We have taken several cruises on liners such as P&O's early ships (fairstar , fair pricess, pacific sky); Dawn Princess, Sun Princess, Sapphire Princess and Cunards Queen Victoria '09.
We thought we would step outside our comfort zone and try R.C.I Radiance of the seas. A lot of people have given her so many great reviews so we thought we would try it out and see what we were missing. I wished I had taken the negative views more seriously! It apears that the general public accept standard offerings as quality.
On first appearance from land she looks like a fantastic ship and she is. Upon embarkation the initial feel and layout of the ship is pretty good. Open wide outside spaces and a great glass atrium inside the main area. The glass lifts were great and something quite different to other liners. She handled the rough seas very well.
We travelled with our 11 month old (more on that later) and my parents. We both had superior balcony cabins. My parents booked a twin share and ours was a triple share. Upon entering our cabins for the first time we were shocked to see that our cabin had no space at all. We had to swap with my parents as their cabin had double the amount of floor space even after they booked a double and us a triple.
The main reason we took this cruise was because the Radiance advertised heavily that they accepted babys from 6 months and up. We needed a relaxing holiday and this seemed to be a perfect match for us. Only knowing what I know now I would never have gone on this cruise. For a cruise company to target market this age group (6 months +) they need to actually back it up with resources, and by resources I mean; 1. no baby baths-we had to give our 11 month old a shower every day and with the size showers on this ship it was virtually impossible. We asked for a baby bath they told us they didnt have these onboard by our cabin steward and guest relations desk. UNBELIEVEABLE.
2. This ship did not have 1 change table, not even in the baby nursery!!! wtf! Not even the female toilets had fold down baby change tables. How can you allow babys on board and not have these basics? We had to change her in discreet areas of the ship on the floor or on a seat. You could imagine some looks we received when doing this in public as there were over 2,500 people around.
3. There was nothing of any sort of baby food on this ship. We brought on a hand food processor and lucky we did beacuse they had no facilities whatsoever. The staff were helpful in heating milk etc but this was all very limited. We struggled every day to get a good result with both food quality and options.
4. Our baby was not allowed in the baby pool as she had a swimmer nappy on?! There would be more germs in the adult pool with the 70+ year olds on board.
On the first night we headed to the dining room with baby in tow. We booked a table for 4 and ended up on a table for 10! no surprises really. I had a chat with the Maitre de and he moved us to a table for 4. He lingered for a tip but i had nothing on me at the time. Bad luck champ! I thought I'd give them a few days before i started handing out cash, luckily I did because it was a comedy of errors. 2 months before boarding I paid for a chocolate cake for my wifes bday. It never arrived even after checking the table movements. They did however get me a cake because I did pay the $15 for one. This time Hans the assistant maitre de? (more on him later!) delivered the cake to our table sung happy bday and then stared me up and down for a tip, after i had paid for a cake i nearly didnt receive. the only drinks waiter had to cover the whole restaurant and it took him 20mins from ordering to get us our drinks. Service was out of control.
My wife and I alternated dinner sittings as to be with our baby in the room. We ordered food from the menu for each other but they would not take the food to the room for us. We both had to carry a tray of food through the packed restaurant each night as they told us it was not their responsibility. How bad is that for service. Princess cruises would not allow that to happen on their ships.
Radiance only has a 3 course meal whereas princess offer a 5 course every night. Salad,soup,entree,main,dessert. The benchmark in this industry.
After about a week of cold breads rolls with warm soup for entree, overcooked meats, dry fish and frozen thawed desserts we decided to give the dining room a miss. I was bitterly disappointed with the low quality of food. I asked Hans the assistant M'D about the quality of the food, especially the vegetables as they were so dried out and he told me the style they cook to now is "New Vogue" ?? what does that mean? I nearly fell off my chair with laughter. Most of the vegetables were inedible. jacket potatoes were hard as rocks
The buffet was our new place to eat. After two days of resembled foods i began to circle the buffet stations like a mouse in a cage. It also began to feel like I was in groundhog day. The offerings were dismal. Burgers, fries, curries, roast meat and salads. Nothing out of the ordinary and breakfast was even worse. The best food on the breakfast buffet was oatmeal, YES oatmeal!
One night I headed to the buffet to grab some dinner to take back to our room as our baby was unsettled and it became late. I arrived at Windjammers buffet at 8;45pm and they were closing the doors! I had to push through and grab whatever was left. I soon realised their buffet is only open from 6pm to 9pm each night. what a joke, most cruise liners, well the good ones are open 24hours. RCI you are a long way off the mark. You should give your guests the benefit and close the doors at 9;15pm maybe?
Our cabin steward was on another planet. We were lucky if our room was cleaned by 5 to 6pm each night if at all. Twice she forgot to give us towels, not good if you just get out of the shower and the old ones are gone also.
Captain Claus, over the top with information! Even the staff would joke about him and the duration he took to get across his point. One thing did annoy me was we had to divert our original itinerary as bad weather was forcasted. He did that quite well and cudos to you C.C but he came across the intercom and said
"ladies and gentlemen, my magnificent bridge team and I have succesfully avoided the storm, I hope you appreciate that" Well Captain, Im sorry to disappoint! but thats what you're paid to do correct!? When im in a plane I dont hear the pilot say i hope you appreciate me putting the wheels down!?
Reality check Claus.
We visited a few shows also and I was amazed that they actually stopped the shows for RCI commercial breaks flogging their own brand! NEWSFLASH RCI - WE'RE ALREADY ON THE SHIP!!
shows were ok, nothing to rave about. the Hypnotist was good though. Would go and see him again.
TIPPING - As this cruise sailed from Aus and back but was only here for a 6 month time she was under U.S currency regulations. We were to tip about $15 pp per day. Let me give you a tip, if you have booked a first or second dinner setting you dont have to tip up front but at the end of the cruise. They give you an envelope to put the cash in and to hand into on the last night. There is no way they can check this. I didnt give 1 dollar as the service i received was pathetic. I felt as though they owed me money.
In summary, I will never cruise with rci again as the quality is just not there compared to other cruise companies. Radiance is what everyone who has never been on a cruise fears in regards to bad food and being stuck on board. This has not diminished my love for cruising, it has just opened my eyes to not settling for lower standards as there is so much competition out there today.
If you are looking to go on a cruise I would avoid this company and look heavily into others. RCI, bigger is not always better. You have a lot to learn.
If i have saved one person from these guys then my job has been done.
See you on a princess ship very soon. Bon Voyage