We took the March 12th, 10 day Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the Radiance of the Seas. This was our 3 cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship and our 7th cruise overall. We are a family of four in our mid 30's with a 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son. We also were travelling with my wife's parents.
Our last cruise was on the larger, and slightly newer, Mariner of the Seas. The "wow" factor on the Mariner was much greater than the Radiance, but the Radiance was a decent ship, but nothing really special it seemed. I had read so much about how the Radiance class was a favorite by many people, but unfortunately for us, it seemed a rather plain ship. (although I really do like the look of the yacht like "lines" of the ship's exterior!)
We had a great time on the cruise, even though there were a few frustrating things. We were excited about going on a 10 day cruise, and it was great having those extra days!
We had a difficult time with Embarkation. The Carnival Elation was also in port the day we left. This meant that the waiting area to board the ship was really small, and there were very few places to sit. We always like to get to the terminal around 10:30ish, and are usually in the first few boarding groups. However, I think in the future we will wait until after noon or closer to 1pm before arriving. Since they were still debarking passengers, it was difficult to get all our luggage through the front security gate and then it was totally unclear on where to proceed to after we entered the terminal. We eventually figured it out and then just stood around waiting for and hour or so (since there was no place to sit). Once onboard, they postponed the 1pm cabin access time to 1:30. Not a really big deal, but I guess they were doing extra cleaning.
We had an interior cabin on Deck 7. This was one of the smallest cabins we have had, but they are all pretty small, so it wasn't a big deal. However, there was this awful smell in the bathroom when we first arrived. I think it was some sort of cleaning agent smell, but it was strong and very foul. It was pretty much gone the next day, but our shower curtain smelled like mildew every day of the cruise which just made the bathroom an unpleasant area to be in. We never had any plumbing problems thankfully, but the shower curtain situation was not good. The shower was tiny, and the curtain of course had to be dealt with each and every shower. Water always leaked all over the bathroom floor and why they don't upgrade to shower doors, just doesn't make any sense to me.
There was plenty of storage space in the cabin, and the dEcor was nice. However, the beds were not comfortable, and the TV was very difficult to see from the beds.
I think it was just our cabin, but this was the LOUDEST cabin we have ever been in! When I say loud, I mean creaky with rattles everywhere. If you have ever watched a movie about old time sailing ships, where the wooden hull constantly creaks and groans, you'll understand what our cabin sounded like all the time. The walls rattled, and the TV and TV stand would constantly vibrate and rattle. We ended up stuffing towels all around the TV stand and TV to try and get it to stop vibrating, but it didn't help much. My in-laws on Deck 4 and friends on Deck 9 had no problems with their cabins being noisy, so I think it was just our cabin. In fact, every time I was heading towards my cabin in the hallway on deck 7, I would hear the walls creak only on that deck. Maybe we were at some sort of "fulcrum" of the ship, as we were right in the middle of the ship it seemed.
Ship Public Spaces (inside):
The ship was a pretty ship, but as I mentioned earlier, it just didn't have the "wow" factor that other ships have had. One exception to that was the Colony Club. This was a beautiful area on the aft part of deck 6. It is where they have the self leveling pool tables, game room area, and lounge/dance floor/bar area. I was a great spot, and simply beautiful!
The Centrum was alright, but again, nothing special. Unfortunately, the music in the Centrum was simply too loud and it was hard to sit and talk or play games anywhere near there because of the volume of the live music.
I rarely ever went up to the Deck 12 lounges and cigar bar. It was more for late night DJ music, and the one time I did visit the area, they had some pretty nasty dance/rap music playing and it was very loud of course.
The main Theater was pretty and seemed to have good sight lines. We always had to get there early to get good seats though. The library was small, and wasn't really a dedicated room. But, we did like the layout diversity of the various shops onboard.
Pools and Sports deck:
Here is where some of my big complaints come out. My kids and I are avid swimmers, and my wife and I like to use the hot tubs. First of all, I know there is a big debate over the health benefits of salt water pools vs. chlorinated fresh water pools, but I am SO tired of the salt water pools on cruise ships. Princess has it right with their fresh water pools, and I wish Royal Caribbean (and others) would just do away with salt water in their pools. Princess has a ton of pools on their ships, and they seem to have no problem producing enough fresh water to fill their pools. Likewise, the Freedom Class ships with Royal Caribbean also have fresh water, so I think I will have to go back to Princess or go on the Freedom class ships in the future.
Second, the Radiance main pool area is very plain and boring. The adult solarium pool area is VERY nice though. I enjoyed just sitting at the tables in there as the solarium was lovely.
Third, the Radiance has only three small hot tubs! This, along with the saltwater, will probably keep me from ever going on another Radiance class ship again. While the hot tubs were not quite as busy as I would have expected there still just wasn't enough of them.
And finally, here is my biggest complaint. For some reason, the crew on the Radiance feels the need to close down the two main hot tubs by the main pool at night around 8pm-until 11pm for cleaning. I understand that they need to clean these regularly, and I am very happy they clean them. However, why can't this be done at 2am or some other early morning hour time??? There was a small group of teenagers who would be in the adult hot tub area most evenings because the main hot tubs were closed during the prime evening hours. I don't mind the teenagers being in the adult area, as they had no other place to go, but why did they have to close the main tubs down during the prime evening hours??? At least leave one of them open by the main pool. I just don't get it...and of course there is never an explanation from anyone on the ship when I tried to inquire about it.
