First off let me begin by telling you a bit about us. I have cruised 3 times before and my boyfriend this was his 1st cruise. Both of my other cruises were on Carnival Cruise Lines.
Pre-cruise: We had an early flight with only about 20 people on the whole thing; we practically had the plane to ourselves. Now the flight from Detroit to Miami now that was a different story, the plane was overbooked and loud, the landing was rough and hard. But we lived through it. We flew Northwest Airlines, but over all I would fly them again. We stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay Hotel. What a great hotel it is. We had a room overlooking the bay but not the ships. This was fine due to the fact it was still a great view. After we checked in we went to Bayside market place and ate lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. It was great. If you like shrimp then go eat here. It is a must. After lunch we walk around Bayside and did some shopping. We then went to Hard Rock Café andhad some desert. We then went back to the hotel to get some rest for the big day. We took a cab to the port and it cost about $11 not bad at all.
Embarkation: This was a breeze we got to the port at about 10:00 am and we were having lunch in the Windjammer at 11:30 am. Lunch was very good we were both very hungry. We walked around the ship until our cabin was ready.
Cabin: We had cabin 7092 what a nice cabin. It has a VERY large balcony I personally loved it. The only bad thing about it is that you can not look directly down into the water. Tons of storage space for luggage and a nice size room. It was bigger than I had expected. Now the bath room was tiny but it served its purpose well. I did hate the shower curtain it sticks to your tush. Our cabin was next to the elevators and we never heard then the 1st time. It was nice to be so close to the elevators.
Ship: All I can say is WOW. I had to pick my jaw up off the ground when I saw her beauty in person. Pictures do not do this ship justice. All the glass everywhere there was not a bad view from this ship. You can see the ocean where ever you are. I won't go into detail about the ship due to the fact that so many other reviews do.
Cabin Stewards: Well I do think that the 2 that were taking care of my cabin needed to be trained a bit more. I asked for extra pillows on the 1st night and was told ok no problem; well I never got them so I asked again the next night and was told the same thing. So on the 3rd night I asked once more and I was told that they were out and that I should have asked sooner and that they were now out of extra pillows. Well I did ask sooner and never got them. So I went to guest relations and I made them aware and needless to say I had extra pillows that night. Then one day I asked for beach towels and I was towels sure and 1 hour later I still had not got them so I went and found them and got them myself. Also they never changed the sheets on our bed they only made up the bed with the old sheets. Well needless to say after I went to guest relations again my sheets were changed. But other than those small things I did not have a problem with them.
Food: Everything we ate was oh so very good. I miss it already. I think our best meal was the lobster. Our Waiter and Astaint Waiter were the best. We had later seating which worked out great. I would do late seating again in a heart beat. We ate at all the restaurants except the Solarium Pool and Chops. They were all great.
Murder Mystery Dinner: This was so fun and well worth the extra money. The food was to die for and the service was great. If you go try to get seated with the charter named Madam Veluca. She was so funny and played the part so well. Only 75 people can attend and there is only one per cruise and it sells out very fast. So book it as soon as you get on the ship.
Soda Card: The soda card cam to $48.30 for an adult, but was well worth it for my boyfriend he drank at least 6 sodas a day and sometimes more. The Childs soda package was less. This may not be worth it to some but it was well worth it for my boyfriend.
Ports of Call: Coco Cay: It was a nice sunny day. No rain. This was a very nice relaxing beach day. We walked hand in hand down the beach. Shopped ate and eve went kayaking. We spent the whole day there. It seemed like there was a bit of work being done on the Island, Which I am thinking is still from the recent Hurricane's. But it still did not take away from the beauty of the Island.
St. Thomas: It rained off and on all day long, but that did not stop us. We went for a bit of shopping right at the pier. Then we went to paradise point for the view. It was a nice view but would have been better if it had not been raining. We then took an excursion though Rccl to Buck Island. Now that was great. Only 6 of us from the whole ship went. We sailed out to the Island that was about 3 mile from St. Thomas and jumped in to the water from the sail boat we snorkeled right above a sunken ship and some awesome coral formations. The sun did come out for this tour. We must have been holding our mouths right or something. On the way back We had snacks and a nice cold drink. It did rain on the way back to the ship but that did not put a damper on the great time we had. I would recommend this tour to anyone.
St. Croix: We stopped here for fuel. Since we were only there for a few hours there were no tours here. But we got off the ship and shopped a bit. Now when they get this port completed and get it going this will be a nice stop during the day. I hope to visit here when it is done. Very nice people they all welcomed us with open arms for the time we were there.
St. Maartin: The day was great sunny al day and no rain. We did the St. Maartin Senations tour with lunch through Rccl again. This time only 15 people went on this tour. We stated by boarding a nice bus and toured both the Dutch and the French side of the Island. We stopped in the French side for some shopping. Shopping is always good. We then head to a beach called Guna Bay we had the beach all to our selves it was on the Atlantic side of the Ocean so the waves were great. This is a 1 mile long beach just breath taking! I wish I lived there. The lunch they served was so very good. I had to have seconds as did my boyfriend. After Lunch and more time on the beach we headed back to the ship. After that My boyfriend and I did some more shopping on the Dutch side of the Island. This was a great tour as well. I would recommend this tour as well. Very nice and relaxing.
Sea Days (3 of them): These are the day that I loved the most you could either do it all or do nothing at all. I seemed to be the one to do it all. I ended up earning enough ship shape dollars to earn a backpack so what does that tell you. I went to classes, I walked, I climbed the rock wall, and I played mini golf, I played darts, I went to the horse races, I played the game the Quest. I was very active. Now my boyfriend on the other hand maybe did 3 of those things, if that. But that's fine it was his vacation too.
THE QUEST: Now this is a subject all to itself. This game is so very fun and funny. My boyfriend and I was on a team and we had a blast now if you don't know what the quest is then I am not going to spoil it for you. But I am here to tell you it is not to be missed. To all of you who have played or seen it I am sure you would agree. Now me and my boyfriend were on team number 1 and we just happen to be on the team that won it all. So if you were there you seen us!
Entertainment: This was great as well. All I can say is that the comedians were great all the shows were great it is amazing how the entertainers can learn so many different shows without messing up.
Room Service: Only ordered it 2 times. Once with the Romance Package and once for a late night snack. The only complaint is that my milk that was with my Romance Breakfast was bad it was like taking a big drink of Cottage Cheese. Needed less to say I went to guest Relations over this and I got a delivery of Chocolate covered Strawberry's for the mess up. That was nice of them.
Pool Area's: Very nice but there is the same old problem of the chair hog's. There are only 2 pools and 3 hot tubs on this ship. The outdoor pool has 2 hot tubs and the solarium pool has only 1. The solarium is very nice no one under age of 16 in allowed in which makes it quite. It is themed like Africa with bird sounds and all. I just loved the big cat on the side of the pool. And all the pools but the kiddie's pool is open 24 hours a day except for cleaning. The pools are salt water and the hot tubs are fresh water.
Embarkation: Very well run and very fast for this sort of thing. Not that fast is good when you really don't want to get off the ship. Rccl has this process down to an art.
Post Cruise Stay: We stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay again. Once again very nice. We spent the day touring Coconut Grove and other parts of Miami. Our flight did not leave Miami on the 13th until 4 pm so on Monday we went to Bayside again to shop some more before our flight. We fly Northwest. Flights went very well. It was a shock on our body's coming for 75 degree sunny weather to 30 degree snowy weather. I want to go back I want the warm.
So as you can see with a few minor flaws we had a great cruise and I all ready have another booked for Oct 2005 with Rccl. I would not hesitate to recommend or sail with them again. Them have everything down to an art. I will be posting photos so keep your eyes open. Sorry for the long review. I just wanted to share my wonderful cruise with everyone.
We had a family group of 10 sailing on this cruise. Ages ranged from 12-81. All experienced cruisers. This was my 14th cruise, (5th on RCL, 4 Carnival, 3 Norwegian, 1 Celebrity, 1 Princess)
Booking: We booked this cruise with Skyscraper tours , 1st and last time booking with them. Despite the reputation this agency has on the Internet, we had many problems that made this experience one that I would not repeat. The price was good, customer service was not good and having to double check the entire booking every step of the way made this the worst agency experience I have ever had. Cruisers beware.
11/22/03 Saturday We left home around 10AM, picked up our daughter in Virginia and arrived at Dulles Airport around 1PM for our 2:45 flight. Quiet in the airport all went well with our connection in Atlanta. Arrived in Fort Lauderdale just past 7:30PM. All the luggage arrived. (thank you Delta) and we called our hotel Amerisuites on 17th St. to pick us up. Check in went well, ordered pizza from the local doughboys tho there is an outback and mexican restaurant nearby. Hotel adequate, wehad 5 in the room, 2 double beds and a very uncomfortable sofa bed. Husband and another passenger on the shuttle mixed up their very similar black suitcases with yellow streamers on them. Glad we found out that night, they were headed on a Holland American ship the next day.
Embarkation (11/23/03) : Up early the next day for decent continental breakfast at hotel. Checked out at 10:30AM and joined the large group waiting for the shuttle to port. We decided after 15 min wait to just get a cab on our own. Desk called and one arrived in 5 min. Was $6.75 to the port on the meter..well worth it. Gave the porter a few $$ even tho he only had to move the bags from the curb to the waiting steel container. In the terminal we were in the check in line (where they teased me about using our Carnival Mastercard to pay for our Royal Caribbean shipboard account) and on the ship at 11:30AM..think this was the fastest embarkation ever!!!! Come aboard ship on Deck 5. We headed down 2 levels to our cabin and unloaded the carryons..put documents in safe. Getting on early and having a chance to explore the ship is one of our favorite activities...Thanks RCL for this painless embarkation!
Cabin: We had 5 outside cabins located on deck 3 near the elevators. (3102, 3104 for the 4 in our family , with adjoining door between) Great cabin for the week. Had our steward (Vic) make the beds as double in our room, kept the twins for our sons ages 12, & 15 in the other. Layout was good overall. Only weird thing was the closet on left as you first came into cabin. Just had maybe 12 inches of hanging closet space, a top shelf and then these maybe 6-8 inch wide shelves with open side that were not that useful. Would have been better to just have shelves across. Next to that had a nice sized hanging closet, probably 3 ft. wide, had bars you could pull down to make as double rods. Then inside the room there was the main desk/vanity with 2 sets of 3 drawers besides the chair area. Drawers fairly small, maybe 2 ft wide, 1 foot deep, 8 inches tall or so. One narrow 5 inch tall desk drawer in middle. Nice lighting, had a hairdryer that would plug into special outlet, had to hold down the button on the hairdryer to keep air flowing. Next to desk, vanity was the TV - had 2 shelves in cabinet above where the safe (use 4 digit number code) was located,,, below TV was the refrigerator. The bed was over sized queen when placed together, found it very comfortable and had 2 pillows for each passenger. The window was large, probably 4 ft wide and 3 ft tall. Had nice drapes with set of sheers underneath for the daytime. Beside each bed there was a small nightstand. Had one small drawer and a shelf underneath. Good lighting controls by bed, The bedside lamp has 2 controls, one for a small lamp that has a half circle shade over it and the other for a directional light that you can focus on your bed without disturbing the others in cabin. Also by the mid cabin light there were controls for the ceiling lights as well. There was a small 2 person love seat with a movable oval table next to the beds before you had the wall for the bathroom. Not that comfortable,,but nice place to sit or put on shoes in am. Had 4 square pillows on back that are removable. Bathroom had smallish shower with fabric curtain. Nice rain shower head with removable head, 2 wire racks for shampoo or soap. Has on wall dispenser with conditioning shampoo inside. No other toiletries provided. Usual push to flush toilet. Mirrors over sink area, one has 4 small corner shelves behind it. One long shelf about 6 inches wide underneath the sink. Shelf holds a small waste paper container. (never saw any of the famous BROWN water all week. no problems for us)
Elevators: Our cabin location was right by the centrum elevators and I would recommend anyone on the Radiance try to locate themselves near these elevators or by the ones in the front of the ship. They are heavily used on this ship and tho beautiful with glass around it on all sides. they are functionally inadequate for the number of passengers. The ones in the centrum are narrow at the entrance and somewhat longer than usual. It was especially difficult for those with strollers, scooters or wheelchairs to manage to get inside. These were the coziest elevators we have ever ridden on.. passengers would cram inside til it was completely filled.the capacity says 20 persons, I would say 12 is barely comfortable and usually 15-18 were inside at busy times. They did seem to work fairly well, we learned to hang out in the middle area near the centrum ones by the ship diagram, and watch the numbers so we could jump on as soon as one arrived. The ride itself by the centrum was great. You could watch the activity there as you rode up and down. On the outside there was an excellent view of the ocean and a small enclosed area with plants etc. Only the outside elevators travel up to the 12 & 13th floors and you needed to push a separate UP button to go there. The front of ship elevators are pretty standard, didn't seem to be used as much as the ones in the centrum.
Windjammer: The windjammer is located on Deck 11.nice layout. Only had 1 entrance> A greeter was always there to welcome you , nice touch. Bathrooms are outside the main entrance which was a bit different than usual. Liked the overall set up with different food stations on deck here. Good omelet man in the mornings. Thirst stations with already prepared drinks (lemonade, ice tea, water) and then had coffee. (sorry it tasted horrible in Windjammer, burnt??,,, needs to have machines cleaned? Replaced?? ,pretty vile stuff every morning, much better in dining room) Otherwise, I found the food and choices to be very good and adequate. We ate most breakfasts and lunches here during our cruise. Royal Caribbean uses large plastic platters instead of trays and plates. The silverware is rolled up in napkins. No spoons usually?? Only sticks to stir the coffee. In Windjammer, nice sets of tables rectangular, square and round with seating for 2 -10 .outside there are nice padded wicker lounges with tables and out aft there are square tables and chairs. When windjammer is closed there is no way to access back into the ship from the aft deck area. Cookies are excellent..we would grab some to take back to cabin for snacks or on excursions. Each day different varieties. Think this was one of the best buffet setups and food quality on all of our cruises.
Luggage Delivery: We had all luggage before our dinner seating at 6PM.some in our group didn't get theirs til after dinner.
Lifeboat Drill: Scheduled for 4:30.we headed up to our crowded station on deck 6 in the Portofino restaurant. Most are located on deck 5 promenade so don't understand why those on lower decks are not located there. Fairly painless, showed how to wear lifejacket..didn't tell us where our lifeboat would be if we needed one tho!
Cascades Restaurant: We had 10 of us on this cruise all booked together. We had been waitlisted for main dining and that cleared for us by the time our documents arrived. Unfortunately somehow my Dad (who paid our cruise fare!) was not assigned to the table with the rest of our family. Luckily our wait staff was able to move us to the adjacent table that seated 10. Our waiter Jimmy and Franco assistant waiter did an excellent job. Miss you guys! Only negative to dining experience was the inconsiderate table behind us who had a 6 mos old with screeching talent that could shatter glass, and a toddler who was allowed to roam freely between tables causing a hazard to all nearby. As a parent I can sympathize with how difficult it would be to have young children on a cruise..but they seemed to be totally unaware of how their kids were affecting the rest of the passengers. I did speak to our waiter Jimmy and they did move our table as far away as possible from the other table. We enjoyed most of the food tremendously, good breads, salad dressings etc. Even the ranch steak got a thumb's up from my brother in law. On lobster night there is no beef on standard menu. the pork tenderloin tasted like pine sap according to my sister so you may want to try something else. Overall we were happy with the food and thrilled with the service. Since there is only one dining room there is a noise level that just hums during your meal. (course ours was even more impacted by the kids behind us) On Thanksgiving there was a special menu for the day with turkey as the main entrée. Not sure what happened but it took over 2 hrs plus that day to get our food. Jimmy said they were having technical problems with the kitchen. they changed some of the side dishes for the turkey entrée. all tasted good in the end. The head waiter came by just about every meal to make sure we were happy with the food and service. Jimmy spoiled my son with double shrimp ######### and mashed potatoes every day. Franco brought huge glasses of chocolate milk to satisfy his thirst every night. Their caring attention made the dining experience one of the nicest ones we have had on the sea. Good job guys! We made sure to give them excellent on the comments cards to reflect their wonderful attention all week.
Dress Code: Casual was the dress for Embarkation day..saw some still in shorts probably waiting on luggage delivery. Formal nights for us were Monday and Thursday. I think most were dressed in formal wear.. and I would say probably half changed clothes after dinner to something more comfortable. Otherwise just standard long pants, collared shirts,,,nice outfits for women seemed to be the standard. Didn't see anything that inappropriate in the dining rooms. After feeling stifled on Celebrity with their all night in formal wear policy, it was nice to have a more relaxed evening.
Aurora Lounge: Located in front of ship decks 5 &6.nice stadium seating lounge, we always went from deck 5 so not sure what sightlines are on upper balcony levels. Seemed a bit too small for the number of passengers. Have round cup holders for drinks.
Other lounges: besides the main show lounge there are several other lounges mainly on deck 6. The schooner bar is located right off of the centrum on deck 6. When you walk into the lounge there is an area with ship replica items, cannons, rifles on wall, wood stays like on the framework of a ship. The musty bacon like smell will surround you as you enter. After that main hallway you enter the main schooner bar. Good views from the windows there, the piano bar with David in the evenings is the main entertainment. We did enjoy his music several evenings. Especially liked the way he could quickly include the people walking by in his music. He even managed to do a decent version of Stairway to heaven on his piano one night. The schooner bar leads into the colony club where the self leveling pool tables are in use. Didn't try them as they were in use most of the day and night time. There are adjacent tables with chess and backgammon for your use. The colony club lounge is beautiful but a bit too small for the many activities scheduled here. Table seating near the dance floor is limited..there is a large bar area behind there with smoking allowed. It did seem to me that they needed another place on the ship for the activities like the quest and rock and roll party-these were too crowded for most of the passengers. Past the stage there is a room with tables set up for card playing..they also had a nice selection of board games for use in the room.
On deck 13, the usual Viking crown lounge was divided into 2 rooms. The starquest disco in one. It had a rotating circular bar with bar stools around it. Nice size dance floor. My daughter (21) and niece (25) had fun up in the disco. Not that crowded when we stopped by but seemed popular especially on the village people 70's dancing night. The cruise critic party was also held here. Next to the disco was the Hollywood lounge. Nice small lounge, only used for private parties and also for a not that thrilling magic show on Friday. There were small areas on most decks near the centrum with several couches, tables and chairs. Deck 7 had a library which I should have visited since I am a librarian!..could see it from the elevator but never managed to go there. On deck 4 centrum there was a decent sized lobby bar and small dance floor. There were musicians playing music there most evenings. Nice place to hang out pre dinner since the entrance to the Cascades lower level is on deck 4.
