Radiance of the Seas Cruise Review by michettism: Amazing Alaska Cruise with teens
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Amazing Alaska Cruise with teens
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 More
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. Less
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Cabin review: G
Port and Shore Excursions
Our experience in Icy Straight was amazing and the highlight of our trip. Our excursion with Brown Bear Lodge made the difference. My family did not want to take a float plane so I searched for a port where we can do a bear viewing excursion by van. Honnah has about 1 brown bear per square mile so bear are plentiful. We booked a tour that was supposed to be 4 hours at $150 each, just the five of us in a van with our guide, Phil. Owner Kenny and guide Phil both let us know that their goal was to make sure we had a great time. We took a short drive to our first stop and to Phil's amazement and ours, we watched for over 30 minutes as two adult brown bears play wrestled in a creek taking turns dunking each other and catching salmon. As we watched from a small bridge, another bear approached us from the road, watched and then went down to where the two bears were playing. The visiting bear watched for a while until he was chased away by one of the two bears. A fourth bear approached from another direction. As if that wasn't enough, we drove to the other side of the island to s salmon creek feeding a bay. Phil hooked some salmon and we each took turns reeling them in, taking a photo kissing the 8-10 pounder, and then releasing it. My kids never fished and this was awesome. As we were in bear feeding territory, Phil kept a rifle locked and loaded which added to the excitement. We walked on muskeg, picked and ate strawberries and blueberries, and saw eagles perched on a stump and flying overhead. By request from my kids, Kenny let us take his black lab Kita along for the ride. Phil spent 8 full hours with us and we had an amazing time and saw things we would have never seen in a large bus tour. During our travels on the other side of the island, we may have crossed paths with only 3 to 4 vehicles all day. It was the real Alaska experience we had hoped for - and a whole lot more. We hope to return to Icy Straights by plane and spend some time at Kenny's lodge in the next year or two. It was nice walking back to the pier to tender back to our ship without passing dozens of jewelry and souvenir stores. Just a rustic building that blended in perfectly with the scenery. One tip, it was a hot day in Icy Straight Point and so while we saw 4 bears early, as the day went on, they were not as mobile due to the heat - so go early on a hot day. We also did not have time to do the zip line there which claims to be 1500 feet tall. It takes 45 minutes to get to the top of the mountain, and you can watch the zip line riders coming down from the tender dock. They emerge from the fog and make their way on the long ride back to earth - our teens want to come back to do this as well. We heard a rumor that RCI will shorten the time in port at Icy Straights and that would be a shame if they do because this is the only non commercialized port of call on the cruise.
We saw lots of whales swimming near the ship on our way to Juneau. When we arrived in port, we took the bus to Mendenhall glacier and got some terrific photo's, and spent time in the visitor center which had lots of interesting information. The glacier was awesome and a must see attraction. It is well publicized in guide books that the viewing platforms near the visitor center are a great place to see mother bears and cubs feeding on salmon. The theory is that the presence of humans nearby keeps the male bears away so the mother bears do not have to worry about them attacking their cubs. When we got there, a sign was posted that to minimize stress on the bears, the path to the platform was closed off. A cynical person might suggest that it is the bear viewing tour operators that were stressed by this free experience, not the bears. We ate some great Bearing Sea King Crab at Stacy's crab shack when we returned from the glacier. The town itself is beautiful and very colorful the view of the town from the cruise ship makes a great photo.
We took the bus to Saxman village to see the totems. Right outside the village, the driver pointed out two eagles perched in a tree. You pay a small fee to get in ($3). Once in the village, you can view all the totems but there are either one or two attractions (like the totem carving hut) where you can’t even pay extra to get in. These are reserved for certain organized tours. Had I known this, we would not have come to this attraction. It was nice to do but would not consider this a must see attraction, as you see totems everywhere in Alaska. On the return to town, we went to the salmon hatchery and this was interesting to learn about the process used to populate the oceans with hundreds of thousands of salmon each year. They also have two large bald eagles that were rescued and you see them close up in an exhibit area but without a cage obstructing your view. They were very vocal, and the guide explained this may be due to a bird flying above and them staking their territory. We’ve seen bald eagles in cages, or from a distance in the wild, but being about 10 feet from these two birds with no obstruction in front of us was a very different perspective. We did some shopping before coming to the hatchery and walking around the town, but that ended our day in port as we had to get back to the ship for our dinner at Chop's.
We took the city bus to visit the Alaska wildlife center where you have a beautiful view of resurrection bay. At the center a ranger presented information on how they rescue marine wildlife. There are live exhibits of seals and sea lions, videos telling the story of rescued marine wildlife, and other interesting exhibits. We went to Pier J to see the boats coming in with their large halibut catches. Unfortunately we had to be at the Alaska Rail train station by 5:30 p.m. but the boats were just starting to return to port with their catches at this time. The train station is about a 10 minute walk from Pier J. You can check your bags in the train station, including carry on bags, as soon as you get off the cruise ship so you are free to explore the town and surrounding areas. W walked around the town and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We boarded the Goldstar glass dome train from Seward to Anchorage at 6 pm for a 3-1/2 hour ride. On this ride you see glaciers, pods of beluga whales, rivers, waterfalls and other beautiful scenery the entire ride. The private dining car served terrific food with beautiful changing scenery. The kids enjoyed staying on the outside viewing platform on the 2nd deck. This is reported to be perhaps the most beautiful scenery in Alaska, and we were not disappointed. Because we had a rough small boat experience last year, my family did not opt to do a Kenai boat wildlife tour. The seas are reported as typically rough once outside resurrection bay and most were not too excited about that, and besides, we saw lots of whales along the cruise.
In Skagway, we did the dog sled and mushers camp excursion. It was a scenic bus ride to the camp. From there we transferred to vans and took a short ride up a steep cliff to the camp. You are quickly put on a sled and the dogs are barking like crazy and jumping all around. As soon as the dogs are commanded to move, they get down to all business. After a 1 or 2 mile ride, you are rushed away from the dogs after a few photos, and taken on a short van ride to the camp. Here a musher explains all about the dogs, the equipment and the races. It is very interesting and you can tell the mushers love what they do. After all your questions are answered, you get to hold husky puppies. Each of us got to hold puppies from tow different litters and we were not rushed at all. They were adorable and we had a great time. The one thing that surprises all is that the dogs used in races are built for speed and endurance so instead of the beautiful, full coat huskies you see in movies, you see thin, athletic dogs, not all huskies, that can go long distances. This was a fun excursion and is definitely recommended. We wanted to do the town tour but we ran out of time as we planned the mushers excursion in the middle of the day. Recommend you do excursions early so you have more time for other sights or activities when you are done.
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