Here's the review:
Embarkation Complete chaos on the pre-security lines. I was first directed to a line that had just been closed and the officer was not pleasant to deal with since she kept blaming passengers as if it were our fault to have been sent to that line by another staff member. Definitely not a good start. Later, once I cleared security, I had to wait 25 minutes to get my cruise card. Again, I was not pleased.
Boarding I did not appreciate the cold welcome I received once I stepped onboard the Radiance of the Seas. In fact, not a single staff member attempted to give directions to my cabin.
Cabin I booked a category E1 stateroom at the very front of Deck 9. Right away, I noticed a strong foul odor coming from the bathroom, which I reported to the stateroom attendant who was very polite and hard working. Unfortunately, the smell never went away, but with the bathroom door closed, I managed to neutralize it. The room itself was clean, the bed was comfortable and looked great with the new white and blue sheets, and the balcony view was fantastic. I found the actual size of the cabin to be sufficient for one person, but I certainly would not want to choose this category again if I were traveling with someone else. Amenities were limited, though my stateroom attendant did not hesitate to bring me a few conditioner bottles when I requested these. Another positive aspect was the ample storage space of the cabin.
Dining The room service menu was very limited. I ordered room service almost every day and I found the quality of the food to be inconsistent (for those of you who like cookies, I highly recommend that you ask when the cookies were baked or be prepared to eat something that could be as hard as a rock). The room service staff was also inconsistent--some very willing to please and others rather rude (for example, a female employee raised her tone over the phone when I politely asked if I could have some french fries knowing that they were not part of the room service menu).
Food on the Cascades main dining room was above average. I have a sensitive stomach that doesn't give me much flexibility, so I ate a chicken breast with mashed potatoes every night, which I definitely enjoyed. Salads were generally good as well. However, desserts were often a big disappointment, particularly the ice cream, which could not have been worse! Seriously, I was appalled at its poor quality and everyone in my table agreed.
Crew Overall, my impression is that the Radiance of the Seas crew is far from being excellent (outstanding at this point would seem impossible for them to achieve). While I only encountered a few rude employees, I did not meet a single crew member who went out of his/her way to make my vacation memorable. To be more specific, the guest relations staff (except one senior officer who I will describe below), my assigned stateroom attendant, and Cascades waiters delivered good levels of service all throughout my cruise, but they all failed to anticipate my needs; thus, I cannot grant them a rating of excellent or outstanding. I considered booking a future RCCL cruise towards the end. However, I decided not to after meeting with the unhelpful and surly "Ambassador." Yet, my worst experience was with the guest relations senior officer who was on duty the third night of my cruise. The occupants of the stateroom next to mine woke me up four times that night. I had earlier reported the loud noises these individuals were making during the first and second nights of the journey and the security officers were quick to respond. So, going back to the third night incident, after trying to get a hold of someone from the guest relations desk for about 10 minutes, I headed downstairs. To summarize the experience, the senior officer on duty was horrible, explicitly telling me: "This is the second or third time you complaint, if you are easily disturbed by other people, consider booking a suite next time." Given that it was now past 2 a.m., I lost my temper and replied: "My apologies, I suppose Royal Caribbean does not take its onboard guest conduct policies seriously; you are right, why should I expect you to do your job when you are not part of the award-winning crews that Cunard and Celebrity are known for, certainly not RCCL--a cruise line that is marginally above Carnival." I tried to avoid the confrontation but the senior officer's response was simply unprofessional. Then, about half and hour later, a guy started pounding on my door and shouting: "We know you reported us, shut the f*** up." I became frightened by that point and did not open the door. Luckily, it appeared that other passengers complained and within a few minutes, I heard a security officer talking to the unruly passengers.
Ship The design of the Radiance is magnificent. I was utmost impressed with the extensive amount of open space throughout the ship. The centrum and the Anchor lounge on top (with partial glass floors that allow you to sit and look down 11 floors) are not easy to forget. Every night, I would go to the bow section to watch the dolphins that kept following the ship. In this section, I appreciated RCCL's attention to detail, i.e, numerous wooden benches to relax on and enjoy the breeze. Most public areas were kept clean, but I found the library to lack adequate maintenance and the carpets on the stateroom hallways on decks 9 and 10 were severely stained, which RCCL should address considering that the most expensive cabins are on these two decks.
Fitness A+ fitness center with breath taking views of the ocean
Entertainment I only went to a few shows hosted by Cruise Director Kirk (forgot his last name) and Activities Manager Rob Williamson. These two guys have a contagious energy! I hope that a better cruise line hires them in the near future.
Post-Cruise Experience I wrote a lengthy email to RCCL describing my inability to sleep for three nights due to the lack of professionalism of certain crew members. The response I received within a week was remarkable... I could really tell that the customer care agent felt deeply sorry for the whole incident. I was offered $250 for a future cruise, and though I think it is a meager amount, I still insist in acknowledging the superb response to my complaint. To be honest, even if they wouldn't have offered such small discount, I would have praised the customer care agent responsible for addressing my concern in the same way. Kudos to RCCL's customer care!!!!
Verdict RCCL claims that the company is committed to delivering "a vacation of a lifetime," yet the reality is significantly different. Nevertheless, the Radiance of the Seas is a lovely ship with the potential to create an unforgettable vacation provided that its crew members undergo extensive training sessions stressing professional ethics, individualized service, and looking after passengers from the heart. Further, RCCL is in desperate need of becoming "a nation of why not" be consistently pleasant to the people who are ultimately building our revenue.