Promenade deck: off of centrum on deck 5. Has some vinyl slatted lounges. Narrow walkways for making the circuit. We went out after shows in the evening to transit from the front of ship the back without having to go with the crowd on deck 5 thru the shops and photo gallery.
Shops: several small area shops on deck 5. Logo shop, perfume shop, jewelry in middle of walkway. Had special merchandise on sale every day on tables on both sides of walkway thru shopping area. Liquor and snacks in one store. They did tell me on Friday if I wanted to purchase liquor that I would be able to take it to room that day instead of waiting til last night to have it delivered. My niece did buy a bottle of bacardi the first day was charged a $9 surcharge to consume on ship..made price about usual US retail.
Photo Gallery: located deck 5 between shops and show lounge. Usual display racks of photos. We had several pictures taken near the centrum that and had one photo made into Christmas cards ($25 for 20 cards) also bought the picture of the family on Thanksgiving. Usual prices and quality for most part.
Casino: located on deck 6. Didn't use much besides a walkway thru to front of ship. Hard to navigate in evenings. Had the usual slots, roulette tables, black jack tables. Bar in middle had 2 for 1 beers several nights during the week. Lost about $10 in slots bit by bit during the week.
Sports Bar: located on deck 6 in front of the casino. Had a nice bar area and lots of tv screens..we didn't stop there except one time to get their 2 for 1 beer special.
Cinema: small 50 seat stadium style theater on deck 6 between sports bar and aurora theater. Had movies 3x a day. Too crowded sometimes for size of ship. My son's both saw several movies there during the week..X men, how to lose a guy in 10 days. No popcorn sorry!
Guest relations and Exploration desks: both side by side on deck 4. Small lines and helpful personnel for the most part. Did have one issue with them both the last day of the cruise which left a bad impression. (see Nassau/last day later in this review for details) They did give us extra keys for our rooms so that we could access either one since we had the boys in an adjoining one.
Sailaway: Had music playing and dances on deck by cruise activity staff on Sunday 5PM. Photographers on deck getting pictures. We were the first to leave port that evening and the ship made a quick exit just before sunset.
Ship activities & cruise activity staff : had the usual pool games, love and marriage show, quest etc. planned for the week. Cruise Director was Bill Brunkhorst who just came on the ship same time as we did. He is an experienced cruise director and tho lacks dazzle he is competent and out there as needed. His assistant Gina did the bingo and had a high level of energy. Other staff seemed to be on board to make you happy. I had just been on the Majesty of the Seas a month ago and I have to say that the quest, rock and roll party and the love and marriage show were better on their ship. Just wasn't as energy packed on the Radiance. (hard for Bill to compete with the cruise director Ricco with his HOT body on the Majesty... sorry their village people was not a thrill this voyage!!) We still had plenty of fun. didn't participate in the horse racing, bingo or star quest karaoke. Did enjoy the last night idol karaoke competition. Lots of talent out there on the ship.
Rock Wall: this was my 12 yr old son's favorite activity. Located aft on deck 13. Great crew helping to cheer the participants. Have to get their shoes (bring socks) and use the harness that they clip to the safety line. Up you go..too bad there is no bell to ring at the top. My son progressed thru the cruise and managed to master the most difficult purple pegs by the end of the week. On Saturday morning there is a competition for the adults. Wish they included the kids in one as well.
Miniature golf: My boys also enjoyed the miniature golf and we had a family golf tournament on Fri afternoon. 9 holes with simple greens, on deck 13 aft past the rock wall. Get clubs in country club room below on deck 12.
Seaview Grill: this was my favorite little snack place, located deck 12 aft. Open strange hours noon-3PM or so and then 9PM til 2AM. Has menu of fast food ranging from fish and chips, ruben sandwich, great onion rings, desserts, and salads. You order the food and then get a number and the food is delivered to your table. We did have our orders messed up often but it was still great for late night munchies. Biggest rip of ship is the milkshake available there... It costs $4.15 with gratuity and is about 12 oz. in size. Made with milk mix in one of the frozen drink machines. Not worth it. Only free beverage is water here..even have to pay for coffee or hot chocolate etc. Has inside and outside tables. We visited this place just about every day.
Solarium: Located forward of main pool deck 11. Nice indoor pool setting, has retractable roof but was closed while we sailed. Somewhat humid but not that horrible chlorine smell you find with most indoor pools. Nice padded lounges surrounding the pool, lush greenery, pretty elephant waterfall by the large pool. Came to solarium with our 12 yr old after midnight one evening to use the hot tubs. No one seemed to be around and it was really nice to have it to ourselves. There is a cafe inside that has pizza and burgers in afternoon, we somehow missed that all week. Peaceful music, cricket chirping makes for an enjoyable place to hang out.
Spa: also deck 11 forward..think the ship shape center is here too. I did attend the bright eyes seminar to see what they offered (expensive!!!!) for eye treatment... think the $190 price tag for 3 small containers was more than anyone there was interested in paying. Guess I would rather save that $$ towards my next cruise.
Pool area: Average size pool deck 11 with small dance area in front of it. Not too many pool side lounges so there was the usual chair hog problems especially on sea days. Only 2 whirlpools near here, we did get in for a soak pre dinner on Tues after our time in San Juan.
Shows: Entertainment for the week was a broadway singer Donna ??,,great voice was the headliner for our 1st night..think we needed something else to get the sleepy crowd going. 2 dance shows, rocking in paradise and welcome to our world. Decent vocalists, good dancers. Good effort and energy. Didn't care for the first night video introduction preshow by Didi showing you all the ways you can spend $$$$ on the ship all week. Not too funny. Had great show by acapella group Toxic Audio. Talented group of 5 making their vocals and 'instrumentals' all by voice. Group formed from theme parks in Orlando. Probably my favorite entertainment for the week. 3 comedians rounded out the shows for the week. All decent and funny enough, burt Leigh, older las vegas entertainer. Steven Scott young multitalented comedian with vocal improvisations enjoyed him too. Last night had a juggler comedian fairly good as well. Didn't have any late night adults only comedy which we have enjoyed in past.
Music: House party was the main party band on the ship. We danced to them during the captain's party and thought they did a pretty good job. There was a trio in the centrum just ok. Talented violinist would also play there in the evenings. Liked David on the piano late night schooner bar. Royal Caribbean orchestra played different dance music most nights in the colony club. My dad and his friend wished there were more opportunities for ballroom type dancing. They did have 2 sets of big band music one night..and dancing sometimes in the centrum...small dance floor there tho. Had many line dancing classes during the week.
Parties: We attended 4 parties during the week. The first was the unofficial cruise critic sailaway party. Had a large group maybe 40+ in Colony club on Sunday afternoon -- Razl had made us pirate name tags for our group the 'kite pirates' and Rick was passing out pirate badges. It was nice to meet up with the posters from the board from the months prior to our sailing. Official cruise critic party was held Monday morning 11AM. Had invitation sent to cabin to remind you of the event. Coffee, juice, pastries available. Had nice document pouches with cruise critic to hang around neck as giveaways. Raffled off 3 prizes..sorry didn't win. Next party was captain's party held also in Colony club first formal night Monday. Had usual wait staff going by with champagne. You could order drinks from them if you wanted other beverages. (we did) trays of appetizers etc. Captain from Canada did a nice welcome speech. We appreciated his humor and his ease speaking English. Last party was the crown and anchor repeaters' party held prior to dinner on Thanksgiving 2nd formal night Thursday. Glad they separated the 2 dinner seatings into 2 parties as it was very crowded. More free drinks, several tables with hot appetizers. Music and speech by captain. Only gave out one prize to the person with the most cruises on RCL. (35 I believe!!)
Weather: we were blessed with some great weather all week up til Sat when we arrived in Nassau. Some mild sea swells. Noticed the speed of the ship mostly on first night..had a sound similar to a jet engine humming in the background in cabin. Probably due to fast rushing of water on side of ship. Our cabin was located just a deck above water level so it probably had more impact for us. Sun was out and we only saw a few rain drops Wed evening during the deck party Caribbean night. Saturday in Nassau there was a brisk wind, cooler temps and clouds all afternoon there. Did see a peek of sun right before sunset. No one in our group had any problems with seasickness,,,seemed the Radiance did fairly well with motion..sometimes I was surprised to see out the window that we had left port it was that quiet and motionless.
Ports of Call: San Juan we had visited on the Victory 2 yrs prior at night. This time (2-8PM)we planned to get a taxi and tour El Morro. Off the ship at 2PM we were surrounded by tour vans that wanted business. Most offered a 2-3 hr tour for $20pp... we ended up with a probably 30 seat van driven by Javier. His price was $10pp. Took us past the port up to the hotel area. We walked by a seawall on the beach there. Not that exciting for a beach, I am sure there are others outside of the city with more beach and less buildings surrounding them. Passed by San Cristobal the smaller fort. We got off of the tour at El Morro. Watched 2 of the kite pirates launch their parafoil kites on the nice lawn area nearby the fort. Weather looked threatening rain and boys didn't want to climb around the fort so we headed back to town. At the road we came upon the free trolley bus and decided to use that to get us back to ship. Saw a glimpse of the cobblestone streets and shops there. Next time will plan our day better.
St. Martin: This was our first time at this port. Since we had boys 12 & 15 we decided the 'education' they might get at Orient beach wasn't needed. We had read about going to Mullet Bay beach for a nice family beach day. Off the ship there is a very organized taxi association that will help you get to where you want to go. Most cruisers were going to Dawn or Orient beach. We waited with another couple and finally were matched with a driver who agreed to take us there for $6pp. He also loaded the van with passengers going downtown for $3 pp. When we dropped off the passengers for downtown..the driver started saying we wouldn't be happy with Mullet bay, we would be happier at Dawn. He claimed there was no facilities at Mullet and we couldn't get a taxi back. This scared the couple that was with us so they jumped off downtown to get a taxi to dawn. We still decided to give Mullet a try based on the internet recommendations we had from locals on the island. Took about a 1/2 hr to reach Mullet bay located just past the airport. Paid driver our $24 for the 4 of us. Walked to beautiful cresent bay type beach. Just perfect. Had several snack bars there and vendors with chairs/umbrellas for day. Paid $10 for 2 chairs and an umbrella. Soft sand, clear water, that not believable blue ocean color. Boys dashed in and stayed in most of the morning. Beach maybe had 40 people on it but was not crowded. Did see a couple women topless in the waves that my eagle eyed son's giggled about a bit. Brought along a blow up raft to use in the waves..just took it out to the calmer water. Waves would come in series of large waves, then a long time between with mild ones. Had a nice time there from about 11AM til 3PM. Gave our raft away to a family that was staying on island for the week. We had planned to walk back to Maho beach to catch a taxi or bus back to the port. Once we exited the beach there was a woman in a van there who said she was there to pick us up..we weren't sure we were her passengers but she said that Boris had sent her to bring us back to port. Glad to have the easy transport we took her up on the offer and had a long ride back after a traffic snarl downtown. Stopped by the little booths near the ship docks but didn't see much worth buying. Great beach day and enjoyed our little trip across St Martin.
St Thomas--Thanksgiving day. Our group split up for the day. Husband and older son are certified divers so we had booked ahead of time a dive trip with Chris Sawyer divers on St Thomas ($85pp for a 2 tank dive with equipment) They left port about 8:30am for their 9:30am dive. Had to taxi to Renaissance resort. ($8pp taxi fare, dive shop refunds $10pp to help pay taxi fare) The rest of us had booked online with Royal Caribbean $48pp to go to St. John trunk bay. Excursion left from pier after a walk past the Carnival Paradise. 2 level ferry boat with nice seating downstairs in padded booths, upstairs plastic benches with shade over part of the seating. Takes about 45 min to travel to St John...bit of rough seas going over. Load into surrey trucks with benches in back to ride to trunk bay. We have truck cool runnings. Have about 20 or so in our truck. Takes about 20 min to go to park. Driver stops for 2 overlooks and talks about St John. I had last visited this island pre kids on a land cruise in 1981 and had dreamed of the beach at trunk bay for years! Arrive at park around 11 am have 1 1/2 hrs to return to truck. Head out in group get orientation for park and snorkel equip. efficient operation but it did eat up about 20 min of our limited time. Head to beach. Not a calm day, a cold front had arrived the day before and the water was choppy. Beach has shrunken from the wide sandy space I remember from 1981..but still has a nice crescent view with islands in distance. We don the snorkel stuff and swim out to the orange buoy. Head up along the rocks, bit cloudy due to the rough surf, see lots of colorful fish, one barracuda, a lot of miniature sergeant majors. Hang out at the different buoys for a rest. Head back to beach and enjoy a bit of the wave action in the warm water before it was all too soon time to pack it all up and head back. Crowded shower area for changing clothes.. back on truck we get an unwanted shower when the driver stops at a gully with water in it and the jeep coming the other way gives us a drenching. (there goes your tip buddy) On the trip back head upstairs to get a bit more sun and wish I could afford the island next to St John that has a sign saying it is for sale!!! Back to ship about 1PM..shower and wait for the divers to return. They had a great dive (had been almost a year since their last one) thought the dive operator Chris Sawyer was first class and enjoyed another adventure under the seas. Had quick lunch in windjammer and then my husband Paul and I went off ship. Walked to the tramway and went up for a good view of the harbor and islands there. (pricey for $15pp..supposedly there are coupons for 2 for 1 admission..I tried to talk them into a Thanksgiving day discount without any luck) Takes about 7 min to ride to top in gently swaying tramcar. Nice walk to gazebo we buy a watercolor print from the artist there of the port during sunset. Head down to the shopping/bar area and have a local beer. Chat with some passengers from the Celebrity Millennium and trade cruise stories. Nice view of port and relaxing spot to sit and gaze at the beauty there. Worth it even at the $15pp price. Back on ship , ready for dinner and watch us quickly sail away from port from our table.
Nassau: Another split day...this one caused disappointment for my husband and son booked on the Blackbeards Cay beach break. We had booked it online ahead of time to make sure we got the excursion and also because they did not want to shop or have to hassle with the vendors on Nassau. Their excursion left pier at 1PM..ship arrived at noon. After walking from the pier to the excursion boat , they (about 25 passengers too many ) found out that the boat going to Blackbeards Cay was overbooked... the tour operator then walked them over to the yellowbird boat. After they loaded the excursion for yellowbird, they crammed some of the stranded passengers from the Blackbeards boat onboard. My son got onboard, my husband did not. They ended up both getting bumped from the yellowbird, then they had to wait for the operator to paw thru all of the excursion tickets and give back tickets to all of the over booked passengers. The operator then wrote on the tickets to please refund. It wasn't a beautiful beach day but since they had no plans to do otherwise in Nassau, it was a disappointment. They arrived back on ship at 2:30PM...Paul went to the guest relations with the ticket to get the refund and he was told it would be taken care of that evening..this turned into a long hassle with the guest relations people who told us different information about how the accounting dept. then the explorations department would refund our shipboard acct. it took until 6AM the day of disembarkation to have it finally resolved and I will be following up with RCL over this experience. The airlines give special compensation to overbooked passengers and I feel that a refund of the excursion ticket is not adequate compensation..they lost their time in port, were unable to do anything else and we had to spend a lot of our last night on ship dealing with getting a refund. This was the only boo boo of the week for Royal Caribbean, they have been running this excursion since we were on the Sovereign in 2001 if not before then..they should know how many passengers should be booked,,and if they overbook, the passengers who made reservations online should have priority over the ones booked on the ship. Regardless, we didn't let it ruin the cruise but feel it should have been handled with at least an apology somewhere along the line. I saw a clipboard at the pier when we checked in for our excursion for the dolphin encounter and it listed the number of booked passengers for each excursion. Someone screwed up here and it was a rotten way to spend their last day on the ship. Royal Caribbean you let us down!!!!! I had booked myself and my younger son to go on the dolphin encounter ($92pp) ..this one went without a hitch thankfully...boat left on time , traveled to the little island blue lagoon where we were divided into groups of about 16 or so for our encounter. We had the dolphin Shawn swim with us that day. We had a chance to get a picture with the dolphin kissing us, danced with them, hugged the dolphin, had the dolphin swim by and splash us and rubbed the back and belly. You stand on a raised platform about 2 feet deep or so with your group...and the dolphin comes around to visit each person. I was impressed with the trainer who seemed to have total control over the dolphin. It was a fun experience. My daughter was doing the dolphin swim. This had to be booked independently , we first tried to book it thru dolphin encounters but they said the time slot 1:30 we needed was booked. Ended up booking thru shore trips..a bit more expensive ($157pp) The swim excursion only leaves from the Paradise Island ferry docks so I was lucky enough that 2 fellow cruise critics were kind enough to escort Aimee to the swim. They had a great time and I thank Mike and Chelle for their attention..and great video of the swim. Both excursions finished about the same time..we did the quick change and then couldn't resist the photos of our dolphin swims/encounter. (bring $$ or credit card... they will GET you too) Back on the boat we arrived at pier 4:45PM..managed to power shop for last minute souvenirs at the closest shop and made it back to the Radiance before last aboard at 5:30PM.
Midnight buffets: We attended 4 different midnight buffets during the week. 1st night buffet was held in the windjammer..mostly similar offerings from dinner/lunch menu. Had entrees, salads, desserts, breads ect. Didn't' see much different than usual. On 1st formal night they had a chocolate buffet. I only had one thing I wanted to eat. Chocolate covered strawberries. Unfortunately the first ones in line took platefuls of the strawberries and stripped the buffet clean. On Wednesday night they had a Caribbean buffet on deck poolside. It was a mix of salads, desserts and fruit. Not very large. We sampled a couple things before heading to bed. 2nd formal night on Friday had the grand buffet. Opens at 11:30 for photos. We decided we didn't' want to return to eat..had nice bowls of peeled shrimp, some pretty strange looking pate's and other delicacies. Also had desserts and some layers on a display of chocolate covered strawberries.
