My boyfriend and I cruised for our first time ever on the Radiance of the Seas, had a wonderful time and loved the ship. Details below.
Embarkation: We stayed in Miami Beach for two days before the cruise, so on Sunday morning we took a shuttle (FloridaLimo) to Port Everglades, USD19 per person. The shuttle picked us up at 10:45, we had one more stop in a Miami downtown hotel, and from there took off to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at the port at 11:30. There was a long line to get on the ship, we had done online check-in through the RCI website, but everyone else had too, so I am not sure if it helped. We waited about 45 minutes in line (at least there were chairs), but after we got to the actual check-in counter it was about 5 minutes and we were on the ship. About the luggage, one of our suitcases was delivered around 5PM, the other I went to get on my own since at 8PM still hadn't been delivered, I found it right away by the guest relations area, the tag had fallen off.
The Ship: Radiance of the Seas: The ship is BEAUTIFUL. I had seen a lot of pictures online and still was breath taken, everything looks clean, nicely decorated, everywhere you look there is either a nice painting, or art, or a nice corner with sofas.. it feels comfy and pampering. It also has a lot of glass windows, which means beautiful views and lots of light. The main dining room, Cascades, is a beautiful two floor (4th and 5th), with an actual cascade by the staircase connecting the two floors. The atrium goes from the 4th floor to the 11th (maybe 12th?) very impressive, with beautiful glass elevators which look out either to the atrium or to the ocean! Speaking of elevators, sometimes they were hard to catch, it took a bit of time for them to arrive, but because our stateroom was in the front of the ship we would take the front elevators which were usually empty. The Aurora theatre is also two floors (5th and 6th), in the front of the ship, very nice. We at the front of the 4th floor never heard a thing. The pool area is very nice, with the pool bar, the pool (a bit too small) and two Jacuzzis. We only had trouble getting chairs on one day at sea, people just left a towel and a book and would go for ages. Close to it is the Windjammer Cafe, and to the other side the Solarium, which is decorated like a forest/safari, with a pool (small too) and a Jacuzzi. Next to the Solarium is the Spa. On the 12th floor there is the gym, with (numbers are estimate) about 10 treadmills, 6 elliptical trainers, 3 stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines, and in the middle (where they do the classes) there are mats, and steps. There is also a climbing wall, mini golf, a few bars, two specialty restaurants, a small basketball court for kids, running track, discotheque, video arcade, casino... We almost didn't feel the ship move, you would forget you are sailing, only on the 4th night when leaving Grand Cayman there were strong currents or winds and the ship rocked quite a bit! It was a little uncomfortable but nothing major. I think the average age of the ship must have been around 45-50... there were quite a few young couples like us (we are both 29), there was a majority I think of people around 50, and some older people too. There weren't many kids (at least I hardly saw them) which was great for us at this point.
The Stateroom: We originally booked an inside cabin on the 9th floor, but were upgraded to a Large Oceanview on the 4th floor, towards the front of the ship, 4518. Of course we don't have much to compare with when it comes to cruises, but we loved both the location and the stateroom. The 4th floor is where the centrum, guest relations, and dining room are, but because we were in the front (had kind of a long walk to get there, but that's OK) there was almost no noise. We would only hear when people were talking loudly in the corridor, but it didn't happen much. The room is a connecting room, but we never heard noise from there. The stateroom was beautiful, we were expecting a really small room so we were pleasantly surprised, the size was OK, I think 170 sq.ft, we were able to move without feeling restricted at all. There is a big bed (new bedding) which was really comfortable, two little side tables by it, a two person sofa with a small round table in front of it, and on the other side a desk with the TV on the side, a mini fridge, and a safe. There is enough storage room, the closet has a side for hanging and a side with about 5 shelves, and there are little cabinets on the sides of the desk and above the TV, and 6 drawers on the sides of the desk. The bathroom is small but we were comfortable enough, well lighted, with a nice mirror. The only thing we didn't like was the shower pressure, way too weak.