The rock climbing wall was fun and never crowded, and the mini golf was fine. They had a nice basketball court and would convert it to volleyball in the later afternoons on many days. The waterslide was rarely open, but it was such a slow waterslide, it wasn't really something my kids wanted to do anyway. The kids pools was pretty small, and they need more deck area for the parents to hang out in. But, at least the kids pool was fresh water. Too bad it wasn't larger so we could swim in it.
We loved the buffet and even ate there a few times for casual dinner. While the selection was pretty much standard for breakfast, we still loved the room, layout, and choices of food.
The main dining room was perfectly fine. There were only two times the waiters did the singing and dancing that we noticed, and I always wish they didn't have to do that. The waiters are so busy as it is, and it seems sort of humiliating for many of them to have to stop their work and go sing for everyone.
We enjoyed the dinning room for lunch a few of the sea days. They had a nice lunch menu to choose from, and the salad bar was very popular.
I had though that I would have frequented the Sea View Cafe more often, but the greasy smell of the cafe (and the hours) seemed to turn my off to the Sea View Cafe. I only went there once, and it was just alright. My kids ate there more often and seemed to enjoy it. I did like the Solarium cafe better, but I would have liked it to be open a little more often. They did serve crepes there, which I love, but they only serve the crepes during the day on Sea days.
We did the Mystery Dinner Theater one evening in Portofino. The dinner was excellent, and there was unlimited wine. The acting was simply awful though. I am not sure if they meant it to be awful or what, but most of the actors and actresses looked like it was the last place they wanted to be. In addition, many of them spoke very softly and it was had to hear them. A couple of them were pretty good though.
We also tried Chops on night. We had a great meal there and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I think the mud pie we had was possibly the best dessert I have ever had in my entire life!
The Radiance has one of the best entertainers I have ever seen on a ship (or elsewhere). His name is Ramon De La Cruz I think, and he played the acoustical guitar...in a Latin sort of style. He was simply fantastic and always drew a good crowd when playing in the Centrum.
We went to a few of the main shows, and really enjoyed the ventriloquist comedian, and Gary Mule Deer, who was also a comedian/musical talent. The singing and dancing shows that we saw were average, but we didn't catch the magic show or a few of the other shows.
The other entertainers on the ship, like the pool band, classical duet/trio, pop band, etc., were just average in our opinion or even bad in some cases.
I thought that our cruise director Dan did a good job. Unfortunately, the couple in the love and marriage show were very boring. But, Dan did a good job of making it better than it was. I also went to see the Quest game show. It wasn't as good as the previous two I had seen, but it was ok. The venue was tough, as they did it in the Colony Club.
I won't get too much into the ports, but here is a quick run down of the activities we did in each port:
Cabo - Spent the day with some friends at their time share condo on the beach. Mazatlan - Went to El Cid resort and got a "day use pass" which included free drinks, food, and use of the facilities and beach. It was a slightly frustrating experience, because we were never clear on the price and they tired to charge us more at the front desk, than what we were told by the sales guy at the cruise terminal. The cruise terminal guy tries to sell you the resort pass and gets some sort of commission from the resort I guess. We spent $100 roughly (not including tip) for my family of four. Acapulco - We just went shopping at this high pressure and EXPENSIVE place. Everything there seemed high pressure and we just didn't care for it. Zihuatanejo - Took a water taxi to Las Gatas beach. We weren't sure how things worked at the beach, but basically once you get off the water taxi, there are a few guys that try to sell you on their restaurant/beach area. We picked a guy and he basically waited on us all day, gave us chairs and shade, and then just billed us for the food and drinks at the end of the day. I also got a massage on the beach for $25, and had a nice time. The beach there however is a bit rocky once you step into the water. It was murky that day, so the snorkeling wasn't good, unless you swam pretty far out past the break water. Puerto Vallarta - We did the Los Veranos zip line tour. It was a great tour and location for zip lining. However, we had heard that the ship time was different than the local time in PV before we went on the cruise, and that is not the case. It was the same time on the ship as it was in port. The bus driver took his time getting us back to port, and we barely made it back to the ship in time! The drive to the Los Veranos location is longer than I thought. It took almost an hour and a half ride to get to the location.
We did have a very nice time on the Radiance. There were a few areas of the ship that needed some updating or better maintenance/cleaning. The pools had some wear and tear on them. Some of the out door dining areas behind the buffet needed better cleaning. And some of the carpet was looking rough on some of the stairs and hallway areas.
It was also evident that the plumbing problems were still around. We didn't have any problems thankfully, but they were working on Deck 7 often, and we saw a few carpet air blowers in a few cabins and in a few hallways trying to dry things out.
As other reviewers have mentioned, we did have a man overboard death on the second to last sea day. It was a somber experience, but the captain was very upfront about what happened, and it was an interesting thing to watch the rescue operations.
I didn't mean to make it sound like the saltwater and hot tub complaints ruined my cruise or anything like that. I know these are probably very minor complaints for most people. But, I just thought I would mention them as they are important factors with my family.
We really like the 10 day cruise option over a 7 day cruise, and it's too bad there aren't more offerings by cruise lines for longer cruises.