Children's Programs: we had our boys go the first night of the cruise to meet some of the other kids up in the teen orbit up on deck 12. They didn't seem to hit it off with the group there and except for going to the xmen movie one late night when it was reserved for teens they did their own thing all week. We did see large groups of teens hanging out on the ship. The compass stated a 1AM curfew for children under 17 not with parents. That was pretty much after our bedtime so I don't know if it was enforced or not. The younger kids dressed up at pirates and came to our show one evening to give a mini performance. Lots of children aboard especially babies on this cruise, We have sailed on Thanksgiving 2x before but this voyage seemed to have the most babies. Except for the ones at dinner we didn't have any problems with any of the kids young or old on the ship.
Drinks: we are not big drinkers and the prices of drinks on Radiance were higher than most other lines we have sailed. We found it strange that the price for a simple rum and coke could be different by several dollars on the ship depending on what lounge you were in. I know some are specialty brand liquors but we never requested anything special. To save money you can purchase a bottle in the gift shop for a surcharge and make your own. There are also many drink specials and 2 for 1 beers several evenings on the ship. Bucket of beer buy 5 get one free was usually available every day. Also don't forget to go to the captain's party and crown & anchor party and get the drinks you want from the waiter there.
Kite Pirates: our cruise critic group was pretty active on the meet and mingle board. Had about 35 pages of postings, over 50 signed up online for the party. They claimed the name 'kite pirates' as we had hoped to be able to fly the kites on the aft of the ship. Think about a dozen or so members had bought special parafoil kites to fly. Plan was for Friday afternoon 2PM to give it a trial flight. Unfortunately the wind was not cooperative, not enough of it and the kites kept heading back aboard instead of climbing in the breeze. Oh well, valiant try guys ..better luck next voyage!!
Tipping: Mid week you will have a form inside the daily compass which you can fill out to have automatic tipping added to your shipboard account. This was the painless way to do it. You will get on Sat night a set of envelopes and preprinted vouchers to put inside for each of the staff members. Price was $68pp for the week, no alternative amount allowed. Cash tipping is also an option for those who haven't spent it all in the casino!!!
Eastern Caribbean clock: The captain had us turn our clocks ahead an hour when we went to bed on Monday night. This put us on Atlantic time which is the same as in San Juan, St Thomas and also St Martin. We got the hour back on Friday night before going into Nassau..(wish I could have gotten a hundred or so more!!) I prefer to have ship time and island time the same so I don't have to worry about getting back onboard at the wrong time.
Disembarkation: Getting off of the ship is always a bummer..even more so in this port. We had one of the last colors to be called off Radiance since we had a flight out of FLL at 6:50PM. Our tag color (green) was announced at around 9:45. Short wait thru immigration..and then into the horrible mess of the terminal. It is half the size of the one in Miami and not able to handle the number of bags and people comfortably. It was chaos..our bags were found quickly but we had to wait about 45 min inching our way to the customs agent. Our non-porter line moved at a snails pace..the agent stopped all people thru for about 10 min. If you can get to a porter and need to be on your flight..go for it..it will be worth it in less aggravation and wasted time. Somehow the porters have a steady stream going in the middle of the terminal while the people dragging their own bags are stuck inching along to the doorway.
Flight Home: We had a late flight with connection in Atlanta. Not a great way to go on a holiday weekend. We rented a car thru budget and had problems getting to the Quay shopping center office..would recommend getting rental thru airport agency of budget..(I had read differently pre-cruise about what office picked up at port..both do actually..but airport office has larger shuttle and is around port more often) Luckily the airport budget people put us and luggage in a van and took us to the Quay office to pick up the minivan we had reserved. We wound around Ft. Lauderdale til we managed to find the riverwalk meeting place where we had planned rendezvous with our friends from Miami. Nice lunch with them, kids went to movies. We arrived back at airport and checked in for flight an hour early. Our plane was delayed leaving Ft Lauderdale due to back ups on runway,,,then pilot had to do a holding pattern over Atlanta before landing. Our hour connection time had shrunk from the scheduled 1 hour to 15 min by the time we touched down. Had to go down one LONG concourse , down the escalator, on the tram to the next long concourse. Luckily our daughter Aimee went ahead (and didn't do the stupid tram detour to the baggage claim the rest of us did) we made our flight with 2 min to spare!! Luggage made it too. Finally home at 2AM.our dog Gypsy glad to see us home again. What a bummer being back north, cold and weary off to bed with no gentle rocking of the ocean to help us drift off. Reality is 10 loads of laundry, an empty refrigerator and work/school just hours away to tackle. I wanna turn the clock back a week and do it all again!!!
Overall pluses to Radiance: Beautiful ship with lots of glass to view outside..think this ship would be the top of the list for my 14 cruises in overall nice appearance.Great ship diagrams on every deck level near glass elevators to help guide you on the ship. Cabins comfortable and had adequate storage. Dining room staff excellent. Cabin attendant seemed to have a bit more cabins than usual to manage but did all that we needed him to do..gave us an assortment of towel animals too most evenings. Great embarkation. Staff very friendly, don't think we encountered any real grumpy ones aboard all week, one man in Windjammer talked to my husband about his job not being as 'advertised' he is on his first and last contract.. Staff responding 'my pleasure' when you would thank them for some little service.. Everything seemed clean and ship shape on all the decks we were on. No big pressure in lounges or on deck to buy drinks. Seaview café had good food , good service and good location to watch off the aft of the ship. Overall this would probably rank as my 2nd favorite cruise..just behind Hawaii on the Norwegian Star. (having left kids at home might have something to do with the fond memories of that trip) Weather was nice, food was good, service was great, all stayed healthy all week, we always found something to do.. the time just flew as usual. Our waiter Jimmy and assistant Franco gave us wonderful service in the dining room. Jimmy smiles all of the time and seems to really enjoy making your dinner as pleasant as possible. Having sailed in August on the Star Princess and experienced their version of 'impersonal choice' dining..it was a pleasant change. Hot tubs and pools open 24 hrs. nice to be able to soak late at night when we had the chance. They do post hours available for whirlpools since they take them down for cleaning for several hours each night. Nice atmosphere and padded lounges in Solarium. Boys enjoyed both miniature golf and also rock wall..nice amenities to have for active kids..and even older ones brave enough to master the wall.
Overall minus to Radiance: Elevators congested at times.had to be willing to share lots of personal space inside of them..they got more crowded as the week went on when passengers got less patient with waiting for an open car. Also location of cabin to elevator banks is critical if you don't mind walking a LOT. There is no staircase aft of ship..and the one in centrum area is very narrow and rather tacky looking with chrome handrails..think it detracts from décor of ship. Coffee in Windjammer universally horrible. I am not a big coffee drinker but it was all I could do to choke down a cup in the morning. Tried inside , outside , both sides of windjammer and still it all tasted burnt. Dining room had decent stuff.I don't know why it was so bad topside. The lounge used for parties, games etc. doesn't have good seating for the number of passengers. Colony club only had table side with good views for about 75 people..it was too bad to miss out on several activities cuz the crowd there made it too difficult to see the floor/activity. Small dance floor in Centrum not large enough for dancers who want to have a bit of space. Watch out for overbooked shore excursions.I don't' know how often that happens but I guess you have to be in the front of the crowd to make sure it doesn't happen to you. Disembarkation more painful than usual.
Epilogue: Unfortunately all good things must end..and this cruise just managed to melt away like they all do into a sea of memories and dreams that have come true. Overall we had a fantastic voyage. enjoyed the time to be together with family , with the kids, with just Paul and I alone..tried some new foods, made some new friends, visited a new island, had scuba divers to log another trip down under..the rest of the family had their long hoped for dolphin encounter/swim. Every voyage has some great times..especially those nice quiet moments looking over the railing and seeing part of this beautiful earth . I feel so lucky to have been able to have so many cruise adventures. addicted absolutely..have no desire to exchange this type of vacation experience for one on land..even with ports we have visited before I always find something new to experience..and each ship has something special to explore. Radiance has satisfied all that I hoped to experience on this trip and gave me many great memories. Hope all you future cruisers can have just as great a trip and find all the wonder that is there waiting for you. Bon Voyage!!
Radiance of the Seas is a beautiful 90,090-ton ship measuring 962 feet in length and 106 feet wide. She's packed with unique art work throughout the ship and has a cruising speed of 24 knots (28.8 mph), 13 total decks with lots of glass and windows everywhere. Total passenger capacity is 2,501 and a crew of 859. I totally fell in love with this ship as soon as I walked into the atrium, just amazing and very elegant, a total of 7 decks, with inside elevators. I found this ship very easy to navigate, with the atrium in the center of the ship, anywhere you needed to go had access through this area, not including the sports/pool decks located on decks 11 through 13. With every Royal Caribbean ship, the Viking Crown lounge is also impressive, but divided up into 2 smaller lounge areas where you will find private parties during the cruise, great places for small meeting.
You can also access the sports area and the rock-climbing wall through the Viking Crown Lounge with of course the view overlooking the pool deck. The layout of public areas and cabins tookno time at all to figure out. by the 2nd day I could easily find my cabin and NOT get lost. by each of the elevator bays, they have a model that shows exactly where you are and what's on each deck, along with what's on each deck in each elevator. One of my favorite features of all the Royal Caribbean ships, is the day of the week on the floor as you walk on an elevator. Honestly, when cruising, there are days when if someone asked me what day it was, I'd have to say, let me ride an elevator and I could tell you.
This week, being the last week in February, the weather couldn't of been more perfect, temps always in the 80's with sunshine and a few clouds, some days more clouds than others, but the sun was extremely warm. Although a suggestion here, I always go to a few tanning sessions at my local spa to get a base tan started. It really saves on getting that sunburn that I'm sure to get without going a few times prior to cruising. I did it this time again and did come home with a nice tan and not major burning to ruin any part of the cruise. I love cruising this time of year, and leaving the cold of Chicago back home. You will also find the humidity levels still on the low side, with of course nice breezes, great time of year to get down to the Caribbean. Had a few showers here and there, but nothing that ruined an entire day, it never lasted long and within minutes the sun was back out.
Embarking was very simple and painless. We arrived around 3:30 after a direct flight on American Airlines from Chicago O'Hare. Since we arranged our own air reservations we didn't have transfers. It was easy to find the booth in the airport to get a taxi arranged at a set rate. The taxi fare from the San Juan airport was $18.50 plus tip, much nicer than going by bus. Once at the terminal, we turned our luggage over to a porter to scan and transfer to ship. Took about a minute then to get to a cruise employee and get our sign/sail cards. Then there was a small line to get the typical "welcome aboard" pictures taken and we were onboard by 4:00. I think by filling in all your information on-line prior to the cruise saves some time here, they had all the information, we had nothing to fill out.
Debarking the following Saturday was also painless. We had to report for immigrations at 6:45 in the Aurora theatre with your passports before they could clear the ship. After we accomplished this, (about 10 minutes), we proceeded to breakfast in the dining room for the first time all week. The only way I could get eggs benedict was to go to the dining room, well worth it! by this time is was 7:30, so we headed back to our cabin for the last time and picked up the rest of our carry-on and found a place to wait until our flight was called to disembark the ship. I was amazed that we were off the ship by 8:30 and we were in no hurry to wait at the airport for a 2:30 flight. Again, there were plenty of taxi's to drive you to the airport and we also again had a set rate there, made it to the airport by 9 with nothing to do but wait. Security here seemed rather quick considering there was Sea Princess, Celebrity Constellation and Radiance all finishing up a week long cruise, so it wasn't bad at all.
Cascades the 2-tiered dining room is located on decks 4 and 5, very comfortable dining room, midship; you can enter on either floor and there is a staircase inside the dining room itself. Lots of wood, with tables seating anywhere from 4 to 10 passengers and an impressive waterfall on the lower level. On deck 4 you will find the guest reservations desk next to the shore excursion desk. Its also very easy to sign up for tours through your cabin TV if you haven't already pre-booked any on-line, which we did. We did have one problem with and excursion in Barbados. Had them all booked and totally paid for, but when arriving in cabin that excursion ticket was missing. Took me days to have them contact the main office in Miami without any explanation as to what went wrong, but finally said they would issue a credit. Since arriving back home have been in contact and have been assured that my credit card will be credited for the amount. We did end up just getting a cab and seeing Harrisons Caves in Barbados, so it worked out OK, but would of liked this situation cleared up while we were onboard, just didn't happen. That's actually the only problem we had, minor as it was.
Up on deck 5 are all the shops, the usual type stores you'd find on any ship, nicely located, easily accessed from the atrium midship. Just past the shops is the photo gallery. Forward on both decks 5 and 6 is the Aurora theatre, a very impressive theater, nice sound and lighting system, something Royal Caribbean always does very well. You can enter the theatre from either deck 5 or 6, many good seats with drink holders. There is also a cinema on this deck, never had a chance to watch a movie, but it definitely had a nice seating capacity. Next to the cinema is the video arcade and moving towards the center of the ship is the casino. I found it a good size, but nothing huge, had all the usual games, didn't have much luck either . Moving aft on deck 6 is where you will find the specialty restaurants Portofinos and Chops Grille which is across from the Schooner bar. In the Schooner bar is where you will find the only 2 pool tables afloat, did get a chance for a game or two. In order to play, all you need to do is go to the Schooner bar and give the bartender your sign and sail card and he'll give you some cue sticks, upon returning the sticks, you'll get your cards back. Further aft is the Colony Club Lounge; they held the Crown and Anchor cocktail hour here and the Captains Welcome Aboard party, both nice.
All decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 are basically passenger cabins with a library on deck 9, which seemed nicely stocked. The bridge is located forward on deck number 10. You can, at certain times go out to the bow on deck 6. I did find it open the day we left for Barbados and stayed out there as we pulled out of our berth, nose to nose with Radisson Diamond. We were even able to have some conversations with the passengers on Diamond; they all seemed to be enjoying their cruise as much as we did ours.
Deck 11 is the main pool deck with the Windjammer Café located aft of the pool. You will find one pool with 2 whirlpools and a shower stall. I absolutely loved the way they had different food stations, with 2 of the same on each side. I never had a problem with lines whenever we ate there, and we usually had breakfast and lunch there daily. They have a whole island with just salads and fixings, breads, pasta salads, croutons, etc. There was also an entire island with hot dishes different every day. Numerous "thurst stations" are easily found where you can get your coffee, tea, juice, etc. You will also find a attendant with a card with coffee and juice moving around the café so you don't have to necessarily go and get your own, nice touch. I did notice tables were quickly cleared off, ready for the next hungry cruiser. There was always a dessert table with plenty of selections of fruits, cake, Jell-O, cookies with a soft serve ice cream machine behind it. I was pleasantly surprised to find this café going through out the day, always fresh and hot. Many afternoons, after returning from port, I found I needed something cool to drink and was able to get that plus some more goodies, even as late as 5:00. You can always have dinner in here as well starting at 6:00 or 6:30 if you didn't want to eat in the main dining room. We had hoped to try out Chops one night, but found that eating in the dining room was fine, always a decent menu selection and very well prepared meals and the service there was excellent. We had a great waiter (Dary) and asst. waiter (Mindy), so we never made it to either specialty restaurant. I did hear it was well worth the extra $20 per person cost to eat there, there is always next time, right? If you happen to need any spa treatments or your hair done, you'll find the place here, along with the health center.
Just between the hair salon and the main pool, you will find the inside pool, solarium, which is strictly for adults only, a very nice relaxing area and you had the feeling you were in the jungle, sounds and all. You will hear bird sounds by day and crickets at night.
The ship shape center is up on deck 12, don't usually work out, and so have no idea about the equipment there, but it was very busy some days. Seemed, any kind of work out machine you would normally use, they had. This deck also has the sports court (basketball), mini golf, golf simulators, and teen pool, kids pool, game arcade and the Seaview café. You will also find the kid's center up here as well.
Finally on deck 13 is the traditional Viking Crown Lounge and the rock-climbing wall. I did manage to climb the "wall", what an experience. Although I couldn't of accomplished this feat without the help of the staff up there. There were very helpful for this first time climber, can be difficult trying to figure where to put what foot or hand where, but I did finally figure it out and complete this major feat!
The only major fault I could find on this ship is the lack of another passenger staircase/elevator towards the rear of the ship. We had cabin 8670, an aft balcony cabin, which I totally loved, but it was a rather long walk daily to get to stairs. Another minor problem I found is that the sound-proofing was not as good as other cabins I've had, heard too much noise from the cabin next door, but they were definitely on the loud side. Other than that, I could find nothing to complain about, just a wonderful cruise ship.
Our cabin was located aft on deck 8. First time we had an aft balcony cabin and I'd do it again if possible. We had 205 sq. ft and a larger balcony, which was wonderful. Had room for 2 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs and a table, with room left over, definitely a plus for any cruise! The layout of the cabin is very similar to the "Voyager" class ships of Royal Caribbean, where you have the sitting area as you walk in, then the bed next to the sliding glass door. The bathroom is on the small side, your basic ship bathroom. I would have liked the rounded glass door they had on Explorer showers instead of the standard shower curtain. Not sure if it was just because we were so far back, but the water pressure had something to be desired as well. We did have a full size sofa and small table across from the desk/TV, which made the room, seems larger too. I love the curved beds, same as on Explorer, beds very comfortable. I think I get the best sleep while cruising, even with the next door noise, didn't bother me, I slept great. They did provide a hair dryer in the drawer of the desk and mini fridge under the TV. If you wanted robes for the week, all you have to do is ask your cabin attendant. We had a very efficient cabin attendant, Audry, she did a fine job all week, and has the art of towel pillows down to a science, loved them as you will see in my pictures. Thanks Audry .
I found that the crew and all the staff onboard Radiance to be very friendly, eager to help or assist, had no complaints. This was a very fun cruise for us, busy too, very port intensive. Had great service in the dining room from both Dary and Mindy, and always an evening "Hi" from our headwaiter, very personal guy! In fact I had a terrible migraine headache one evening and just could not eat dinner. They thought I just didn't care for the food, which in fact was delicious, but when I get those headaches, they truly make me very sick, so I excused myself and went to bed, slept for 11 hours. Our headwaiter had a sure all cure, lemon tea with honey. He managed to get it together and had George bring back to the cabin. I thought that was very thoughtful of him. by the next morning I awoke with no headache, so I was happy! We had been seated at a table for 6, but one couple never made it to any meals, we think they changed tables, heard they wanted something smaller. We had lovely tablemates, Jim and Becky from Texas. We were fortunate to help celebrate Jim's recent retirement onboard, hope you are enjoying it Jim! We did have a few tables with families traveling with young kids and noticed that the wait staff really did go way out to keep them happy. As I mentioned earlier, our cabin attendant Audry did a wonderful job, anything we asked for was delivered in a short amount of time; she did a great job! I think the entire atmosphere onboard Radiance was very friendly, always a greeting from a passing staff member.
