This cruise varied between average to very poor. Many issues - the largest ones described below. Royal Caribbean seems only interested in extracting as much money as possible while denying any responsibility to provide service or satisfaction.
Food - generally low average to inedible - some dishes served in the dining room appeared to have no relationship to descriptions - some I wouldn't feed to a dog - beef stroganoff is one example
Smoking - we paid for a balcony - couldn't use it much of the time as the people next door were smokers â€“ every time thy lit up, our cabin was filled with smoke an rapidly began smelling like an ashtray
Guest services desk staff - generally unhelpful to downright aggressive if faced with a question they didn't like e.g. when we queried the smoking policy we were angrily â€“ yes angrily â€“ told smoking was allowed on balconies â€“ basically tough if we didn't like it
Promises to return answers â€“ on 2 occasions restaurant (Main/My-time & Giovanni's) Managers promised to get back to us the day we made the query â€“ neither did â€“ and this in on yourrecords as found out by your guest services staff when my husband complained for the 3rd time that the vanity in our cabin had still not been repaired â€“ "oophs" was the response â€“ not satisfactory
Maintenance â€“ on first entering our cabin we found the corner of the vanity's previous repair had failed â€“ there was an obvious and open crack of about 3 â€“ 4 centimetres in one corner, with one edge raised. We pointed this and the piece of piping on the sofa that was detached to the rom steward â€“ he was distressed about the piping but tried to tell us the vanity was not broken. When we insisted it was broken and needed to be fixed, he got on the phone and reported it to maintenance. A few days later the piping was fixed but the vanity was not. I met the maintenance man in the corridor and queried him about this â€“ he said there was no report of a broken vanity â€“ so I showed it to him and he agreed that it was broken and also got on the phone to report it. Still some days after and still not fixed, my husband spoke to guest services â€“ no reports of a broken vanity â€“ what happens to these reports â€“ anything too hard seems to disappear into telephone space. After considerable insistence a maintenance person was dispatched and, on examining the vanity, felt it couldn't be fixed until port. More discussion with my husband and suddenly the maintenance crew found they could fix the problem after all â€“ it took about Â½ hour and a small amount of filler
Second time in a year,on ROTS it was her 500th sailing. Great crew and staff all very friendly and helpful,maybe because of Capt. Lis Lauritzen a female a first for me.
Main Dinning room had some great table mates we had some good laughs Food very good and HOT! wait staff a 10. Cabin stewart awesome. Customer service never in all my 47 cruises did I ever encounter a line there,they must be doing some right. To bad ROTS is leaving end of April. Will have the "jewel" next season. Smooth sailing
Just took the Ultimate Alaska, end-of-season run, and this is my 13th time on Radiance. The ship is getting older and experiencing some pains, especially the plumbing which seems to have never worked properly. I have no doubt the system is abused by passengers but it is still a problem area. The highlight, as always, is a fantastic crew who are always pleasant and professional. Even our head waiter added to our overall enjoyable cruise. Everything has been reduced except the workload for the crew. It is so noticable and makes it hard to feel you have gotten value for your dollar. I would rather pay a bit more and see them bring back an expanded menu for the longer itineraries.
This class of ship is very well thought out and the nice itinerary along with the great crew made this a nice cruise overall. Perfect? Not even close.
I just got off the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas cruising the Mexican Riviera. As one of the highest level cruisers, it is unfortunate that I have to say this ship is tired and dirty and the luxury services that has helped Royal Caribbean maintain a 3- 4 star rating have been cut back at a cost to cruisers.
While on the ship, it was routine to be confronted often during the day with broken, missing or poorly maintained structures. One easy example was that the glass panels at the aft Windjammer dining area were highly cracked and crazed, making it impossible to sit down and view the water through them as many of us have come to enjoy. Their pool and pool area chaise lunges were always dirty and never had a pad on them. Couple that with almost a Gestapo attitude toward passenger use of towels (no one was passing them out, they were stained, dirty and holey, and passengers were faced with a $20 per towel charge if someone happened to pass by and remove your towel so you could not turn it back in.
