My wife and I recently went on Radiance, her 9th cruise with RCCL and my 4th. Before this ship, we were always pleased with RCCL's level of service, the quality of their food, and the itineraries.
We were sorely disappointed on this cruise. If this had been our first cruise with RCCL, believe me when I say that we would not be repeat customers.
Some things that went wrong:
1) Itinerary was changed at check-in - our books for excursions, sent in late July/August for the October cruise, still listed Maui as our first, and two-day, stop. Upon check-in, we learned that our itinerary was changed to be reversed because of a fishing tournament. This tournament, as reported by the local Maui newspapers, had been scheduled for over a year, which means that any competent staffers with RCCL should have known for a year. This change messed up all the excursions except those on the second stop, and rumor had it that a couple had been planning on getting married in Maui and had to rearrange their entire service based on that change.
2) Service at stateroom pitiful - I have never had room service delivered late, or preordered items such as wine or champagne and not had them waiting for me in the stateroom. Both of these things happened on this ship. It took over three hours to get our wine/cheese and champagne/strawberry orders brought. Our stateroom attendant, while very competent, never introduced him/herself, and never left any nametag. While we don't "need" this, it's nice to know the name of the person with 24/7 access to your stateroom.
3) Brown water from our faucet on one of the days. Enough said.
4) Extremely arrogant wait staff that said they could not do certain orders for us that we knew they could. Our headwaiter never introduced herself to the table and never came by nightly to check on us.
5) Food quality much lower than normal in the dining room and Windjammer cafes. We went to Portofino's instead and always had a great meal and excellent service. Went once to Chops where they got my steak wrong twice.
6) They were replacing glass in some of the balconies. Without any written messaging to any of the guests. One guest came back to her cabin and discovered four young men in there, rearranging her room so that they could get the glass replaced. She lost her ability to use her room for an hour and had no warning or explanation for why the unknown people were in her stateroom. We were, for two days, constantly annoyed by hammering and drilling from the repairs. Thank God the ship is due for dry dock this winter; there's a serious amount of work that the ship needs, beyond this glass issue.
7) We never saw Hilo, due to weather, or Kailuea, the volcano. While I understand this from a certain perspective, it just added to the annoyances.
8) Upon getting to Maui, we were detained by the shoreside security for over four hours because the shoreside security people were not ready for us and had to undergo some training. This resulted in a loss of the morning's time in Maui, the main draw for the cruise. We also left Maui early the next day, which meant that instead of two full days there, we got only one.
9) While being detained in Maui, we went to Guest Relations to ask them if they could make a shoreside call for us to some car rental place, only to be told a flat-out "No." We've never heard that word on RCCL before and this incompetence really galled us. We were told to instead go ashore, and that "Oh yes, there's car rental places right there when you get off." There weren't. We hunted for over an hour before we went to an exotic rental place, the only one we could find, and grabbed their second-to-last available rental.
10) At debarkation, instead of calling colors one at a time for both Customs and exiting the ship, they had everyone get in line at Customs whenever they wanted and then called colors to simply disembark. This resulted in a line that, no kidding, took over three hours to navigate and circled the Centrum on both decks 4 and 5. We were told this was a new way of trying debarkation they were trying. When we asked one of the Cruise Director's staff (Lizzie, I believe, who had recently completed her first cruise on the staff), I was told "Well, that's too bad, we're sorry that you will probably miss your flight." She told this to several people in line. Fortunately for us, Woody, another of the Cruise Director's staff, escorted us to the front of the line when he heard about this and enabled us to barely make our flight (God Bless You, Woody!).
I could go on.
There were high points - the islands were (when we had a chance to actually see them ashore) beautiful, the locals were very helpful, and the excursions (again, when we could actually take them) were excellent. The waiter in the Concierge Club on deck 13 (the overflow room for the Diamond members that weren't in Suites) was unbelievable - thanks, Rodel!
Sufficed to say, we had a decent time, but one plagued with so many errors it seriously undermined our vacation. Instead of arriving home refreshed and full of wondrous experiences, we arrived disheveled and disheartened. We know that some folks on board truly loved their experience, since at one of the Captain's Q&A's they asked how to tip extra, but for those at our dinner table and those we grew to know over the course of the trip, nobody was impressed and many sought to write letters to RCCL.
The worst point about all this is that even the people who felt strongly enough to write RCCL are not expecting a response. They feel that RCCL will ignore their pleas and go on, since cruising is popular now and they have Genesis coming out. Such an attitude speaks volumes for how RCCL's customers view the company's commitment to their happiness.
I will be writing a letter to RCCL, myself, and quite frankly I better get a response. This cruise was a disaster from beginning to end, and there is no excuse. Not from RCCL. This is the kind of treatment I'd expect from Carnival or Norwegian.
Several folks we spoke to said that this was their first RCCL cruise and that it would be their last. Some said that no matter what the delta was for Celebrity, that they would pay it. I know it's the "same company" now, but it's not about the money or where it goes, it's about the level of service and how you're treated on a cruise.
One last note - in a conversation with one of the wait staff in Portofino's, it was mentioned that a few months ago, the management staff of Brilliance had been fired/swapped out with the management staff of Radiance, due to poor customer satisfaction on Brilliance, and that their management staff on Radiance was brand new. I cannot confirm or disprove this rumor, but it does make a lot of sense, since our experiences on other ships has been nothing less than fantastic. Also, there were quite a few management interviews happening on the ship.
My wife and I hope so, at least. If this is how we're going to be treated in the future, if this is some new wave of RCCL and how they run things, my wife and I will take our business elsewhere. We already have stopped booking anything - we had planned on booking another cruise onboard for the shipboard credit, but due to this very dissatisfying experience we will not, as yet, do so.
My wife and I, in summation, had a decent time, but felt very short-changed and did not get either the itinerary or the decent level of service that we have come to expect from RCCL. We would strongly urge anyone planning a vacation on Radiance to watch forums and blogs beforehand to see if things get better.