My wife and I are in our late 40s, and unfortunately will not be able to describe ourselves that way again in a review. This was our 15th cruise, 8th with Royal Caribbean.
This cruise was with a small group of 6 family and friends, a total of 8 of us. As always, we began our vacation a day early. Our flight to Ft Lauderdale from upstate NY went very smoothly and our pre-arranged limo driver was waiting with a sign at the baggage claim for the ride to the Intercontinental in Miami. We had a very difficult time acquiring a hotel at a reasonable cost using Priceline. We bid as high as $120 for a cat 3 and were still denied. We've never had this happen in the past. We usually get something for less than $50 so we knew there must be something big going on in town this night. There was. There was a very large Carnevale the day and night of the 12th, and all but the most expensive hotels were sold out. We ended up booking at the Intercontinental for $129 plus taxes. The location next to Bayside eliminated taxi costs so we saved a few dollars there. We opened our room and the view of the ships in port could not have been better. Much closer than any hotel we've stayed in in the past. We were all hungry and went straight to Bayside (only a 5 minute walk) for dinner. After that we shopped for awhile and then headed back to our hotel while others in our group stayed and had a few drinks at one of the establishments. We were quite tired and retired early anticipating our cruise the next day.
Day 1 Embarkation -- Miami Sunday, we awake to 6 cruise ships in port. What a great view! One of them is the Radiance ; we couldn't wait! Forecast temperatures today are for mid 70's, great!!! We walked over to Bayside and grabbed a coffee and danish at Starbucks. Just enough to hold us until we sample ship food. We headed to the port around 10:45 AM and upon arriving were quickly checked in at the priority desk. Our Platinum Crown and Anchor Club membership allows us to do this. The small room is full and no seating is available. Please enlarge this area, Royal Caribbean. Around noon embarkation began and we were first in line right behind the person taking us to the ship. Another perk having priority boarding. As we overlook all the people waiting in line from a walkway above, we spot my sister and brother in law in a long line below. They spot us about the same time and my dear sister informs me that I'm number one. Except for some wheelchair passengers ahead of us, we were nearly first on the ship.
Once aboard you are not allowed in your staterooms until 1 PM. In the past we always dropped our carryons in the cabin and then went to eat lunch. RCCI does not even allow this anymore, as all access to the staterooms is blocked. We reluctantly dragged our carryon to the Windjammer for lunch. A little while later, most of the rest of our group (my mother who resides in Clearwater had bus transportation to port and had not caught up with us yet) joined us in the furthest to the rear part of the Windjammer. This is an outside location and is a great place to eat. We found that even during peak hours later in the cruise, there are almost always seats available. Our food was a great surprise this cruise in the Windjammer. Much better than last years cruise on the Voyager. My wife ate the fish selections quite often and was very happy with the quality. I often found the selections at the carving station to my liking. Deserts were also better than past RCCI cruises.
We finished eating around 1PM and were anxious to see our cabins. We booked cabin 8594, a cat E2 on the most outer edge of the bump. The balcony size is 8' x 4'. It's one of the best non suite cabins on the ship because of the excellent views fore and aft. Views from cabins that are not on the bump are limited because you can't see past the bump. As we arrived at our cabin entrance, my mother did so at the same time. She and a friend stayed in the other outer bump cabin next to us. We checked out our cabins and were very pleased. Now it's time for the hot tub. A tradition with us, as this is the least crowded time to go during the entire cruise. We went out on deck and found only 2 small hot tubs, each only large enough for about 6 close friends. The solarium had only one hot tub, the same size. Three small hot tubs on a ship carrying over 2000 passengers is just not enough. On the Voyager class ships there are 6 hot tubs and 4 of the 6 are huge. Anyway, like I said, this is the time to go. The hot tubs were mostly empty and we spent quite awhile in them with my sister and brother in law. Our luggage had arrived when we returned to the cabin so we unpacked and got ready for muster drill at 4:30. We were happy to find our drill was held inside one of the ship lounge areas, which is so much more comfortable than outside in the hot sun.
Early dinner for us was at 6PM this cruise. We had an awesome table location (437) in the Cascades dining room, right next to the captain's table. A beautiful water fall was in back of the stairs. Our waiter Eduardo from the Philippines and Vanda from Hungary served us for the week and they were among the best we've ever had. More about them later. The cod and rib eye were excellent. For desert, the key lime pie was a hit with my wife, and I never had any problem finding something that I liked. The welcome aboard show was at 7:45 to accommodate both dinner seatings. Cruise director Gordon Whitman told a couple jokes after introducing himself and then comedian Brad Upton took over the show. He was very funny. Took in some shops and then retired early.