There wasno champagne on boarding, no nightly chocolates, and clearly a much higher crew-to-cruiser ratio than in the past. The food was nothing to write home about and the specialty food areas of the past where cruisers could ask for pasta and other items to their taste and preferred method of preparation were non-existent! That is, mass production was the only choice. A simple pasta prepared in olive oil with your personal selection of spices was not available anywhere at any time!!! Frankly, if this is the current mode of operation on all the Royal Caribbean ships, they should have their rating decreased substantially. This is not a Cadillac, not even a Chevy, but may be becoming an Edsel or a Kia (sorry Kia!).
That said, I have to note that the staff was friendly and as accommodating as they could given their reduced numbers. In particular the Diamond staff did their level best and it was certainly enough, to keep their frequent cruisers happy.
If you have a choice, avoid this boat if possible until someone verifies they have addressed such issues. If these problems are Royal Caribbean wide and includes Celebrity, please post this so I don’t waste my time and money on others when I clearly have so many choices for my leisure dollars.
This should be one of your considered reviews before purchasing a Royal Caribbean Cruise: First off you're my cruise was in February and the average age of a passenger was about 60 years old or so. No biggy I wasn't there for anyone else but my wife and I. However, this did impact the nightlife and overall vibe; a very boring atmosphere. However, I never had a problem getting a table after 7:30 PM. The staff is about as fake as it can get. There is a thing called prepaid gratuities. This is the only means of payment for everyone in food, drink, and housekeeping. If you don't tip; they DON'T get paid. This is one of the ways why RC's prices are so low. A legal version of slave labor.
My favorite is when I got food poisoning for the first time. All I wanted was some medication the next day and the onboard medical facility wanted to charge me $400 to see the doctor and $220 for any prescriptions. I was like well I got poisoned off your food. Their response "prove it". Guest relations told me tostick it and the restaurant manager said that "I don't believe you" well sir I got it from a bad oyster "no you didn't because you're the only one I've heard of on the ship with this poisoning". I simply tried to tell him that it was a bad oyster and just to be more careful next time. What a bad and embarrassing experience considering that their classless remarks were in front of several passengers.
Now we get to the actual cruising. Ya know the first couple day's weren't that bad. I didn't mind the tea cup size pool with never a vacant chair in sight or a bar with The Four Seasons drink prices. However, this was a 10 day cruise and really the absence of interesting activities really starts to creep up on ya by day 3. Honestly, if you like bingo (30 minute game twice a day for $40), towel folding, horrific 1 hour nightly shows, singing lessons or how to cook the ship's food class (the food is somewhere between TGI Fridays and Denny's). However, the miniature golf course was so so and casino wasn't bad either. Just no vibe in the casino. And really I was on a 10 day cruise and this was the offerings of fun.
Now just imagine the beautiful ports and they were the shining beacon on this abysmal cruise. What a blast we had at these ports and DON'T buy an excursion from the cruise. I wasted 2 hours in Acapulco waiting for the tour guides to get their crap together and another 2 hours in transit. I paid $80 per person for 4 hours at a mediocre resort. DON'T GO WITH THE SHIPS EXCURSIONS. They are way overpriced and every tour guide / cab driver at the ports speak good English. Now just imagine you're sitting at the beach getting served like a king amazing food, the drinks, wow the sun the water the view, Your melting in relaxation and fun. How would you like to be on a timer during this? There was nothing worse than having to leave these places to be locked up on a ship with by day 4 NOTHING to do. Average port arrival 7 AM average departure 4 PM. So if you were lucky you could squeeze 6 hours of fun out of these stops. So on a 10 day 5 stop cruise I got 30 hours of real vacation.
Now my favorite part; I get back on the ship go to the hot tub and spark my Cuban cigar. Some jerk from the 3 Caribbean song playing horrific band motions to a waiter and here comes the waiter to tell me to put the cigar out. No smoking in an outdoor hot tub! Ok sir, I go to grab my beer, No drinks allowed either at the hot tub! So as I walk up to one of the café's located by the pool area to grab a salad and wings for my wife and I, immediately I get stopped at the entrance. I wasn't wearing a shirt so I couldn't enter an outdoor café located right next to the pool. Had to redress and go all the way back.
