101128941131953400860/albumid/5371405647577144433?alt=rss&hl=en_US&kind=photo” ]

Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – August 16, 2009 – Juneau

Arrival in Juneau wasn’t till late morning, but overnight we had moved back toward land and by breakfast time there were tree covered mountainous islands on both sides of us.  The feeling was something like taking a cruise through the Rocky Mountains!  The day was hazy and cloudy but as we got closer to land we could see snow fields and waterfalls.

We were happy to see that a worship service was scheduled and at 8:00 we made our way to the “Shall we Dance” Lounge for church!  Our speaker was none other than Joel Olsten of Houston Lakewood Church.  However, I must hurry to add that it was on video.  Around 30 of us remembered that it was the Lord’s Day and took time for a worship service.

As we approached land the motion of the sea was replaced once again by the rumble strips we felt in Puget Sound.  Also, the land on either side of the ship narrowed the waterway as we continued.  It was exciting to near our first port, but the weather was discouraging.  The rain and clouds and wind and 57 degrees reminded us that we were, indeed, on the coast of Alaska.

Two other cruise ships were already in port and the remaining slot looked like it was an afterthought.  The ship was brought about broadside into the wind and the captain worked for quite some time to bring the Rhapsody to that dock.  However, the wind pushing against our 11+ story vessel won the battle.  As we ate an early lunch the ship was backed away and announcements were made that an effort would be made in 45 minutes or so to dock the ship.  When the ship’s side thrusters were used at full power the Windjammer vibrated to the point that we wondered if dishes would start breaking.

An hour or so later we were finally docked.  It was announced that those with RCI expeditions were to disembark first, based on their tour times.  We “independent” cruisers could ask for special dispensation to leave the ship, otherwise, the general ship population was to wait.  So we waited 45 minutes or so to leave the ship.  When our turn came, we paid $3 to be shuttled closer to town where the other ships were docked.

Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – August 15, 2009 – At sea

Day two was spent out at sea, no land in sight.  Going north RCI ships travel outside the inside passage.  During the night ship movement increased, both up-down and side to side.  The advice to get a cabin as close to the center of the ship as possible proved to be excellent advice as our little cabin and areas in the center of the ship felt more solid than, say the Windjammer at the front of the ship.  The movement was larger than expected, but at least it was consistent.  From past experience it is random movement while on a deep sea fishing boat just sitting in the water that made me sea sick.  The movement of the ship was sometimes disorienting, but my stomach seemed to be okay with the predictable movement.
All in all, Saturday was a lazy day.  Jackie and I walked around the ship, finding more and more nice spots to sit and watch the ocean go by.  For most of the day there was nothing to see but water with not a single other vessel in sight.  We were told we were around 37 miles out.

We had some success though.  First, I spotted the spout of a whale.  Then, in the afternoon we actually saw the back of a whale as it sounded.

Otherwise, we explored the ship, ate some good fish and chips at the Windjammer, and I took a nice long nap!

Jackie and I spent our anniversary in the luxury of our ocean journey with a quiet day at sea.  Supper was eaten in the formal dining room.  We asked for a table for two but with the tables so close together, we ended up feeling like we were at a group table again.  The waiter, Raul, was very good and, with the tables so close, he often spoke to six of us at once.

A fifty’s rock group was in the theatre after supper, but the place was full when we got there, so we found quiet spot and watched the world go by.

 

Cruising to Alaska on Rhapsody of the Seas – August 14, 2009 – Sail Day

Luggage and cruise documents in hand we arrived at Seattle’s Pier 91.  Friends from the Seattle area hosted us for a few days and then were kind enough to drop us off at the pier.  As soon as the vehicle stopped a porter asked us if we were on Rhapsody of the Seas.  When we said we were he said he’d be glad to take care of our baggage for us.  Since our booking was all electronic, we didn’t have official luggage tags that some people have.  The porter led us to a counter where a man asked our names and then handed our porter tags.  We stood there while he put them on and then he told us that was it.  The bags would be delivered to our room.  I handed him a tip and we went inside where a smiling lady looked at our documentation and pointed us to security.

Passing through security was a lot like going through security at an airport.  However, unlike it is at the airport, the people handing security were smiling and welcoming us.  From there we stood in a long, but fast moving line for cruise check in.  Within 10 minutes we were at a window where we showed our passports, cruise documents, and the credit card which was linked to our sail account.  Then, with our sail passes in hand (these serve as our identification, room key, and on board credit card) we walked up several flights to board the ship on level five.  Around 20 minutes from arriving at the pier we walked onto the ship.

The rooms were already open so we found our way to our tiny room.  Since we’d asked for a “queen size” bed the room had been set up that way.  The room was so small that you couldn’t walk around the bed, but had to climb on and off the end.  Closet space was adequate in spite of the fact that our two big suitcases took up most of one side.  The bathroom was tiny and the shower had only a curtain rather than a door.  It is likely that the biggest advantage to having a higher class cabin isn’t the outside view so much as it is the amount of space.  Still, there was plenty of drawer space.  We unloaded our luggage and found spots for everything.

We had eaten while waiting for the luggage to be delivered.  The buffet restaurant is called the Windjammer and is located in the front of the ship on deck nine.  Our first meal there wasn’t especially impressive; however, subsequent meals were just fine.