I just got back and wanted to write this all down while it was fresh in my mind.
We were on the Radiance the week of May 14th to 21st. This was my first time on Royal Caribbean and first time to Alaska. There were 4 seniors in my group of 7 people. We had 3 staterooms, one balcony and two inside on the 8th deck. 5 of us have cruised before and 2 were first time cruisers.
We wanted to do a round-trip out of Vancouver leaving on a weekend day, so that narrowed our choices. My Uncle wanted to go on the biggest and newest ship, so that made the decision easy and Radiance was our choice.
Embarkation - We were dropped of by friends at Ballantyne pier. You have to go through a security checkpoint, where you push the Help button and show your picture ID to the display before the gate opens.
The whole process went a lot faster than I thought it would. We arrived about 1:45 pm. There were a lot of people in the waiting area. There were coffee and cookies available too. We only waited about 30 minutes to go through Customs. By the time we got to our cabins, some of our luggage had already been delivered. We were eating in Windjammer by 3 pm.
Muster Drill - This was the fastest drill I've ever experienced. We went down early since I had seniors in our group. They were able to sit in a lounge till the drill started. We were done in less than 15 minutes.
Formal nights were on Sunday and Wednesday. I left our formal clothes with the room steward for dry cleaning/pressing on Saturday afternoon and we got it back on Sunday afternoon. It was well worth it. One night was Country/Western night. There were no other themes the other nights.
Windjammer - We had breakfast and lunch here everyday. The breakfast menu didn't change, it was pretty much the same everyday. There was some variation for lunch. The food was good. We had a large Asian Amway group and so there were a lot of Asian selections. I don't know if they did this for this week only or if they do this on a regular basis.
Dining Room - We had dinner here every night. Thursday night was lobster and prime rib night. The food was pretty good. They had a special entrEe each night. There was also an alternative menu with basic choices, like fish, chicken, pasta, vegetarian, etc. We liked everything we had. We also asked for a plate of white rice the first few nights and our waiter was very attentive and always remembered to bring it whether I asked for it or not.
Entertainment - On Saturday night, there was only one show and it was at 7:45 pm. We had early seating and we didn't get out in time to see the show. It was a comedian and they had his show on TV all week long.
There were two production shows and they were pretty good. The last two nights of the cruise, the late seating had their show early at 7:15 pm. Whereas the other nights, it was after dinner at 10:45 pm. The early seating had their show at 9 pm every night.
There was a movie shown in the Cinema every day. First show was at 11 am and it played every 3 hours with the last one at 11 pm.
There were two movies shown on TV everyday. We got CNN, TNT, ESPN, but none of the major network stations.
Ports - We got off at every port to walk around the shops.
In Juneau, we took the Glacier Express bus for $10 round-trip per person to Mendenhall Glacier. The bus is not a full size bus, so it doesn't hold as many people. There were people standing on the bus going in both directions. Boarding at the pier is kind of a free for all. Coming back, there was a line, so it was more orderly.
In Skagway, several of us did the train and that was very nice. The rest of our group took the shuttle for $1.50 each way to go shopping. It's within walking distance and not very far, but we had several slow moving seniors, so they opted to take the shuttle.
I found the prices at the Outlet store in Ketchikan to be the most reasonable. It was also our last port of call, so I was in panic mode to buy souvenirs. I'm glad I waited because I got the best prices for some of the boxed candy here and it was more in Juneau and Skagway.
Hubbard Glacier was fantastic. I'm glad I splurged for a balcony room. The balcony was big enough for all 7 of us. Some went up on deck for the BBQ and stayed up there. We had really great weather and visibility was very good. From what the crew was telling us, it was one of the best days they've ever had at Hubbard Glacier, so we were really fortunate.
I had been checking the weather forecast for the week of our cruise and it was suppose to rain everywhere we were going. But it only rained very lightly in Juneau and in Ketchikan. Overall, it was great weather.
Seasick? The only day that we had rough waters was the last day (Friday). In the morning, the waves were pretty bad and two people in my group got sick. The rest of the time, it was very calm and smooth sailing. Even though a few of us got sick, we made a miraculous recovery in time to have lunch.
Cybercabin (Internet access) - This was my biggest disappointment of the cruise. I brought my laptop with me expecting to be able to connect to my office and it was a total bust. I signed up for the in-cabin service only to find out later that the system was being upgraded and it would be down for 2-3 days. I was refunded the cost. They told me it might come up later in the week and to keep trying. I was never able to connect.
There was no internet manager or anyone other than Guest Relations to assist or give out any information on using the internet. On my previous cruises with Disney and Carnival, there was always an internet manager available to help guests on using the internet.
Using the internet cafe is 50 cents a minute. There were no signs about packaged plans where you can buy a block of time. Once you sign on, you have an option about these plans. You can do 50 cents a minute, or buy one hour for $25 (42 cents a minute), there is a plan for $35 and $50 and the cost per minute goes down with the higher plans.
They also had a Wi-Fi option. They were upgrading the old dial-up system to wireless and this might have become an option during the latter part of our cruise. I didn't get the pricing for this option.
I ended up taking my laptop to an internet cafe in Ketchikan. It was only $5 for one hour and it was high speed. I was able to check my work e-mail and get my online fix. It was well worth it. I found out later that this same internet cafe company has a location in Juneau. If you sign up for usage in Juneau and you don't use it up, you can use it in Ketchikan.
Probably for most people if this was the worse thing that happened on the cruise, then it wasn't anything to write home about. But for me, being the online freak that I am, it was very disappointing and I felt very anxious at not knowing what was happening at home and at work (being the control freak that I am). For some people, they need their high octane coffee no matter what. For me, it's being able to go online. Overall, it was a great trip and we all had a great time.
Disembarkation - We signed up to use the Onboard Airline Check-in service since we were returning to the US on the same day that we disembarked. It costs $15 per person for this service. You had to return the paperwork to Guest Relations by Tuesday at noon to take advantage of this. The one drawback is you have to report to the Colony Club at 7 am on the day you return to port. We got up very early, had breakfast in Windjammer and was in the Colony Club at 7. Nothing happened until almost 7:30 am. We had signed up for the Vancouver Highlights excursion for a 2-1/2 hour tour of the city and they drop you off at the airport. We had to meet in the Aurora Theater at 8:15 am. The Colony Club was full of people and I thought it would take forever to get our boarding passes. But because we were on the bus tour, we got to get in line first to get our boarding passes.
This was the fastest disembarkation process I’ve ever experienced. They were calling the first group at 7:30 am. And a new group was being called every 20 minutes.
Several members of our group are Vancouver residents, no plane to catch, no tours, etc. They were called at 8:15 am to disembark. I thought we would leave at 8:30 for our tour and they’d be waiting for a while and as it turned out, they got off before we did.
If you signed up for the Bus Transfer service and the Onboard airline check-in, once you get your boarding pass and pink card, you can immediately disembark and go to the bus.
We were on the bus tour, so we arrived at the airport later, around noon. There was some confusion and misinformation about where to go since we had the airline check-in on board the ship. I asked the information person at the airport where to go and he directed me to the wrong place. If you get to the airport on your own, you can immediately go to the Duty Free shop and that takes you to the US Customs and departure gate.
Overall, we had a wonderful cruise. I was happy with Royal Caribbean (not counting the internet fiasco). The service was excellent. The ship is lovely. Would I go on Royal Caribbean again? A definitely maybe. I really like having self laundry facilities, especially if it is a long cruise. And having reliable internet access is really important to me. But if you’re on vacation and you don’t want to do laundry or check e-mail, then you’ll have a great time with Royal Caribbean and on the Radiance.