I've sailed on Radiance before and it was glitzy and full of activities and fun.
This is so streamlined now, it is very impressive. There is an early bag check in. This time we dropped our bags off and got on at 11.30am. Before the cruise, we had downloaded all the luggage tags, and the set sail forms. We went on within 30 minutes. Being in the Crown and Anchor society meant we were fast tracked and it is well worth joining, once you have cruised, as you will not have to wait in long queues.
Your sea pass card now has a hole already punched in it and ready to go. Lovely lanyards are available in the shop or sometimes provided by your cruise booking company.
SUITCASES TO YOUR CABIN
These dont always arrive fast nor do they always arrived together with your partners case, despite being checked in together. The hubby had his bag, but I didnt have mine for hours. We had to go hunting for it and discovered it in with bags on the other side of the ship.
TIP= if you bring alcohol in your suitcase, it will be taken away from you and returned to you when you leave the ship. We took diet drinks because of my husbands diabetes. that wasn't a problem.
Food in the Windjammer was good although much of it was the same or repeated. I decided to eat cautiously from experience on other cruises (Eyes seems to be bigger then the stomach!!) So whatever was on the plate, I chose to eat only half. AND when I got home, I found I didnt put any weight on...
The new smoking policy is interesting. We smelt smoke in our room from someone smoking close by. Management were doing their best to fix the problem. But the smoking area on deck 11, right near the doors to the Windjammer is a problem. Smoke fills the corridor to the dining hall and lifts. Its not nice walking through smoke.
This cruise had over 700 kids on board. Mostly they were well behaved but due to the amount of kids, there were hardly any activities for adults. Some of the kids got into the games and completely mixed ALL the cards and scattered all the game pieces. That was disappointing.
PORTS OF CALL
We didnt do any of the tours this time. Instead, we got off at the ports and checked out the sights.
Our first stop was Newcastle. Free shuttle to town and back. Next was Airlie Beach, which was amazing. We paid $5 for a tender, each way. Airlie beach is AMAZING, although the ship could've advertised more of what was on offer in the region, aside from water activities, such as the Coffee Plantation and the Falls, The last port was Brisbane and the cost of the shuttle was steep. $12 each way.Because the ship is too deep to sail into the port, we had to dock way out and then pay the cost of getting a shuttle. I thought it was expensive.No mention, prior to the cruise, about the cost of the shuttles. Advance warning would have been good. The shuttles cost us an extra $80 for this cruise. We were disappointed that the ship didnt give info on things to see.(apart from the tours) We found the free water ferry, which provided an awesome view of Brisbane. We visited the Maritime Museum, the markets and the city centre.
The ship looked tired, Needing some maintenance.
The coffee is still disgusting. So we take our own coffee. But the lemon drink is yum and the iced water is refreshing.
Unfortunately a stomach bug was going around. We were fortunate enough to miss this but people were seeing the medical facilities. Many didnt use the antibacteria gel in the dining rooms so the spread of bugs was to be expected. On our last cruise on the Voyager of the seas, it was manditory to use the gel.
SHOPS ON BOARD
The Shops were a let down. Expensive and unappealing. I wish RCI would have more affordable things available. We saw watches for over $2000. Then at the other extreme $10 frenzy. The items were a bit tacky. But it made it fun and to see people going crazy over trinkets was funny. Many of the jewellery I have seen on past cruises was available but marked up.
We are platinum crown and anchor society members and received our voucher booklet in the stateroom. The majority of the booklet is useless if you dont gamble.
Park Cafe is awesome. An adults pool and a cafe open when the dining rooms arent. The meat pies are so good! I would recommend this area if you are looking for seclusion around a lovely tropical pool, complete with elephants and a large black cat lazing by the pool. The chirping birds and greenery amongst the greek pillars was refreshing.
Pool towels are no longer white with the RCI crest. They are blue and you no longer need to give your cabin number, which I thought was odd, as previously if you didnt return your towel, you were billed for it.
The cabin was great. 8008. From the ship plan, the balcony looked half sized, but it was actually bigger than most! We had and extra foot the whole width. We were able to see alot because our cabin was on the bit of the ship which poked out. It gave us a good view of everything. The metal side that curved around was great as it shielded the balcony from the strong winds and sun. We had privacy and the benefit of a larger balcony. I would definitely recommend this cabin. The inside is what you normally get with a stateroom, no surprises there. There were some maintenance things in the room which need attention and I got the feeling that RCI didnt really care to fix them. Switches at the desk were busted, panels falling out near the fridge, decor stuck up with glue which looked tacky and the shower head sprayed water all over the bathroom due to a seal which was obviously broken. I just ordered more bathmats and that helped soak up the water that was all over the floor. The bed was unbearable. Seriously, the mattresses need to be thrown out. We couldnt sleep because the mattresses were so bad. When we told the attendant, he said that there were no others. 9 days of backache and misery. They need to replace them.
Cabin 8008 is portside and at the front. We had rough seas on the way back to Sydney and being so high up and at the front, we did experience the motion more than lower decks. It is also further from the dining rooms, but close to Park cafe and the fitness centre.
We used room service for breakfast Filled out the menu and placed it on the door before 3am. The order was filled correctly most of the time and we enjoyed eating breakfast on the balcony. The balcony had a table and two chairs.
Room service ordering via the TV is something to keep an eye on. The system does not always work and you can be waiting hours for your order because they didnt get it! TIP = Make sure you get the message that they received the order on the tv and always call them to see if they received it. The order is generally quick. We had orders within 30 minutes, which was fast considering how far they had to walk to our room.
We did not use the internet as we had coverage for most of the trip via our mobiles. The internet is available at a station near guest services and wirelessly on the ship.
This was quick also. The night before, you will be given your disembarkment number, which will correlate with a time to be at your leaving area. Ours was #10 and this was 8.40am in the Aroura Theatre. You will need to pack your case and have it outside your cabin before 10.30pm.
There is time to have breakfast before heading off. We arrived at the theatre at 8.40 and were told to head out. From here you head to the terminal and pass through security to be checked off. Your suitcases are found in numbered rows. Ours was #10 and the bags were there when we left. This time there was no immigration to go through so we took our bags and were out of the terminal within 10 minutes.
An email wanting feedback was waiting in our inbox when we arrived home.
TIP= if you have anything you want to tell RCI, now is the time to do it. And they do read them all.
This was our 5th cruise and in previous reviews I said that Radiance was a better cruise ship, but now I am changing my views. It looked tired and in need of freshness, in comparison to Voyager of the Seas. Out of the two, the latter would be the one I would choose, just for the fact that there is so much more to see and do. I felt that this cruise on Radiance was lacking something. Im hoping this is not a feeling we get when we cruise frequently?