Embarkation:Embarkation was, frankly, a mess – tide issues delayed disembarkation of the previous cruise, creating a two hour delay in EVERYTHING, including the muster drill and depature.I don’t fault RCCL for the delay, but they could have handled some parts better – for example, having staff in the parking garage explaining why there was a line wrapping AROUND THE PARKING DECK and how to safely get a porter to take your luggage with the traffic (vehicular and pedestrian); having all chairs set out in advance in the holding area, rather than putting them up as they ran out, which created issues when they started to call folks in for check in (presumably, given where you were sitting, by when you arrived at the pier). People’s attitudes didn’t help much, either.To the very cranky Diamond cruiser who wanted to jump ahead of everyone else:was your vacation that undone by the delay?When they say that embarkation starts at , there’s a reason.Don’t be cranky if you get there early and have to wait because of an unforeseen problem.
Cabin:3447, large interior.The usual oversized walk-in closet RCCL passes off for an interior cabin.The finishes, while in decent shape, are showing their fashion age and wear – blond woods and faux bronze.If I were redesigning the space, I would rethink either the shape of the bed or the length of the desk/vanity area – there is not enough space to get around that side of the bed without catching an ankle on the base woodwork – or just push the bed to the side as in the Sovereign class, and admit that it’s a small cabin.As the ship had recently repositioned from Asia, we still had the electric water pots for in-room tea.LOVED THAT!That should be standard on all cabins.However, they should ditch the Lipton version of Earl Grey tea – it’s about as Earl Grey as flat diet Coke. Really missed the interactive TV we had on Jewel (our last RCCL sailing).
Michael was our cabin steward – friendly, articulate (while we don’t make a big deal of the fact that many service staff speak with a heavy accent, having someone who we could easily understand was a lovely plus), eager to please, with great attention to detail.Apparently, I blew through (no pun intended) enough Kleenex because of my rampant allergies that, our first night, he brought me an additional box of tissues and put them on my side of the bed.Radiance still has the icky fabric shower curtains that tend to contain the faint whiff of mildew at first, though the smell dissipated during the week: they need to ditch them altogether or wash them more regularly.
Dining:Ate late traditional seating – it seemed very sparse;wonder how many early-dining folks switched to My Time Dining when they couldn’t get it? We were four seated at a table for six and saw similar seating arrangements around the dining room.Boni(face) and Noel were our table stewards – efficient, well-humored, and earnest.Overall, we had the best service I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship – equaling, if not eclipsing, my first sailing to Alaska on HAL eight years ago.The food was okay – nothing phenomenal, nothing horrible, just okay. Well, that is, except for the rock-hard rolls; maybe because we were so late eating, they’d cooled off too much?.Same thing in the Windjammer for breakfast – seemed to be the same thing every day, not much variety;not awful, just not exceptional.Still, we managed to keep ourselves well-fed.
Public Rooms and overall ship activities:The ship’s layout is very counterintuitive – we had a difficult time trying to orient ourselves as to where things where vis-à-vis our cabin. Vibrations on this ship much noticeable in the dining room and upper areas (solarium, pool, Windjammer).The ship is also showing signs of wear and tear – trim/paint the Solarium seemed especially faded and washed out and the windows on the Lido Deck were not well-cleaned (most noticeable as we were sailing Tracy Arm Fjord).This was our third Alaska cruise, but our first with Royal Caribbean (the other two were with HAL).I must admit, HAL has Alaska down – we missed the naturalist and native artist on board.The shops opened on a staggered schedule – booze/’sundries’ the first night, perfume/costume jewelry the second night, all others on the third.A staff member in the perfume shop said that they got 44 pallets of merchandise in Vancouver and were redesigning the displays, so they wanted to give staff enough time to lay it out properly.I have to admit, the selection was kind of underwhelming in all the shops, regardless of how much time they had to stock.
The Cruise Compass was of limited use because it was never correct – the ‘morning show’ that the CD and AD taped always had corrections as to locations or times of events.We would have taken advantage of the ‘flat-rate laundry bag’ special, except the handout never stated what day(s) it was for, and by the time we asked, it was over.Most annoying:the main dining room closed a half-hour earlier than stated on the Compass/disembarkation handouts.I understand we were repositioning, and this was their first sailing of the season into Alaska, but doesn’t anyone proof those things?Having said that, we almost NEVER see the stage shows, because they often take place before dinner, when we’re getting ready, and don’t want to rush dinner to catch a post-meal show, so cannot comment on them, nor on the casino, as we didn’t spend too much time there (we blew our $20 on slots and video poker).
Ports of call:Juneau – did a whalewatching tour with Captain Larry.Success (of course) – though it was so sunny out that we saw no bald eagles!Learned that Galligaskins had closed its storefront downtown – was very saddened to learn this.Skagway – rented a car and drove to Whitehorse for a photo safari.Kind of interesting, but probably wouldn’t drive that far again.However, it was great weather for photo shoots.Ketchikan – took the city bus to Totem Bight and wandered around at our leisure.No crowds, no rush – and no charge for the bus that day!Found a wonderful small store that carries beautiful, unique, and very reasonably priced jewelry and glass art – Trinkets on Main Street (across from the artists’ market).Most highly recommended – way better than some of the other stuff that’s hawked at the big box jewelry and souvenir stores along the main drags.Tracy Arm Fjord was interesting – there was too much ice in the water for us to get very close to the glacier, but the sail in and out was impressive.We missed not being able to visit Glacier Bay, though.
Disembarkation – smoothly done!As Platinum cruisers, we were on the ‘first colors out’but our inlaws weren’t, so we waited with them until their colors were called.You’re assigned a lounge to sit in until your color is ready to be led out by a staff member.Much more civilized, even if my inlaws did have a time finding their luggage (ours were sitting forlornly by themselves in the first section!).
Overall:the service we received throughout our cruise really did make a big difference to us – we’d forgotten about the ‘ugly start’ within hours of sailing away.I don’t know that we’ll go out of our way to sail RCCL to Alaska unless the price is right and/or we can do a Radiance-class ship, but the stellar service we received will definitely keep them in mind as an option to HAL.