Radiance of the Seas-Western Caribbean December 2006
Port of Embarkation: Ft. Lauderdale. Embarkation could not have gone better. We were dropped off at the pier and walked on the ship in less than 30 minutes. It was well organized by all of the RCI staff. We immediately headed to our room and were greeted by a bon voyage gift from some dear friends of ours. We then headed to check out our dining table in the Cascades dining room. We had a great spot next to the grand staircase, but quietly tucked away to where there was hardly any foot traffic by our table. We were in the first seating which I will prefer on every cruise from now on.
After that we headed to the Windjammer for lunch and enjoyed seeing all of the happy faces of those getting as excited as we were to be shortly heading out to sea. The buffet was ready and abundant.
We then took a quick tour around the ship and headed back to our room. Our luggage arrived well before the sail away party which gave us time to unpack and change into something comfortable for being on the top deck to watch us leave Ft. Lauderdale.
Our room was 9092 which is the first room on deck 9 right off of the elevators. It was a balcony stateroom and the balcony was extra large due to our location to the curvature of the elevators (see a deck plan to understand what I mean). We could have had a small party on our balcony. The room itself was quite comfortable and had an abundance of storage. We were pleasantly surprised.
The muster drill was next and went on schedule and didn't take long to complete and we were all then headed upstairs to watch us sail away on our way to Key West.
Second Day: Key West. The weather could not have been better. Low 80's and plenty of sun. We docked and my wife and I were walking the streets of Key West by 8:30AM after we filled ourselves in the Windjammer once again. We didn't plan any excursions in Key West so we walked and took some pictures and did a small amount of shopping before we headed back to the ship to enjoy the quiet of the pools and Solarium. Here is a tip, try to get back early to the ship when you do not have any excursions planned and enjoy the abundance of pool chairs and open seating in all of the eating venues. I also decided to take advantage of the open spots in the Spa's schedule onboard. The Radiance's spa is wonderful and well decorated to create quiet a relaxing spa experience onboard. The only negative was that the massage therapist left the shades up and the lights on high during the massage which didn't create the most tranquil of therapy rooms. The thermal suite in the day spa is a must. Lots of steam and aromatherapy rooms to sit and relax in before or after your treatment.
My wife and I then headed up on deck to watch us sail away from Key West and to listed to the live music which was great each and every time. We then headed back to our stateroom to get ready for our first formal night. Sergie from Russia and Karen from the Philippines were our wait staff in the Cascades. They were great and very attentive to what we liked. One of our table mates had a rare food allergy and they worked very hard to make sure she always had an alternative to try from the menu that was safe for her health condition. They went above and beyond.
The food in the Cascades was good and had a great selection and differing selection each and every night. Only one night was the food not necessarily that great and that was just because the over cooked my steak somewhat, but overall it was a great dining experience.
We then headed to the Aurora Theatre. Here is one area that we were really pleasantly surprised. I had read a lot of reviews where folks were really critical of the ships performers and headliners. We enjoyed and each and every show that the ship produced in the Aurora. It ranged from Comedy to music and dance to acrobatics to magic and they all were good performances. Take advantage of these shows when onboard is all I can say.
Day 3: Cozumel. Here is where things got interesting and at times quite humorous. The hurricane that went through Cozumel has left the pier area with only one place for ships to dock. There at least 7 other ships in port when were there so we had to anchor and tender in. The Cozumel tenders were, how should I say, going at their own leisurely pace which through most of the excursions off by an hour or more. It was not well organized and I am not blaming RCI for that. However that was just the beginning of the interesting journey on this day. My wife and I had paid for the Passion Island excursion. We were supposed to have at least 5 hours on the island. Well the tendering through us off by an hour so were now down to 4 hours max. Then our guide (Alex) on shore told us that RCI had sent him an additional 15 people who decided to take the same excursion at the last minute on the ship. Alex had made plans for 42 people and arranged a bus accordingly. He did not have any transportation planned for an additional 15 which meant that he had to somehow scrounge up some other forms of transportation for them and we all couldn't leave until that was done. It was hot and Alex was getting nervous and we were getting tired of waiting around for our bus and the additional taxis to show. Finally our bus got there and the taxis came and we all got in ready to go to Passion Island when one of our shipmates noticed Alex was about to leave his backpack with all of our information sitting out on the streets in Cozumel. Alex yelled at the driver and he stopped and allowed Alex to go back and grab it and it seemed we were finally on our way. If all were to go well from there on out, we would have about 3 hours on the island. But as we were finally pulling out, we heard a crunch and someone yelled, Hey we just pulled out and hit another taxi cab. After a little yelling and the police hearing both sides, we were now finally on our way. By this time, we are thinking, Let's just go back and get back on the ship and call it a day. But we ambled our way to the ferry boat which carried us over to the island. If you take this excursion in the future, do not get scared by the nasty color of the water in the lagoon that you cross going over to the island. A nasty brown color is the best way to describe it and we were all assured that the Caribbean blue waters would be waiting for us on the other side of the island once we got there. Alex was right. The water was blue and clear and the sand was soft and white and there were hammocks in between palm trees and plenty of lounge chairs that you could take down to the water's edge and live out your own Corona commercial. The food on the all-inclusive buffet was good and plenty of food and drink for everyone and the service was great once we got there. We spent all of about 2 ½ hours on the island and I do blame RCI for part of that since they changed the total number of people at the last minute if that is indeed what happened. Alex our guide did a good job of getting us all to laugh so we could relax and enjoy ourselves once we got there. I would probably recommend waiting to do this excursion for when more of the pier is repaired so more ships can dock. It did give us quite a story to tell our family and friends however.
