My husband & I are in our 40's & we had a great time on Radiance of the Seas cruising the Pacific.
We had a very quick & efficient check in having arrived early about 10.30am & were inside having a light lunch by 11.30am.
Our cabin was available when we went to check at about 1pm.
EMBARKING TIP: Arriving early will make for a quicker luggage check in & boarding, or arrive later in the day.
Complete the online embarking form for faster service at check in.
SEA PASS TIP: take a lanyard to hang your pass on or buy one at the ships shop for $5.50, makes it much easier than fumbling in your pocket for it.
You use the pass for all purchases on board.
PHOTO TIP: The onboard photographers will offer photo opportunities just before you board the ship, as well as many times throughout the cruise, if you don't want any pics then just politely so no thanks, but there is no obligation to buy, so we said yes now & again & selected a few of the best to buy.
Also many options on formal nights especially to have photos taken just before meal times in the centrum area.
The last day it gets very crowded in the photo gallery with people buying pics, try to do it earlier if possible.
We had a starboard balcony cabin on deck 8, not far from the forward elevators which we found well located, quiet & very pleasant with ample storage & excellent service from our room steward Sebastion.
The cabin TV was very useful for checking your account balance which we did every few days & also for watching the cruise director run through the days itinery & entertainment options each morning.
We also watched some of the movies on offer & tuned in each morning to see the bridge cam view & general info channel.
The shower water pressure was excellent & all plumbing worked as expected, the shower is fairly compact though, so very large people may find it a bit of a squeeze.
Plenty of room to store your toiletries on the 3 shelves in the vanity unit or on the shelf under the sink.
Towels replaced often & room cleaned twice a day.
Mini bar fridge in each room was useful to store our own snacks, contents of the mini bar are expensive, so we didn't indulge in those.
CABIN TIP: Use the provided card to ask your cabin steward to make up your room or to not disturb, it makes it much easier for them & gets your room made up faster.
Overall the ship was in great condition & is very well designed with all the glass windows offering fabulous sea views from most lounge & dining areas.
I enjoyed how the ship had different decorating themes throughout, something to suit all tastes.
The colony club was a quiet place most mornings.
Access the helipad via deck 5 for a great forward view or the back of the ship on deck 11 via Rita's Cantina for an aft view.
GENERAL TIP: Study the ship layout before boarding & do some research on this forum, it will help you settle in faster & not miss anything.
Ask the appropriate staff if you want to know something, they are very helpful, but the cabin steward won't know the answers to questions about currency exchange etc for example.
Overall I found the food of good quality & always plentiful, we ate at 4 of the speciality restaurants, Izumi, Chops Grille, Giovannis & Samba Grill, all were worth the small extra fee of $70 per person all up.
They offer these packages outside the Windjammer cafe the first few days, so we booked there.
We used the main dining room (8.30pm seating) for dinner the rest of the nights & the service was excellent. We found the portions to be of a nice not too large size for those with normal eating habits & there was always the option to order second servings of anything if you are someone that likes to upsize your portions.
We ate at the Windjammer cafe for breakfast & lunch most days & found the food to be plentiful & with a good variety. I don't really understand those who review the windjammer as having bad food, it's a buffet not al a carte dining.
WINDJAMMER TIP 1: the trick to buffet eating is to NOT have a bit of everything at every meal, this tends to make you bored with the food, instead choose to have a burger & fries for lunch one day, a salad with cold meat another day etc etc.
I learnt this many years ago at a Club Med & it really makes a difference to your experience if you have some control on what you eat.
I would do a quick zoom around what was on offer each day & then make a selection.
WINDJAMMER TIP:2 We would enter the windjammer & go get a drink straight away from the self serve drinks counters, take our drink to a table & place it there to reserve our space, that way we didn't have to search for seating with plates full of food. We never had a problem getting seating although it was crowded at times & sometimes you have to be open to sitting a table with strangers.
If you always want a table to yourself then choose room service, there are over 2000 guests on the ship, you will have to queue sometimes & you will have be flexible at times.
DINING TIP: You can ask to take your food to go, I did this with a desert I couldn't fit in from Chops Grille, no problem at all.
Also, we took fruit & snacks back to the cabin from the Windjammer at times as well.
DRINKS TIP: We bought a eight bottle water package & we used it mostly on port days, but you can also buy bottled water throughout the ship & they have it for sale as you leave the ship at each port, it was $4.55 per 1 litre bottle of Evian.
We drank the iced water during meals which was fine & had no problems.
The staff were excellent in providing what you need, I asked for a BBQ sauce one day & they send a waiter out to the pool deck BBQ to bring me back fresh made BBQ sauce, it was delicious.
There were a lot of children on board according to the cruise director, but we didn't see many of them to be honest, except in the main pool area.
The adults only solarium pool area was were we swam & it was child free except for the odd one passing through.
The Park cafe located in the solarium makes yummy roast beef rolls, late night pizza, pre made & select your own salads, plus lots of other snacks.
The main dining room has a great lunchtime salad bar, you don't have to order from the menu if you don't want to.