Day 2 Coco Cay -- Today is Valentines Day, our 30 year anniversary of our engagement. I thought it was a good excuse to go on a cruise. We arrived in Coco Cay right on time at 8AM. We ate in the Windjammer early, then visited the hot tub for awhile in the morning. After that we tendered over to the island. Today the beach day is going to be a welcome change from the cold Northeast that we left. It's in the mid 70's today and when the sun is out in full, it's hot. Water was freezing! The barbecue was ok, just the usual ribs, burgers, and hot dogs. The shopping is the usual island souvenirs and not very good deals here. A shot glass with Coco Cay on it was a ridiculous $10. We stayed until 3 and went back to the ship. Royal Caribbean has improved the island since our last visit, with more brightly colored huts -more options for sampling the island "spirits." This evening at 5 was the "Captain's Reception". It's also formal night and we always look forward to it. We had our fill of free drinks and then on to dinner at 6. Appetizers tonight included shrimp cocktails and escargot and most of us ordered extra. Everyone got the tenderloin except my wife who likes duck better. We all approved of our selections. Dessert included the Grand Marnier SoufflE, another favorite of my wife. Everything is excellent again tonight. We are so pleased that the food is better than in the past 2-3 RCCI cruises. Tonight's show is singer comedian Judy Kolba. She was a big hit with the audience. Very funny. After that we went to the Colony Club where the battle of the sexes was to be held. Not very good at all. The hosts running it seemed unprepared and disorganized. The same with the Karaoke held immediately afterward. The person running the Karaoke on our Voyager cruise last fall was far and above the person hosting the competition at this show. We only stayed to see about 4 people singing. We were pretty tired out from the long day and retired about midnight.
Day 3 At Sea -- Today there is no reason to rush anything, so we visit the dining room for breakfast. The French Toast has been a favorite in the past and today it's good again. My wife and mother went for a long walk up on deck while I read pool side. The 2 small hot tubs were full, many times with kids. RCCI doesn't enforce their age limit for using the hot tubs, so why post signs? It's quite cool and sunny today. The captain announced that caution should be taken as the wind on deck would approach 50 MPH. We ate lunch in the dinning room today. Wife had the Cajun Catfish (excellent!) and I had a big hamburger. Desert was Coconut Crème Brulee for my wife and I had a huge chocolate brownie with a topping. Almost too much to eat, but as a chocolate lover, I couldn't waste it. We shopped for awhile and I napped for awhile while my wife read. Our group often dressed early for dinner and went to the Champagne Bar for a cocktail at around 5. This evening the waiter, Zeebe brought us chocolate covered strawberries with our drinks. He did this other evenings too. At dinner tonight I ordered the lamb and shrimp scampi and both were quite good. The tiramisu is a favorite for my wife. Another good dinner. RCCI is on a roll this week. After dinner we head to the Crown and Anchor Society reception where the free drinks flowed again. After that we head to see the first of two production shows, "The Piano Man" with the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. This, according to our cruise director Gordon, is a new RCCI production seen only on this ship at this time. The show was excellent and was one of the best shows we've seen on a cruise ship. Every song was one that you'll recognize and were performed excellently. You can't miss it! The late night adult comedy was at midnight with Brad Upton. He was about average for adult comedy, I'd say. Not the best and not the worst we've seen in our cruise experience.
Day 4 St Thomas -- Up early and off to the Windjammer for 7 o'clock breakfast. Ships visiting St Thomas after stopping in a foreign port must clear immigration where every passenger on the ship has to present themselves to the authorities. They want to see your passport or birth certificate, etc. to prove who you are. Today the process was very fast and were soon on our way off the ship. My sister, brother in law, and my mother joined us for the $6pp taxi ride to Megan's Bay. Cost is $3pp for admission. This has been considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world and we enjoy visiting from time to time. Brother in law Tom went in the water. The rest of us didn't as the water was not particularly warm. Lounges are available for $5 and there are also bar service, food and rest rooms. We sunned there for a couple hours and returned to the ship for lunch in the Windjammer. After lunch we headed to the shopping area right off the ship. All of the large major stores that could be visited in town are here too. We almost never go into town because it's all right off the ship. The very first store we visit, disaster strikes. My wife spots a gold bracelet that she falls for. I can see financial damage in my future. She chews him down to an acceptable price in writing and walks out. Has to visit other stores to see if there might be something better I guess. After awhile we return and purchase the bracelet. Back to the ship with a lighter wallet. Happy Valentines Day sweetie!!! Today was just a perfect day. Not too hot and with a comfortable breeze. We often come here on September cruises and it can be very warm. We changed into our suits again in hopes that there would be room in one of the hot tubs. Not going to happen today. Packed full. Many kids in them again!!!.
