This was our second trip to Alaska, but we were especially interested in seeing the changes to Radiance since cruising on-board her in the Caribbean last April. Also of note, we travelled with a 7 month old baby for the first time (more on that later).
We flew into Vancouver a day early and stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel. With five family members and more bags than I can count, an airport limo was an economical and a fun way to start the trip. We stepped right into the car at the terminal entrance. The hotel was very nice with a convenience store just up the street if anything was forgotten. On cruise day, three adults took a 3 hour tour that started at the hotel and ended at the terminal with our luggage. The baby and I hung out at the hotel, then simply walked 15 minutes to the terminal. Embarkation was smooth. Long line, but nothing different from other trips.
The ship was amazing. The updates added to the beauty and functionality of the vessel. The improved food service at the Solarium offered a nice alternative to the Windjammer. We sampled the sushi and hot dog options, but didn't go to the other new places. Our fellow passengers offered good reviews.
Food was standard RC fare. Some meals were better than others, but no problems finding something tasty. The passenger demographic was heavily Asian, and it felt like there were more Asian/Indian options in the Windjammer than normal. That made selecting what to eat even more fun. We ate one evening meal in the Windjammer enjoying excellent cooked-to-order salmon and chocolate covered strawberries. For other nights we did My Time dining. Great service as usual. Making reservations online from home was a good move. Some folks who waited until on-board could not get their desired seating. Walk up seating during peak hours was clearly seldom available.
The crew was very nice and worked to keep everyone happy. They quickly provided anything we asked for. Our cabin, 7066, had the view obstructed by the window cleaning platform. That was a downer, but having the adjoining room for the grandparents was a plus. When the attendant needed to clean one room, we just slipped over to the other and vice versa. Maria, our attendant, did a good job.
This was our first Diamond level trip. The new lounge was incredible. Amazing views with comfort and great service. The Diamond Lounge is now a selling point for us on future cruise choices.
Ports were great even with marginal weather. Whale watching in Icy Straight via RC (bad weather, otherwise boat and crew great). Whale watching in Juneau with Orca Enterprises (highly recommended, crew and boat great, lots of whales). Flight seeing in Ketchikan with Island Wings (breathtaking, words can't describe). Hubbard Glacier was fabulous. My main comment on ports is that debarkation became more difficult later in the day. There were long lines at security mainly due to passengers not removing cell phones and the like before going through the metal detectors. You could get off, but had to go against the flow of people coming on at both gangways. One day I wandered the ship trying to figure out how/where to get off until I ran into a crewman also leaving. Better signage or instructions would have been helpful, especially when rising tides forced a change of embark/debark deck.
There were problems with debarkation in Vancouver. A broken crane delayed luggage offload from half the ship. Bags were organized into debarkation groups as they could be collected instead of in sequence. We ultimately debarked over an hour late, but ahead of other numbers(lucky for us). The terminal was packed with passengers from two ships. The RC staff worked hard to shepherd folks through, but the Canadian Customs line was quite long. Once out of the terminal, we were whisked to the taxi pick up. Of note--no more than 3 folks per cab in Vancouver. The driver did take US currency. As we escaped early, there was no line at the airport. We splurged and used a porter. This expedited us further because he helped with shortcuts. Later arrivals reported the terminal became quite crowded. We made our 12:25 flight with an hour to spare, but might opt for a later time in the future just in case.
Comments about traveling with an infant-- I thought I was crazy doing it, but am sure glad I did. The crew was incredibly supportive of family needs. Most had little ones of their own at home, so they doted on our son. We made lots of messes and required a little more space at dinner, but they helped us out always with a smile. We didn't use the nursery services, but did take advantage of open play time. The new nursery is well designed and fun. There were lots of new toys to try. This was a great amenity for us. If you are considering traveling with a baby, it takes a lot of work and bags, but it can still be loads of fun.
Overall-Another great experience from Royal Caribbean.