This was my fourth time to Alaska and my Mom's fifth. We are fortunate that we live in Vancouver which makes taking a cruise to Alaska a nice easy option. This was both our second time sailing with Royal Caribbean. This first time was on the Serenade of the Seas so it is a little ironic to me that our second time is on the sister ship Radiance of the Seas. Warning: This could become a long review.
Embarkation: Upon arrival at Canada Place, around 11:15 am or so, we quickly traveled through security. It really was simple with a minimal line. Our next check point was US customs. Again, it was simple. The officer that took our passports didn't even speak with us. He just scanned our passports and handed them back to us and we were done. There was a holding room we had to wait in before we could check-in with the cruise line. No problem. Once it was our turn to move along, there were different lines depending on which Crown and Anchor level you were. The four of us all filed into the gold line and received our sea pass cards and were ready to board.
With Royal Caribbean, the cabins aren't ready for occupation as soon as you board. They became available about 1:30 or so. We all went for lunch until the rooms were ready. We had booked an inside cabin and our friends had a balcony; both located forward on the ship. I certainly liked our location. It was convenient to the forward elevators, theatre, spa and solarium.
Our Cabin: The inside cabin was well appointed with nice closet space, a 2-seater sofa and your typical small bathroom. Our cabin was not setup properly when we arrived so we had to make a note to speak with our room steward to have it changed before bedtime. The beds were okay. I've definitely slept on worse. However, they are starting to show they are used on a regular basis and could be replaced. I started poking around the drawers and we set the passcode on our safe (which had very sensitive keys). I noticed a few things missing that Princess (I'm used to sailing Princess) usually provides or I've come to expect when traveling. There were no toiletries in the washroom except for the one bar of soap. Usually you are provided body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Guess I should have brought some with me. I just figured they would have been supplied like they are on other lines. Also, there was no paper or pen available in the desk drawer. Sometimes you don't see your steward during the day and a way to communicate is by leaving them a nice note. I'll bring this with me next time.
We were what RCCL calls Consecutive Cruisers as we were staying on for the southbound trip as well. Fortunately when we booked, we were able to book the same cabin for the entire two weeks. It was nice not having to worry about moving our belongings to a new cabin. Our room was quiet the first week and only on the last day did we hear anything and the noise came from the crew area on the left of us. We figure it had something to do with the luggage preparation. The 2nd week had a little more noise from the neighbours on the right and from the hallway.
Dining: When booked, we booked ourselves with My Time dining. What this means is no assigned table or set time to when you eat. You can eat in any venue you like or make reservations in the dining room or specialty restaurants. As we were traveling with friends the first week, we made reservations in the dining room for 5:30 pm at the same table for the entire week except for the one night we went to Chops Grille.
Food is always subjective. I enjoyed all the meals I had in the main dining. I was a little disappointed in the dessert offerings but the ones I chose were delicious. The meal we had in Chops Grille was okay. I was expecting it to be a little better then it was though. We didn't visit it on the second week. We didn't try Giovanni's either. We enjoyed dinner in the Windjammer the second week. The Park Cafe was a nice option for a lighter fare. I especially liked the breakfast sandwich they had.
Activities: While I am not the type of person who would participate in onboard activities, they were enjoyable to watch. The holiday celebration they held for us on Canada Day as well as the US Independence Day celebration was really nice. We enjoyed participating in the nightly trivia held in the Quill and Compass and even won two. The disco night was well attended on both cruises and you could tell the Quest is a very popular event.
Entertainment: We attended all the shows in the theatre. I really enjoyed the production shows and thought the talent of the singers were some of the best I've seen. The act "Two Funny Guys", was just as they advertised. I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my face. The same happened with the comedian in the farewell show on the southbound trip. He was great too. The highlight for me was Bowzer... you know, from Sha-Na-Na and the Grease movie. His show was my highlight. I loved it.
Crew: We found the crew, overall, very nice. Our room steward wasn't the friendliest we've had but she kept our cabin clean which is important to us. We did see an improvement in her attitude the second week; she smiled and laughed, which was nice to see. Maybe she just needed time to warm up. Our dining room staff the first week (Jonathan, Marvin and Jay) were fantastic. It was nice having the attentive service. I thought the activities crew and cruise director Paul Rutter were great. CD Paul was so well spoken and he's the best host we've seen for the Love and Marriage game show.
Itinerary: The ports were the same going north and coming south. We went to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier and the turn around port was Seward. Unfortunately we had grey skies pretty much the entire 14 days but it was nice just being away on vacation. The only port we had not been to before was Seward so we found something to do there.
Excursions: I did two excursions through the ship; one was in Icy Strait Point and the other was in Seward. The whale watching in Icy Strait Point was good. The boat was a nice size and the crew were good. The captain made sure that we saw puffins, eagles, sea otters and of course humpback whales. We stayed out a little longer then the tour was scheduled for but we had time to get back to the ship before final boarding. The tour we did in Seward was Kenai Fjords with Major Marine. Our guide, Pat, was fantastic and so attentive to everyone she had on the tour. You could tell she really enjoyed her job. It was a fantastic tour even though the weather wasn't. It started off by dropping us at the Sea Life Centre which we enjoyed and then we were taken back to the harbour to board the boat for the tour. We were served a nice buffet lunch. We saw lots of wildlife on this tour as well. In fact, we saw more whales on this tour then in Icy Strait Point, including a momma and her baby humpback. Really enjoyed this tour.
Disembarkation: Leaving the ship was probably the easiest disembarkation we have ever experienced. We were to meet in the Aurora Theatre at 9:50 am but port authority was quick in getting the luggage off and everyone was allowed to leave the ship when they were ready. We were off about 9:45 am or so. All we had to do was show our customs claim form to the ladies sitting at the booth. I guess they were making sure they were completed. Next we picked up our luggage and then headed to hand off our customs form to the Canadian Customs officers. Not a question was asked. We were sitting in a cab and on the way home at 10:05 am. Easiest disembarkation ever.
My only real complaint was the weather especially after arriving back to Vancouver to find out they had sun the entire two weeks we were away. However, RCCL has no control over the weather. It was a great cruise and I know we'll be back sailing Alaska soon.