Our family of five recently returned from cruising on Radiance to New Zealand, had a great time and hope this review is helpful to other cruisers.
We flew into Sydney the night before departure to avoid any flight cancellations/delays and stayed at Glenferrie Lodge in Kirribilli. As a larger group of travellers we found it was not easy to get accommodation without getting multiple rooms at considerable cost. Kirribilli accommodation was recommended on the boards here at cruise critic and Glenferrie was easy to find and came with high recommendations. It did not disappoint, booking over the phone was easy and the rooms were exactly as described, clean and comfortable. We prebooked Airport Shuttle North (at the recommendation of the staff at Glenferrie) for our airport transfers. They were there waiting for us on arrival, the driver was friendly, helpful and quickly delivered us to our accommodation
The next morning, after an all inclusive hot buffet breakfast, we walked a short 200m to the ferry wharf for the 5min ride to Circular Quay and the OPT where our ship was waiting. We were travelling with friends (another family group) and decided to drop our luggage and explore the harbour. Bags were quickly taken care of and when we returned about 2pm to board were greeted with friendly, helpful faces and embarkation was quick and simple. Late lunch in Windjammers (not overcrowded at this time) and then off to our cabin where our bags were waiting.
The ship's decor and facilities were well maintained and clean at all times. Windjammers buffet can get busy but we were always able to find a seat (sometimes all 9 of us together). The food there was always of a good quality and variety although it rarely changed from day to day so that at the end of the 13 days it was a little underwhelming. Cascades dining room was again very elegant and the food of a very high standard with a good selection to choose from and changed every day. Park cafe has a great selection of food for the small area it is in and the standard high. BBQ's on deck are fabulous, an aussie male's dream, the ribs are to die for. The Boardwalk hotdogs aren't bad, good for an afternoon snack.
We tried most of the paid for restaurants and found them all to be of a very high standard. Highly recommend Chops Grille, Giovanni's, Izumi and Samba Grill (9 courses of meat is a huge effort and the salads are really yummy). Rita's is more like takeaway than fine dining but was freshly made, tasted good and the most expensive thing on the menu was only $2.95
We also did Chef's Table and are so glad we did. Chef David presented each dish with good humour and an obvious love of his craft, it looked amazing and tasted better. The wines were varied in variety and country of origin and all were good. $95 sounds expensive but it is actually outstanding value for money.
We had a great night with good company.
At this point I will say that the staff are RCI's real assets. All staff that we encountered, cabin stewards, wait staff, bar staff, entertainment staff and officers all were friendly, helpful, fun and efficient. Nothing was too much to ask and we loved that they got our aussie sense of humour.
Entertainment was varied and 'entertaining', we enjoyed the shows, movie selection was good and theme nights were interesting, loved the staff participation in the 70's night as the "Willage People".
Some small negatives were that the coffee is really bad. we love our coffee and the stuff that is served up is not good. The main dining room and speciality restaurants coffee is a little better but not much. The coffee in Latte-tudes is disappointing to have to pay $4 plus, depending on what you order and $1 for an extra shot is a little rude.
Photo's on board are rediculously priced $25 each or $100 for up to 4 photos with a free presentation folder. The quality was good but not at that price, and we don't seem to get the better valued packages that they get in the US.
The free drinks in the buffet are very watered down, really weak iced tea and weak lemon squash with hardly any fizz. The paid for soda package at over $100 each for our 13 night cruise could only get us Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and sometimes, if we were lucky, Fanta. I know that other ships have soda fountains with dozens of flavour choices. Royal advertises the package with the special cup for Radiance in Aust but fail to tell you the limit of choice here.
These negatives are only small in the big scheme of things and only my personal opinion, we still had a great time and would definitely cruise with RCI again.
The ports were amazing and shuttles/tenders well organised, though RCI tends to only give info on their own shore tours. There are many just as well organised and better priced private tour companies on offer too. A little research before your cruise can get you a better deal and although the ships tours promise not to leave you behind if they are late, the private companies usually know the cruise scheduled departure times and get you back on time anyway. I guess it means taking a chance but we had no problems.
Most ports needing shuttles to town (Dunedin, Wellington) are provided by the ports at a cost of $10 return but Royal do not tell you this until you arrive at port.
Lastly the weather. We could not have had better. The Tasman sea between Aust and NZ was almost as flat as a pancake on both forward and return journeys. Each port day was sunny and warm, and the seas very smooth. Our one sailing day between Wellington and Tauranga was overcast and the sea a bit rough but that was the worst of our trip thankfully.
Can't wait for our next adventure. Enjoy