Our evening arrival in Anchorage was uneventful. We got a shuttle to a nearby hotel where I had made reservations. The following morning we were picked up by Alaskan Leopard Tours for a 4 hour tour to Seward where we were to board the Radiance. The tour was very enjoyable, on a 16 passenger bus that was half-full. We had wonderful views and stops. We stopped at a wildlife refuge for our first glimpse of Alaska's wildlife. It was most informative.
Embarkation was a breeze. Less than 15 minutes from start to finish. I will say that later in the day when we were headed into to the town of Seward, the lines were considerably longer. Once aboard, we had our first taste of the excellent service we would be receiving for the next 7 days. My friends' water bottle had leaked all over her pants and her backpack, leaving her and her valuables wet. We tried to use the hand dryers in the restroom as it was still too early to go to our stateroom. When they didn't work, a crew member quickly found out that they had all been turned off because it had been discovered that regular paper towels were much safer to avoid the spread of germs. Then she took us to our cabin steward and explained our predicament and he let us in our cabin to dry her off with the hair dryer. After a quick exploration of the ship, we went ashore for more exploring until shortly before we were to depart.
Almost all service was simply excellent, from our cabin steward Luis, to our waiter Marius, and his assistant Elizabeth. Even the staff at the Windjammer was very helpful, efficient, and pleasant. This was a welcome change from my experience aboard Adventure. Everyone greeted you when they passed you in the halls, and almost all were very gracious and friendly.
The ship itself gave me the overall feeling that it was in very good condition and well kept. It was a bit more difficult to navigate than Adventure, as far as getting from point A to point B. Also, the elevators were always crowded and it was especially difficult to get to decks 12 and 13. We used the stairs as much as we could. The public areas were well used and nicely decorated. Sometimes it felt a bit crowded, especially in the Centrum. The numerous bars were very well done, offered something for everyone, and were very comfortable. The views were wonderful from almost everywhere on the ship. As an avid coffee drinker, I was a bit disappointed that free coffee was only available on deck 11. Adventure had a small cafe on the 5th deck as well as on the 11th that made getting coffee much more easily accessible. Toward the end of the cruise I finally figured out that I could order room service and just order coffee and it only cost me a tip. Still-more coffee access would be nice. A pleasant discovery was the Seaview Cafe located on deck 12. It was only accessible from the outside, so wasn't really "discovered" by most cruisers until later in the week. It was an excellent place to stop in for a late lunch or snack. They had really good freshly grilled hamburgers and clam chowder in a bread bowl, as well as several other yummy selections.
I found the cabins to be virtually identical to Adventure. Ours was an ocean view on deck 4. The cabins were clean and nicely decorated with every square inch put to good use. The mattresses had been upgraded and were quite comfortable. There were no complaints at all regarding our cabin or bathroom.
The dining room food was excellent, as was the service. Our waiter, Marius, was very adept at making recommendations each evening and those who listened were usually glad they did. The food was always hot and well presented. The portions were reasonable, not mammoth, which was a good thing in my opinion. The food in the Windjammer was adequate. Sometimes I was a little concerned that certain selections didn't seem hot enough. There was something for everyone though, and if one selection didn't suit, you could always try something else. The omelets were wonderful if you were willing to stand in a short line.
I never used the pool, so can't comment on that other than to say the outside one wasn't used other than the hot-tubs. There always seemed to be several people using the Solarium pool. I did a lot of walking on deck and never could get all the way around the ship without stopping to view the incredible scenery. On my walks I noted that the basketball court was always in use, even when it was raining. The climbing wall was also a well used activity, although it had very limited hours. Yours truly managed to get to the top to ring the bell with a little help from the crew member holding my rope. He saved my life more than once!
There were numerous onboard activities. It was unfortunate that the ones offered on multiple days were always offered at the same time, which meant that for me, I wasn't able to try everything I would have liked. I was only able to stay awake for 2 shows but they were both good. I wasn't overly impressed with the ships singers and dancers, but the comedian was a riot. It was also unfortunate that the 11:00 pm comedian show conflicted with the midnight Gala Buffet viewing. It almost seemed like they were trying to encourage people not to go! The on board game shows were hysterical, especially the Quest.
I can't comment on the shore excursions sponsored by the ship as we did independent excursions based on the advice I had received on the Cruise Critic boards. In every case we were extremely pleased. We did a glacier helicopter landing in Juneau with Coastal, a whale watching trip also in Juneau with Capt. Larry, we did the White Pass railroad trip in Skagway, and the Misty Fiords floatplane trip with Michelle of Island Wings. I can't recommend these excursions enough. We did a lot of research on the boards and were able to do a lot in each port. We were able to get off the beaten path and largely avoid the tourist traps. We even knew ahead of time what shops we wanted to visit and where they were. My best advice is to use the boards and do your research ahead of time to find the shore activities that are best suited to you. I can't say enough about Alaska and it natural beauty. Suffice it to say that it was the most incredible vacation either of us has ever taken.
The entire trip was so wonderful that I almost hate to complain, but I did have one major complaint with my experience on the ship. The Guest Relations desk was definitely lacking, especially in comparison with the rest of the service aboard the ship. I needed some sort of service from them 4 times during the cruise. There was always a line-I noted this since our cabin was on deck 4 and we passed there numerous times each day. Two times I waited in line to simply hand in a required form! Surely there was a better way to handle that. I needed to ask a question 2 other times, and again, stood in a line 10-12 deep. On both occasions the person "helping" me was either unable or unwilling to answer my question. One question was in regard to the forms they leave in each cabin for you to comment on your cruise. You receive one form per cabin and the form states that if you have more than one family in a cabin that you can pick up an additional form at Guest Relations. Well, they said (after I waited in the eternal line) that they didn't have any and that I could come back later. I presume I would have waited in the eternal line again. (I didn't bother) They also seemed quite indifferent all 4 times it was necessary to use them. The other time I tried to get them to help was in regard to our departing luggage tags. We were Red 7 for an 11:30 flight which I felt would be cutting it close. Again, I was told it was no problem. It was. When we finally arrived at the airport we were sent to the far end of the airport to retrieve our luggage. It wasn't there yet. A RCL person gave us a lost luggage form to fill out "just in case in didn't come in time". It did come a while later, but by the time we filed through the endless check in and customs lines, we all but ran to our plane and boarded without a moment to spare. It was a very unnerving ending to an otherwise excellent cruise.