Listen to make a long story short. I paid $2000 for this 10 day cruise and that was without my $1500 liquor/food bill. Not to mention the at least $1000 spent at the ports. Add this up and tell me that you wouldn't rather go to an all inclusive for a week at "enter destination here". My idea of a vacation is a break from the world where I could do anything I want. The rules and constant threat of dismemberment really adds even more insult to the constant boredom we suffered through from day 3 on. Also, during dinner you have to dress up 50% of the time or you can't eat. I love putting on a suit on and told what to do on vacation don't you?
This was our tenth Alaska cruise. We have also taken several Pacific coastal cruises. This was a repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, then down the coast finishing in San Diego. The ports included Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier (cruising), Sitka, Victoria, San Francisco (two full days) and San Diego.
We flew to Vancouver a day early and were glad we did. It has been a few years since we flew into Vancouver and we did not realize how long it took to get through Canadian Customs. Several planes had landed around the same time as ours and hundreds of people were lined up waiting in the Customs line. It took us about 2 hours to get through and on our way to the hotel. Had we been heading for the ship, we may not have made it by the appointed time.
We spent the night at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. This is a 4 star hotel that we reserved through Priceline at $130 per night including all taxes and fees. Several people on our cruise who contribute to online message boards had recommended this hotel andwe were very pleased with the room, service, and price. The hotel in located a half block from Robson Street, the main shopping street in downtown Vancouver. We asked at the front desk if there was a Thai restaurant nearby and were told that there is one right across the street from the hotel. We had a very pleasant dinner at this place. The next day, we took a cab to the Ballantyne Pier. The cost was about $15.00 American including tip.
Embarkation Embarkation was smooth and quick. Because we were platinum members of the Crown & Anchor Society, we were escorted to the special check-in line. Since we arrived at 11:30 AM, our cabin was not yet ready. We went up to the Windjammer and had lunch. At 1:00 PM we were able to go to our cabin.
Cabin We were on the Jewel of the Seas last year and learned that the outside cabins, which adjoined the next cabin, had a different configuration than all the other outside cabins on the ship. These cabins have the head of the bed against a side wall, which we prefer. This enables you to look out the window without having to climb up on the bed. Since the Radiance is a sister ship to the Jewel, the cabin configurations are the same as the Jewel. We chose one of these cabins and were very happy with it. Our only complaint is that these cabins have inadequate drawer space. Our steward did an excellent job for the entire cruise except he was unable to provide ice tongs, but we managed to live without them.
Every night of the cruise we had a different “towel animal” on the bed. We saw several that we had not seen on previous cruises. We also noticed that the quality of the bath towels and bed sheets exceeded what we have had on previous cruises and other cruise lines. The location of the cabin was excellent being about half way between the Cascades Dining Room and the Aurora Theatre.
Food Unfortunately, the food in the dining room and Windjammer were not up to par. We had My Time Dining for dinner and the waiters did an excellent job. Most of our meals were taken at 6 PM when the dining room opened for the evening, but on several occasions, we attended an early show and had dinner at a later time. There did not seem to be any difference in the service when we went later and we were seated immediately whenever we arrived. The My Time Dining system seems to be working out very well. I suspect more people will select this option as they learn it is available. We found out about it on the last day of our Jewel of the Seas cruise in New England last year when another guest mentioned it at lunch. Up until then, we had no idea that it was available. Strange as it seems, our Royal Caribbean in-house agent never mentioned it to us as an option.
We noticed that the menus have been changed to discourage guests from having several courses at dinner. Instead of listing soup, salad, appetizers, and entrees under individual headings, they list the soup, salad and appetizers under the heading Starters and the entrees under another heading. Therefore, most people ordered just one item from the Starters group and one from the entrée group. It seemed to speed up the service and everyone appeared to be happy with the system. I never felt hungry upon leaving the dining room. I suppose Royal Caribbean saves a little on food costs by using this new system.
