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Old May 20th, 2001, 12:45 AM
Ernie Roller
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Default RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

RADIANCE OF THE SEAS
May 14-19, 2001
Four Days (Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, at sea, Seattle)
Cabin 1586 - Category C
Captain - Kent Ringborn
Cruise Director - Parker Cristan

Background:
I traveled on this sailing with my partner of five years. I have an
extensive cruising background, having sailed on 45 or so cruises. Included
are all the major lines, Royal Caribbean; Holland America; Norwegian Cruise
Line; Princess Cruises; Carnival; and Celebrity among others. I tend to
gravitate towards Celebrity and Princess as my preferred lines. Prior to
RADIANCE, my most recent cruises were on the NORWAY in March, SEABREEZE last
summer, and VOYAGER OF THE SEAS earlier last year. I may tend to compare
aspects of RADIANCE with VOYAGER as they are of the same line, and are the
latest offerings of Royal Caribbean International.

Pre-cruise:
We live in Atlanta and spent four days in Los Angeles prior to the cruise.
We stayed at the Bel Age in West Hollywood which was quite nice.
Unfortunately filming was taking place on the roof top pool for a new movie
entitled "Showtime". This necessitated restricting access to the area for
all guests, which I was not too happy about. I've contacted Wyndham hotels
regarding this inconvenience, and I'll be interested in their reply. From
LA it was on to Seattle for one night at the W Hotel. I highly recommend
this excellent and eclectic hotel, although it is pricey. Our room was on
the 26th floor (highest level) and offered a beautiful view of the Puget
Sound of Seattle. Service was excellent and the "unique" amenities deserved
a chuckle. I enjoyed dinner at a private dinner club called The Ruins with
a friend I met on the NORWAY in March.. My partner had dinner with his Aunt
and Uncle who live in Bellevue.

Embarkation:
We arrived at the pier, which is located near Pikes Place Market in downtown
Seattle at about 11:15am. There was no line to check in although those that
already checked in were beginning to build up. Check-in was painless, with
the usual credit card imprint and presentation of the cruise cards. It
always helps to have your forms filled out and ready. Too bad the majority
of passengers don't seem to feel the same way. An announcement was made
that boarding would begin at 12 noon, and so it did. By this time the line
to check-in was winding through several barrier straps and those who already
checked in had increased ten fold. At 12 noon they began boarding although
in no organized fashion. Everyone piled into a wide hallway that led to the
A-pass security registration system and the metal detectors. It was
basically a cattle call and my partner and I both felt as if we were waiting
in line for a popular ride at Disneyland! Your picture is taken for
security purposes and embedded with your cruise card. Then the metal
detectors and the obligatory welcome aboard photo, and finally onboard the
ship. You are welcomed by a single person then on your own to find your
cabin. You enter directly into the Centrum Lobby which is quite impressive.

The Cabin:
Deck 10 aft, number 1586, Category C (mini-suite). I had the same type
cabin onboard VOYAGER, and for some reason it seemed larger on VOYAGER
although the square footage listed states otherwise. RCI lists the cabin as
293 sq. ft. with a 41 sq. ft. balcony. The layout is exactly the same as on
VOYAGER, with a walk in closet as you enter on one side, and the bathroom
complete with tub on the other. The decor is darker and richer than other
RCI ships, more suited to Celebrity than the usual RCI pastel decor.
Amenities include a terrific safe, hair dryer, mini-bar (only partially
full), and remote control TV. RCTV as they call it is excellent. The TV is
completely interactive and you may order room service, purchase movies, make
dinner reservations, purchase shore excursions and listen to music all
through a touch of your remote control. RCI also provides nice bath
amenities which were replenished daily. Flowers and a snack pack were
waiting for us which was a nice touch from our agent. Our cabin stewardess
introduced herself early on, and provided excellent service throughout the
cruise. The balcony was fairly large, and contained two chairs and a table
of a high quality (not resin plastic). Privacy was quite good and the only
time you could see other people was if you were leaning over the rail.
Avoid cabins on Deck Seven midship if possible. These cabins (like most
balcony cabins) are recessed from the outer hull of the ship, but since they
are the first deck of balcony cabins they are above an awning which hangs
above the lifeboats. This overhang restricts your view looking down to the
water, and you may only look straight out. As you progress to higher decks,
this problem is alleviated. Sound proofing was excellent, and we never
heard our neighbors or noise from the hall. A doorbell was a nice touch!