I had another spa appointment scheduled onboard and we were extremely late getting back to the pier and we were on one of the last tenders which made me almost an hour late for the appointment. They were very accommodating and allowed me to get right in so I am giving the spa an A+ for their service.
Day 4: Grand Cayman. It was another beautiful sunny day. We woke up and hit our favorite spot for breakfast, the Windjammer, and went and got a tender ticket outside the Colony Club and waited for our number to get called. The tenders this day were RCI tenders and things went much more smoothly. We did not have any excursions planned so we went into town, shopped a little and headed to the beach. We got a tip from one of the gift store employees that, if you want a private and quiet beach, you should grab a cab and go to Governors Beach. The only catch is that it did not have any restroom facilities. But here is a little tip; The Westin Hotel is right next door and if you don't look too obvious you can go right in and use theirs. The water there was absolutely gorgeous and the sand was soft and it really was a quiet spot just to relax and take in some sun before we headed back to the pier.
We got on board early enough to hit the workout facilities and pools. Once again, if you get back a little early, you will plenty of pool chairs to choose from. We ate dinner again in the Cascades and everything was great. They had my wife's favorite drink, a diet coke with a lime, waiting for her every time we sat down. All of the staff was very friendly and smiled a lot.
Day 4: Montego Bay. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise out our balcony and we had a great view of the bay. We ordered room service today for breakfast and it was in our room promptly at 7:00AM which was when we ordered it to be so. We ate it on our balcony as we got excited about the day's plans. We were docked which made things quite easy. We never heard any announcement on this day explaining any procedures for disembarking which we wondered why after we got off of the ship. The location of our dock was a good ¼ miles from the actual ship terminal that all must exit through in order to get into town. We walked off of the ship and were met by 20 bus/taxis with eager men waiting to cart you to where you want to go. This would have been fine except we had planned our own excursion and had a driver scheduled to pick us up and the pier. We assumed that we would get off the ship at the pier where all drivers and transportation would be found. Luckily we got a guy who charged a dollar to drive us the short distance to the main terminal were we walked in and found our actual scheduled driver Perry! He was a hoot and educated us on Jamaica on the way to our day at this private resort/spa. You can tell by now that my wife and I love spas. This was our anniversary day and it was something special.
We got back on board around 2:30PM and headed in to get some rest before our last formal night. We had made reservations at one of Radiance's alternative dining spots, Portofinos. It was awesome. The service was spectacular and the food was great. It was quiet and well worth the additional $20.00 charge per person. I was not feeling up to the midnight buffet this night, but my wife went and took lots of pictures of this grand event. I was thrilled to learn that the Radiance still puts on these great events and, in fact, did 2 of them during our 6 night cruise. One was meant to be outside by the main pool, but they had to move it into the Windjammer due to high winds that night.
Day 6: A day at sea. The crew on the Radiance was great. They always had a lot of fun events going on to keep you busy if you wanted to be busy. I even found their announcements less intrusive than some have commented in the past about. I attended the cake decorating contest between our Captain and the Hotel Manager, Roger. It was quite entertaining and hilarious at times. Then there was the ice carving demo outside in deck 11 and then the infamous belly flop contest. The day was great and we had awesome weather for our last day at sea.
Our last dinner in the Cascades was topped off with the kitchen and wait staff doing a farewell production for all of us to see and hear. It was quite a treat. Then we headed to the last show in which the captain and most of the crew participated in another farewell production wishing all Happy Holidays and happy travels. It was all done quite well.
Day 7: Ft. Lauderdale. We arrived right on time and pulled quietly into port. Our bags had all been picked up the night before and we got up and headed to the Windjammer for one last breakfast and took some last minute pictures. We were off the ship and on our transfer bus by 9:30AM. It went quiet smooth as well.
Overall we loved the ship and the crew and we will definitely sail on the Radiance of the Seas again and on any other Royal Caribbean ship. I recommend it without any hesitation.