Entertainment Because this was a repositioning cruise, I had assumed that the entertainment might not be as good as it would be on a regular cruise. Was I wrong about that! They had a couple of production shows and the rest were individuals or groups that came onboard for just one performance. Every night was a different show. Some of the best were:The Diamonds- This foursome sang oldies form the 50s and 60s and brought down the house. They were nothing short of fantastic. The place rocked. Marie Neglia- She is a violinist and she stated that she had been on the Ed Sullivan show 24 times in her youth. She is a mature lady now, but she still has full control over the violin and played some amazing pieces that would have made my arm fall off. Lenny Welch-Mr. Welch is another entertainer from the 60s. I frankly had not heard of him before, but he is an excellent showman and did a great job putting on a very professional show. Tim Walkoe- This comedian had the jokes coming so fast, I was always two jokes behind him. And he had a clean show. Mathew & Gunnar Nelson- The twin sons of Ricky Nelson did a tribute show to their father. I was not familiar with these two and did not expect much from them, but I sure was wrong again. They are very professional and did an excellent job.
We have taken 8 Royal Caribbean cruises and I have yet to see a performer that I have seen on a previous cruise, so these folks may never appear on another RCL ship. But, if they do appear on one of your cruises, don’t fail to see their shows.
Ports Since we have been on 10 Alaska cruise, we have seen most of what is available on the ship’s tours. Therefore, we did only one of them on this cruise. At other ports, we just walked to some of the local places that we missed on past cruises. We had excellent weather in all ports except Icy Strait Point, but even here we were able to run between the drops.
In Ketchikan, we walked up to the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center. I was disappointed and felt that the entrance price was inflated for what they offered. They had two Bald Eagles in an enclosure. They both looked sickly. A guide, who provided a quick 15-minute description of the place, led us through and then escorted us out the back door. After leaving the hatchery, we walked down the Married Man Trail to Creek Street. Along the way, we were amazed at the number of fish that were trying to get up to the hatchery. The creek was choked with them and I doubt that there was any more room available at the hatchery. Most of them probably died in the stream before they spawned. Thousands more were stacked up at the mouth of the creek just below the highway bridge in the heart of Ketchikan. We finished off our day at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. It is a little pricey, but they put on a good show.
In Juneau, we took the local bus to the Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure. It is a few miles up the highway from Juneau and took about 1/4 hour to get there by bus. They provide a tour through the forest and up to the top of a hill where you have a view of the entire Juneau area. Unfortunately, there were not that many flowers in bloom, but our guide provided a interesting commentary as we proceeded through the forest. The upside-down trees were a novelty.
At Icy Strait Point, we took a tram tour through the local forest and along the shoreline. There was not much to see in the forest, but we were entertained by a group of whales off the coast. The highpoint of the tram ride was some very colorful mushrooms that grow in a certain place along the trail. The local tribe has done an excellent job of converting an abandoned fish cannery into various shops selling locally made items. A shuttle was available to take visitors into the local town for a fee of $8.00 per person round trip. Heavy rain prevented us from going, but people that did said it was not worth the cost of the trip. They have a mile-long zip line ride at this port and people that tried it said they had a ball. As we returned from our tram ride, six people zoomed over our head on the zip lines. It was raining buckets just as they passed and I surmise that some or all of them were soaked by the time they finished their ride.
In Sitka, we walked to the Alaska Raptor Center. This was the highlight of the day. They have a number of birds in various enclosures and they all appear healthy and happy. Once they recover from their injuries, they are released back into the wild. This place is quite attractive and well kept. It is worth the entrance fee and the money goes to a good cause.
Victoria was its usual beautiful self with lots of hanging baskets full of flowers. There was lots of activity around the downtown port and people watching was the order of the day. We walked a couple of miles looking for antique stores, but discovered that they were all closed because it was Sunday. It was such a nice day, we did not mind and finally went back to Government Street where they had tourist oriented stores open and ready for business.
Two more beautiful days were spent walking around San Francisco in the sunshine. Unfortunately, it was so foggy in the morning that the Golden Gate Bridge was barely visible as we passed under it at 6 AM. We also could not see any city lights because of the fog. However, as soon as we docked, the fog lifted and the city stood out in all its glory. The GG Bridge spent most of the two days in a bank of fog. All the people that wanted to see the bridge were up on the top deck as we left San Francisco. The wind coming trough the Golden Gate was almost strong enough to blow you off the deck, but hundreds of people braved it just to get a good look at the bridge as we passed underneath. There were many oohs and aahs as it happened.