PORTS & SHORE EXCURSIONS
The excursions are expensive if booked on board, we did many of the same tours by hiring our own guide for half the price in most cases.
Here is a run down of what we did in each port:
Noumea - Hop on, hop off bus, $10 AUD, we got off at the aquarium which was nice, then back in town.
We found the best quality & nicest design in T-Shirts in Noumea by far.
Lifou- We did the walk up the hill to the church lookout, about a 10 minutes walk each way, with some moderatley steep steps for a small part of the walk.
Great views of the ship from here.
We then took the first left hand turn on the walk back to a snorkelling area, excellent snorkelling in fairly shallow water here.
SNORKELLING TIP: You can hire snorkelling equipment on most islands, but we recommend to take your own for health reasons & to save $15 - $20 each time.
I didn't use flippers but instead wore those strap on water proof sandles with the rubber soles, they have the great effect of keeping your feet afloat as you glide over the coral, this can save you from some nasty reef cuts & also save the coral from being stomped on.
We then walked back to the start & went the other direction to visit another little church (about 10 minute walk)& took a look at a cave being promoted by the locals for a $5 entry fee.
This cave is accessed via a very steep pathway with rough steps & a rope to hold which helps, most people of all ages were managing it OK.
The cave is small & contains a pool of water you can jump in, not overally exciting, the journey to get down to it was the best part I thought.
Champagne Bay - Nice beach, best snorkelling at far end, locals have shops selling the usual sarongs, shirts, and other tourist trinkets.
Luganville - Took local guide to see the cultural village which includes displays of traditional dancing, cooking, kava drink ceremony & the very interesting water music performed by the ladies of the tribe, worthwhile & cost $30 AUD each.
Locals have some market stalls set up at the docks.
Vila - Hired a local minbus for just the 2 of us for $80 AUD for about 3 hours, this gave us the freedom to stay as long as we wanted at each stop, but if you have more people in the bus you can share the cost.
We had him take us to the Cascades Waterfall- well worth doing, some walking across rapids etc, but not too hard for most people.
We then went to Hideaway Island resort ($10 entry fee includes boat ride across to island), did some snorkelling here which was good & they have floating pontoons you can swim out to & rest before snorkelling back, some nice deep drop offs here to see & a good variety of fish.
I was told Iriki Island resort had no fee, but check on this to be sure.
We then went back to town for duty free shopping & finally back to the markets just near the ship.
VILA TIP: the locals will stand outside the port fence waiting for you to enter, they can be intimidating if you are a shy person. So plan were you want to go by using the ships offered tours as a guide, then just start saying, 'best price to go here & here etc', they will start at about $150 but keep haggling until you get the best price you can, we had about 5 guys bidding for our business.
Once you make a decision they will accept it & move on to the next potential customer.
Just smile but be firm & polite & you will survive the experience & probably enjoy yourself as well!
DUTY FREE TIP: Vila has the best duty free, but we found the ships duty free alcohol cheaper but with a limited range, so make sure to compare prices.
Mystery Island - Walked around the whole Island, took about an hour, there is a walking track just inside the tree line.
Best snorkelling was across the island from where you land, but we found the current was very strong here, so went in down the beach & floated with the tide to our planned exit point.
Locals have some casual entertainment & shops set up. Well organised & not pushy.
Isle of Pines- very pretty & different looking island. Took the offered local tour to the beauty spots, local churches etc for $15 AUD, was worthwhile.
This island has a beach with very soft fine sand for swimming facing the anchored ship & good snorkelling across the opposite side, a few hundred metres away. You snorkel around the rocky outcrop & is fairly easy to go all the way around.
Locals have a few stores & food stands & there is also a beach bar.
We went back on the ship most days for lunch as we decided not to risk the local food offerings.
TENDER TIP: at many of the ports the ship drops anchor off shore & you board the ships tender to get to the island. We found at most tender ports they offered early bird tenders up to 9.15am with no tender ticket required, then some days you had to queue for tender tickets after this.
We never had a problem getting tenders to or from the islands, if you waited to mid morning though it would be busier, so if you don't like waiting then get up early.
The tenders run constantly & we had quite often done all we wanted on the island & caught a tender back around 1 - 2.30pm to get lunch with no problems waiting. This worked well as often if it was going to rain it did so in the afternoon.
CURRENCY TIP: They accepted Australian dollars at all ports we visited, we suggest you take it with you as the ships atm has a $6 fee & gives out US dollars, the ships exchange rates are not very good, so you lose if you convert to local currency.
I had reflexology at the day spa- expensive at $143 but it was very nice.
We also used the gym a few times & it was well equiped, but can get busy.
FINAL MOST IMPORTANT TIP: have a good time! Be patient with your fellow passengers & the crew, smile & say thank you. We found all crew to be very friendly & any problems quickly resolved by guest relations when we enquired.
You get out of it what you put in, a good attitude goes a long way, don't be one of those arrogant passengers that think they are more important than anyone else & you will have no problems.
Hope you find this review useful.