The Food: Windjammer Cafe: We loved the look and casual atmosphere of the Windjammer, and especially liked seating outside. We had breakfast there every day, and lunch every day except for the Sea Day, when the main dining room was open. We really enjoyed breakfast there, there were all kinds of breads, cereal, muffins, donuts, two omelet stations, fruit, pancakes, waffles, bacon, hash browns, sausages, cheeses, processed meats, etc. Lunch was buffet style, not as good as breakfast to me, you could find good things but other were just OK. They had pizza, burgers, hot dogs, a good salad station, sandwiches, meats, rice, potatoes, pasta. They had two dessert stations, which were sometimes not so good, sometimes really good. They had cakes, pies, cookies, fruit, etc, and two soft serve frozen yogurt machine. I especially liked a chocolate pie (I think one of the best ever, surprisingly). From 3-5 PM they had snacks which were a shorter version of lunch (usually less of the hot foods like the meats/rice/pasta, and I think they didn't have the pizza either but you could get it by the solarium and maybe the Seaview Cafe). Main Dining Room: For dinner we were seated in a table for four (second dining), with a couple from Texas who were on their honeymoon. They were very nice and we enjoyed our time with them, although I think for our next cruise I would prefer either a larger table where there are more people to interact with, or just the two of us. There where two formal nights, the first on night 2, the second on night 5. Dinner at the dining room was very good, the menu was relatively short (but changes daily), about 4 appetizers, a salad, 5-6 main entrees, 4 deserts, plus the standard entrees (which are the same every day). But you always had what to choose from, I never had one of the standard entrees since I was always tempted with the specials, and you know you won't have them any other day. Some of the best things I had (do not miss!): Appetizers: The Escargot and the Spinach Dip were the best. Entrees: The Shrimp ravioli was delicious, the Fisherman's Plate (lobster and shrimp) and the NY Steak were very enjoyable too. Desserts: Apple Pie a la mode, Strawberry Cheesecake, there is a dessert called "Dessert Sampler" with three items of which the chocolate fudgy cake is great and the other two are just OK. Also the Key Lime Pie is the best, and the Brownie Madness is very rich and yummy. Midnight Buffets: We had two buffets, one was the CariMex buffet, the other was the Gala buffet. In both the quality of the food was just not good enough, even the desserts, which I usually love, I didn't like and didn't eat more than 1 or 2 bites. Room Service: We only had it once (3rd night) since we fell asleep and woke up at 9PM, too late for dinner at the main dining room or Windjammer. They offer the standard entrees from the dining room I think. The food was not good, it just had no taste, even the chocolate cake was bad, nothing like the dinning room, or even the Windjammer, I was disappointed.
The Service: All through the ship the service was great, people are friendly, always helpful. Our stateroom attendant was Mike from Jamaica, he came by at least twice a day, always did a great job. In the evening besides tidying up he would leave us the Compass for the next day, chocolate on our pillows, and an animal made of towels. The first day we asked for extra pillows and for him to remove the drinks from the fridge so we could put other things if we wanted. Our waiter was Vic from Peru and his assistant John from India. Vic was so friendly, very professional but treated us almost like friends. John was quiet, and did a great job, I never had my water glass less than 3/4 full. The staff was very nice at the Windjammer cafe, bringing us drinks, cleaning around, filling up trays, and picking up plates, although sometimes they were slow at picking up the plates. Sometimes we would go for a snack in the afternoon when the cafe was almost empty, and all the tables by the window would be empty but have dirty plates on it. That's my only complaint.