I think this is the area where Royal Caribbean really shines over the other cruiselines. Saw many good shows, both variety, and dancing type. There were numerous good singers and dancers to keep us occupied for an hour after a big dinner. I did miss seeing an ice shows that Voyager class ships have, but we saw many good shows. One evening Jimmy Osmond was center stage and gave a very well prepared show, very enjoyable. He even had 2 of is younger kids perform onstage. Since we had a port everyday, but one, I was pretty beat after dinner and a show, I did not catch any of the lounge acts that were onboard.
Ports of call
Our first port was St. Thomas, have been there plenty of times before, so we had already seen the downtown area shopping, Meagans Bay and have done the truck over to Trunk Bay, so we thought we'd do something different this visit. I had pre-booked the "BOB" (breathable observation bubble) for this port stop. I must say, I've never done anything like this, it was amazing, what a change from the normal type water activity. To start the tour, we had to take a boat ride to a bay on the other side of the island. Once anchored, they took the bobs out and got them ready. For every 2 bobs, there was a diver there to assist. These "bobs" were little mini subs actually, where you had your own air tank onboard and hand controls to steer you left or right and a button to keep you moving forward. It's a little tricky to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, easy to get where you want to go. Because you are in a bubble, things appear closer than they really are. The divers make the experience something to always remember. They brought fish food along to attract fish for photo ops as you can see in the gallery that has the pictures of this underwater. We were guided over a shipwreck and then through a coral canyon. I would definitely recommend this excursion if you want something totally different and amazing. During the excursion while you were waiting for your turn, they provided snorkel equipment so you could take a look around. What a great way to spend a few hours in St. Thomas. After they took us back to the port it was some time to do some serious shopping and at a fast pace too, being a Sunday the stores all closed at 1:00 PM, so we did a quick tour of the shops by the pier and back onboard for a late lunch and more relaxing by the pool.
Our next port was the island of Antigua. We had no shore excursions planned for that day, so wandered off and saw some of the area near the port, did some shopping. First thing you notice when entering the town, is the bombardment of taxi drivers asking if you need a ride, it was awful. Once past this area, we were able to walk around and not be bothered, saw the basic cruise port shopping, nothing special. I did find an internet café in a bank was very slow so had limited time on-line. After a few hours of this, we headed back onboard for a late lunch in the Windjammer Café, not to be disappointed in the variety or selection of lunch items. Spent the rest of the afternoon up on deck 11 and 12 enjoying the warm sunshine at the pool.
Day 3 was a visit to our favorite island of this cruise, St. Maarten. Here we pre-book online the "Rhino" boat. This too turned out to be a wonderful few hours. We were met on the pier and taken to a taxi and driven over to another harbor where the Rhino boats are. These are 2 man 25 horsepower boats with an intertube surrounding it. There is storage space in front and handles for the passenger to hold on to. We had a total gas on these boats and had a long ride to a nice secluded bay/beach where we could swim to the beach, snorkel (equipment provided) or just lazy on your rino. Cold drinks were also available. I liked riding on these actually better than a waverunner, they seem to go the same speed, but they will NOT tip over. I must say a few times I thought we were going to go over, but it didn't happen . Both on the way out of the harbor and back into, you go by some very expensive yachts. We were told, this harbor is a safe haven for storing these kinds of ships for the winter and there were many there. Since this was an afternoon excursion, we were able to fit some shopping here. Made it back onboard Radiance in time to get showered and changed for dinner.
Now we are in St. Lucia, our next favorite island, found if very lush and tropical, very hilly and truly beautiful. We decided to go to one of the local "Sandals" for the day. After a $12.00 taxi ride that took about 15 minutes, we arrived around the corner from the pier and ship in this nice Sandals resort, with golf course. For a total of $40.00 per person we were able to use all the facilities including golf, food, drinks, water sports for the day. Basically everything a resort guest would use, except for the lack of a room. We were even greeted by the MC arranging poolside activities during the day, so I would imagine quite a few cruises have taken advantage of spending a leisure day at their beach resort. They had a nice pool and we had lunch and also played in the ocean. It was nice to just get away from the ship for an afternoon and just relax in the sun, I definitely think this was worth the money. In the process we got a look at part of the island, an island I would consider as a few day land vacation in the future. We had pre-arranged with the taxi driver to come back for us later in the afternoon, and unfortunately we were there waiting and decided to take another taxi back, not a big deal.
Day 6 finds us in Barbados, an island I've always wanted to see. Since our mix up with a shore excursion here, we decided to get a cab over to Harrison's Caves, which is something to see. Ride over there took us through some local areas, sugar cane being harvested along the way and a view of their countryside. I had just pictured Barbados more tropical than I found it. After the tour of the caves our driver dropped us off at the "Boatyard" beach. Very nice beach with plenty of lounge chairs, bar/restaurant and the finest white sand I found the entire week. Had a few of the local vendors offer the use of waverunners, finally had the best offer for $35.00 for half an hour. So, it was an offer we couldn't pass up and had fun on that for half an hour. It had rained a bit earlier and it now looked like some serious rain was going to come, so we headed back by foot to the ship for lunch, on the way stopping at an internet café, since the rain was coming down pretty hard. Once I checked my e-mail etc. the rain stopped and we continued walking back to the ship. I was a bit surprised to find lots of garbage along the way, something I wouldn't expect in a city this size and that relies on tourists as one of their main revenue makers?? After a quick lunch, it was back to sit at the half-empty pool deck.
Our last day is our first and only "sea" day, so needless to say many took part in enjoying the sun out at the pool deck. I did find some lounge chairs at about 8:30, if you wanted one by 10:30, forget it, not one to be found. We enjoyed a nice day cruising. They had the typical pool games, bingo going on throughout the afternoon. Also took some time to check out the photo gallery and the shops, along with half the ship . They had some great specials on sweat shirts and t-shirts, so save this day for your onboard shopping. After lunch and more sunning, spent some time packing up for the return home, funny how a nice vacation week can fly by .
In ending I would say this class of ship does have a lot to offer any cruiser, still many activities to enjoy while cruising through the Caribbean. Although this cruise was very port intensive, there is still plenty of time to enjoy many of the onboard pleasures. I now have a hard time as to which class I prefer, this or the Voyager, both gives a wonderful cruise expierence. I would cruise on either class anytime, they are simply beautiful vessels with nice cabins, good food and many choices of activities and the best entertainment I've seen on water.
Here are links to the Radiance pictures I took while onboard:
Boarding in San Juan was very smooth. We were in time for Lunch so we headed up to eat. It seemed very confusing with the food stations instead of a buffet line. After a few days we got used to it and I think it is much better than waiting in long lines. The trick is to look around and decide what you would like and then go back and get it.
That way everything does not cool off before you get back to your table. The food at the evening meal in the dining room was very good but the choices were not wonderful. Our Waiter was excellent but some of the people in our group did not have excellent service. Our trip had us in a different port every day. It was a little bit to much. I could have used a few more sea days. We really enjoyed the ship . It is beautiful. Our cabin was on deck 8 with a verandah. That is the only way we go. What a beautiful view, day and night. The entertainment was very good. Overall we had a greattrip and would travel on this ship again.
We sailed from Vancouver, BC to Hawaii with 5 days at sea before reaching Hawaii. We had a pre cruise stay at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Our pre cruise stay was booked through our on-line TA with Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean had reserved a City View. We upgraded ourselves to a Harbor View. We stay in room 1012. Two big picture windows. Absolutely beautiful. We could see the Radiance head on from our window. The hotel is steps away from the pier. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Taxi are plentiful at the airport, about $26 Canadian.
Embarkation Day: We had to have our luggage ready to be picked by the Bellhop at about 9am. We were checked in for the ship at the hotel by RCCL representive. Hotel checkout is at 12 noon. I would recommend, to do your ship checkin, get breakfast and then check out of the hotel. We waited in the hotel lobby until 11:30am. We walked across the street to the pier to board the ship as a group, lead by a RCCL representive. We were in our cabin about 12:30-12:45pm. Ourluggage arrived about a hour to hour and a half later. We had cabin 7600, E3 deck 7 starboard midship. We could see straight down into the water from our balcony. The balcony had 2 chairs with a table. The cabin was comfortable for 2 people.
Sea Days: Time to get to expolore the ship and the spa. I visited the casino and left the casino unhappy :-( I didn't win a thing. My husband played bingo. We ate at Portofino's for our 20th wedding anniversary. The food, service and atmosphere was wonderful. 5 coarse meal beautifully presented. The ate in the dinning room only once and that was embarkation day. We were supposed to have a table for 2, but we had a table for 4. We really enjoyed our tablemates but preferred the variety of the Windjammer buffet. The food we had in the dinning room was presented well and tasty. The food in the Windjammer was also tasty. We played pool on the self leveling pool table. It was cool shooting pool while the ship was rocking and the balls staying in place. My husband enjoyed spin class, which by the way is extra, I believe it cost $10 a class. I loved my seaweed wrap and massage and my husband now knows what the fuss is about having a pedicure and manicure. He had a hand and foot/leg massage with his manicure and pedicure. The entertainment on the ship was good.
Ports Hilo was our first port. Docked at the pier. There are free shuttles to Wal-Mart, yes Wal-Mart and Hilo Hatties (store the ship recommends for shopping). I would recommend renting a car if you don't do any tours. We did not do a tour or rent a car and I wish we had rented a car. Hilo has black sand beaches and I would have loved to have seen them. I did toooo much shopping. Across the street from Wa-Mart was Sears and Macy.
Kona...We had to tender over to Kona. This is where the IronMan sporting event is held. We missed it by a week. Lots of shops to explore.
Maui-Lahaina....We tendered over to Lahaina and was docked there overnight. We rented a car and explored the mountains. Great picture postcard opportunities. Winding roads and scary cliffs. I took lots of pictures of the mountains, waves and surfers. Enjoyed driving around and exploring the island. We attended the Old Lahaina Luau and enjoyed it very much. My husband did the sunrise Maui bike downhill tour the next morning. He raved about the tour. I would like to do a land tour on this island.
Kauai....Docked at the pier and again free shuttles to shopping places. I there are no tall building on this island. I woiuld like to do a land tour on this island and relax on the beaches.
Honolulu was our port of disembarkation. Did not get a chance to do anything. We had an early afternoon flight home.
This is a combined review for three cruises:
HAL's, Maasdam (3/25/01, 7 days, K579, Western Caribbean); stats are 1993, 55,000 tons, 1266 capacity, 600 crew
Celebrity's Millennium (4/21/02, 8 days, Penthouse 6018, Eastern Caribbean); stats are 2000, 91,000 tons, 1950 capacity, 999 crew
RCCL's Radiance of the Seas (5/24/02, 3 days, 8602, Pacific Northwest); stats are 2001, 88,000 tons, 2100 capacity,
Where possible, I will try to provide facts for all three ships. We are big band, ballroom dancers; thus, our cruising experiences are geared toward dancing. Port information is not provided in this review. We cruise to dance; and sometimes will even overlook eating to enjoy good dancing. We bypass the port activities in order to rest up for the evening's activities and other onboard events.
Topic Headings are as follows:
Who We Are; Prior Cruises; Future Cruises; Travel Agent; PreCruise Activities; Embarkation; Ship's Captains; Cruise Directors; Cabins; Room Service; Mini-Bar; Luggage Storage; Room Safes; Bathrooms; Ship's Newsletters; Noise On The Ships; Service, Cleanliness, Etc.; Breakfast; Lunch; Dinner; Desserts; Specialty Restaurants; Ice Cream; Theater; Dancing; Pools & Whirlpools; Photography & Videos; Fire Drills; Medical Facility; Non Sea Days; Sea Days; Ports; People We Met; Sun, Rain,Wind; Improvements That Could Be Made; and Disembarkation
Who We Are: I am a woman over 60, semi retired, and my traveling partner, life-companion, is a "few years older." We both lost spouses, mine to emphysema (smokers out there should try to quit smoking) and his to cancer. We both met during senior dance activities and feel that God brought us together. We are enjoying a tremendously happy life filled with love for each other, dancing and traveling together. He has been dancing since he was 16 in high school and throughout his life. I, too, loved dancing in high school, but stopped after marriage. Why do we cruise to dance when we can dance at home (approximately five times a week)? Well, at home you do have to pay fees, travel to and from the location and find a parking place, etc. And, if you have a drink or two, you need to worry about driving home. Not so on a ship with dance activities; just a few steps here and a few steps there. And the ambiance of dancing on a beautiful ship with dinner included and wine, if desired, is a great deciding factor.
Prior Cruises: He, a former major in the US Army, was stationed in China for two years and has traveled the world, first cruising on the Mariposa (actually a pleasure cruise ship taken over by the Merchant Marines), and then traveling throughout Northern Burma, India and South China. Since then he has been on eight cruises and introduced me to cruising last year. The Radiance was my third cruise; I just love this way of life.
Future Cruises: We currently have booked a 10-day cruise to the Southern Caribbean on HAL's Amsterdam, set to sail November 11, 2002. And the big band Tommy Dorsey Orchestra is scheduled for this cruise. Also, we are planning a trip to China next year, most likely by air and land travel because we cannot find a cruise just in the areas in which we wish to travel.
Travel Agent: We have been using AAA in Bellevue for the last couple of years and have been very satisfied with their service. We also take advantage of the maps and tour books for the various trips, both cruises and other air/land trips, that we have taken over the years. We usually do the research first on the Internet, and find fares, etc. And our agent adds in the AAA rate and the senior rate, etc. and ends up getting us the best fares. So, we are pleased. She is such a sweet person and has provided us with a welcoming bottle of champagne in our stateroom on each of our Caribbean cruises.
PreCruise Activities: We usually elect to stay overnight in Fort Lauderdale. Last year, it was the Hilton and this year we stayed at the Best Western Inn, 1221 State Road 84. Both rooms were OK and served its purpose. Last year we had a late dinner at the Hilton. Since we arrived earlier this year and since the Best Western had no place to eat (they have continental breakfast), we went across the State Road 84 to a German restaurant. It was an excellent place to eat, drink wine and dance. Yes, they had dancing and we took advantage of it. We just wished that they stayed open later. They closed at 11:00 p.m. (Saturday night). Both places have vans to take you to the ships at Port Everglades.
Embarkation: Last year, getting on the Maasdam took a little longer. It may be better now. This year, while at the Best Western we discovered that I forgot to pack my beloved's medication. Thus, we were frantically calling the Millennium at midnight. We had a ship to shore call which cost us $95. But we were very much relieved when the ship's nurse was reached and informed us that they had the medications on board and would be able to assist us. We were told to arrive at 10:30 am the following morning and let them know that we had an appointment with the ship's doctor. Once on board, we saw the doctor and got prescriptions for the medications, which the ship filled for us. Everyone was very nice to us and thus our embarkation process on the Millennium was very good. Later that day, we joined the Captain's Club to gain the special departure privileges.
On the Radiance, since we live in the Bellevue area, we drove our car to Seattle's Pier 66 and entered the parking garage for the Bell Street Pier. Once inside, they took our luggage and told us where to park. We parked on the 4th floor level where the sky bridge is and walked across the sky bridge. We headed up the escalator to where check in is. There was a large line, but for some reason, someone stopped us and said "This is your lucky day" and she escorted us to the check in counter. The check-in process had not started yet and everyone was getting their computer to log on to the company's network. They had difficulty and we waited in front of the counter for about ten minutes before the lady got logged on. Then it was a short ten-minute wait to go up the "gangway" and take a picture and then board the ship.
Ship Captains: All three ships' captains were very nice, congenial hosts who genuinely seemed pleased that we were aboard. All three ships had no vacancies.
Captain Peter Jan van Maurik, HAL's Maasdam; attended the Champagne Welcome Party and a Mariner's Reception.
Captain Antonio Manaras, Celebrity's Millennium; met him at the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and at the Captain's Club Receptions.
Captain Kent Ringborn, RCCI's Radiance of the Seas, has a great singing voice; he sang during the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception, greeted everyone personally and also took pictures with all guests who requested it. I have a very nice picture of the three of us.
Cruise Directors: We believe the best cruise director on all three ships is a toss up between Susan Wood on the Maasdam and Jim Cannon on the Millennium. These two were the most enthusiastic persons on their respective ships, always greeting us with a smile and talking to us and conducting classes we took part in. The Radiance's Ken Rush, although he too was a nice personable friendly person, did not provide the dance entertainment that the other two did.
Cabins: The cabins on all three ships were approximately the same size: 179 square feet on the Radiance, 170 square feet on the Millennium and 182 square feet on the Maasdam. General layout of the rooms and storage space were all excellent. One nice touch on the Radiance was a drape room divider between the bed and the sitting area. All you needed to do was unhook the clasp and pull the drape across the upper rod. This was very much appreciated when one wanted to nap and the other did not, etc. And if one had difficulty sleeping, then one could read without disturbing the other. Another feature of the Radiance was that each of the bed lamps had two switches, one to control the lamp and the other to control a night light built into the lamp, which could be directed in various directions. The sofa on the Maasdam was larger than the ones on the other two ships. And the storage space was larger for the vanity/desk area. The hangers on the Radiance, however, were better than the other two. The Millennium closet and storage was the largest. A fruit basket was provided daily on the Maasdam. Ice bucket and water were provided on all three ships, although the Millennium was the nicest arrangement.
One thing that bugged me was to have the bedspread on the bed with the top folded enveloping our pillows. This way of bed making is also done in some hotels. This, to me, is not the proper way to make the bed. One should pull the top sheet over the pillows to keep the pillows clean and then put the bedspread on the bed. Everyone knows that the bedspread is not washed daily or even weekly. Who knows how often the bedspread is washed and where it has been lying around or what has happened to it? When we travel, we always request that the bed spread be kept folded up in a drawer somewhere. One usually cannot sleep with it on the bed; it is too heavy.
Room Service: We did not order room service on any of the ships; thus we have nothing to report on this.
Mini-Bar: There was no mini-bar on the Maasdam, nor the Radiance, although the Radiance had a refrigerator, which may have been useful on a longer trip. The Millennium had a mini-bar and we requested that everything be removed and thereafter we used it for our own use.
Luggage Storage: The suitcases can fit under the beds of all three ships. If you have one that is too large, then leave it open and slide it under. The best thing to do is to unpack everything and then store your suitcases below the beds.
