We just got back from a week on Royal Carribean's Rhapsody of the Seas on its Alaska inside passage route, departing Seattle, with stops in Juneau (day 3), Skagway (day 4), and Victoria (day 7). Rhapsody is one of RCCL's older and smaller ships, though it still carries up to almost 2500 passengers, so size is relative. Even with a wide angle lens set at 18 mm, I couldn't get nearly all of the ship in the shot as we boarded:
As usual, the cruise started off with the muster drill, where we had to report to our assigned location on deck 5 to orient ourselves with the evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency. With that out of the way, we were able to wander around the ship, grab a snack to eat (we ended up missing lunch that day), and generally getting ready for dinner.
Some people like eating in the buffet, but we much prefer the formal sit-down restaurant. A lot of it is the same food, but the restaurant does have some offerings not available in the buffet. Strangely, I think you eat (somewhat) less in the restaurant than in the buffet, because RCCL's portion sizes are actually reasonable. Even better, the menu offered a "Vitality" suggestion each day for an appetizer, entree, and dessert that checked in under 800 calories(!). It's too bad the other appetizer, entree, and dessert options didn't have calorie counts.
Our first stop was Juneau, where we went whale watching. Humpback whales are the cetaceans of choice in that area, and boy, were they in the mood to be gawked at! There were so many of them around that it was ridiculously easy to take pictures when armed with a 55-250 mm telephoto lens. I mean, this is what I usually see when I go whale watching from the Oregon coast:
That's it, just a puff of mist to mark the whale's breathing? Well, on this trip, I saw the humpbacks dive repeatedly, showing off their tails (well, technically flukes):
From there, it was on to Mendenhall Glacier, which looked gorgeously blue under the sun that day:
I learned that Juneau is not accessible by car, only plane or boat. It seems odd to me that the capital city of a state would be somewhere that you couldn't drive to. It makes you wonder why southeast Alaska is part of Alaska and not Canada. I also learned that Juneau isn't as temperate as I thought it was, considering how it's on the coast. The locals described it as temperate, but they also said the average winter temperature is in the teens, and they get several feet of snow, which sounds a lot like Iowa City winters -- hardly my definition of temperate!
Skagway is the northernmost town in southeast Alaska. We took a driving tour up to the summit of the Yukon mountains, where there's some breathtaking scenery:
After Skagway, Rhapsody headed back down the passage to stop by the Tracy Arm Fjord:
(To be honest, I didn't take this picture, as the ship arrived in this fjord some time around 5 a.m.! The cruise director even announced our arrival over the ship's loudspeakers not once, but twice, that morning -- grrrr. Because my wife took lots of pictures, though, I feel like I was almost there to see it. I wasn't totally lazy that morning. When I did get up a few hours after the fjord, I hit the gym and ran 6 miles on the treadmill.)
The last stop was Victoria, British Columbia. Like Vancouver, Victoria is a Canadian city where you just don't see any French writing . . . anywhere. Dual official languages, pshaw! There's too much to do in Victoria in just one half day, so we went only to Butchart Gardens.
"All aboard" was 5:30 pm that day. I dropped everyone else off at the dock and then headed back to return the rental car. Finding a gas station to replace the 2~ gallons that we used took about 10 minutes more than I expected, but even so, I dropped the car off at the rental place around 5 o'clock. I thought it was about about 8/10 of a mile from there to the cruise ship, but I guess I was wrong or something, as I didn't get back to the ship until 5:22 p.m., meaning I was 8 minutes away from being stranded in Victoria.
Which wouldn't have been terrible, since at worst, I could take the ferry 95 miles to Seattle, where Rhapsody was due to arrive the next day. The only problem was that my passport was still on the ship. . . .
Anyway, I did make it back in time, and next time, I'll probably accept the offer of a ride back to the ship from the rental car agency.
RCCL ships are fun. They're not quite as good for kids as, say, Disney ships, but RCCL has a good all-around combination of kid and adult stuff. The evening shows were okay, nothing special. But we each won about $10-15 in the casino playing blackjack, and of course, I tackled the rock climbing wall that is RCCL's signature item:
So, as I noted in the title to this post, I managed to avoid gaining any weight on this trip, notwithstanding the copious amounts of food available at virtually all hours. (I guess food is technically available 24 hours, but from 2 am to 7 am, it's only a limited room service menu, and much of that time carries an extra charge.)
Don't worry, I didn't starve or even deprive myself. I did avoid eating after dinner, except for one night, when I had an 11 pm hamburger. (Bad me!) But I ate breakfast/brunch every day, and lunch most days unless it was a late brunch. And dinner . . . well, I had soup every night (most nights, there was a fruity, cold soup option) and some kind of salad as appetizers, the entree -- and some nights, as much as half of my younger son's entree when it was too much for him -- and dessert.
The restaurant was clearly my favorite place on the ship. My second favorite place on the ship was the gym. . . . Over the week, I think I covered about 150-75 flights of stairs (roughly equivalent to 3 miles of walking/running), walked about 3 miles during shore excursions, biked 12 miles on the stationary bike (equal to about 3 1/4 miles of walking/running), and ran about 25 miles on the treadmill or jogging deck track. By the way, speaking of the deck track, I loved the fact that Rhapsody's track is exactly equal to a regular track -- 1/4 of a mile. I've been on other ships where it's something like 13 laps to one mile on their tracks, which for some reason is psychologically tougher to deal with.
So that's the secret to not gaining weight on a cruise: run or walk 5 miles or the equivalent every day!