This was a family cruise with boys 13 and 16 and a nephew 14. One of the reasons we chose Royal Caribbean was the expectation that it would be most likely to have other teens onboard. We've only been on Disney Cruises before and were expecting to be slightly disappointed with Radiance of the Seas but it exceeded all our expectations. We flew from Philadelphia to Seattle, where we spent a couple days to start our vacation before going to Vancouver to begin our cruise. We stayed at the Marriott in Pioneer Square in Seattle, which was a great place to get the hop on/off bus to the main attractions. We had dinner at the rotating restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, about 610 feet above ground - food was excellent and the view spectacular. It was a clear day and we could even see Mt. Rainier in the distance. It was fun watching the float planes take off and land in the water 610 feet below. We enjoyed the Experience Music Project where there are exhibits of Jimmy Hendrix and lot's of interactive music technology activities; the IMAX presentation of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, the famous Pike's Place Market where you watch the fish fly thru the air to get packed for customers, and the original Starbucks with its original logo. We took the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle to Vancouver. This was not only more relaxing, but was much less expensive than driving a rental car to Vancouver. Once in Vancouver, we stayed a few blocks from the cruise terminal at the Marriott Pinnacle. We arrived at night so we only had a half day the next morning to explore Vancouver so we did a bus tour of Stanley Park. The highlight of our short visit at the park was the view of Vancouver from Prospect Point. We saw the Lion's Gate bridge, which has the look of a small Golden Gate bridge. We would late pass under the Lion's Gate bridge on the cruise ship.
Checking in at the cruise terminal was fast and efficient. The ship was beautiful, clean, and fun; service was amazing and entertainment was great. We chose two ocean view staterooms rather than a suite because it was less expensive and because it gave us two bathrooms/showers. However, one stateroom was midships and one was the most forward stateroom. My wife and I enjoyed the coffee bar where you can get your latte with a kick, the champagne bar, and colony bar where singer/commedian David Curtis play a different theme nightly. We liked the 5 feet diameter glass floor on the 12 deck where you can walk across and look below clear down to deck 4.
Food ranged from good to excellent but for teens it was always excellent. We picked anytime dining rather than a set time, but we were always given the same servers, and they were terrific. The kids tried lots of food that they typically would never order in a restaurant, including escargot. Dinner was always at the main dining room, and was very nice but this is one area where the atmosphere did not compare to the Disney Cruise Ship dining rooms. The wait staff was terrific. When one of the kids ordered a drink that came with a cherry, the server noticed that they all wanted the cherry, so each night they brought a glass of cherries to the table. My wife and I planned one special dinner at Chops for just the two of us. The food, wine, and service at Chops Steak House was excellent and the atmosphere was very enjoyable.
Cruise director Dan, was very funny and informative and he really kept the atmosphere on this ship fun and enjoyable. The boys enjoyed rock climbing, golf, the gym, and other activities. They were reluctant to go to the teen club but ended up going near the end of the cruise and had lots of fun and met new friends. We did not have room to take my son's guitar and he was pleased to know that they had an acoustic and electric guitar in the teen club. The RCI website states that the atrium indoor pool was for adults only. Thought this was odd because expected Alaska temperatures would make it too cold for kids to swim in outside pool. However, the atrium had a couple hours each day that were designated family sessions and this was a great compromise. The cruise overall was amazing and was everything i have read or heard about - and more.
Our ship visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Straights, Hubbard Glacier, Skagway, and terminated in Seward. At Hubbard Glacier, the calving or white thunder as it is known, was incredible. The Captain maneuvered the ship so that both the port and starboard side, line with cruisers with cameras, got great views of the falling ice. The Captain said it was the best of the season and the show that nature gave us was incredible. Because the ship sails mostly in the inside passage, it was only in the last night in the Gulf of Alaska where we experienced any noticeable ship motion as there were 9 feet seas that night. At various times during the cruise, we saw many whales from our stateroom as they swam in close proximity to the ship.
Hubbard Glacier (cruising) rating 5: The Captain maneuvered the ship within ¼ mile of the front of the tidal glacier. The blue ice was amazing to see. You listen for the crackle or watch for the small signs that the glacier is going to calve and drop ice into the ocean. Hubbard glacier is said to be the most active calving glacier in Alaska. It was an amazing display of nature. The Captain said it was the best of the season. After each larger calving event, you watch as a mini tsunami created by the calving ice, races towards the ship. It is certainly not large enough to result in ship motion that can be felt by passengers. With everyone lining every available spot on the ship for a view, the Captain maneuvers the ship so both port and starboard sides get a great view of the action. This was another highlight of the cruise
Disembarking at Seward was simple and efficient. We immediately checked our luggage into the Alaska railway as we would take the Goldstar glass dome train to Anchorage later that evening. The train ride was amazing and is reported in guide books to be among the most beautiful scenery in Alaska - and it did not disappoint. We were on the upper deck of the train in reserved seats, but had a private dining room below where the food was excellent and the view while dining was incredible. We passed waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, and the train even stopped so we could watch a pod of Beluga whales. We arrived in Anchorage at 10 pm and checked into the Anchorage Marriott. Our flight to Philly was at 9 pm the next night. The sites we wanted to see were outside Anchorage and we were too exhausted by then to want to do much, so we had a mostly relaxing day before heading to the airport. We've had some great vacations, but this was really amazing, and highly recommended. We loved our cruise and would certainly sail with RCI again, and are considering the Allure of the Seas for next year.