We chose this cruise from Vancouver to Honolulu to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary due to timing and embarkation port (we live in Vancouver). Embarkation was very quick. We arrived at the port by provate vehicle around 10:30 a.m. and were on the ship just after 11:00 a.m. It was our first time cruising with Royal Caribbean. We have cruised 5 times with HAL and once with NCL. We had a balcony cabin on the "hump" which was wonderful. The 5 sea days crossing the Pacific Ocean had some rollers, but neither my husband nor I were affected by them, but there were a few "dot people" observed around the ship. We purchased the Premium Beverage Package and it was a great deal for us. We tried a few different libations that we otherwise would probably not have ordered. The bartender in the Champagne Bar (Adam) was exceptional...we enjoyed his conversation and we had a real group of regulars who would come together at the bar for pre/post dinner cocktails.
We did not use the Casino so am unable to comment on it other than to say that the smoke kept us away from it. One thing that was a negative with RCL is that robes are not included with every stateroom. I believe if you are a regular cruiser with RCL then you get them for free, otherwise, if you want one, you have to buy it for $50 (approx.). Who wants to purchase a robe if it is going to take up room in your bag going home, not to mention the extra weight? As we were approaching Hilo after 5 days at sea, I got dressed and went out on the balcony just after 6:00 a.m. to watch us approaching land, only to see a fellow on the balcony one deck above me IN HIS UNDERWEAR! Really? Also, we would order coffee from room service to enjoy on our balcony, but would also have to get dressed before opening the stateroom door. On both HAL and NCL, the robes are included in every stateroom, as they should be in my opinion. The only other negative from our stateroom, was a noise that our toilet made for a couple of nights. It would be fine during the day, and then at night (12:00 - 2:00) it would make a horrendous noise. It took two nights for them to fix the problem, but they did.
The buffet in the Windjammer Café was not bad, HAL is better, in our opinion. The dining room was good for the most part, however, I did order a Caesar Salad with chicken that was under the entre section and it was pathetic...romaine hearts still with the stock attached, a small piece of breaded chicken and a drizzle of dressing. Is it too tough to cut up the lettuce and toss it with the dressing? We bought the Dining Package which included Chops Grille, Giovanni's, Izumi & Samba Grill. Chops Grille was excellent, and the only Specialty restaurant we would bother with again, should we cruise with RCL again. Giovanni's was not great...my husband had lamb chops of which 2 out of the 4 chops were so tough, he couldn't eat them. I was disappointed to hear the waiter after dinner, tell us that they serve lasagna on the menu for lunch, as that was what I would have preferred to order for my dinner. Izumi was just OK for us. My husband enjoyed the sashimi, but the "Hot Rock" where we had to cook 2 chicken kabobs and 2 beef kabobs on the rock wasn't great. We had to take the morsels off the skewer in order to make sure the chicken was cooked through. Samba Grill was way to much meat. They serve 9 different courses of meats but we had to quit after 6.
We loved playing pool on the self-leveling tables, and tried the mini golf once, when we located it. We tried 3 times before we finally found the course. The elevators show the course on deck 12, but it is actually on deck 13! We only did one excursion which I pre-booked from the RCL website. It was "Taste the Hawaiian Lifestyle" which was a progressive brunch while visiting 3 private residences. First we visited a coffee farm and cacao farm which also had Kona Natural Soap Company on a 5-acre property at the 1200 ft. level. The home was spectacular, and we had Kona coffee (with Kahlua/Bailey's if you wished), fresh Guava juice, Portuguese Sausage, Chocolate Espresso Bread, Banana Macadamia Nut Bread, and Taro Malasada (donut). We then walked down the driveway to the Soap Shop where we learned how they made the soaps and could make purchases if we wanted. The second property was also very nice where we enjoyed Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Iced Tea, Mango & Papaya Gazpacho, Kona Chips and White Pineapple Boats. The 3rd property was a Keauhou Bay Vacation Rental ($385 per night) where we enjoyed Chicken Macadamia Nut Stuffed in a Strawberry Papaya, Organic Greens with Fried Wonton & Pineapple with a Ginger Sesame Dressing, Ginger Sesame Marinated Shrimp, and a bottle of water. We also had dessert which was Lillikoi (Passion Fruit) Mousse, Hawaiian Bread Pudding & Coconut & Ginger Macaroons. This excursion was $159 each but was well worth the money. I highly recommend it.
As far as the overall service experienced on the ship, it was generally good. We think that RCL could be more informative regarding the Cruise Compass ( we couldn't find anything about the Evening Sail by the Volcano or what time it would be visible, which turned out to be around 11:45 p.m. and the people we spoke with the next day said that you really couldn't see anything unless you had a zoom lens/binoculars). We also were not kept up-to-date on world affairs (the hostage taking in the mall, etc.). On HAL, there would be a little "news" report outside your cabin door each morning, and an extra "Canadian" edition for the Canadians onboard. My only other complaint, would be that we were asked when we booked the cruise last January, which day we would like to celebrate our 35th anniversary. We had chosen the 18th, which was our last sea day, and it happened to be the last formal night. We made sure that we were eating in the dining room that evening so that we didn't get "lost" in a specialty restaurant or the buffet. Unfortunately, RCL dropped the ball on this one and our anniversary was not recognized at all. Disembarkation went smoothly as we elected to do the Express Walk off. We met at the Theatre at 7:15 a.m. and carried our own luggage off the ship. We would definitely do this again as we didn't have to have our luggage packed the night before and were off the ship quickly. I must say that Honolulu port wasn't easy to get a cab. There were many guests waiting for cabs and they would come approx. 2 at a time, and approx. 5 minutes apart. It started to rain as we were waiting, and there is no canopy to shield you from the rain or sun. The people in front of us happened to be staying at the same hotel (The Ilikai) as us and we were able to share a cab with them. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise on the Radiance of the Seas very much, but when comparing cruise lines, we did prefer Holland America over Royal Caribbean.