We have recently returned from a Northbound Inside Passage Cruise to Alaska on the Radiance Of The Seas. Here are a few short notes:
1. Itinerary - The Itinerary was great. We had plenty of time in each port to do and see all that we wanted. We independently book excursions on our own and did not use the cruise line. In Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau we rented a car for the day. In Hoonah, we booked a whale watching trip with hoonahwhalewatching.com and this was a highlight of our trip. The Hubbard Glacier was incredible! Having talked with passengers of other ships who went into Glacier Bay, Hubbard seems to be the superior choice. The captain rotated the ship several times so all were able to enjoy the majestic views.
2. Ship - The Radiance of the Seas is very poorly laid out and the retrofit last year wasn't adequately thought through.
1. Casino - To get to the theater you have to go through the casino. I'm sure the cruise line loves this but I wasn't keen on my young teens walking through the casino.
2. Restaurants - The new "specialty" restaurants seemed to be randomly placed through out the ship. Samba, the Brazilian steak house, is at the rear of the ship behind the basketball court. There is no way to get to it without going outside(into the Cold Alaska Rain). And to get to the nearest restroom requires going outside and walking around or through the basketball court. Forget about having clean hands to eat your meal with. To get to several of the other restaurants required going through the Windjammer.
3. Room - We had a room on the Starboard side of Deck 9 (9598). The room had a balcony, a large queen bed (two twins pushed together), a sofa bed, and a sofa bed. I found the room to be more spacious than I had first imagined. The bathroom was small but adequate. A privacy curtain in the hallway would have proved very beneficial. I know many have a concern about which side of the ship they're on for the Alaska cruises. This is really irrelevant and I would be content with either side of the ship.
4. Entertainment - The nightly shows were amateurish and embarrassing. Our local high school does better theatrical performances.
5. Technology - The only reason I bring this up is RC has been making a big deal about their new technology. It seems to be state-of-the-art for 2001! Yes, I could order room service from my TV, but then again, I can order pizza from my TV at home. The system was very slow, restarted itself halfway through orders, and had a very clumsy GUI. For a "brand new" system, it was very unimpressive.
6. Restaurants - As someone who enjoys good food, who pretends to know how to cook (watch a lots of food network), and loves trying new restaurants - I was looking forward to sampling the food RC had to offer. We booked the Chef's Table package which included dinner at the Chef's Table and 4 of the specialty restaurants for $120.00. Below are quick reviews:
1. Chef's Table - Best meal of the cruise. The Chef and Sommelier were both entertaining and the food was excellent.
2. Chops Grill - I ordered a Porterhouse medium rare which arrived at the table well-done. The steak itself was thin and had not been trimmed. The next steak arrived medium-well. It was thicker and trimmed properly. I decided to not send it back for a third go. We had a long talk with our waitress who admitted Chops on the Royal wasn't up to par with the other ships of the fleet. A dining companion at the Chef's table meal who is a travel agent told us the same thing.
3. Samba - Skip it! 9 cuts of inedible meats. The best thing I had all night was an appetizer from the salad bar. The restaurant is at the rear of the ship and you must go outside to get to it. There are no nearby restrooms. The meats were all greasy and overly salted (and yes I know the saltiness level at Brazilian steakhouses is high). When the server was carving the flank steak he managed to spray everyone at the table with grease from the meat (he did this 3 times). At the end of the meal the chef came to our table and during our discussion he told us he did not enjoy working on this ship. I found it interesting the number of employees who volunteered this info to us. All I ever asked was, "How do you like working on a cruise ship?" Innocent enough question.
4. Giovanni's - HUGE Portions. Felt somewhat embarrassed about the amount of food we left on the table. All items were served family style. I am diabetic so I cannot eat any pastas (makes Italian interesting). I ordered for an entree the grilled shrimp which were tasty but nothing special.
5. Izumi - I enjoyed Izumi and thought the food was good. However, the restaurant only had 3 filled tables and it took over 3 hours for our meal to be served to the four of us. We typically waited 30 minutes between courses.
6. Rita's - To get to Rita's (and Izumi) requires walking through the Windjammer. All of Rita's food is cooked on a grill located in the Windjammer itself. We did not eat there but everyone who did said the food was sub-par. The Chef at Chef's table stated he was responsible for Rita's being added to the fleets restaurant choices but he wouldn't recommend eat there. Yikes!
7. Main Dining Room - I only ate one dinner and one breakfast in the main dining room. The quality of the food was very mediocre.
8. Solarium - Typically ate a snack/meal from the Solarium each day and found it to be tasty and fresh.
9. Windjammer - Typical buffet food. All the meats were tough and overdone. Enjoyed the salad and cheese bar. There was very little variety and the food became boring rapidly. I would equate it to a typical buffet (Old Country, etc.) on shore.
10. Room Service - Saving Grace of the ship. Nothing like having a pot of hot coffee while sitting on the balcony watching the beauty of Alaska. My kids loved the room service Pizza!
Overall, I was extremely disappointed with the food quality of Royal Caribbean. Everyone I spoke with had bragged about how good the food was - I just don't see it. Service tended to be very pleasant and accommodating.
I would rate this cruise with 4 out of 10 stars. If it weren't for the Itinerary of seeing the inside passage, I could not recommend this cruise to anyone.