Tonight we stop at St. Croix for a scheduled fuel stop. RCCI schedules busses for the short ride to the end of the pier. They do this because the area is under heavy construction and is not safe to walk. We skipped the show (magician) tonight in order to see the area where we remember shopping right off the pier many years ago on another cruise. The whole area was dark. We don't even know if the stores along the shore are still open or not. The buses dropped us off in the middle of a few blocked off streets where there were few street vendors selling their island souvenirs. No nice stores selling jewelry and the like. There was a band playing ,and there were a couple bars where we were encouraged to visit. There was a large sketch of what the revitalization would look like when completed. The whole Frederiksted pier area is being redone. It's been said that the reason that cruise ships stopped coming here was not so much the crime, but because of politics. When we visited here 10 years ago, the island had just been devastated by a major hurricane. There were wires hanging all over and we even saw a large boat in a hotel swimming pool in Christiansted. The merchants were so happy that the ships had started to return after 2 weeks of cleanup. About 2 years ago, St. Croix went from hosting an average of 230,000 passengers annually to 2,300 from smaller cruise companies. Now the island is hoping that the revitalization will get those passengers back. I hope so too. We'll gladly come again when it's finished. We only spent about 20 minutes before getting back on the bus with many other like-minded folk. On the way back to the ship we had to go through 2 checkpoints. We were required to hold up our seapass cards to prove we belonged on the ship. The guard at each stop was extremely friendly to the passengers and we all knew that we were wanted back soon. Back on the ship, we were able to catch the last 20 minutes or so of the magic show by Levent. He was very funny and entertaining. After the show was the "Love and Marriage Game", a show we always attend, but unfortunately not tonight. We also missed the always fun deck party. Maybe next cruise we'll take a good nap in the afternoon so we don't miss them again.
Day 5 St. Maarten -- Ah, another one of our favorite ports of call. We are up early to eat breakfast and are soon on our way to Orient Beach by taxi van. Cost is $6pp. Joining us today is my brother-in-law, mother and 2 friends. We walked down the beach a ways looking for a deal on lounges and umbrellas, but it seems that this time of year vendors are less willing to deal as there are so many people coming here. I have never seen the beach so crowded. We've only come here in September's off season. You almost have the beach to yourself until 10 or so, when the tours start coming on the beach. Today the beach is already crowded at 9AM. Is wasn't bad at all even with all the people. We settled for a spot where we were able to rent a lounge chair and umbrella for $15 total. Perfect beach for people watching. We stayed until 1:30 in the afternoon. This is probably our favorite beach in the Caribbean. It's scenery is just great and you can walk for a long way along the beach. The water is warm and we just love it here. Megan's Bay in St Thomas with all it's recommendations and awards has nothing at all over this beach. On the way back to the ship, our taxi driver said that we were so lucky as it had been terrible rainy weather up until the day we arrived. Good for us! We had a light lunch and out for a hot tub visit. Not happening today either. Full of people. Doesn't take many when there are only 3 tubs on the ship! Sat out awhile and then went in to get ready for dinner. We had a pre dinner cocktail before dinner tonight with the group and then another great meal. We decided not to go to the show with Dominick Allen tonight. We just saw him a few months ago on the Voyager. We thought we'd try the hot tub after dinner instead. My brother-in-law Tom decided that would be a great idea too. At about 8:15 we went up on deck and found that there was no one in the hot tubs. Reason being they were closed. Nets over them both! Give me a break. Closing them at this hour is ridiculous. We all know they have to be serviced, but at 8 in the evening. They could certainly be done at other less popular hours of the day. We then head to the solarium to see if that hot tub was available. Yes it was open, but full of people. About 15 minutes later Tom sees us and starts walking toward us. When he was about 8-10 feet away us, his feet went out from under him and he took a terrible fall. Please go to the following link to read about that. http://cruisereview.homestead.com/Tom.html Tonight at 10:30 was "The Quest Game Show", a show that you should never miss on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship. It's by far the funniest show on the ocean. You should never miss it. After Tom's fall and getting him settled in his cabin, we went to meet up with the remainder of our group in the Colony Club and to inform them about Tom's fall. The quest took a back seat this evening. We stayed, but the show wasn't as funny to us because our thoughts were elsewhere.
