Background on us: Family of 4 traveling - 2 adults (30's) and 2 children (ages 1 and 4). This was my husband and my 5th cruise (previously one Renaissance, one Princess, 2 RCCL), my older child's 3rd cruise (previously one Princess, 1 RCCL) and my son's first cruise.
Pre-cruise, we stayed at the Omni San Diego (won on Priceline) and post cruise we spent one night at the Westin Grand in Vancouver (also won on Priceline). I was wa happy with both hotels, the concierge at the Westin really went above and beyond the call of duty for us.
Embarkation: Embarkation in San Diego was a breeze. A short cab ride from our hotel. We embarked at approximately 1:30 pm. There was no line or waiting at all. Simply perfect.
First Impression of Radiance of the Seas: We previously sailed on this ship in 2002, so I was anxious to see how she was aging. In sum, she's aging gracefully. Yes, there are slight signs of wear - scattered carpet stains, evidence of replaced carpet, More
etc. However, the decor and the ship in general is as beautiful as I remembered.
Our Cabin: We stayed in JS 1560 - what a gem - perfect location on the hump of the ship, sandwiched between the Royal Suite and an Owner's Suite. The JS's on Radiance class ships are huge - much larger than the mini-suite we had on Princess. We were looking for a cabin which would have enough room for the sofa to be pulled out for our 4 year old, with room left over for a crib for our one year old. We got that and more with this JS. Highly recommended in size and for the location. Our cabin steward was also very good. She was very friendly and remembered our children's names and repeatedly said hello to them throughout the cruise.
Dining: We had early seating for dinner at our own table for 4 with a very efficient waitstaff, not exceedingly friendly, but very conscientious of our situation (two young children). After the first day, along with a high chair and a booster, there were glasses of milk for the children and bowls of diced fruit waiting at the table for us, so the kids were quickly occupied. We were able to bypass some courses (generally my husband and I each ordered an appetizer or salad and entree instead of all three) because there was no one else at the table. We were usually finished with dessert before other tables had had their entrees cleared. That was fine by us because our youngest only has about an hour and 15 minutes worth of patience at dinner anyway. We ate dinner in the dining room 4 of 6 nights - one night we ate in port and we ate in the Windjammer on the second formal night simply because we didn't want to pack a second formal ensemble for each of us. Aside from one lunch in the Seaview Cafe, we ate all breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer. Food all over the ship was good - not spectacular and some things were better than others, but overall, except for the whole fruit which always seemed to be bruised, the quality was good.
Children's Club - our 4 year old was an Aquanaut. She loved every minute she spent in the kids' club and would have been there the entire cruise had we allowed it. There were only 60 children between the ages of 3 -17 on the entire ship, so she got lots of attention. Highlights of her time in Adventure Ocean included looking for Fuzz Buzz (the alien), the talent show and the Pirate Parade. She came back with her face painted more than once and created lots of fun art and science projects. I can't speak highly enough of her experience there.
Aquatots - our 1 year old participated in the Fisher Price Aquatots program on both sea days (it was held while we were in port on the other days) and he really enjoyed himself. Each day, the children (well, parents mostly) sang songs, the children listened to a story, colored a theme picture and played with Fisher Price toys. It was nice to meet parents of the under 3's as well (12 on board for this cruise)
Entertainment: The entertainment that I saw was typical of RCCL - a comedian and a production show (the other nights I was in with the kids). I also saw the Love and Marriage Game Show and The Quest - hilarious as always. I felt that the activities staff was not quite up to scratch, especially one woman who hosted karaoke and I think towel animal folding. Her small talk left much to be desired - all she could say was "awesome". "What song are you singing? .. . Awesome." "You did an awesome job", etc. It grated on my nerves.
Activities/Features of the Ship. This cruise was quite cold, so no one spent much time on deck. For example, we used the ball court before we departed San Diego and then never again. No chair hogs on this cruise. Aside from one or two brave souls in Victoria, no one swam in either the regular outdoor pool or the children's pool - it was just too cold and windy.
Guest Relations and other service staff: Guest Relations and the other service staff ran hot and cold with us. It seemed that very few people had any hard information and if you asked different people the same question you got different answers. For example, because for the majority of the cruise, the temperature never rose out of the 50's, we asked at Guest Relations whether there would be any family swim time in the Solarium. They kept responding, I don't know. Then they would place three phone calls and still not have an answer. Finally on the 4th phone call they would tell us, yes - family swim will be from 12 - 2 pm. We would then run into other parents and say - did you hear - the Solarium will be open for family swim from 12 - 2? They would say, really? We were told family swim was going to be from 3 - 5. That was frustrating. Finally the Family Swim times were posted in the Cruise Compass and that helped a lot for the families and for people who actually read their Compass (but not for the many adults who gave my fully potty trained 4 year old and myself looks of disdain - like why are you invading an Adults Only area (because it's 50 degrees outside, the kids CAN'T swim anywhere else, and management has set aside this time for families - that's why!) But, then Guest Relations would turn around and be really great. I had enquired into in cabin babysitting and the next day (when I was at Guest Relations for something else) the woman remembered me and followed up on my request without my even asking.
Disembarkation: The actual disembarkation process was smooth, but getting a taxi at the port? Holy Cow - I think the cab line ended up being over 3 hours. The entire city has approximately 435 cabs for a population of 1.5 million (and with three ships in port - 6,000 cruises on top of that). We eventually called our hotel (the Westin) and made arrangements with them directly. It was a nightmare. Vancouver overall was a beautiful city, I'm glad we spent an extra day there.
All in all a great cruise. I'm very happy we went. Less
Radiance of the Seas Cruises to British Columbia