As we approached San Diego, the fog was just as thick as it was in San Francisco. The captain announced that the ship had to be docked with the use of instruments because the fog was too thick to see. Fortunately, it lifted so those who had never been here before could take pictures. This city, like San Francisco, is very impressive to view from the deck of a visiting cruise ship.
Captain We have noticed that the Norwegian captains always seem to do a better job than any of their competitors. They usually make excellent announcements each day and always keep the passengers up to date on any concerns they might have about the weather or other problems that might arise concerning life onboard. Our captain did an equally good job, except that he was more of a ham than any of the others with whom we have sailed. His question and answer period on Day 11 kept the audience in stitches for nearly 1 1/2 hours.
Cruise Quality Overall, this was a good cruise. The food quality could have been better. We did notice that Royal Caribbean is cutting back on some of the "small things" to which we had become accustomed. They no longer put candy on your pillow each night and the commemorative gift has disappeared. They are also cutting back on the benefits for Crown & Anchor Society members. We just qualified as Diamond members and were looking forward to the increased benefits on our next cruise, but now find that we must become Diamond Plus members before receiving those benefits which were heretofore available to Diamond members. That is a shame.
Disembarkation Many cruise ships are starting to release passengers around 6 AM so they can make early flights. On this cruise, they did not start to disembark until around 8:30 AM. We were supposed to be called by the color of our luggage tags, but many people felt that they were going to miss their early flights, so they started to line up at the gangway as soon as it looked like it would be opened. This created a crush anxious of folks coming from all directions and was not a good situation. I could have been avoided if the ship had started to disembark passengers earlier.
We are first time cruisers. There were three couples, in our 50's and 60's, all from Michigan.
We decided to fly into Vancouver a day prior to our cruise. We took United Airlines flights, arrived on time and proceeded through customs. We had superior rooms reserved at the BLUE HORIZON hotel, wonderful rooms and the view was breathtaking!!!!! The six of us and luggage took two taxi's, and the fare was $35.00 each cab. Once we arrived at the Blue Horizon, one of the couples discovered that they had left one of their bags at the airport. They had miscounted and simply neglected to take it off the baggage claim conveyor. The were in a panic, as it would now cost them another $70.00 to taxi back to the airport, pick up the bag and then taxi back to the hotel. Upon calling the airport and talking to United's service desk, they found the bag and delivered it to the hotel FREE OF CHARGE!!!!! We were amazed and very thankful.
We left our hotel at check-out time and took two taxi's to the pier. The cost was about $12.00 per cab.
TheRADIANCE OF THE SEAS was beautiful!!!!!! We checked in, got our SeaPass and headed to the Centrum bar for a drink. We loved our waiter, SHORTY, and visited him many times during the trip.
We then decided to have lunch at the Windjammer Buffet while waiting for our rooms to be ready. I walked up to the "sandwich station" and picked the tong utensil up from the tray to get a sandwich, once I was finished I was looking for an empty space on the tray to re-lay the tong utensil down and the station employee grabbed the tongs out of my hand and spoke forcefully to me, telling me to "put them down!" The lady next to me looked at me and we both had a look of "Oh My God, I thought he was going to spank me" I was really upset and thought, what have I done, spent all this money for a cruise to be treated like this? Well, let me assure you that was the ONLY employee that ever acted like that. Everyone else, and I mean EVERYONE else, was kind, courteous and wonderful.
Formal Nights and Dining Our men opted for dress shirts and ties for formal nights, ladies for dressy pants outfits, and we all fit right in. Tuxedos were rare, suits were common, and dress shirt and ties were VERY common. The food in the dining room was wonderful!!! Our waiters Cecilia and Reynaldo were excellent.
The rooms were wonderful, the shows were wonderful, and we had a wonderful vacation. The only negative thing we had was the weather. For the week of July 18th-July 25th, it was one of the coldest on record in Alaska, with temps in the 54-59 range. We were prepared and did a lot of layering, lot of fleece and thank goodness for those thermal underwear we brought.
Excursions We did the Taku Glacier Floatplane and Feast in Juneau, and I highly recommend this excursion. The flight was awesome, the food was great, and you talk about seeing bears? I mean up close bears. One fellow is grilling salmon, while the other two have sticks to chase the bears back!