The Ports: In general, getting on and off the ship was a breeze, we docked at Key West, Cozumel (they were expecting to tender but finally we docked) and at Montego Bay. We had to tender at Grand Cayman, but we weren't in a rush and got lucky because when we went to get off the ship at around 11:00 (they started tendering at 10:00) there was a long line that hadn't moved in a while (people were getting very anxious) but all of a sudden started moving, so within 3 minutes we were on the tender. Key West: We arrived there at 7:00 and walked around the port, it is very nice there, saw the ship in full from the outside for the 1st time, we were amazed. Then we walked on Whitehead st., saw the Court House (my boyfriend is a lawyer so he was interested), Hemingway's home, and the Southernmost point. We came back also by foot on Duval street, which had lots of shops and bars, we sat at "The Bull" bar which had an Elvis impersonator singing and dancing, and a "buy one get one free" offer on Margaritas. We boarded the ship around 1:00, departure was at 2:00, and we went up to the HeliPad and saw dolphins swimming by the sides of the ship, it was great! We never got to see them again at any other port though. Cozumel: We did the "Catamaran Sail, Snorkel & Beach Break", which was just OK. We sailed in a catamaran for a bit while he explained how to use the snorkel equipment etc, and then took us to the reef where we would snorkel for 45 minutes, which was actually really close to the ship. The snorkeling was fun to me because it was my first time but even though there were many fish, we didn't see anything too special. After that they took us in the catamaran to a beach about 15 minutes away, the ride was fun, but the beach was nothing special and there was nothing to do there. We had to stay there for one hour. Some people who bought the same package with lunch ate there, the food (burgers I think) didn't look so good and the place looked dirty. One nice perk to this excursion was that there was free drinks, soda, beer and margaritas, so some people did have a very good time, and on the ride back from the beach to the port there was some dancing on the Catamaran. Bottom line for us: USD58 pp seems too much for 45' of snorkeling in a not so special reef, and margaritas made of mainly juice and ice. We got to the port about an hour before we had to embark, so we took a cab downtown (USD6 each way) and looked around a bit, it was nice, just a few blocks. Grand Cayman: It was really hot there. We tendered right next to their commercial area, so we walked around a bit and took a shuttle to 7 Mile Beach (USD5 I think), which was beautiful, the most amazing water I have ever seen, and very cooling too. We stayed there for 2-3 hours and took the shuttle back, hang around downtown, shops, Margaritaville, etc, and went back to the ship at 3PM, didn't have to wait for the tender either since it was still early, no line. Montego Bay: Wow, crazy place. I didn't like it too much, my boyfriend did though. We went to downtown (shuttle, the ships docks far) and took a cab (license tourist guide) for a one hour tour, at USD30. He took us to the hill where you see the city from above, and drove us around the town. The driver was a young guy and seemed really nice actually, we asked him a lot of questions about Jamaica. Still, it was kind of scary to me in the beginning. We got off the cab at Doctors Cave beach (private, USD5 fee p.p) and stayed there for about 2 hours, the water was really nice, but the beach was relatively small for the amount of people who were in there. Then we walked around the shops on the Hip Strip and back to the ship after that. In general the ports were really nice, I personally didn't like the whole shopping influence you get on the ship, I would prefer a more "discover new places" approach, but I guess that's not what brings revenue. In any case, we did our thing, and only bought little souvenirs and some shirts.
Entertainment on Board: There were a lot of activities going around at all times, by the pool, in the bars, etc. I really liked the bartender demonstration on the last day, the karaoke was fun (Colony Club), and some bands were really good, especially the jazz (I think by the RoS orchestra) who played in the Hollywood Odyssey, and also the band Hott Sands that plays by the pool in the afternoons was really good. Other activities: bingo, dancing, dancing classes, movies, the list goes on forever. The shows at the Aurora Theatre were OK in general, nothing really stood out. We say the "City of Dreams" production, the dancers and singers were good, but in general it wasn't so good. The "Piano Man" was more enjoyable, still, could be better, especially considering that the dancers and singers have talent. We went to the "Love & Marriage" game, which we thought was nice for an afternoon by the pool, not an evening entertainment. And we also saw the last Farewell show which was a bit better. The CD was Gavin, we both didn't like him, he has no charisma and is just not funny. I hope we have better luck with the CD next time.
Debarkation: It was pretty easy, we took our two suitcases out the night before (by 11:00), and kept a carry on to put out clothes from the night before, pajamas, and necessities. We left the stateroom at 8:00 and went to the Windjammer for our last breakfast there. We had purple tags which were called closer to the end, so we waited until around 10:00, which was OK, it was nice to sit there for the last time, chat with some of the waiters, and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.