Last week, two days after Qantas decided to ground their airline, I flew to Perth (on Virgin). to join Radiance of the Seas for a 7 night cruise to Melbourne. Due to airline arrival time and oppressive heat in Perth I decided to go straight to the ship arriving at peak embarkation time, 1pm. What a nightmare. The majority of passengers were 65 yrs plus and the queue of people was as long as I have EVER seen a queue. The 1950/60's vintage terminal had no air-conditioning (that I detected) but had wobbly ceiling fans that only seemed to benefit those standing right underneath them. RCCL Terminal staff (locals)at the ground floor were all very friendly and informative and luggage was whipped away without any fuss but the line of people standing there waiting to board upstairs and going absolutely no where was incredible. No reasons were given for the delay despite the long and uncomfortable wait. Some old people were very affected. It was unclear if it was a cruise terminal, customs and immigration or RCCL problem. Finally the line started to move at a snails pace and some 2 hours later I was finally on board. This needs some serious attention.
My cabin was delightful. Smaller than Rhapsody balcony cabins I have enjoyed in the past but newer and very very smart. My luggage was there fairly quickly, no wonder after such an appalling delay on the pier.
Then I found out that due to the Qantas debacle we were going to stay in Perth overnight waiting for 200 plus passengers that had been unable to get to the ship in time for the scheduled departure. Not from the ship staff but from other passengers. An announcement was made sometime later by the Captain. Nice for those passengers but at the expence of one of the ports of call, Esperance. Pity.
So a day late and with our full compliment of passengers finally we sailed away into the Great Southern Ocean. The seas were very smooth on what can be an hysterical patch of Ocean and Radiance rode them well.
As a solo traveller dining can be a chore. My-Time dining isn't always the best option especially when they expect you to make a reservation and sometimes tablemates can be awkward when a single 60 year plus male joins them. I don't look like a ogre or anything but....
The Windjammer Buffet is an easier option but securing a table at times can be a bun fight. A book, glasses, sea pass card, glass of water left on a table doesn't always work when you scurry off to get a plate full of food. Several times I came back to find my stuff pushed aside and others sitting where I wanted to be. Gathering everything up and balancing the food while you find another place to eat is annoying and embarrassing. But that said the food in the Windjammer Cafe was pretty good.
I did venture into the Cascades Dining Room one lunch time and the waiter seemed rather put out that I was one person. He asked me twice in fact if I was dining alone. Second time I said yes I then asked him, politely, if that was a problem. He looked down his nose at me, sniffed and walked off and was extremely pleasant and polite, even introducing himself to a couple that sat down at the next table.
And for this I prepaid my gratuities. Waiter, assistant waiter and Head Waiter (who I never even saw). He did eventually take my order and it was delivered and cleared away by his pleasant assistant but he stayed well away from me and devoted his tip gleaning skills to the couple. No wonder I never went back there and ate the rest of my meals in the Windjammer. Alas they could not accept my pre-paid gratuities in the Windjammer. I couldn't get a refund or get them transferred to staff that did fuss and bother for me so I put them in the bin in my cabin the morning I left the ship. Waste of good money really.
Tipping is not an Australian custom and mandatory gratuities have an evil smell about them. Call them a service fee or something but by my dictionary a tip or a gratuity is given willingly for exceptional service without a companies mandatory statute.
All that said, the food on Radiance was quite delightful.
The entertainment and performances throughout the ship were very good. Predictable but good for what they were.
All of the staff except for one waiter in Cascades were exceptional. They always are.
was spotlessly clean and extremely comfortable. I look forward to sailing on Radiance again. The flat screen TV in the room was 100 times better than the ancient peddle driven sets on Rhapsody (and some other ships). The selection of programmes was reptitious however, some I have watched numerous times on numerous other cruise liners. How hard is it to get some up-to-date programmes ?
Other than the boarding delays, which from what I read here seem to have affected others in Australia on Radiance, the RCCL have cruising down to a pretty fine art. The boarding debacle DOES NEED SERIOUS ATTENTION.
Cruising is such an easy vacation and so it should be.
Thats probably why I do it so often...in fact I have only 46 more sleeps before I am off again.