Room Safes: The Radiance and the Millennium had room safes that use a number code, four digits on the Radiance and six on the Millennium. These are easy to use and easy to check to see if the safe is locked shut. The Maasdam did not have a room safe. However, each of the bedside tables had a locking top drawer with key.
While on the Radiance, our room safe at one time would not open. We discovered that perhaps when pressing the digit it did not register. Anyway, a call to our Cabin attendant, Fannie, quickly brought a young man from maintenance. It only took him a minute to make some kind of adjustment and we then could access our safe. What a relief!
Bathrooms: We had showers in all three bath areas. The nicest bath area was on the Millennium. The Radiance had a built in cabinet with mirror. We thought that if they had installed it the reverse, then one would be able to see the back of one's hair in the mirror. But, they did not have this foresight. There was probably no woman involved in the planning. The Millennium has a nice area with curved horizontal bars on a three level shelf area to hold toiletries, etc. What we did was bring a sock holder, not a shoe holder, but a 12 pair plastic see-through sock holder with a hanger and hung it on the bathroom door. This made it very convenient to see everything and have it all in one handy place.
Ship's Newsletters: All ships have a daily newsletter. However, the Radiance of the Seas has the most attractive (yellow, blue, ivory and shading throughout). The Compass provides a very nice newsletter headlined with Day One, Day Two, etc., which lists all the daily activities and other events in topic paragraphs. Accompanying the newsletter is a down sized 4.25" x 11" 4 page Compass Planner. This single letter-size page, which has been folded in half, mirrors to a smaller degree the larger sized Compass newsletter. The Planner lists everything in chronological order and is just the right size to fit in a man's shirt pocket or woman's purse. We packed a yellow highlighter to highlight the activities of interest to us.
A disappointment was that the Millennium Daily was never delivered prior to 11 or 12 p.m. every evening. A complaint to the front desk indicated that they were having difficulty with the printer. However, it was every night, except perhaps once or twice that no delivery was made and we had to retrieve it from outside the door every morning. The Daily did have a single page pull out listing all the daily activities.
The Maasdam's Newsletter provides a perforated section that you can tear out and fold up listing all the daily activities, along with service hours, dining hours and bar and lounge hours. And this section can then be folded and carried in your shirt pocket or purse.
All ships printed other newsletters, in different languages, depicting what was happening in other cities and countries around the world. You can usually obtain these from the reception desk area.
Noise On The Ships: All three ships were quiet and restful. We only recall one event that drove us crazy. One evening while on the Millennium, when we were trying to get to sleep, we could hear a cracking or noise that seemed like it was coming from the movement of the ship. We discovered, however, and much to our delight, that it was the sliding door to the balcony. We opened and closed it again and the noise disappeared.
Service, Cleanliness, Etc.: We just heard that the Maasdam received a 98 inspection score from the Coast Guard. If you will notice the stats above, the Maasdam has 600 crew members to a capacity passenger number of 1266. She almost has a 2 to 1 ratio of passengers to crew members. Thus, this will indicate why we feel that the best service is on HAL's Maasdam. Yes, the service was the best. Why is that? Well, we believe that the crew tries harder; they know that tips are not automatic and that if they want any, they will have to earn them. Holland America advocates that tips are not mandatory, while the Millennium and the Radiance provide you with envelopes and guidelines on what to tip and who to tip. And they expect you to follow the guidelines. They also attach an automatic 15% tip to all bar bills. There is something to be said about feeling good and being able to add a tip to a bar bill depending on whether or not you received good service. And to provide all other persons with a tip at the end of a cruise, also depending on whether you received the expected service, is HAL's way.
Breakfast: We enjoyed breakfast at the "buffets". Actually the Lido (Maasdam) and the Ocean Cafe (Millennium) are really cafeteria style. What was nice on both ships is that there is someone to help you with your tray or assist in finding you a table and bring you coffee, tea, etc. On the Radiance, it was truly a buffet. You could help yourself to whatever you wanted. However, finding a place to sit was difficult and most of the time we found ourselves outside. One did not have a tray to use, but a big huge plastic platter. So, you filled up your platter, found a seat and then got your drinks, etc. We saw no grapefruit or oatmeal on the Radiance. We enjoyed both of these items on the Maasdam and the Millennium. We tried breakfast in the Maasdam's Rotterdam Dining Room on two mornings and enjoyed this too. Each time we got a table for two. One morning we opted for this on the Millennium, but did not like it as well because they seated us with several persons at a large table who were already in different phases of eating. And they only had half the dining room or a small section open. We went to the omelet bar on the Maasdam and had a very nice omelet. On the Millennium, we had an omelet, but could not eat it because the inside was not cooked. We noticed, however, that later on they had someone else making them and he was making sure that they were cooked. One other time we ordered eggs over easy and they were good. You can also get toast or toasted bagels on the Maasdam and the Millennium, but not the Radiance.
Lunch: All three ships had great lunch selections, although we would rate the Radiance last. They had less selections. One good item I had, however, was a tuna salad sandwich on a bun on the Radiance. They had tuna wraps and I provided a bun to the server and asked him to make me a tuna sandwich. And it was delicious, so much so, that I went back and got another.
Dinner: We had early seating on the Maasdam and the Millennium and we opted for late seating on the Radiance. After having done it either way, we believe the early seating is better, especially if you do not spend a long day in port. We thought we would try the late seating so as to accommodate an afternoon tea or late night buffet. However, none was to be had on the Radiance. Both the Maasdam and the Millennium had high teas in the afternoon, and late night buffets but we did not try them. We did view some of them, however, and thought they were very elegant and spectacular. Why did we not try them? The 4 p.m. high tea time was just too close to a 6 p.m. dinner time and the late night buffets were just too much - after eating three meals already in a day of anything and everything that we wanted or craved. We had to draw the line somewhere.
Oh yes, we did purchase a Royal Cocktails card on the Radiance of the Seas; cost is $39 + 15% gratuity for 12 drinks of choice, most house brands. And, we used it up. I am unaware if the Maasdam or the Millennium had such a program.
Desserts: Desserts on both the Maasdam and the Millennium were outstanding, both in the Lido Buffet (Maasdam) and the Ocean Cafe (Millennium). And the dining room desserts were top notch. Not so with the Radiance. The Windjammer selections were OK, but not many to choose from. The desserts in the dining room were only rated OK by us, not outstanding or excellent at all. There was one angel food cake dessert with strawberries served one evening. You can get better angel food cake at the supermarket.
Bread pudding on HAL and Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee, Chocolate Souffle, Crème Brulee on both HAL and Millennium are desserts that you should not miss.
Specialty Restaurants: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants on any of the ships. In actuality, the cost or fee imposed is not limited to the set service fee, but it also includes the amount of money already spent for the dinner that you will be missing in the dining room or in the buffet if you choose to eat there instead. Also, the specialty restaurants take a longer time to eat; and this would take time away from our dancing.
On the Radiance is a little known restaurant called the Seaside Cafe. Although this restaurant caters to the younger crowd, we enjoyed a hot dog and strawberry milkshake one evening. It was the last night of our cruise, after we were all packed, that we decided to go up to Deck 12 and find the place. We had some feedback on it through the Cruise Critic Boards. Up we went and ordered two hot dogs, one for each of us and a strawberry milkshake to be split between the two of us.. Our order came with the grilled hot dog in a toasted bun, smothered with onions, and with French fries, too. It was delicious. The milkshake was the only item we had to pay for. It was $3.25 and we had to get it from the bar area.
The hamburgers and hotdogs on the Millennium and the Maasdam were also great. The hot dogs on all these ships are much better than the ones that you get at a sports game or even at Costco. Costco used to toast their buns - some years ago, but no more.
Ice Cream: All three ships served ice cream. The best, however, was on the Maasdam. There was a soft serve selection, plus sorbets and other items that you could request of the server. Then you could help yourself to various toppings, including fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The Millennium had a similar setup, but with only a few toppings and the server added those items as requested. We had vanilla ice cream with toasted coconut and milk chocolate sauce. Very good. And the Radiance had soft serve machines that you could fill chocolate or vanilla ice cream cones or bowls with. But, they only had a bowl of chocolate syrup available. However, you could get whip cream from a huge bowl on the dessert table. The Radiance had very good cookies. We had an oatmeal raisin cookie and we dipped it in whip cream prior to every bite. It was delicious. Another item I enjoyed was the 2 x 3 inch apple rolled tart. These were available daily on the Radiance near the sweet rolls in the Windjammer Cafe.
On the other side of the Millennium's ice cream section, was a similar section, serving non sugar selections.
Theater: The Maasdam had the best on stage performances. The production numbers were outstanding. Next was the Millennium and then the Radiance. We made the decision not to see the last day's show on the Radiance because we did not think that the other two days were that good. The Millennium had the best theater, with wonderful plush seating with little tables for cocktails. The Maasdam was next with similar seating and then the Radiance was last. The Radiance has cup or glass holders to hold your drinks on the right arm of each seat. Sightlines on all three ships were good. We never had a bad seat watching any of the shows.
The Maasdam was also the only ship that provided an artistic covered program for each of their production numbers. It was nice to follow along and know what was going to be next, etc., and also have the names of the people performing.
Dancing: First, let me say that you cannot dance on a ship's deck, at least not ballroom dancing. Our style of dance requires a nice dance floor, and one needs to wear a shoe that will slide. Sport shoes, running shoes and tennis shoes, etc. cannot be worn for this type of dancing. Thus, any kind of shoe with a smooth bottom, usually a leather soled shoe is the best kind outside of a shoe made specifically for dancing.
The best dance floor on all three ships was at the Colony Club on the Radiance of the Seas. It has a nice large, rectangular shaped, smooth wood floor. However, we only got to dance on the floor during the Captain's Reception. We were the first to take the step and get out on the dance floor even though the band had been playing for at least 10 minutes. On Day One, they scheduled a Quest activity. And the late night 11:00 to 12:30 am Rock n' Roll party was devoted to twist. Nothing was scheduled on Day Two other than the Captain's Reception from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. And on Day Three, they scheduled Karaoke in the Colony Club.
We would have loved a variety of music, i.e., music for the Rhumba, Cha Cha, Tango, Salsa, Swing, Jive, Hustle, Fox Trot, Waltz, California Polka, etc.
The second best dance floor is in the Ocean's Bar on HAL's Maasdam. We enjoyed dancing every evening both before dinner and after (prior to going to the evening show) and then again after the show. The Nevada Quartet were a great group and played requests, such as New York, New York and Pretty Woman. Such requests were made of the Radiance group and were turned down with them saying that they did not know the songs. We got the whole spectrum of the dances we liked with the Nevada Quartet.
And next is the the Rendevous Lounge on the Millennium. We enjoyed dancing to Howard & Rose's music. However, we felt sorry for them after awhile because they lost power to their instruments several times during the evening and on several evenings.
The Millennium's Cosmos Nightclub, Deck 11, has a beautiful dance floor, but it is not conducive to ball room dancing as one's shoe can get hung up on the ridges throughout the floor. However, we did enjoy dancing and partaking of the lessons provided by the staff. The Cruise Director, Jim Cannon, scheduled dancing one evening there with the Celebrity Orchestra and this was great. They took requests and did a good job. There should have been more activities with the Orchestra.
Oh yes, I should mention the Vibz group on the Millie that usually played on the deck by the pool. They were there during the sail aways, Tex Mex Night (line dancing) and another swing night. One night they were in the Cosmos Lounge and they were very good. And they took requests and played Pretty Woman several times during the cruise.
Cruise directors need to realize that many persons who do not dance enjoy drinking, big band music and watching those who do dance. Therefore, they not only need a big dance floor, but a large lounge or area for those who prefer to drink and watch. And those who dance also drink too. So, they are not losing the audience nor the big bucks spent on drinks when they provide dance activities.
Pools & Whirlpools: The best ship was HAL's Maasdam. The hot tubs were hot. I did not like the T pool on the Millennium. There was no place to sit. One had to slide one's body over the metal railings and lie on them. And they were always sticky, probably from everyone's sun tan lotion. The hot tubs on the Millie were OK; however, they were not hot. The temperature was pretty mild. We enjoyed getting the kinks out in the hot tub on the Maasdam. The hot temperature really did make our bodies feel better. In all fairness, we did not try the Radiance pools. We did not have good weather on our three-day trip and thus did not feel like taking a dip.
Photography & Videos: The best photography department and photographers were on the Radiance. Each one of the pictures was very good and we ended up purchasing all of the photos. We only got one on the Millennium because we did not like the others. On the Maasdam, these too, were very good and we ended buying all of them.
A cruise lasting at least seven days will usually create a video of the trip at a cost of approximately $20.
Fire Drills: All three ships conducted the mandatory fire drill. The Maasdam and the Millennium passed with flying colors, getting everyone to their muster stations, which were located on deck where they would be boarding the lifeboats. The Radiance, in my opinion, did not pass the test because all they did was get everyone to the muster station. We did not go outside to the deck, but simply stayed in the lounge area that was assigned to us. They did, however, call on the loudspeaker, all the persons who were missing. It is very important that you take part in the fire drills and not be the one to keep everyone waiting. On one ship, people were standing in the hot sun and they had to wait for others to arrive. And everyone should know that they should not be carrying anything with them for the fire drill. In the case of a real fire drill, you would not bring anything with you. Anything other than your body and life vest would take up more room and make the life boat weigh more. Thus, what you need to do, is pack your ID, Ship's Card and money, in a small wallet that will fit in your pocket.
Medical Facility: The Millennium had the best medical facility (see embarkation above), but of course, we did not have to use the ones on the other two ships, so we really have no comment on them.
We did, however, see three or four children during our cruises who were injured in some way, usually from having a door slammed on a hand. We felt sorry for these children as they had to spend the rest of the cruise with some degree of pain. If anyone needs to see the doctor, they should call first and make an appointment as the doctor will not see any one without an appointment. Of course, if it is an emergency, go directly to the facility and have someone else call and say that you are on your way. Do not sit and wait outside a closed door. Phone the number on the door as they keep the door locked and they do not know that you are waiting outside.
Non Sea Days: As mentioned above, we are not enthusiastic about non sea days or visiting the ports. There seems to be a lockdown on non sea days. Everything was closed. We wanted to use the golfing features of the Millennium, but could never find anyone there. And messages left with the pro were always returned, but we could never connect to make an appointment or just to take advantage of what they had to offer. And, of course, you cannot shop on the ships while the ships are in port. So, when can one shop? They seem to be open only from 6 to midnight. And one cannot go at 6 because of dinner. And the show follows dinner and then thereafter, if one wants to go dancing, there is no time to shop. They should have the shops open all night.
Sea Days: We love sea days because you can go out on your balcony and lounge around while the ship is moving. We had a very nice balcony on the Millennium with two lounge chairs.
Ports: We did get off the ship in St. Thomas. It was only on the island that we found out that there was a holiday that weekend and that certain streets were closed. We took a van (carries 12) into town. The driver could not get close enough due to traffic jams, so we all got out and walked about 6 blocks. We looked around a bit and then decided to return to the ship. We should have started walking right where we were. But instead we hailed another van (almost full) and he tried to get down to the water area and make a left turn back to the ships, but was turned around by traffic personnel. He then thought he would try to outsmart everyone and went in a round about way to get back down and ended up in a huge traffic jam, so huge, that he requested everyone to get out and walk back to the ship. We ended up walking 3.5 miles that day. We suggest that you take an umbrella with you. Try to find one with a fringe or ruffle, more like a parasol. I had one and was very glad that I did.
On the way back, we discovered that there were three cruise ships in port. And, of course, this added to the cause of the traffic jams throughout the city.
When we visited St. Maarten, the Adventure of the Seas was docked along side the Celebrity's Millennium. The Millie really looked small next to the AOS.
In St. Maarten, there is a water boat that takes you over to the shopping area. They wanted us to get off at the first stop and walk over to the other shopping area. That way, we would visit some of the shops along the way. However, after walking 3.5 miles the previous day, we were in no mood to do a lot of walking again. So, we insisted that we wanted to go over directly and they took us there.
It was Sunday when we visited Nassau; thus, we did nothing much but had a milkshake at the Haagen Dazs and perused a few shops that were open.
All ships provided shopping and port information, including maps and coupons.
People We Met: One of the fun reasons for cruising is meeting all the wonderful people. We had Table 503 on the Millennium, very nice table for 8, at the back of the ship on Deck 5. We enjoyed meeting and talking with you Bob, Joyce, Frank, Adele, Peter, etc. On the Radiance, we had table 418, again a very nice table, for 10 this time and it was not filled. We enjoyed talking with Arnelle, Susan, David, Shirley, Charmaine, Beth and others . We also met an upcoming author, Elaine Zale. Her first novel, Wing's of Love, was at the publisher's; and after she described it to me, I knew that I wanted to read it.
Sun, Rain, Wind: You should be aware that you may get sunburned, even while not in any direct sun. Be careful as you may receive indirect sunshine through reflections off the water, glass or in other ways. Prior to the cruise, get a good hair cut, one that will not be bothered with the wind because it will be windy while on the ship. Pack an umbrella for use when it rains and when the sun is shining. You will be glad you did as the sun gets very hot when walking around the various islands. And, if you are in the Pacific Northwest or even going to Alaska, you may need it for rainy weather.
Improvements That Could Be Made: (1) One thing that really bugged us was the lack of toilet seat covers in all public restrooms on the RCL ship. We were used to having use of them on the Millennium and the Maasdam.
(2) Why have a beautiful dance floor like the one on the Radiance and not use it? One evening it was devoted to Karaoke. Activities like this, along with Bingo, could function very well in the theater.
(3) The ship's director should make sure that the events take place as scheduled; i.e., line dancing was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and Trivia was scheduled for 3:00 p.m. in the same area. The person conducting the Trivia arrived 10 minutes early and had to take on a quick line dance class to pacify the persons who arrived and had been waiting for the last 20 minutes. The line dance teacher never did show up. This happened on the Radiance (5/25/02).
Disembarkation: The last morning on any ship and subsequent travel to the airport always takes time. Leaving the Maasdam took the longest and the line at the airport was the worst. Imagine more than 2000 people (from several ships) arriving at the airport back in March of 2001. Waiting around the ship took hours going through customs and then disembarking. The Millennium was better because we had Captain's Club privileges and got off the ship fairly fast. It was waiting outside trying to hail a taxi cab. There were no orderly lines and everyone was trying to grab, grab, grab. And of course, it takes all day to fly home.