The Ship:
Much has already been written about RADIANCE, so I will not get into too
much detail. Suffice it to say, RADIANCE is a stunning ship. Areas that
stand out are the African themed Solarium, the Centrum Lobby, Aurora
Theater, and the Colony Club. These areas really left a lasting impression
as some of the most beautiful areas afloat. Unfortunately there are some
serious design flaws that hopefully will be addressed on future RADIANCE
class ships. The most obvious is a lack of a third (aft) staircase and
elevator bank. The entire ship only has 9 elevators for 2100 or greater
passengers. For this reason, stairs and elevators were ALWAYS crowded and
necessitated longs waits. For myself and partner, it's really not a big
deal as taking the stairs is not a problem. For those who are elderly or
incapacitated in some manner, the lack of elevators is a real problem. It's
interesting to note that on MILLENNIUM, which is built on the same hull
platform as RADIANCE, has basically the same layout, but carries less
passengers, there are 12 elevators and three stair towers. Similarly sized
vessels such as CARNIVAL SPIRIT have as many as 15 elevators and again three
stair towers. It amazes me that RCI would build a new vessel with such a
serious lack of passenger mobility. Although VOYAGER OF THE SEAS only had
two stair towers, there were actually four as they were separated on each
side of the ship, and 18 elevators in all. While RADIANCE many times felt
crowded, VOYAGER never did. The other design flow problem is just aft of
the Aurora Theater. On the lower level of the theater, everyone must
squeeze through a small hallway which enters the art gallery and photo shop.
There is another hall which enters Books, Books, and Coffee, but this shop
closes at 8pm and the doors are locked. Therefore, everyone on the lower
level of the theater has only one exit unless you decide to walk outside,
which is not always possible due to the weather. Another area which seemed
crowded was the Windjammer Cafe. The cafe itself is beautiful and very well
laid out, so I think the problem stems from colder weather and the inability
to use the outdoor seating areas. Once the ship is in the Caribbean, I'm
sure this problem will be alleviated.

I loved the Solarium and Shipshape Spa area, and made good use of them every
day. Women's and men's steam room and saunas are free of charge, and
beautifully laid out and decorated as is the entire spa area. There is also
a Thermal Suite which is quite beautiful with saunas facing the ocean with
huge windows. There is a charge to use this area, and I believe a flat rate
provides admission for the entire cruise. The spa area is run by Steiner's,
as is the case on many ships. On RADIANCE, they are adopting a new
philosophy where as you enjoy the entire "spa experience" rather then be
rushed in and out.

Food and Service:
I have nothing but great things to say about both the food and service. The
menus have greatly improved since my cruise on VOYAGER. We had second
seating on the upper level of the Cascades Dining Room. Our table was
directly next to floor to ceiling windows which provided incredible views.
Service was timely and professional and all food arrived at the correct
temperature. These are the basics which RADIANCE more than surpassed. We
also enjoyed room service which always arrived quickly and was well
presented. Food in the Windjammer was pretty typical, but was also well
presented. One evening we enjoyed dinner in Chops Grill. At $20 bucks per
person (+ tip), I expected this to be excellent, and it was. I only paid $5
per person at Portofino's on VOYAGER last year, so RCI has certainly
increased this charge. I do recommend it, even at the $20 charge, as it
truly was a special evening.

Entertainment:
The shows onboard RADIANCE are two of the best I've seen on a ship.
"Welcome To Our World" is the first show, and is more in line with what you
might see in Vegas. The second show, "Rockin' In Paradise" was truly
excellent, and included some stunts and pyro-technics I have never seen
onboard a ship. The theater itself is beautiful and well laid out. I don't
think there a bad seat in the house. The dancers and singers were a very
talented group, and the leads truly had the strong vocals needed to support
these production shows. We also enjoyed the juggler, Jason Garfield who was
not only talented, but quite funny as well. Parker Cristan was the Cruise
Director, and our cruise was his first onboard RADIANCE. I think he did a
great job considering this was his first time on the ship. He was very
chatty and could always be seen walking around the ship. The rest of the
cruise staff were also very visible and a pleasure to speak with. The
Captain, Kent Ringborn is probably the most personable I've ever met. He
even sang during his welcome aboard party and I must say his voice is
excellent.

Staff and Crew:
Everyone we encountered was eager, polite and offered a smile. The crew and
staff were truly wonderful and seemed sincere to ensure a great cruising
experience. Hello's were offered when ever passing a crew member in the
hallway, bartenders and wait staff were always available, and our cabin
stewardess, dining room waitress and busboy were a pleasure to be served by.
The Maitre d' was also extremely helpful, switching us to an excellent table
for two directly by the window with no hassle what so ever. The staff and
crew seem to be treated rather well on RADIANCE. Each crew cabin is two to
a room with private bathroom, refrigerator, VCR and TV. In addition, every
crew cabin has an IBM monitor which is linked to the Internet and ship's
Intranet. I think this is a first for any cruise ship.

Fellow passengers:
Mostly from the Pacific Northwest, there was a good mix of all ages. No one
group really stood out. There were very few children onboard, or at least
they were not noticeable. The crowd did tend to stay up late, which
surprised me as the disco was crowded on several occasions (with staff as
well).

