Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas voyage 24th September - October 12th Hawaii to Sydney via Tahiti and New Zealand 17 nights. Written by a retiree travelling with spouse. This is our 3rd cruise with RC and the second on the Radiance. As per my last review in January this year RC are still pushing above their weight compared to other cruise lines in the medium priced mass market cruising sector. When reading this review bear in mind everyone has a different perspective on standards and what is good and what is bad along with the fact that currently cruise lines are fighting to fill their ships offering massive discounted fares as we all continue along battling the pending financial collapse of the countries in Europe, which sadly affects us all no matter where we live in this connected world. Saying that, we must therefore reflect this review with that statement factored in upon reading of this.
Boarding the ship at 12 noon in the port of Honolulu was painless, quick and efficient, within 15 minutes we had signed the mandatory health declaration form and our luggage labelled and on the conveyor belt heading for the ships holds. We proceed through security and directed once onboard to the Windjammer for lunch as the cabins had been blocked off until 1pm. Lunch as always was a offering of everything we have now become accustomed to on any of the Royal Caribbean ships we have travelled on. RC truly does have a wonderful display of food at lunchtimes which from my 25 years of cruising I would class as some of the very best in this price class on any cruise line.
Staying with food the breakfasts too are again some of the very best on offer at sea with real back bacon and traditional English style sausages along with freshly cooked eggs of any description and style with all the supporting additions anyone would ever need to restart their digestions after the short fast.
Sadly the evening dinner menus have suffered due I suspect to the lower prices now being offered to fill these gigantic ships both old and new which now are becoming over capacitated in a market which as mentioned already is being tightly squeezed due to the worlds economy. Whilst it is apparent to a regular cruiser that standards of cuts offered and style of cooking has diminished from what was offered just 12 months ago, the standard is still superior to that of our last cruise aboard the P&O International ship Arcadia from Brisbane to Singapore. Yes I am disappointed that the RC evening dinner has been forced to reduce the quality and quantity whilst I am able to sympathise and understand the thinking and necessity of this move.
Chops speciality restaurant onboard however has not diminished anything from our last trip back in December, once gain it lived up to the high standards that was previously set, I applaud both the chefs, waiters and management for running such a high standard restaurant particularly at sea, amazing and such a delight to dine in with attentive yet unobtrusive service and everything any superior fine dining restaurant on land would be proud to achieve and all currently for an extra charge of $30 pp.
Our cabin on deck 8 amidships cabin 8582 was similar to our last on deck 9 with a balcony with the exception of a smaller settee. On the crossing from Tahiti to New Zealand the cabin did develop a squeak which when trying to sleep at night seemed louder and was troublesome without the use of earplugs. Take ear plugs. Many people were complaining of their cabins squeaking from deck 3 to deck 8, some were moved whilst others were not as no cabins in their paid grade were available as the ship was nearing a 100% cabin capacity. We never made the ship aware of our squeak as we put it down to the ships movement but when even moving slowly into Wellington the squeak remained. But ships do squeak occasionally at this is the first time we have encountered such a noisy squeak in a ship whilst trying to sleep. One of those things!
The cabin steward Raj was one of the best we have ever encountered in our 25 years of cruising; he did a remarkable job and was always helpful and extremely joyous and friendly. I guess one reason was that he was leaving at Sydney after doing a 32 week contract earning tips of $10 per day per cabin and servicing 17 a day he was making good money I suspect of $170 per day considering back home he tells me that working in a call centre the pay is from $50 to $100 per week. Plus of course his shipboard salary again which ranges from $50 to $100 per week depending on time served and rank achieved. Nevertheless he did a great job for us and looked after our needs in every way one would wish for on a cruise ship.
The cabins on Radiance are spacious and well fitted and the beds are comfy as are the pillows you may request a different pillow to your own needs, hard, soft or feather. Overall a great company that truly tries to satisfy it guests.
The entertainment on this crossing was some of the worst I have experienced with any cruise on any cruise line. I put this down to changing over from an American based cruise to an Australian one. Most people onboard, indeed everyone, I talked with were extremely disappointed with the standard and variety of the evening theatre entertainment with only 1 theatre company show the Piano Man from Hawaii to New Zealand. The cruise Director did not do a good job on this particular cruise and for one; I will not be taking any more relocation cruises if this is going to be the standard. The cruise entertainment is a large part of my reasoning behind cruising along with the dining experience. I hope that this is not now the new standard to go with the lowering of the food standard due to the prices now being charged by all the cruise lines. Entertainment, disappointing to put it mildly.
For more information of the Radiance of the Seas please see my previous posting. Enjoy cruising the best way to travel the world whilst taking a relaxing holiday in luxury. Royal Caribbean has luxury ships and great attentive staff who all try hard to please and live up to or exceed your expectations.
Expect some cabin creaking even in relatively calm waters in most cabins, as mentioned, take ear plugs to avoid being disturbed nightly.
Gratuities/Tipping: Always some contention when discussing with others depending upon your view however for newbie cruisers you may find this helpful. Royal Caribbean now issues you with the following guidelines at the following rates. Cabin steward normal cabin $5 per day per person so that's $10 per day for most couples and possibly $20 if there are 4 of you including children in your cabin. Suites with be charged at $7.50 pp per day or $15 per couple or $30 per day if 4 in a suite. Dining Room waiter $3-75 per night and the assistant waiter $2.15 per night plus they both share the 15% automatically added gratuity to your wine or alcohol served at the table. Head waiter is to receive $.75 cents from each and every passenger.
To help you determine if these amounts are acceptable to you as from my perspective these gratuities are now reaching a level which exceeds the worth of the service provided. Remembering a gratuity is for service provide exceptionally and not for a job done and should be given voluntarily and not be compulsory. You will note that all P&O Australia ships now sail with no gratuities payable or expected along with the Princess ships that call Australia home. Sadly RC do now apply this to their ships as they adopt a must do policy. Most of the above serve a current 8 month contract which equates to 242 days. Therefore taking our spend on wine which was on a package of the lowest price available.
Steward: Service 17 cabins. Minimum 242 days at $10 per cabin = $170 a day giving a take home tip tax free of $41,140 plus his salary from the ship which vary from $50 to say $75 a week.
Waiter: Serves 18-20 heads on 2 sittings giving him 36-40 heads per night at $3.75 per head = minimum say 18 persons = $67.50 per sitting = $135 per night x 242 nights = $32,670 plus 50% of the 15% wine gratuity taking ours as an example this amounting to ($79.80) = $39.90 divided by 16 nights the amount of nights wine served = $2.49 pn x 8 couples ordering wine out of 9-10 =$4,820 x 2 sittings = $9,641 + $32,679 gives a possible total tip at contract completion of $42,320 plus ships salary.
This example is just to give you an indication of why these waiters and stewards work these long contracts to help support their families back home where the local salaries are extremely low for similar work. Are cruise ships abiding by the fair pay for all policy when hiring their staff and if so why are the passengers paying so much more in tips by such an amount as shown here.