While my review may seem overly critical, we still had a great time on our trip. I think it is important to report the good with the bad so that is what I have tried to do in this review. The cruise was good, but it wasn't the "wow" that I've come to expect from Royal Caribbean. Overall, I don't think I can recommend this cruise.
Royal Caribbean overall has some of the worst food of any major cruise line. The food in the dining room is much better than the food offered in the Windjammer Cafe, room service, or at the Solarium snack bar. The Solarium Cafe was absolutely horrible. Truly awful pepperoni or cheese pizza was served up by the slice, as was hot dogs (with cold buns and wieners swimming in an oily water pan) and ice cold hamburgers (don't ask for cheese, you'll get a huge pat of Velveeta-like orange "loaf" that doesn't even melt on your burger)! There were limited late night dining options on the ship and it is not a cruise for foodies or night owls.
Awful! We couldn't sit through one of the shows! Even the karaoke was boring and terrible! Most of the entertainers were Asian guys with electric guitars -- maybe because the previous itinerary was in Asia. One night I said "oh, listen to that awful guy singing karaoke" but it wasn't karaoke -- it was a paid entertainer! The evening shows in the showroom ranged the gamut from a very unfunny "dirty" comedian (oh dear, he said one bad word!) to a trio of flamenco guitarists and puppeteers (I am not kidding). While the showroom was really nice, the entertainment was the worst I have ever seen. There was no variety and most nights I just felt so bad for the entertainers. They were giving it their all, but it just wasn't very good. I guess when a ship is full of non-lively passengers, you'd expect the entertainment to be very, very low-key.
I would say the average age of passengers on this cruise was easily in the 55+ range. On-board activities were geared to the over 60 crowd. All of the activities were very low-key (making a rose out of ribbon, bingo, art auctions, digital camera seminars, towel folding, very short trivia games, etc.) and were scheduled to start early in the morning and most were over by 9 p.m. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think before you book this cruise you need to know what to expect. Most people on this cruise wanted to sit and watch the beautiful scenery go by (including us), but we would have appreciated some fun activities in the evening. Most passengers were on the "Grandma and Grandpa" schedule -- go to bed early, get up with the sunrise. If you are looking for a very active ship with lots of different things to do, this cruise ship is not for you! If you have cruised on a luxury line or a mega-ship, this cruise ship is not for you.
During the evenings, the library was turned into a "cigar lounge" and the Viking Crown lounge was a "disco." The same awful band played in the atrium night after night. There was just no variety anywhere! We felt really bad for the teenagers and children on board -- all of the ones we saw seemed to be bored out of their minds. They had a very small arcade but more than half of the video games were out of service, and they were 95 cents each to play. The indoor pool and hot tubs were open late, though the pool and hot tubs outdoors had spotty schedules and were hardly ever opened. The ship did have a rock climbing wall but that's about it as far as the activities go! I'm not sure the kid's program was that great on this ship either. We don't have children so I can't speak directly about the programs on the Rhapsody, but on previous cruises we haven't been bothered by kids at all. On this cruise, kids were literally running amuck everywhere.
We didn't book this cruise for ourselves; we were on a family reunion and it was selected by someone else. There were lots and lots of multi-generational families traveling on this cruise -- a bunch of family reunions. I think cruises to Alaska have a reputation as the perfect vacation to take Grandma and Grandpa as well as the great-grandkids along because there is something for everyone to see. The onboard vibe is very different than a cruise to the Caribbean, Bahamas or Mexico. On one night at sea, something pretty much summed up the entire cruise: we watched as a group of four 60 to 70 year olds "cut a rug" on the dance floor doing the Electric Slide. This was the "late night party crowd" at 10 p.m. That was as good as it got the whole week.
I know this is a hot topic of discussion on message boards, so I thought I'd give my observations about our sailing last week. While I always try to respect the dress code, I don't judge others if they choose not to. About half of the passengers adhered to the recommended dress code. I actually did see shorts and t-shirts in the dining room at dinner time (I did think that was a bit disrespectful). On formal night, I would say less than 10% of the male passengers wore tuxedos; a bit more wore suits and ties, and most wore khakis and long sleeve shirts (what I would consider business casual). Obviously the crew doesn't care about enforcing the dress code so if you don't want to dress up, you shouldn't have any problems. We were in tuxedos and evening/cocktail dresses each formal night and dresses/jackets on smart casual nights, but you would not feel out of place if you either chose to dress up or you didn't. I'd say 99% of the folks dressed up for dinner would go back and change into casual clothes before going back out to the shows or lounges at night.
The ship is really showing her age. We had a balcony cabin and the entire balcony had huge rust spots and chipped paint. The railing was worn and needed to be re-varnished. To their credit, Royal Caribbean did have painters and maintenance workers at work while we were in port, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The rooms and common areas just felt so dated. The casino was nice and spacious, and the showroom was well laid out with seats that felt more like comfy couches. It seems like kids and teens would be really bored on this ship. There is a "champagne bar" but it's more about the name than actual champagne as on some of the other RCL ships. The small game room was always packed, as was the library. The Viking Crown Lounge was a very nice and quiet spot but it got really hot (since heat rises, of course). The other bars and lounges were fairly empty all day and night. If you've sailed on any of their Voyager or higher class ships, this one will be a rude awakening. It wasn't a terrible ship, but it was probably the worst I've ever been on. I do not recommend choosing this ship for your trip to Alaska.
Very organized and swift! We were off the ship by 8:45 a.m. The color coded tag system worked great.