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
We spent our last vacation day exploring downtown Seattle. Jackie especially wanted to visit the Seattle Central Library which is famous for its design and unique architecture. We arrived just in time to join an architect led tour of the library. It was quite interesting and I recommend the tour to anyone.
We, and about every person in the Seattle metro area headed for Pike Place. It was packed. Still, we enjoyed checking out all the flower and fish and vegetable venders. We also had lunch at a crowded and busy little fish and chips place. After an hour or so at Pike Place we headed up the hill a ways, bought some coffee and sat down for a nice break.
All the downtown area is a free ride zone on the city bus system, so we hopped on and off at several places before boarding the monorail to City Center where we watched a street performer doing some nifty juggling.
We finished off the evening at the Cheesecake Factory. Neither of us could eat all the food that we ordered. From there it was back to the hotel for final packing in preparation for an early flight home.
When we awoke on Friday morning the ship was docked in Seattle. We had a leisurely breakfast because our time to disembark was 8:50. As we ate, we could see people leaving the ship and heading for customs. There was a quick, last visit to our room, a word of thanks to our stateroom attendant (we had prepaid our tips before departure), and a last visit to a couple of our favorite places on Rhapsody. Our departure group was called a few minutes early and our walk through customs was mere formality in which we never even stopped walking. Our luggage was waiting for us and we were soon at the Budget car rental desk. I’d rented from a different office than the one that usually services pier 91, but the fellow at the desk called for me and within 20 minutes we were picked up and taken to the agency to pick up our car.
The rest of Friday was spent exploring north of Seattle, specifically Whidbey Island. We took the ferry across to Clinton and then took our time driving and looking. Highlights were lunch at Greenbank Farm, Fort Casey State Park with its lighthouse, and Deception Pass State Park. Once we were off the island, we continued north a ways on Highway 11 and enjoyed the dramatic views along the way.
I had bid for and gotten a room at the downtown Sheridan for our final nights of vacation. We arrived back in Seattle, found our hotel, and enjoyed a very good night’s sleep.
We arrived in Victoria at mid morning and after waiting 45 minutes or so for the preferred guests to disembark, we non-preferred guests ventured out to see the city. We got a few photos of “welcome to Canada” signs to prove that we actually made it to Canada after all these years. There’s a $6.50 all day shuttle to downtown so we took it. A person can walk, but it’s more than just a stroll. We decided we’d save our legs walking around downtown.
Let me mention that there are two big attractions that everyone talks about when Victoria is mentioned. First there are the Butchart Gardens and second there’s the Royal BC Museum. Both of those are biggies that take time to really experience. Since our ship’s final call was 5:30 and since we really just wanted to experience the city, we opted for a hop on/off bus tour. I don’t know that we made the best choice, but that’s what we were in the mood for on our last cruise day.
Victoria is a beautiful city. The residents take pride in Victory and it really shows. Flowers are everywhere from the immaculate grounds of the Empress Hotel to the front porches of humble houses. By taking the bus tour we saw several neighborhoods beyond the area around the busy harbor and downtown.
We hopped off at the city public library so Jackie could check out yet another library and I took advantage of the WIFI to upload photos and check email. At one point the bus tour came to around 12 or 13 blocks of the ship, so we got off and walked back to Rhapsody so we could drop off the computer and everything else aside from our cameras. After a quick lunch in the Windjammer, we took the shuttle back into the city, explored the manicured grounds of the Empress, and got back onto our on/off bus to continue our whirlwind tour of Victoria.
This is a city worth exploring and we’d like to return for a more casual visit some day.
One of the things I wondered about was why the ship was leaving so early with Seattle close by. After all, one can take a fast ferry from Seattle to Victoria in around 45 minutes. As Rhapsody pulled away from Victoria I realized what was happening. We went, not toward Seattle, but back out to sea. Before long, it was announced that the casino and duty free shops would soon be opening. My guess is that we had just a short day in Victoria so the cruise line could make more money from the gamblers.
We ate a wonderful meal (Jackie had lobster) in the formal dining room and enjoyed the farewell from the food staff that came out for introductions and even a song. Those in the dining room gave them a standing ovation for the food and service.
After dinner we took a stroll around the deck and then returned to our room to pack. Some people had opted to do express disembarkment and just carry their luggage off the ship. Everyone else was given luggage tags and instructed to keep just a carry off and put the tagged bags in the hallway before midnight.
We finished and called it a night around 10:30. However, with the gambling and partying going on many came to their rooms considerably later. It was the noisiest and least restful night of the cruise.
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.
Jackie went to a couple of demonstrations: one on cake decorating and the other on towel folding. I read and, in the afternoon took a nap. I decided that I have a strange reaction to the Bonine motion sickness pills. Prior to the trip I took one just to be sure I wouldn’t have some unexpected reaction. Around twenty hours after I took it, I became quite drowsy. Then on the cruise that same thing happened every time I took a Bonine. Weird, right?
Since this was an at sea day and since the morning had lots of sunshine we joined about half the ship in walking laps around the deck. We walked a mile in the morning and then, as fog rolled in and it began to cool we walked another mile in the afternoon. Then the fog got so thick that one couldn’t see from one end of the ship to the other and from the upper decks the water wasn’t even visible. That lasted a couple of hours. By the time the fog lifted the seas had calmed and we finished the day with yet another mile around the deck.