Ports and weather:
Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. The ports were beautiful and it was
wonderful returning to Vancouver. Several years ago I used to spend quite a
bit of time in Vancouver, and this beautiful city remains one of my favorite
in the world. I spent the day having lunch with an old friend and partaking
in lot's of shopping. It was nice to take advantage of the favorable
exchange rate, and Vancouver offers excellent shopping especially on Robson
Street (a short walk from Canada Place pier). We did not do much in
Victoria and the final day was at sea. The sea day was spent cruising at
very slow speeds (10 knots or less) around Vancouver Island and up a little
way into the inside passage. In fact, we rarely sailed over 10-14 knots
which was a little disappointing. I like to "feel" like I'm going
somewhere. The weather was mostly overcast and in the 50-60 degree range,
fairly typical for this area of the world. There was some drizzle but no
downpours which was a plus. RADIANCE sailed with absolutely no vibration
what so ever. When I say none, I mean none! The only movement was the
occasional turn to port or starboard. In addition, there is no visible
emission from the smokestack due to the highly efficient and quiet Gas
Turbines. RADIANCE is probably the most environmentally friendly ship
afloat, which is perfect for the ecologically delicate Alaska region. I
must admit, I really missed the roar of the engines, the slight vibration,
and slow rocking that helps me appreciate I am in fact, on a ship!

Disembarkation:
Quick and easy, by colored coded tags. We stayed in our suite until our
color was called. This is also a great time to explore other cabins as many
of the doors were open. We were off the ship by 9am and at the airport by
9:45am. We took a towncar which was a $35 flat fee to the airport. A very
comfortable way to end the cruise.

Conclusion:
All in all a great cruise. At the end of the day I prefer VOYAGER to
RADIANCE, basically due to the flow and design flaws of RADIANCE and the
feeling of crowds at certain times. As I stated earlier, this problem may
resolve itself when the ship is in warmer weather such as the Caribbean.
RADIANCE is an incredible vessel with a wonderful staff, and I'm certain she
will be a success wherever she sails. I would like to try her out on a
longer cruise, and in warmer weather to really take advantage of all the
great things this ship has to offer. To all her future passengers, you are
in for a real treat!

Ernest Roller
eroller@peoplepc.com
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old May 26th, 2001, 07:31 PM
Senior Member
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Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 480
Default Re: RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

Thank you for the review. I sailed on her a couple weeks before you did. I can tell you that even at 23 kts it is hard to tell that it is moving.

Also I would like to point out the very common error that most non-locals make...
It is NOT Pike's Place Market. it is Pike Place Market. I always get a kick out of people calling it the wrong name. The name comes from the fact that it is located on Pike Place. (the name of the street)
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Old May 31st, 2001, 01:16 PM
Albert Guasch
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Default Re: RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

My wife and I sailed on the two-week inaugural cruise through the Panama Canal and I must tell you that it was quite a disaster. They really were not ready and we experienced extensive service problems in the dining room and mechanical problems in our cabin. We had a balcony cabin on deck seven at the rear of the ship. It was spacious and had a large balcony. The lack of rear passenger elevators and stairs is definitely a problem. We also noted the same access problems on the lower level of the theater. Overall, the ship is beautiful and very quiet. We also enjoyed the solarium and the spa with its relaxing views from the Thermal Suite. I am glad to hear that the service problems in the dining room have been resolved. Having sailed many times before, we realized this was not the norm, but a very unfortunate situation. The entertainment was excellent. We had a different cruise director, but he and his staff made the difference in rescuing part of our cruise. The singing captain was quite amusing. We hope to sail on Radiance again under much different circumstances.
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Old June 7th, 2001, 01:01 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 149
Default Re: RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

Ernie-
I see you had a C category cabin. Did you use the concierge services at all? What can you tell me about them?
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Old June 22nd, 2001, 04:15 PM
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Default Re: RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

I just got around to reading some reviews. I was so disappointed in our Panama cruise on the Radiance that I couldn't bring myself to think about cruising until now. (three months later) What do you do or what can you do when a cruise is so bad? I would like to hear from others on the same cruise if possible.
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Old June 22nd, 2001, 08:29 PM
Albert Guasch
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Default Re: RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

The situation on the Radiance during the Panama Canal cruise was most unfortunate. The ship and crew were not ready and it showed. I would be glad to share with you the seven page letter that I wrote to Royal Caribbean. It was very therapeutic to write. If you have not written to them, please do so. They are very much aware of the situation and will most likely give you some compensation based on your particular situation. I have cruised many times before and what we experienced on this cruise is not the norm for RCI. If you read some of the latest reviews, they have definitely turned the situation around on the Radiance.

I guess we just need to move on and forget about that fiasco. Actually, as we look back, some of the situations that occurred were quite funny. We actually made quite a few friends on this trip. We have just finished booking a December 16 cruise on the Celebrity Millennium with one of the couples. If you want to discuss this further send me an email.
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Old November 26th, 2003, 08:11 PM
Richelle
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Default Re: RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Review - May 14, 2001

I have just read your review of the Radiance and although it was 2 years ago and we are not travelling on her until May 2004 I am really excited. Four couples from Australia will be joining the Radiance in Vancouver for an Alaskan cruise. We were a little concerned about the Radiance - it was that or the Holland American line but we have chosen the Radiance because of the dates and I am not worried now that I have read your interesting and informative review.

I think our cabins are 9524 - 9230. Do you know that deck?

With thanks
Richelle
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