The Railway Trail and Camp Adventure in Skagway was another excursion we did. We took the bus up to Liarsville, saw the show, panned for gold and took the railway back. I think this is a ONE time excursion that you need if you want to see the beautiful scenery from the train, but I would not do it again if I went back. It is important to sit on the left side of the train if you are going up, and to sit on the right side if coming down.
We did the Zip Line excursion in Icy Straight Point. WOW! This was awesome and all six of us did it! I would do this over and over if I could. What they don't tell you until after you buy your ticket is that if you get to the top of the mountain and chicken out, they will drive you back down, but no REFUND. So make sure you can do this before you pay, but it is sooooooo worth it.
Disembarkation and Seward We had to fill out a questionnaire and it asked about your travel arrangements after the cruise. This is how they decide what color of luggage tags you are given and when you are called to leave the ship.
We opted to stay for the day and night in Seward, making reservations ahead of time at the MURPHY MOTEL. I would only stay here if you are looking for something on the cheaper side, as you get what you pay for.
My HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION, whether you are traveling to ANCHORAGE upon departure or not until the next day, is using MAGIC BUS transportation. I picked up the recommendation for them from another Cruise Critic, and what a great choice this was!
We were picked up on Saturday morning (they can also pick you up at the pier, or in Anchorage to travel to Seward). Our driver "Patrick" came for us in a shuttle van, and we could have fit 11 passengers in that van, with luggage tucked in the back. But we only had the three couples and tons of room inside! Patrick gave us many options, and would discuss each one, explain what they were, how much time and then let us make the decisions. We stopped at Summit Lodge for a rest stop and to browse the gift shop, then on to the Wildlife Reserve which was really great and only cost $5.00 per person. There we saw buffalo, moose, musk ox, bear, elk, eagle, and caribo. What a great stop. We stopped at the Alpine Inn and saw the beautiful hotel. They also have a tram car that you can take to the top of the mountain and have lunch. We saw wildlife along the drive, a moose on the side of the road and Patrick turned that shuttle around and got us some great photo ops. We saw a bear walking right down the middle of the rail tracks, and we had a bear walk across the street in front of the shuttle and watched it go up onto the porch of a house! Patrick told us about a flea market shopping experience in Anchorage, and we opted to do that. He dropped us off, gave us his cell phone number and let us shop until we were ready for pick up. We had dinner reservations at the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage (based on Tim's recommendation -- owner of the Magic Bus) and the dinner was excellent. Patrick picked us up and showed us around Anchorage until it was time for us to be dropped off at the airport. Patrick told us many stories and brought pictures of bears that he or friends had encountered while in Alaska, and we could not have been more pleased with the service. It was a perfect ending to a great trip.
We will never forget our trip!
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 beinterested 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!
Being a cruising maniac, I love mostly all ships, but Radiance was the best I've been on so far. The size was perfect for just about everything, There wasn't much wait getting on or off, she was very clean and the Crew and Staff were all excellent. The ports she went to were perfectly suited for the ship. I would recommend her for everything, 10/10
Arrived a day early in Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Ramada Plaza on Commercial Ave. The only negative is a 40-50 dollar cab ride from the airport (try the Ramada Cruiseport if available). Embarkation the next day was quick and easy. The ship is smaller than others I have been on from RCCL, but the layout is nicer. The outside elevators looking out a wall of windows is a nice touch. The buffet breakfast and lunch is good but it is the usual cruise fare. The main dining room is spacious and the staff was as good as it gets.
The captain was a Canadian (!), not the usual Norwegian or Italian which came as a surprise. This was a last minute booking and our ocean view cabin on the lowest deck was well worth the low rate we paid. It was very quiet and smooth and even though we were right by the elevators, that was no problem. Our location came in handy while disembarking in the ports of call. Being Parrotheads, we enjoyed the trails of Margaritaville tour in Key West. Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay allwere nice laid back visits. After many cruises on different lines, this was one of the one or two best weeks at sea ever. I hated the day of disembarking at the end but even that was done like a well oiled machine. Well done RCCL !