The Radiance was OK. However, we had to fill out disembarkation information indicating that we did not have an airplane to catch. Consequently, we had to wait until nearly 10:00 to get off the ship, until they called our Lavendar color. One does not mind waiting if one has an idea of how long, but of course, no one could tell us this. And the waiting had to be in the public areas, no waiting in the cabins, which had to be vacated by 8:00 a.m. So, we sat around for 2 hours. Once off the ship, however, it went fairly fast.
We did call the evening before with the question of how we were going to get our luggage to the car parked in the parking garage. The person at the reception said that all you have to do it get a porter and he will take you with your luggage to your car. The porter that we got informed us that he could not cross the street, but he did say that he would take us to the elevator that will get us to the sky bridge. So, once we got on the elevator, we had to maneuver our luggage across the sky bridge and to our car, which fortunately was on the same level, Level 4.
Now, for a good night's sleep!
If you have any questions regarding the above, you may email me at:
There are many good reviews on this ship. It's truly a beautiful ship with very country club elegance feel.
Vancouver Pier: It's the other pier, Bellentyne, not Canada Place. Bellentyne is furthur away from downtown Vancouver and the airport. The taxi ride from the airport is CAD35-45 depends on the traffic. There was a long line of cars at the pier so our taxi fare kept on going up as we waited in line to be dropped off at the pier entrance. Once we arrived at the pier, it was very organized. We put the cruise tag on the luggage and droped them off. Then we waited in line for checked in. It was orgaized but it was a very long line. We waited for over 2 hours for the check in & immigration. Be prepared to bring something with you to eat & read while wait in line. We arrived at the pier at 1:30 PM and got on the ship at 4 PM.
Room: Our room was category D (delux ocean view) with balcony on deck 9. It was 200 sq. ft, good size for a cruise shiproom. It sleeps up to 4 adults but I think it would be over crowded. 3 adults are fine, but not 4. There was big closet with nice wood hangers. The bathroom was tiny with shower only, no tub. The vanity was nicely built with shelfs, mirrors and doors, very good design. The balcony was great because we stayed in the room to see Hubbard Glacier. We stay out at the balcony until it was cold, then we came back to the room to warm up. No need to go out to the bridge.
Excursion: We didn't book any tours with the ship because they were too expensive. There were booths at every port that offer all kinds of tours for a lower price. The only plus about booking the tour through the ship is if it's a tender port, you get to leave the ship early.
Juneau was a tender port. We took the city & Mendenhall Glacier tour 2 1/2 hours with the local opeator and it was only $20/person. The guide was great, very informative had a good sense of humor.
Skagway. It was pretty little town with only 850 residents. We purchased the Whitepass Summit excursion 3 1/2 hour ticket on our own for $82/person. Please note this train excursion sells out qucikly. The ship docked at the port very early in the morning. You should walk off the boat and buy the train ticket at the railroad depot before breakfast. It was only a 10 minute walk from the dock to the railroad depot. We could see the railroad depot from our room. The train ride passed some beautiful scenery. You could walk out to the end of the train cars go out to take pictures. Ketchikan: It was rainy, windy, and cold when we got there. It was very normal that it rains in Ketchikan. We didn't join any tour. We did the self guided walk around town and it was nice even in the rain. It was very commercialized and most of the people didn't like it.
Shopping: We went on the 2nd to the last cruise of the season. Prices in Juneau and Skagway were 50% off, very good bargains. We brought all our souveniers in those 2 towns. Ketchikan didn't have any sale and the price was higher than the other 2 ports. Not a good port for bargain shopping. Prices on the ship was very good as well since the ship also had 50% sale. It was better to buy from the ship since we didn't need to carry them at the port.
Debarkation: We did't have a flight on the day so we had to wait for about 2 hours go to off the ship.
Vancouver; We stayed in Vancouver post cruise for 3 days. It was a beautiful city with nice gardens and natural trails. I highly recommend this city as pre or post cruise. You should also go to Victoria because it was the capital of British Columbia and the garden city. You can take a tour or take the Pacific Coach to Victoria. The ride was 3 hours each way but it was worth it.
Hello fellow cruisers. I just got back from Alaska yesterday after spending 7 glorious days aboard the Radiance of the Seas. Before getting married, I was an avid cruiser but it had been 15 years since I last stepped aboard a cruise ship gangplank. I am hoping that through this review I can offer a little insight of what to expect or help you make a decision in booking your excursion.
First off, we are a family of four. I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. My wife and I met on a cruise 17 years ago (finding love - it does happen) and this was our first cruise as a family. I contemplated whether or not to bring the kids on this cruise but when it was all said and done, I wanted to make this a family affair. For those who are trying to decide about bringing the kids, it can work. You can be a family and have time alone. In our case, we chose Royal Caribbean because of their kid's program. Our cruise was set for June 7th - 14th and our ports consisted ofJuneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. The weather couldn't have been better. It only rained a little in Ketchikan but this did not hamper excursions or experience of this port. To help people reading this review, I have tried to categorize the various areas of discussions so that you can read what you are interested in and ignore everything else. I will be as honest and up front in each of the areas. Here we go and the subjects are.
Ship: As stated before, we cruised aboard the RCL Radiance of the Seas. This is a beautiful ship and offers all types of things to do. It is approximately 2 years old and has 13 decks on her. The Radiance is known for having so many rooms with adjacent balconies. Our room ( 9558 ) had one of these balconies. The ship is a wall of glass. Everywhere there is a view. The ship is decorated from top to bottom with exquisite art and statuettes. In the center of the ship is a beautiful atrium where various musical entertainments played nightly. The Radiance is one of the few ships with a rock-climbing wall. It also has a kid's pool with water slide that my kids took full advantage of. There is also a solarium with a heated pool that is drop dead gorgeous. It has a small library for leisurely reading along with a movie theater, casino, two specialty restaurants, several adult pools with whirlpools, sports bar, adult and kids game room, a Champagne bar, disco, a karaoke bar, a coffee bar, along with many leisure areas. It has several restaurants to choose from varying from formal dining to casual dining or snacking. It has a full service spa along with an exercise room containing the most modern exercise equipment. (I visited once but then decided to eat instead). This ship also has a computerized self-leveling pool table along with a 9-hole putt-putt course, golf simulator, ping-pong tables, shuffleboard, a basketball court and jogging trail, and other events for any sports enthusiast. It has a beautiful theater where entertainers perform, a fantastic shopping area with all types of specialty shops. It has card and board game areas, a small Hollywood memorabilia area, meeting rooms, plenty of deck space for lying around. In short, if you want to be alone, there are places to hide, if you want activities and opportunities to socialize, you won't have to look far. This ship has everything. The only downside that I found on this ship was in two areas. First was the elevator system. When you have 3,000 people trying to use the elevators, it gets crowded easily and backed up. Often the stairs were a faster alternative. Second was the line to get anything done at Guest Relations. They needed more representatives to assist the passengers. Looking past that, I found the Radiance the most beautiful ship I have ever been on and would highly recommend her to anyone choosing a RCL ship.
Embarkation: What a nightmare! Timing is everything. In our case, this was the worst part of our trip. It took far longer than I ever expected and really killed our excitement of getting aboard the ship. We arrived in Vancouver at 1:30pm on Saturday. It was rather warm and humid. If you are dressing warmly, you will die going through customs and embarkation. Check the weather and dress accordingly. When you get off the plane, the first thing you do is go through customs. This is a lengthy walk from terminal so get your walking shoes ready. My suggestion is to hold back, let everyone get ahead of you and look at the various exhibits being displayed on the way to customs. The Vancouver airport is quite beautiful. Keep an eye on any new plane of people arriving behind you but take your time. Rushing off the plane accomplishes you nothing. There will be long lines ahead of you. If you rush, you will just spend your time waiting in line. Once you get to customs, get in the furthest left lane. This lane breaks off into 3 lanes whereas the other lanes are one agent per line. The left lane will be much faster. Once you clear customs, you must arrange transportation to the ship (see below). Choices are taxis, limousines, and ship transfers. There are two departing piers for cruises in Vancouver. One is Canada Place and the other is Ballentyne (sp?) pier. The Radiance leaves from Ballentyne Pier. When you arrive at the pier, they take your luggage and you are assigned a group number to embark (groups of 30). You sit in chairs and wait for your number to be drawn. There is a place to get food and drink if you are inclined. I also found free coupon books here that are for big discounts at the various Alaskan ports. Get this book - it will save you money. After about 30-45 minutes, they call your number and you stand in another line. You will be asked multiple times for your passports and documents so have them ready. This new line goes into a different area. It is here where time stands still. This line is long and winds around and around. If you have kids, they will be miserable. Pack snacks for them but prepare for the whining. At the end of this line is where you establish credit and obtain ID cards. If you have a suite, one of the perks is that you get to skip this long line and go to the front. Cash is non-existent aboard with the exception of the casino. Everything is loaded up on your ship card. We unfortunately got stuck behind a big group (Pampered Chef) so we spent a good hour and a half here. Once you get your ID's, you then proceed to another line where they take your picture and you then board. My advice is to show up early or show up late. By 4:00pm, the lines were minimal and you may be able to proceed at a faster pace. We did meet people who arrived early and hopped right on. If you arrive in the middle of the day, be prepared for a long afternoon.
Transportation for Airport to Ship: We decided to get to the ship via a taxi. Message boards state that this is around 25 Canadian dollars. In truth, it will run you about $35 Canadian dollars. Our cab as most was not air-conditioned. We found this true both coming and going. If I had to do it all over again, I would book a limousine at the airport terminal. It will probably cost you another 20 dollars but ride will be more pleasant. The trip itself is about 30 minutes. Because we had four of us, getting transfers would have been more expensive. If there are two of you, this will probably be your best option. They have people who meet you directly from the airport and will check in the luggage at the same time. Coming back, you will be able to get a cab with no problems. Leave plenty of time to catch your flight. See Disembarkation notes below.
Cabin Info: We decided to get a balcony for our cruise to Alaska. If this would have been a Caribbean cruise, we may have thought differently but for Alaska, scenery is everything. If I had to do it all over again, would I get a room with a balcony? You bet. The balcony was my source of solitude. We spent hours looking at the beautiful views from the ship. It was great to have your own private area away from the crowds and absorb the beauty of Alaska. With kids, we could spend quality time on the balcony while they watched TV. Our room (9558) had a King size bed and pull out sofa that turned into a bed for the two kids. Let me tell you something up front. I have a 1,000-dollar mattress at home and I would have traded it easily for the bed on the cruise. I have never slept as well than on this trip. The beds were very comfortable and the room steward Manuel made sure we got whatever we needed. Extra pillows, blankets, Ice, etc. - all you had to do was ask. The bathrooms have hair dryers, shampoo/conditioner dispensers, soap and electric outlets for whatever you need. We brought a travel iron that was essential. Each night when we returned, the beds were turned down with chocolates on the pillows. Manual would deliver daily ship news flyers for both adult and kids programs. They also did towel art animals the last 5 days of the cruise. My kids loved seeing the new animals each night. There is a TV in the room along with a safe. There are channels for kids, recent movies, and channel on ship activities/news. Plenty of hangers so don't bring any. There is also plenty of storage space even for a family of four. There is a small desk for writing. Shower is a trick, get your room steward to show you how it works otherwise you will be taking cold showers. The suites have a full size tub in addition to shower. For a family of four, we did quite well in this room. No complaints. Warning, if you open your balcony window, be careful of the vacuum created when you open your room door It will slam the door in a heartbeat and with kids, they could get hurt. My advice is keep patio window closed when not on balcony.
Drink Cards ( soda, alcholol): - We decided to take advantage of these offerings. Looking back, some were good, others weren't. We bought each of our kids drink cards for unlimited sodas (20 dollars ea) my advice would be to buy just one card if you have multiple kids. They can share the card. Bartenders and restaurant personnel only want to see that you have bought a card. Unless you have a growing teenager, getting value for multiple cards is almost impossible. For adults, we bought the 12-drink card at $39 each. This includes gratuity and to us this was a bargain. We also bought a wine package for dinner. It was 7 bottles of wine for $109 and offered 11 different wine selections. For the money, we found this to be a decent value. Since we both liked eating at the formal dining room each night, this was a way to end the evening. We found with the drink cards that almost everything was available from Pina Coladas to Hurricanes to house specialties with the cards. The only thing to watch out far are the Bon Voyage drinks and Hot Chocolate Liqueur drinks offered at various times were extra and quite expensive. Milk, tea, regular coffee and Lemonade are all free. Weather: We were lucky. The weather we experienced during our cruise was unbelievable. Many of the crew had commented how rare good weather is in Alaska. Most weeks it rains but for some reason, we had plenty of sunshine in Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, and Hubbard Glacier. Ketchikan showed us some showers but they were light comparatively. The winds were very rough at times. The first night aboard, I went out at night on deck. The winds were blowing at about 60 mph. It was like being in a hurricane. When this happened, the waves started rocking. I must admit, I never felt seasick even when it was bad. The temperatures were as low as 45 at night to 68 during the day. I wish that I could tell you that this was always the case but we caught an exception to the rule when it came to weather. For the most part, expect days of rain. See my next section on clothing. It should help you on what to bring. One last thing, during the months of June, July, Aug the sun is up about 18-20 hrs a day. At 11:00 pm at night, we could still see things with sunlight. It was amazing. Clothing: My most important section of this review. For all you cruisers from the south like us, hear this one thing. Leave the snow gear at home. As the message boards all say, bring layered clothing. You don't need ski suits, you will never take them out of your suitcase. My advice is to bring a lined jacket and wear layers of sweaters, pullovers, fleece, etc. You will need a rain poncho. If you have a light wind suit, that may come in handy but for the most part, heavy ski jackets are impractical for this time of year. Most of the time, I wore my windbreaker jacket with a sweater underneath. Trust me, you do not want to be dragging jackets in port all day. Bring at least two pair of shoes, one for walking and one for dining. The articles of clothing that you need to bring plenty of are underwear, socks, and undershirts. We definitely over packed. Whatever, you think you need, you don't need as much. If I could do it all over again, I would have brought half of what I had. The reasons are simple. The ship has a great laundry/dry clean service. We used it twice during the cruise. It is somewhat pricey, $3.00 shirt/ $4.00 pants but after paying thousands for the trip, why worry about 3 to 4 dollars. Second, you will buy some shirt whether it is a sweatshirt, t-shirt, polo, from Alaska. You can always wear these aboard and many people did. Remember, you will be buying souvenirs and you have got to make room for these items somewhere in your suitcase. My family brought two outfits for each day - One for during the day and one for dining at night. For kids, this is a must since they will probably get their day outfits dirty. For adults, trick is to bring multiple shirts but minimize the pants. Two pair of jeans should last four days. We dressed up for dinner each night and there are two formal nights so be prepared. My suggestion is to bring 2-3 pairs of dark pants and swap them with shirts and blouses. If they get dirty, send them out. Hear me, you must cut down on what you are bringing. You will make do so when you are through packing, go back and take another 25% out. We brought gloves, hats, and scarves. They never left the closet. Your back will thank you as you carry your luggage through the terminal.
Life aboard Ship: There is plenty to do aboard. The ship offers exercise classes, bingo, karaoke, trivia games, shuffleboard, table tennis, rock wall climbing, court games (volleyball, basketball, soccer), wine tasting classes, cooking shows, art and sports memorabilia auctions, line dance classes, disco dancing, kids programs, pool activities, billiards, a stocked library, big screen TV's throughout ship, etc. Each day, there are 3 different movies shown in the movie theater. Each night, there is some form of entertainment in the Aurora Theater. We saw comedians, jugglers, cruise cast members, and "The Coasters". Each day, a bulletin is printed listing all the daily activities. Trust me, you won't be bored. When not at port, the Casino is open and stays open to the wee hours. The bars close down around 2:00am each night. There is always a contest of some sort going on and they have various themes or parties scheduled. My wife and I with another couple won the TV 70's/80's trivia game. There are sock hops, Captain Welcome parties, "Survivor" game challenges. Whether it is kids or adults, you will find an assortment of activities to keep you occupied.
Entertainment: The entertainment quality aboard the Radiance was average to good. This isn't Vegas but many of the shows being presented were entertaining. Overall, the entertainment brought in exceeded the quality of the on-board ship entertainers. We saw a great comedian and juggling act. The Coasters of 50's fame were featured and there were musicians and musical acts featured throughout the cruise. Much of our time was spent at the Casino or various leisure bars. They had Karaoke several nights and this turned out to be a hoot. People became less shy as the cruise went on. The disco was open each night and seemed to be the hot spot. The movie theater provided a way for you to catch up on some films that you might have missed and the multiple bars and relaxation areas provided a place to just relax. Most nights, the cruise offered after hour kids programs to allow parents to get some time alone. We took advantage of this on 2 occasions. To summarize, I have seen better stage productions but overall they were still entertaining. I really think that Radiance could do better here in this area. The enthusiasm was there but not the talent. Food/Dining: This is the area that I was most disappointed. I had been on 5 cruises prior to this one and the one thing that I found missing on this cruise was the quality of the food. I am not talking about the informal places where they served the hot dogs and hamburgers but the main dining room food. Although the menu provided a variety of food choices, I found most of the time the food tasted bland or dry. I don't consider myself a picky eater but for the most part, I could cook better than most of the dishes prepared. I guess when you are cooking for thousands of people; it is hard to make things fresh. I found steaks very tough and chicken dishes very bland. The presentation was excellent; it was just the quality that I found below par. Our waiters, Gurmit and Michael were excellent. The service was spectacular and they went out of their way to try to make our dining experience a special one. Bottom line, I loved coming to dinner. It was very classy. I liked dressing for dinner, walking down with my family. Gurmit and Michael learned our likes and dislikes by the second day. They always provided my kids with their favorite food selections. My 10-year-old daughter was provided with a glass of milk and a glass of cola each meal followed by two scoops of vanilla ice cream. She thought she was in heaven. We were never rushed and they took the time to talk with us and get to know each and every one of us. For service, I would give an A+. The staff sang for us and everyone in the dining room got to know each other. Each night, they would bring me two deserts to ensure that I got to taste various things. Coffee was always brought. The assistant waiter performed magic tricks for my kids and the water and wine in my glass never was lacking. It appeared to me that the squeaky wheels got the better tables. If you wanted a window table, you probably had to grease the Headwaiter or raise a complaint. Our table was for four and we were moved from a window to the center of the restaurant. It did not matter to us but there was definitely a lot of politicking to get the better seats. On the Radiance, there are several restaurants. Formal dining is in the Cascade room. Informal dining, buffet style, is in the Windjammer room. The Windjammer is okay at best. The kids liked it only because they had pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers. I tried each of these but was not impressed. I hope that I don't come out sounding like a snob. I have had better food on many different cruises and I expected the quality to match the quality of the ship. It did not. I did however find a diamond in the rough in the "Seaview Café" This restaurant was located on the 12th floor and has a small menu. All items are cooked fresh and to order. They served Reuben sandwiches, Hamburgers, Nathan's hot dogs, soups, salads, onion rings, etc. Not too many people took advantage of this restaurant and we ended up eating here during the day. I highly recommend this café. It was the best free food aboard. For all you Sushi lovers, the ship sports a Sushi bar that looked very good. It's not for me however. There were also two special nights aboard the Radiance. The first special night was the "Chocolate Buffet". The lines to this were terrible and it really wasn't that good. The second gala was the "Midnight Buffet". This was even more luxurious. The presentation was beautiful. They offered a ½ hr of viewing prior to allowing people to eat and I was able to get some great pictures. The buffet seemed to concentrate on visual more than quantity of food. There were no hot dishes and seemed to focus on fruits, deserts, cheese trays, and salmon. This too was okay but not great. Last but not least, after several dissatisfying meals, my wife and I decided to check out the specialty restaurants offered by the cruise. These are dinners you pay a modest fee to eat at. Please see comments below regarding both of these restaurants.
