We sailed on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner from Seward to Vancouver in mid-June, timed for the summer solstice. This was our fourth cruise, having experienced a Royal Caribbean megacruise to the Eastern Caribbean, a Renaissance 14 day cruise in Europe and a Victoria cruise of the Yangtze River. We chose Radisson because the ship description reminded me of the Renaissance R7, which we loved, but we were somewhat taken aback by the cost differential between this cruise and the megaships. Because of the premium fare, we had high expectations, and in short, they were exceeded - enough so that I think we got more for our money.
We arrived at the port in Seward in a typhoon that had rained on our pre-cruise Kenai Peninsula excursion, early for check in. We were whisked through security, given large umbrellas and sent onboard. Formalities took less than ten minutes, and we went to the lounge where our champagne glasses were refilled. There were snacks and drinks available and we were told we could go up to the pool deck for a meal. About an hour later, we got access to our rooms - still well before the check in time. Very different from the queues at Royal Caribbean.
The public rooms on the ship were decorated with a variety of art - something to please everybody, and everything was spotless. The ship looked new. It took only a little exploring to get the lay of the ship. There are three lounges, a cigar room, a casino [off to one side, so it is not necessary to pass through it], four restaurants and the pool snack bar, and a very nice auditorium. Everything bigger ships have except the climbing wall. The restaurants ranged from casual to elegant.
The cabin we had on the R7 was a 'suite' with balcony and two separate areas for sleeping and sitting. The arrangement in our cabin here was similar - but more spacious. We had a walk in closet and a marble bath with tub [my wife's favorite feature]. The height of the shower was a little tight for my 6'2" frame, but when the ship rocked I could stand up straight and brace myself. There was ample storage space for all of our possessions and somebody else's besides - there were drawers we never used. The balcony was equipped with two cushioned chairs and was a comfortable place to sit and read and watch the spectacular scenery go by. It was also a place where we leaned over and chatted with the neighbors, like a New York apartment.
In the cabin was a fridge stocked with soda and water and two beers. We never drank the beers, but everything else we consumed was replaced whenever our back was turned. I estimated that I went through two cases of Diet Coke by the end of the cruise [at NO cost, rather than $1.50+15% every time]. We were asked what two bottles of liquor we wanted for our room, ended up taking them (and the champagne that was waiting when we arrived) home in our suitcase. We're not big drinkers, and the wine with dinner and cocktails at the cocktail parties was more alcohol than I'm used to.
We had a cabin on the lowest deck toward the back, and I can't see spending more money for a bigger one, or for one higher up. We were closer to the water, which was a better view - there was no vibration problem, and we were conveniently near the restaurants and lounges - with no noise problem at all.
We were blessed on this cruise with spectacular weather - after the typhoon passed the sun came out and stayed out [day and night] for the rest of the cruise. We had a fabulous view of the Hubbard Glacier - we got within one mile. We had tropical weather in Skagway, and spent far more time in the pool or on the pool deck than I expected we would - swimming with glaciers in the background. We did several shore excursions, from Radisson, and were pleased with most of them. Highlight was the Tracy Arm excursion, where we were picked up in Tracy Arm by a small boat and taken into close contact with the Sawyer Glacier. Radisson provided snacks on board, since we were leaving so early they were worried we might go hungry! We saw seals and bears and whales and eagles as well as the glaciers. The kayaking on Fraser Lake, BC from Skagway, with the train back to town was also delightful [although we learned that we are not a good kayaking team!]. The salmon fishing from Juneau was not successful - one got away. Because of damage to the propeller in Tracy Arm, we bypassed Ketchikan and missed the flight to Misty Fjord.
I recently spoke to someone who had just returned from the QM2, paying extra for a cabin with access to the fancy restaurants. She said the food was good - but not as good as a fancy Manhattan restaurant - and she felt she did not get a good deal. The food is where Radisson exceeded my expectations the most. Signatures is definitely as good as a fancy Manhattan restaurant - and was included in the fare. Latitudes was also good - and the tasting menu was fun. The Compass Rose - the big restaurant where reservations are not required - was equally outstanding - with elegant service and a wonderful and changing menu. The cold cream of blueberry soup I had for lunch one day was wonderful. Service throughout was outstanding - there were four waiters who knew, when I arrived, that I wanted a Diet Coke and brought it without being asked. We often ate with a party of eight or a party of ten - with no problem. Wine flowed freely - with good wines. Port came with the cheese. Silver was exchanged for fish dishes. Even the upstairs breakfast buffet had extraordinary service - with waiters providing drinks and carrying plates and keeping an eye on everything. Once we adopted our favorite waiter, he saw to our every need.
Entertainment was better than I expected - based on Royal Caribbean and Renaissance experience. The shows were more professional, performers were better, and the comedian was great. The pianist and guitarist in the lounge were also good. We excelled at trivia, so the afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream became a regular event.
I didn't use the gym or spa - just the sauna, which was available at no cost [unlike the QM2 where you pay for the locker!]. My wife had two massages, which she loved. Walking the top deck in the morning was as close as I got to exercise - I also walked to meals! I did use the computer center, which only charges for communication time, so my ten and fifteen minute visits came to $2.50 type costs.
One of the things I loved about this cruise was that I was not nickled and dimed to death. The extraordinary service was not in anticipation of a nice tip. The refills of coke were 'on the house'. After our propeller delay we even got free drinks. There were bottles of water to take with on shore excursions or when getting off the ship. While the shore excursions were pricey - they were not pricier than the independent tours I checked on the web before I left. It was a good deal. Unfortunately, we've been spoiled and will probably stick with Radisson from now on.