This was our second cruise to Alaska, the first time 7 years ago on the Celebrity Summit. Because we'd been there before, we were less interested in exploring the ports' shopping meccas and more into the adventure excursions. In that regard, we were not disappointed!
As far as the Radiance and RCL, I must say I wasn't that impressed. I found the onboard entertainment and activity offerings lacking, compared to our Celebrity cruise or our two Norweigan Cruise Line's offerings in Hawaii. I was really disappointed that RCL doesn't have any type of welcome party as you board the ship. Being greeted by the crew with a flute of champagne was a real nice touch on NCL and set the tone for a "special" cruise.
THE DISH ON DINING: Something has to be done with the dining situation. We chose the late dinner seating and asked to be seated at a "large" table. We were really looking forward to meeting new people. Unfortunately, four of the eight people at our table never showed ... and the other couple was habitually 15-30 minutes late each evening. A look around the dining room showed that we were not alone in the situation. I don't know if the other guests at our table opted for "My time dining" once onboard, or just went to the Windjammer each night, but the end result is not fair to those of us who were hoping for an opportunity to meet new people and share our days over the evening meal. I suppose we could have switched to "My Time Dining" as well, but felt guilty doing that to the other couple. This also seems extremely unfair to the staff as well.
And, as far as arriving late to dinner, I saw a huge change in fellow guests' attitudes compared to our last cruise. There were many people who must have thought that 8:30 seating meant "come whenever you want." I think that's just plain rude to both the staff and your tablemates. It was not unusual for us to be ordering dessert at the same time our tablemates were ordering dinner.
Perhaps the days of "formal seating" dinners are over? I must say I like NCL's freestyle dining better.
We found both the food and service to be exceptional in the MDR.
I did enjoy the breakfasts in the MDR, as you were seated at tables as you arrived, so each day brought the opportunity to meet new people. On other cruises, we would eat breakfast at the buffet, but found the food in the Windjammer to be lukewarm at best and not much variety.
Had lunch a couple of times in the Seaview Cafe and it was excellent, although service is a little slow and expect your entrees to come out one at a time ... Thoroughly enjoyed the mystery dinner theatre in Portofino's! It was well worth the upcharge. Absolutely loved the "sunflower seed granola bars" in Latte-tudes cafe -- and they're free!
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Husband had a stone therapy massage in the spa and loved it. The Solarium is a very nice place to sit and read. I would have liked to have seen a better selection of items for purchase in the ship's stores. We would sit in the Colony Club to read, play cards, etc. Nice quiet space, until BINGO games begin!
Our cabin steward was great and the room was well-tended to. Plenty of storage space in the balcony staterooms. The only complaint I had was about Day 5, both the public restrooms and our stateroom restroom "smelled." By the end of the cruise, it was a little overbearing.
Okay, so that's my honest opinion of the cruise and cruiseline. I know there are many who love RCL and the Radiance, but of the four cruises I've been on, this would be my least favorite in terms of the ship and our time onboard.
Whale and sea mammals watch. The highlight of our trip! We lucked upon a large pod of humpback whales feeding on a huge school of herring. At times, the water around the boat looked like it was boiling with whales. We had whales surfacing less than 20 yards from the boat. We could hear them "breathing" -- and we were close enough to feel the spray from their spouts at times. Our captain said we'd experienced whale watching at it's best.
Glacier Walk-a-bout. Once again the helicopter ride to and from Mendenhall Glacier was breathtaking, but once on the glacier, it was incredible! We opted for the shorter walk, about 1 hour, rather than the longer trek because I wasn't sure we were up for it. I do wish we had done the longer walk, as the hour goes by rather quickly and I would have loved to have tried the ice climbing that was part of the longer tour. The outfitters supply everything you need, including gloves, boots and a red jacket. Wear a fleece pullover to make sure you're warm enough.
Meets Bay Bear Watch. Float plane ride to Meets Bay was spectacular in itself, seeing the black bears fishing for salmon in the creek near the hatchery was a bonus. We have traveled to both Glacier National and Yellowstone Parks, and experienced an occasional bear sighting, but nothing like this. We saw 7 or 8 bears, some within 50 yards or so of the viewing platform. Guides were knowledgeable and imparted a lot of knowledge during the excursion. Our group was rather small, which made for a more enjoyable experience.
Ketchikan is a quaint port, but it would be hard for someone like us (who don't like to do a lot of shopping) to spend a whole day there. That's why booking an excursion was a must for us.
Klondike Bike Ride. We had done a similar excursion in Hawaii, so knew this is something we would enjoy doing. The first part of the trip was cold .... dressing in layers is so important! And be sure that outer layer is waterproof. I don't know how the two distances compare, but the Hawaii ride is more challenging and the scenery more beautiful. Also, in Hawaii, guides stopped near the beginning of the ride and had each person/couple/group "pose" on the bikes for some great photos, that was a nice touch. This group seemed more intent on getting us down the mountain as quick as they could.