Specialty Restaurants: Let me say this now. Spend the money. The difference between the food in these restaurants and the main dining room is night and day. There are two specialty restaurants aboard the Radiance. One is a steak restaurant called "Chops Grille" and the other is an Italian restaurant called "Portofinos". These restaurants come with a fee of $20 pp for dinner. We ate first at Chops. My wife and I had Filet Mignons and they were excellent. I cannot recall ever having a better steak in my life. We also had crab cakes, Caesar salads and fresh vegetables. The presentation was first rate. If $20 is too much for you to spend, you can get this half-priced for lunch when in port or on Wednesdays and Fridays. I highly recommend this restaurant. If you like steak, this is the place. We took advantage of the lunch special mentioned above and ate at Portofinos. For $10 pp, we figured it must be a steal. It was. We also got the restaurant to allow the kids to eat spaghetti for free. They offered Veal Marsalla, Lasagna, and other great dishes. Although we liked Chops better, this restaurant was fabulous also. This is what we anticipated the main dining room to be like. I guess those days are over. My recommendation is to spend the money at least once during the cruise and judge for yourselves. The dinner menu is far better than the lunch menu so plan a quiet evening at either of these fine restaurants. No rushing on this meal. Bon Appetite!!!
Casino: This casino is called "Casino Royale". It has a variety of slot machines, black jack tables, roulette, and various other Vegas tables. The dealers are patient and will help you learn the rules if you a novice. Unlike Vegas, you have a fair shot of winning here. Saw several jackpots hit on the slots along with $15,000 won on poker tables. I also saw a great deal of money lost but if you like gambling, you will have fun here. Casino is open at 09:00am with the exception of when we are in port.
Photography: If you want a picture done of you or your family, you won't have to look far. Many photo opportunities are offered aboard this ship. 8 x 10's will run you about $20 each while 5 x 7's run about $10. Featured pictures are Captains party, Welcome aboard pics, Formal nights, and pictures with a suited animal in every port. The ship also sells a commemorative video ($25) that features your week aboard the ship. Most of the video is stock footage but also contains events that happened on the ship the week you were on. Only runs about 30 minutes but if you are looking for memories, this may be an option. Would I buy it again if given the chance? No.
Formal nights: Two formal nights on this cruise. Many of the men wore tuxedos while most of the women wore evening gowns. Some people dressed down but they were a minority. My impression was that people enjoy dressing up for cruises. I wore a suit vs a tuxedo and did not feel out of place. If you do not wish to attend these functions, there are restaurants like the Windjammer to accommodate you. The captain threw a welcome aboard party and you were given the opportunity to meet the captain and have your picture taken with him. There were also complimentary drinks offered. On most nights in the dining room, many of the people wore dress slacks or nice dresses or pantsuits. During the day, casual attire was the norm. Did not see blue jeans in the dining room at night. Most men wore dress shirts and ties to dinner. I think if you wore a nice polo, you would not feel out of place.
Kids Programs: In a nutshell, the kids programs aboard the Radiance were fantastic. I have two kids (10 & 5). Kids are put in various groups based on age. The requirements are that the child must be potty trained. Groupings are 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, and teenage groups. My kids loved these programs. Each day, they would receive a calendar of events that detailed all the planned activities. The sessions start at 09:00am in the morning and run till noon. Parents pick their kids up at noon for lunch on most days but there are days while in port where the kids can eat with their groups during lunch. The next session is between 2 - 5pm and evening sessions from 8-10pm. For each session they attend, they receive reward bucks that can be used at end of cruise to get prizes. Activities are sports, movies, crafts, science experiments, pirate night, pajama night, computer games, video games, finger painting, scavenger hunts and a ton of different activities. Trust me, you will have to tear your kid away from this place when you go to pick them up. They also put on talent shows and various events where they can win medals. The kids program also offers late evening care for $5.00 per hr. We took advantage of this several times to get quality time together without the kids. The kids liked making new friends. I have to give RCL high marks for their kids programs. It is well planned. Be sure to tip these guys at the end. They pool their monies together so you won't have to learn names. Any reservation about the kids being bored on the cruise went out the window with this program. A+ all the way.
Ports of Call/ Excursions: Our ports of call were Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Hubbard Glacier. Each port is different and offers a variety of things to do. For the most part, I booked all of my excursions independently. I found this to be the best way to save money. In this section, I just want to say a few things about each port. I will then tell you of the excursions that I took in each of the ports and whether they were good or bad.
Juneau: The first port we visited was Juneau. Juneau can only be reached by boat or plane. The Radiance pulls right up to the dock. It does not tender so you can depart the ship directly into the city. The first thing you see when you get into this city is Mount Roberts tram. This tram goes up into the mountain and offers an excellent way to view the city. They also have hiking trails at the top along with a restaurant. Many of the people visit Mendenhall glacier because of its vicinity but Juneau sports several glaciers that are reachable by floatplane or helicopters. Shopping is good in Juneau although I think the best prices were found in Ketchikan. In Juneau there is the Red Onion saloon that is a throwback to the days of the Wild West. Included are saloon girls and sawdust on the floor. You really should take a peak in this establishment. Other things to do are whale watching and city tours. There are several ways to get out to Mendenhall glacier depending on how much money you want to spend.
Juneau excursions: We took two excursions in Juneau. The first one was a helicopter glacier landing that took us to the Taku glacier. I booked this with Coastal helicopters at $175 pp. The views from the helicopter are breathtaking. The pilot showed us various terrains and told us about each of the glaciers we were flying over. The high point of the trip was landing on the glacier itself. You could see the giant crevices through the glacier and the beautiful blue water below. We walked on the glacier for a while and I drank some of the glacier water flowing down. It was crystal clear and tasted great. Seeing the glacier from the air is the only way that I feel you can experience Alaska's beauty. My kids loved it and the only negative thing to say was there was not enough time on the glacier. Total time of the trip was 1.25 hrs with 20 minutes or so on the glacier itself. There are two major helicopter companies that I found in Juneau. One is TEMSCO and the other was Coastal. I took TEMSCO in Skagway (see below) and Coastal in Juneau. Of the two, TEMSCO seems better organized than Coastal. If you have a choice, I would book TEMSCO. It seemed to prepare you more for the trip. I also found that with TEMSCO, they provided boots and life vests where Coastal did not. I cannot tell you the difference in costs between these two helicopter companies but only my observation after booking and traveling with both. The second tour that we took in Juneau was Capt Larry's whale watching excursion. This was offered independently through Orca enterprises. This was a great excursion. Capt Larry is a crusty image of what you might expect a sea captain to look like. He knows whaling. He also has an assistant naturalist aboard named JT. The Orcas boat holds about 20-30 passengers. It has a small restroom that is very primitive. There is a place on top for you to stand and take pictures. This holds 6 people and the back of the boat will accommodate all the others if necessary. During the ride to find the whales, you are asked to stay seated. Capt Larry offers crackers, cheese, and salmon bites with juice and water. Not too appetizing so if you are the hungry type, you better bring your own snacks. Forgetting food, we were here to see whales. During this excursion, we saw several eagles, sea lions, seals and humpback whales. JT and Capt Larry told us about the whales and what to expect. At first we had a hard time finding humpback whales but eventually we came upon a mother humpback and her baby. The dives were spectacular and the whole trip was well worth the money. I can't tell you if Capt Larry is better than the excursion offered by the ship but I know the passenger count is lower and with his smaller boat, he can get to places quicker. I would highly recommend Capt Larry. Their office is directly across from where the boat docks and they offer a small discount for kids. Did my kids enjoy this? Most definitely.
Skagway: Our next port was the beautiful town of Skagway. In this town, the White Pass railroad is the main attraction for most visitors. It is a small town that can be easily walked. Shopping is good here. We saw many kayakers at this port. The beauty of the mountains was spectacular. There are plenty of shore excursions available at this port. Skagway excursions: Although the White Pass railroad attracted us, we decided that the 3 hour train ride would be too boring for my 5 & 10 yr old kids. As a result, we decided to rent a car from Avis car rental and drive the 150 mile round trip to Emerald lake and back. There are a couple of things I will tell you about renting a car. The rate is about $70 and you will use about $10 dollars in gas. You can book this direct from Avis using the Internet. The car rental place is in the middle of town and about 10 minutes from the ship walking. The beauty of renting a car is that you can stop as often as you possibly want to and spend as much time as you want looking at things. The train did not offer that luxury. In the end, I think we made the right decision. I am sure that the scenery from the train is better than the Klondike Hwy but this road trip turned out to be a great day. We saw waterfalls, beautiful scenery. We stopped at walked in the streams under the waterfalls. We found a snow embankment and the kids and I had snowball fights and climbed the hills surrounding it. We found beaches where we walked on the sand. In Carcross, we stopped for ice cream and walked in the world's smallest desert. The sights were unbelievable. I must have shot 3 rolls of film on this road trip. The trip climax is the beauty of Emerald Lake. It is crystal blue with various shades of green. This trip took us about 4.5 hrs but we were constantly stopping and enjoying ourselves. I am sure that you can do this in a shorter period of time. We wanted to stop at Lairsville for gold panning but we ran out of time due to our second excursion. If you take this trip, plan to stop there with the kids. It sounded like a fun experience. Our second excursion was the climax of our Alaska trip. We booked the dog sledding excursion via TEMSCO. This included a helicopter ride over several glaciers and dog sledding at a snow camp located in the mountains. This excursion was pricey but we got a 50% discount for each of our kids. You will not be able to get the same discount in Juneau, only Skagway. I had also heard that the Juneau dog sledding had the highest rate of cancellations. We arrived at TEMSCO that is located directly across from the ship. They show you a safety film and provide you with snow boots and safety vests. The helicopter ride is about 30-45 minutes and has spectacular scenery. I found this to be even prettier than Juneau. If you only have money for one helicopter tour, I would combine it with the dog sledding and get the best of both worlds. The price for this tour is $349 pp for adults and $175 pp for children. Upon arriving at the dog sled camp, you meet your musher and his assistant. They introduce you to the various dogs of your dog sledding team. They give a brief description of how to operate the dog sled and you are off and running. You are allowed to change positions to allow each of you a chance to drive while the other sits. Unless you have experienced this, it is something you will never forget. The musher ( Tim ) told us all about dog sledding and how they are raised and trained. You dog sled for about 30 - 40 minutes on the snow. You then get to spend some time with the dogs and are introduced to the new puppies. My kids ate this up. This is a chance of a lifetime. I would strongly, strongly recommend this excursion. They offer a cheaper substitute on wheels but it cannot compare to this. At the end, they offer to sell you a picture of you on the dog sleds and then you are off back to the helicopter. We were with a group of 6 and everyone thought this was the best excursion to date. Don't miss it.
Ketchikan: Our last port was Ketchikan. This is a beautiful little town with plenty of history and plenty of shopping. It is easy to walk through. There are several interesting excursions that I would have liked to take but time was limited. If you like totem poles, there are several good excursions that are offered by the ship or through independents. We did take time to visit Creek street. This is the street where many of the prostitute establishments once flourished. We also did most of our primary shopping in this port. Be sure to use the coupons you got in the book mentioned in Embarkation. You can save a bundle with them. It was also in this port that we saw eagles everywhere.
Ketchikan excursions: We took two excursions while in this port. The first being a Misty Fjords floatplane trip and the second being the Lumberjack show. The Misty Fjords trip was different from the helicopter tours in that it was on a floatplane. Leaving from the water was definitely different. We booked with Family Air tours and got a discount for kids and a 10% discount for prepaying. I want to say for family of 4 it was around $660. This trip lasts about 2-3 hrs. Dave who runs the show shows you many types of scenery. If you want to see waterfalls, this is the tour. The scenery is different than many of the glacier tours. The mist is everywhere rising from the marshlands. It truly is heaven on earth. The serenity of this flight is incredible. After viewing for a while, Dave found a lake to land on (Lake Walker) and we were able to walk from the pontoons to the shore. You are in the middle of nowhere. It is quiet as a mouse. The land is spongy and covered with peat moss. You can see signs of beaver dams and the air is crisp. When we were here, it was drizzling rain. Be sure to bring your ponchos. Also make sure your kids go to the bathroom before they get on the plane. Last but not least, be sure to bring insect repellant. The mosquitoes weren't bad but visible. I read that fabric softener sheets made great insect repellants. I could not confirm that because I forgot them. You spent about 30 minutes at the site and then boarded up for the ride back. This was a very scenic excursion. I think I liked helicopter tours better but if you want to find beautiful, peaceful quiet, this is the trip for you.
Hubbard Glacier: You don't get off at the glacier but instead they bring the glacier to you. This is very scenic and should not be missed. It may be a little cold on deck but put on an extra sweater and go to the top of the ship. It is beautiful here and everyone is taking pictures the entire time. At this stop, the ship threw a Bar-B-Que on the 12th deck. They had barbeque chicken, ribs, and hamburgers with all the fixings. Due to the number of icebergs, we were not able to get as close as I was hoping. It did not damper the mood. Be careful of the $8.95 cups of liquored hot chocolate being sold topside. It will be a shock to you total bill if you don't ask the price. You could see some calving but it was far away. Often, you are close enough to hear them. On this trip, we did not get to experience this first-hand. Overall, it was a beautiful sunny day. This is the closest you will get to see real icebergs and falling glaciers.
Shopping: Won't say much here except that we found several good bargains in each of the ports. You can get family T-shirts for as little as $2.00 ea or caps for $1.50. Many of the stores have similar souvenirs and bargains. If you picked up the coupon book that I mentioned in the embarkation section, you will be able to save considerable money. If you like Russian souvenirs, many of the ports had good selections. One thing to also keep in mind, the ship has some bargains also. Don't dismiss them, you may find a deal.
Medical Svcs: Just a small note here. My son cut his finger pretty bad while on board. It required 4 stitches. The medical facilities are top-notched. The doctor and nurse aboard were great with the kids and service was far better than you will find on land. They treated my son like he was gold. Now the bad part. Insurance does not apply on this ship. Everything is paid up front and you deal with the insurance companies when you get back home. Just to give you an idea, the office visit with stitches ran $290. Compared to a lot of doctor's offices, that wasn't to unreasonable. Just know, if you need them, they will be there and from what I observed, they provided excellent care.
Disembarkation: You hear a lot of things about horror stories regarding disembarkation. Our experience from the ship point of view was that this was practically painless. On the last night of the cruise, you are given color-coated tags that indicate when you are to disembark. You will be given custom declaration forms, customer satisfaction forms, and tip envelopes for the various people who provided service on the ship. Since we were going to take a cab back to the airport, we received an early departure tag. You pack your suitcases the night before and put them outside your door. In the morning, they call your color number and you are to leave and pick up your luggage in the place that you originally arrived. After verifying charges to the room, we ate breakfast and waited for our number. The time to get off the ship and pick up our bags was less than ½ hr. It was very organized. We got a cab and went to the airport. This is where the nightmare begins again. Vancouver is good because they provide carts to carry your luggage. Once you load up your luggage, you proceed through several long lines. The first line is getting your tickets. I saw United flights backed up 100 people deep. I would suggest that you plan a minimum of 2 hours in getting on your plane. We were on America West and our wait was about 1 hr although they consistently overbooked the flight. The next line is the kicker. In Vancouver there is an airport improvement fee. It is not part of your ticket price but instead you are charged a $10 Canadian dollars/pp fee to use their airport. This translates to $7 pp U.S. dollars. You wait in this line to pay the fee and then you are sent to another line to go through Customs. You will be asked at least 4 different times to show your tickets and passports/id's so have them readily available. After all this, you will go and wait for your flight. If you only give yourself an hour for this process, the odds are you will miss your flight so be forewarned.
Event from Radiance: Thought I would relay an incident that took place aboard the Radiance last week. A fishing boat with 3 crewmembers aboard relayed a SOS indicating that they were sinking. The Radiance was the closest ship to the boat and proceeded through rough waters to get to them as soon as possible. By the time we arrived, the ship was going under for the last time. Each of the crew were in survivor suits hanging to the masts when it went under. The Radiance cast off one of its rescue boats and picked up the 3 crewmembers. Another 15 minutes and they would have suffered from hypothermia. The crewmembers later admitted that they thought they were lucky we were nearby or they probably would have died. The captain was very proud of his staff along with a prestigious feather in his cap for such a daring rescue.
I will try to be short and to the point, any items I miss or specific to you I will answer via email.
PRE CRUISE- We came in one day early stayed at the Comfort Inn Tanama Princess, on recommendation from another reviewer that said it was 3 C's-Clean,Comfortable,and Cheap. He was correct on all three. Room was $99. It was also fairly close to the airport-$13 cab ride and close to the pier, $12.
EMBARKATION- this was fast and easy, took only minutes till we were on our way to the ship.
DUTY FREE- Just before entering the ship, if you plan to bring wine on board and you did not bring your own(there is a 2 bottle per person limit but no hard liquor is allowed) this is a good place to buy. As we were looking at wines, I was sort of unsure to buy or not a person in charge says to me, if you buy 3 bottles I will give you a forth free! The wines were only 7.95 each so with the forth brought the price down to 6.00 each. Yes they were all verygood(we drink reds) I figured even if they charge the corkage fee of $10 a bottle I am still ahead. The cheapest wine on board was 24.00.
