On Sunday, September 13, late in the afternoon, my daughter and I returned to the Rhapsody of the Seas after sightseeing in Juneau. We went to our cabins (mine on Deck 3, hers on Deck 7) to drop off rain jackets and purchases, agreeing to meet in the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 9.
I was alone going up in the elevator when it stopped with a big jolt and a loud "bang." The lights above the door (that had indicated that the elevator was approaching Deck 8 before the jolt) were no longer lit. Everything was really, really quiet. Too quiet. Somewhat alarmingly quiet.
I pushed the alarm button. Nothing happened. I pushed it again, defying the law that says "don't keep doing something that isn't working." Then, I read the rather tiny sign above the alarm button that said I should hold it in for three seconds. I did that. Everything was still really, really quiet, except for the shrill alarm. By now, I was vowing never to get on a cruise ship elevator again. A light came on that said that the alarm was acknowledged and the shrill noise stopped.
It was still very, very quiet. I held the alarm button in again for three seconds. The "acknowledged" light came on, more quickly this time, and the alarm noise stopped. I had time to read everything in that elevator, including a notice that the elevator maintenance records were available in the captain's office.
Eventually, a panel in the ceiling opened, and a man stuck his head into the opening and told me "we're going to get you out of here, ma'am. Don't worry." Then, he shut the panel and I heard nothing for a while. Finally, I heard "mechanical" noises around the doors. There seemed to be three voices out there, two of whom were arguing with each other, I think. The doors opened slowly and then shut again rather quickly. I briefly saw the situation. The elevator was stopped way too low for Deck 8, with the floor of the deck at about the height of my hips.
When the door opened again, the crew had increased to four people, with one being the spokesperson. I was going to turn around in order to hoist my somewhat ample bottom up onto the deck, but the crew member in charge ordered me not to do that and to stand at the back of the elevator, saying "it's very dangerous. No, ma'am, get to the back of the elevator." In my racing thoughts came the idea that the elevator might be insecurely "perched" somehow and that balance was very important to my safety. Then, the guy ordered one of the other guys to get a ladder. Meanwhile, one of the crew members jumped down into the elevator with me, grinning to let me know that he wasn't afraid, so I should not be afraid either. Hah! What did he know?
The ladder arrived and was brought down and placed against the deck wall. It was an a-frame 3-step ladder, but the man who placed it just leaned it against the wall. The leader spoke to him and he opened it up. The stabilizer between the two sides was just a cloth ribbon, not a metal brace, so he didn't open it all of the way. That placed the top of the ladder only about 9 or 10 inches from the deck floor. It didn't look safe to me that way, however. The leader didn't like it either and got the guy to open the ladder fully. Now, the top of it was more like 16 to 18 inches from the deck, as it was not turned sideways.
I really did not want to use that ladder at all, especially to stand on the top of it, with nothing to hang onto, and then step across a good sized gap, but they were not going to let me get out on my own terms. I still think that I was at greater risk of injury using their method than my proposed method, but I did it their way, ducking my head to avoid bumping it on the top of the door as I stepped across. A crew member did suggest that I place my hand on his shoulder in order to climb the ladder and to step out, which was a good idea.
Once out, I wanted nothing but to go up the stairs to the Windjammer, get some chocolate cake and tell my daughter what had happened. Ah, but there were questions for me first. "Name?" "Cabin number?" "Are you hurt anywhere?" "Would you like to visit the ship doctor?" I answered the doctor question with "Only if he has all of the chocolate on this ship."
Then, nothing more happened. Royal Caribbean could have/should have delivered a bottle of champagne to my cabin or to my dinner table or given me some small amount of shipboard credit, I think. Nothing more happened. No note came from the captain, the cruise director or even the ship safety officer. Nothing. Nada. It was as though it had never happened at all. I suspect that the crew destroyed the report once they determined that I was not injured. Had I visited the ship doctor, I might have scored some champagne or a t-shirt or something. (Sometimes the cynic in me gets out and has her way.)
I took the stairs for the next few days, but eventually got back on an elevator on the ship when others were with me. When I was alone, I consistently used the stairs rather than risk being stuck like that again.
I did notice more than a few times over the rest of the cruise that yellow plastic tape was covering one or another set of elevator doors, or that a crew was actually working on a particular elevator. Maybe that's a good sign - I don't know.
I have written a letter to Royal Caribbean with some suggestions for process improvement, including a suggestion that the elevator maintenance records be posted in the elevators instead of filed in an office whose location is not widely known.
Other than this incident, I had a pretty good time on this cruise. There were eleven of us (family and friends) and everyone but the teens had a good time. September doesn't bring many teens to Alaska, naturally, but there were only a total of five on board, including our three. We taught them to play poker (in the card room.) That's how bored they were with the other ship activities available to them.