FIRST DAY ON BOARD- Use this to explore the Ship. There are many nooks and crannies. Rooms you may not know exist till later in the week. They do offer a drink card good for 12 drinks of choice as long as they are $4.50 or less. The card cost $39 plus tip brings it to around $3.75 total for one, so you save slightly more than a buck on each, just don't order beer with it or you lose. They also have kids cards available. Next I will get right to food, service and entertain.
BREAKFAST- We ate breakfast everyday in the Windjammer, indoor outdoor buffet. All the food is good, great variety. It was set up with stations so there is not a line to wait in. We usually took our plate and ate in the very back of the ship outside with a great view and not too crowded. LUNCH- Usually in the same place but a few times we elected to just get a bite in the Solarium. They offered a few choices like pizza and wraps. The Seaview cafe located in the very rear but up on deck 12 was only opened between 2-6pm and then late night but they offered different items also. The onion rings around midnight are great!
DINNER- We choose the early or main seating which is at 6:15. Dinner was in the Cascades dining room which was very nice. All our dinners were of very good quality and the only complaint was a steak that was done too well Desserts were mostly to die for. Need I say more? The wife and I brought wine five days to the table. The first day my waiter notified me of the corkage fee which I told him I was familiar with. But I was ready for him. I had a 20 in an envelope addressed to him. When I gave it to him he said, whats this for? and I explained that it was just an advance for his great service. Not only did he not charge me for any corkage, but on the last night we ordered two glasses of wine and he did not punch my card. I also ordered cappuccino every night which is on the pay side of the dessert menu, but once again he did not charge me. I ended up saving some and he with a much bigger tip. One note on coffee, its free only at the Windjammer and at dinner anywhere else you have to pay for it?
SERVICE- Oh yes, service was great. Waiter-Sahin Asst.-Leigh. Room attendant did a great job also. Actually all around the ship everyone was friendly and helpful.
ENTERTAINMENT-A little disappointing, 2 comedians (Roger Behr was very good) a juggler, the ships entertainers-ok- and the best show was the Gaucho, don't miss it. Also the usual parties on deck etc.
GENERAL NOTES-Solarium pool area is beautiful, adults only. -Main pool a little small on sea days maybe thats why they only have one sea day. -Fitness center is great. -Running track on top deck kind of a pain, joggers running into and around people walking and sunning. -Kids area, nice, big, but what I seen not too many people using it. -Night life, nice clubs, Schooners, the Colony a disco, and a few others don't remember the names, like I said in the beginning explore the whole ship.
SPECIALTY REST.-Chops and Portafinos. We did not use them but others in our group did and said they were nice. Overall we gave the ship a five out of five star rating. Would definitely do RCI again. The only negati
There were 2 of us on this cruise: my girlfriend and I. She has sailed on RCCL once before, and I have sailed on RCCL 3 times before, on the Legend, for the Panama Canal cruise in 1999, on the Rhapsody, for the Hawaii cruise in 2000, and on the Vision for the Circle the Caribbean cruise in 2001. We've always found our cruises with RCCL very enjoyable, despite occasional glitches; and this cruise was very enjoyable, with only a couple of glitches.
This was the first cruise we've ever taken where we didn't need air transportation! This cruise began in Seattle, and since we live in Portland, Oregon, we were able to drive to the pier in about 3 hours. We parked in the Bell Street Parking Garage at the corner of Wall Street and Alaskan Way. (And as an investment advisor, I enjoyed parking on Wall Street!) This parking garage offers secure, covered parking for $12 per day. You can check your bags right there in the garage, and then walk across the sky-bridge to the check-in lobby.
EMBARKATION / DEBARKATION:
Driving along Alaskan Way, on our way to theparking garage, we were gawking at this immense white beauty that would be our home for the next 4 days. After parking the car in the parking garage, we walked into the check-in lobby, and stepped in line. We arrived at the pier at about 11:00am in the hopes of boarding the ship around 11:30am, and we succeeded! Officially, boarding begins at 2:00pm, but I've always been aboard ship long before that. I would recommend arriving at the pier around 11:00am - you'll probably be aboard long before 2pm also. We filled out our boarding forms online at RCCL's website, and when we checked in, our information was already in the computer. Check-in was a simple matter of signing a couple of forms, setting up our SuperCharge cards, and waiting about 15 minutes to board the ship.
With heightened security levels, RCCL is now photographing every passenger prior to initial embarkation, recording your photograph in the ship's database, so that when your SuperCharge card is presented to the ship's security officers upon subsequent boardings of the ship, they can check you against your photograph. They really have this process down to a science, and it doesn't slow boarding and re-boarding the ship at all. Embarkation went as smoothly as any we've ever experienced, and we were aboard Radiance at 11:45am!
Debarkation was absolutely the fastest we've ever experienced! I mean, we walked out of our cabin, rode the elevator down to deck 4, and walked directly off the ship. The staff made an announcement that any passengers not having airline flights could just walk right off the ship without any further delay. We were out of our cabin around 7:50am, and were in our car about 7:55am. Another advantage to not having to fly to the pier, I suppose!
And I thought the Vision-class ships were big......... You know, the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever constructed. Each of them displaces over 90,000 tons of water. And this lovely lady, the Radiance of the Seas, carries the same displacement ever more gracefully. She's big, she's beautiful, and she was ours for four days! RCCL seems to be really perfecting its ship's designs. And as big as the Radiance-class ships are, it's in the little things that RCCL is achieving this perfection. From the wonderful carpeting and handsome wood paneling in the hallways, to the soothing sounds and tropical rainforest feel in the Solarium, to the refined luxury of the Colony Club, RCCL has reached the pinnacle of cruise ship appointments. A luxury liner at a bargain price.
The Radiance, along with the newer RCCL ships, features a multi-deck atrium amidships called the Centrum, rising from deck 4 all the way up to deck 10. Featured above the Centrum is a circular sculpture, with radial spokes emanating from its center, illuminated during the day with daylight, and at night with multi-colored spotlights. And it's in these subtle touches, the multi-colored spotlight accents, the pinpoint lasers, that RCCL is really beginning to achieve the aforementioned perfection. A minor annoyance to note is that the 6 elevators in the Centrum seem to operate significantly slower than on the Vision-class ships. On our day in Victoria, with everyone off the ship, we still waited several minutes to catch an elevator car. The Solarium is a rainforest/jungle environment, complete with tranquil auditory effects, and just the right amount of humidity. You really feel as though you're in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest! The Solarium features a saltwater pool, 1 ho! t tub, and 2 overhead shower booths. Inside the shower booths, the showerhead is mounted on the ceiling, and the water falls upon you like rain. The Solarium also offers a snack stand, and a full bar. We dined in the Cascades Dining Room, encompassing 2 decks in height, and it is a pleasure to behold. The furniture is upholstered in subdued blues, creams, and yellows. The chairs are comfortable, and have armrests. In addition to an opulent staircase near the front of the dining room is a cascading waterfall that draws your eyes in for visual sips throughout dinner. Up on the pool deck you will find a respectably large saltwater pool with several water jets shooting into it. There are 2 hot tubs located at a rear corner of the pool, and despite the cooler weather on our cruise, they were usually full of passengers. It seems passenger liners strive always to keep food and alcohol never more than 30 seconds away, and as such, the pool area offers not 1, but 2 watering holes!
On this cruise, there weren't any poolside activities, such as horse races and belly-flop contests, but given our weather conditions, that was to be expected. We did, however, enjoy the sail away party there on our first evening. We especially enjoyed a young lady way up there on very tall stilts, wandering through the revelers. And stay tuned for more about her..........! The Radiance offers Internet access up on deck 5, and also in the Seattle's Best Coffee shop, at the rate of 50 cents per minute, charged to your SuperCharge card. Utilizing this service is quite easy, and the Internet service provides access to web-based e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo; and you should establish one of these accounts prior to your cruise, otherwise it will cost you 50 cents per minute to do it from the ship! The ship's stabilization was absolutely first-rate! Although, we were sailing on inland waters, which may account for our smooth-as-glass sailing. If you're seasick on cruises,! I recommend that you bring something just in case. The purser's desk offers complimentary Bonine, if you forget yours. The Aurora Theatre, where the evening's entertainment is held is beautiful. It is on 3 levels, with the main seating area, and a 2-level balcony. The seats were a bit wider than on the Vision-class ships, and had drink holders. I know I've used the word beautiful frequently in this paragraph to describe the Radiance, but I can think of no better adjective with which to describe her.
Seemly everyone's point of contention with RCCL. That and shower stall size! Well our food was generally good. I'm not particularly hard to please - and hey, someone else was doing the cooking! So I was generally satisfied. But not completely. Having read about 2 years ago on RCCL's website that they intended to improve the quality of their food, I was expecting some improvement over their previous offerings. And I was a bit disappointed that the food has not recognizably improved. This was my least favorite cruise with respect to the food in the dining room. The food is still generally good - but only just good. I was looking forward to enjoying the improvements. A noticeable menu change seems to have been implemented since our last cruise, that being the elimination of the pasta dishes one could order prior to the main entree. As a person who truly loves pasta dishes, I was very dismayed to discover this. The chilled soups, and especially the deserts were very good, and al! ways the highlight of my dining experience each evening. The Windjammer offers buffet-style dining. The food is cafeteria quality, but filling, as you can eat as much as you like, without waiting for a server. And on the Radiance, the Windjammer Cafe has been redesigned such that the food stations are now separated, enabling you to select the items you want, without having to wait in line. Additionally the Radiance offers a wonderful little cafe called the Seaview Cafe up on deck 12, offering burgers, fries, onion rings, chips and guacamole, and also beer and wine. So, food... While the be all and end all to some cruisers, it's not of paramount importance to me. Still, RCCL must make improvements in this area, or continue to suffer the slings and arrows of disappointed passengers.
Well, let me tell ya....! We citizens of the United States have things pretty good, all things considered. And considering that exchange rates with the Canadian Dollar are in our favor, the shopping is just about spectacular. Anything and everything is available at a substantial discount, and many of our fellow passengers really stocked up. And the ship's stores offered very good duty-free prices on just about their entire inventory. If I were a shopaholic, I may have O.D.'d on this cruise! Liquor prices were very reasonable in most cases, with a litre of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum on sale for $8.95, and 3 litres of Bacardi Rum for $29.95. With the State of Oregon's sky-high liquor prices, I considered relieving the ship of its entire stock, until Patti reminded me that we had no way of transporting it all home. Oh well - next cruise!
We occupied cabin 9611, a category 'M' inside cabin up on deck 9, within short walking distance to the Centrum. The cabin was adequately sized, with enough closet space for both of us. The bathroom was a little cramped, but was the standard size for RCCL's ships. The shower, again, was a little cramped too, but with some adjustments, it worked out fine. Apparently with larger ships doesn't come larger inside cabins and larger bathrooms........ And while we were generally satisfied with our cabin size, we were not at all satisfied with our cabin's quietness. When you can hear a conversation in the next cabin about as clearly as one in your own cabin, you know something's amiss. You know, there's nothing quite like having your sleep punctuated with conversation, doors slamming, and toilets flushing. I've sailed aboard 4 different RCCL ships and slept in 4 different cabins, and must say that this cabin was the least soundproof of any that I've occupied. Next time I sail aboard ! the Radiance I'm bringing earplugs.
The service on the Radiance was very good. Our cabin steward, Ida, from Bali, Indonesia, was outstanding! He and his assistant kept our cabin ship-shape despite our unintentional efforts to the contrary. Our requests were promptly attended to, and he kept us entertained with fun towel animals lounging on the bed or swinging through the cabin. He always greeted us with a smile and uplifting demeanor - and we tipped him handsomely. The same cannot be said for our dining room waiter, however. While his service to our table was adequate, his service to myself in particular was sub par. If I weren't thrilled with the menu choices, his attitude was that there was something wrong with me rather than with the choices. He actually insulted me one evening, asking how I managed to survive, not being pleased with that evening's entree. I've never before filled out a comment card on a cruise, but felt compelled to relate his attitude toward me to management on one. I sincerely hope that ! I must never fill out another negative service report! Beyond that, we were well cared for on this cruise; our cabin kept immaculate, our drinks well prepared and tasty, our pleasure well seen to.
Since this was a 4-night cruise in the beautiful - and cool - Pacific Northwest, outdoor poolside activities were understandably limited. We had the sail away party up on the pool deck our first evening, but that was the only poolside activity offered on our cruise. However, as this was a cruise aboard a new Radiance-class ship, there were other outdoor activities offered. What activities, you ask? Well, how about rock climbing? When's the last time you climbed a 33-foot-high rock in the middle of the ocean? Or played golf - or basketball? The Radiance offers all of these and more. In fact, there were almost too many outdoor activities to take advantage of on a 4-night cruise.........! The ship also provides a kid's play area a deck below the rock-climbing wall, where youngsters can slide down a spiraling waterslide, and splash around in their very own pool. For adults wanting time away from the youngsters, this is a brilliant design feature. Of course, indoors, there were t! he requisite activities: napkin folding, bingo, the Quest game, the 50's - 60's sock hop, art auction, bingo, karaoke, and of course the way-too-much-fun 70's Disco Dance Party up in the Viking Lounge! Somehow during the dance party I made it into the ship's cruise video (not so sure if that's a good thing or not.......!). The 70's Dance Party featured the 'Brady Bunch' and the 'Jackson Five', performing live for our pleasure! It's not every day I have the opportunity to dance with Janet Jackson!
Our cruise director was Gordon Whatman, who incidentally is leaving for an assignment aboard another RCCL ship. He seemed to be a good blend of enthusiasm and restraint. On previous cruises, we've encountered over exuberant cruise directors, bombarding us with too many ship-wide announcements and false enthusiasm. Gordon provided just the right balance of fun and enthusiasm. The commanding officer, Kent Ringborn was a competent captain - and surprised us all with his melodious singing at the Captain's Cocktail Gala. Outside of that, I never saw him mingle with the passengers. With the lone exception of our dining room waiter's attitude, we were very pleased with the service provided us.
There were about 1600 passengers on our cruise, out of a capacity of about 2400; mostly Americans, with a smattering of Canadians. The passengers hailed from many of the Western states and Canadian provinces. The ages of the passengers ranged from youngsters of about 5 years old, to many couples in their golden years. Incidentally, there were far more youngsters on this cruise than I've ever witnessed before. As this cruise took place the first week of October, weren't these kids supposed to be in school?! Whatever the case, I think the shorter cruises draw more youngsters than the longer cruises we've been on before. One day in the Solarium, we met a great couple from our home state of Oregon. And on a Pacific Northwest cruise, imagine that........! That's one of the wonderful things about cruising - in addition to everything else, one often makes new lifelong friends!
The entertainment was a mix of Broadway, Las Vegas, and solo performers. We had the Wave Revue Dancers a couple of nights, a comedian, a juggling act, and a solo singer. Our singer, Hal Frazier sang Motown favorites and some lovely ballads. He also had a keen sense of humor that we all enjoyed. One night we had the team of jugglers, 'On The Edge', performing acrobatic juggling with a good dose of comedy. In one of their routines, they brought up on stage from the audience a little boy, and had him throw plastic bowling pins to one of the jugglers as he juggled them. In the following days, everyone aboard ship stopped to congratulate this youngster, and he really seemed to enjoy his newfound celebrity. I also enjoyed the Wave Revue Dancers, as the ladies were very attractive and great dancers! One item worthy of special note was the antics in the Aurora theatre before the show of the young lady who first entertained us up on stilts at the sail away pool party. Remember her? A! t day two's show, we had arrived at theatre 30 minutes early, and were chatting away, when all of the sudden some apparently drunk woman in a long pink dress climbs up on the back of a row of seats, and carrying a metal folding chair, begins to make her way down toward the stage, climbing up and over the passengers in her way! Most us sat there in stunned amazement at this woman's brazenly drunken antics, wondering when security personnel would arrive and remove her. A few moments later, costumed in Keystone Kops attire, a man, now obviously part of pre-show diversion, arrived in the theatre, trying in vain to shoo her away! It was hilariously entertaining, and kept us happily occupied before the show began. The remaining evenings found this marvelous character and her high jinks tickling our funny bones! This bit of pre-show diversion is a brilliant idea, and whoever conceived the idea has this scribe's wholehearted endorsement! Overall, the entertainment was very enjoyable! and I always looked forward to going to the show every night after dinner.
PORTS OF CALL / EXCURSIONS:
Vancouver, BC: I've visited this lovely city many times before, and as such, made arrangements to spend the day with our friends Paul and Lorraine, whom I'd met 2 years ago on our Hawaii cruise. We met them in the lobby of the hotel there at Canada Place, and coincidentally, almost literally stumbled into Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. Apparently we have royal timing............! As we walked outside, the Queen and Prince were emerging from the hotel just across the street. And the security perimeter allowed us far closer to her and him than would be the case here in the States. The Canadians were extremely delighted to see them, and we soaked up their excitement. Next we wandered about Stanley Park, then boarded a water taxi, and shopped and had lunch at Bridges on the island. We walked around a good bit, and were a little tired back aboard Radiance - but I managed to save a little energy for the 70's dance party later that evening!
Victoria, BC: We were planning to take the city bus ($1.50 CDN each way) to the Butchart Gardens, but we were pretty worn out from the previous day's walking tour, and the previous evening's dancing, so we decided to stay aboard the ship and relax in the solarium. You know, there's nothing quite like a nice warm hot tub to soothe a tired body!
This was a fun cruise - and yet it's my least favorite one so far. It isn't really that enjoyable at dinner being insulted by your waiter, coupled with less than stellar menu items. Also, this was a 4-night cruise, and we were constantly on the go, trying to see and do everything. The Radiance is a gargantuan ship, and you really cannot see and do everything on a short cruise. That said, any cruise is a good cruise in my book - and the plusses outweighed the minuses for us on this cruise. Our cabin steward was first-rate, 70's night was way too much fun, the Radiance is a beautiful ship, and it was wonderful seeing Paul and Lorraine again! In addition to all of the other remarkable qualities of cruising, one of the most pleasurable has to be making wonderful new life-long friends!
I hope this cruise review has been of benefit to you, as I know the reviews I've read here have provided me with valuable information. And please feel free to write with any questions, or if you're a fellow cruiser on this cruise, just to say 'hi'.