Day 6 At Sea -- We slept a little later than normal this morning. Got up to the Windjammer around 9 and then out back outside where we like to sit. I saw a whale jump in the distance. The captain later announced that they'd been doing it much of the morning. After breakfast, we went to get Tom to bring him for his "checkup". The new doctor informed him that his injury was much more serious than previously described. His ankle was broken and he would need surgery. The doctor put a cast on and we took him back to his cabin for much needed rest. No sleep at all the previous night for him or his wife. Time to eat lunch by now and then out for an afternoon on deck. It's a beautiful day today. The captain slowed the ship a bit so the wind wasn't bad. Sunny almost all day. Pre dinner drinks at the Champagne Bar again tonight. It's also formal night. Dinner once again was a real treat. Lobster and prime rib, yum! Only problem is we're missing Tom, miserable in his cabin I'm sure. Our waiter I know made his day though. After we had our dinner, he personally took Tom's meal to him in his cabin. He got the best service on the ship today. Upon arriving back at our cabin this evening, we received an invite to the Platinum and Diamond Members party in the Starquest Lounge. We didn't realize then, but the time for the party was for the afternoon of that day. We were quite disappointed when we showed up Saturday afternoon and no party. Somebody screwed up for sure. This evening is the second of the Royal Caribbean Productions, "Welcome to our World". This show was ok, but not nearly as entertaining as the Piano Man. We went to Karaoke Idle expecting to stay for the entire show this time. We got great seats and two members of our group (ladies) decided to be judges. They were seated and the show began. Only 1 or 2 singers actually got through their songs before the machine kept breaking down. Karaoke ended up getting cancelled with a full Colony Club audience waiting to hear some entertainment. This kind of killed the night for us.
Sunday At Sea -- Sunday, our last day of the cruise. Depression is setting in. It's been so much fun and is soon coming to an end. We eat and then out on deck by 9. What's this? No one is in the hot tubs. No nets. Just water. Finally, we're in and we're not coming out! Ok, we did come out when it was time to eat again. We showered for the Crown and Anchor party that was held the day before. That was dumb!!! When we found out we changed again, found my mother and went to the Seaview Cafe over the Windjammer. The line was about 15 minutes. Our meals included a hamburger, a Reuben, onion rings, and fish and chips. Ok, but not really worth waiting in line for to us. We found a spot that was not too crowded up on deck 12 right near the elevators outside. Most of our group stayed there all afternoon. We even got Tom out of his cabin to join us for a beer up there. The weather again was perfect. My wife was very reluctant to go in to get ready for dinner. This is the one and only problem with early seating, in our opinion. We went to the Champagne Bar for our last pre dinner cocktail and chocolate covered strawberries. Tom made it here and to dinner. And it was another good one. Tonight's show was the Farewell Show with the cruise in review video and juggler Dario Vasquez. Ok, just nothing special. I wish the ships staff still did the "if I were upon the sea" skits that we've seen on previous cruises, years ago. These shows were always a hit on the last night. After the show we finished packing and got our bags out in the hall. My wife went to sleep and a friend and I went to the casino for a contribution. While sitting at the blackjack table around 11:30 I think, there was a power outage on the ship. The casino stayed well lit overhead, but everything else went dead. The dealers immediately covered their trays of chips. I heard that the hallways became pitch black with only emergency lighting along the floor. Something to see I guess. The captain made an announcement a few minutes later saying that everything was ok and we would still be in the port of Miami on time. Too Bad!
Day 8 Debarkation Miami -- Our whole group met in the dining room at 6 am for the last breakfast. We had a few laughs and then headed to the handicapped waiting area in the dining room. We now had 2 wheelchairs in our group of 8 to leave. We were among the first to go through immigration and customs. All went quickly and we were off the ship around 7:30 and waiting for our luggage. Out on the sidewalk soon after. Only one problem now. Our limo is not scheduled to come until 9:15-9:30. We won't do that again. The limo ended up being one of the least expensive ways, $33.67pp round trip to and from Ft Lauderdale, but the trunks in these cars are not luggage friendly. We ended up having much of it in the back with us. We arrived at Ft Lauderdale Airport around 10:10 AM and found the lines to be very long. I've never seen the place so mobbed. We made it home by 8pm, and started planning our next cruise!
After thoughts: Positives: The Radiance class ships are more elegant and intimate than the Voyager Class The Radiance Class have the outside elevators with glass. In fact the whole ship is glass. The ship beautifully designed and is one of the easiest to get around especially if you have a cabin close to the centrum elevators. Staff was very friendly with excellent service. Food in the dining room is much improved over the last 2-3 years. This cruise, it was excellent. Great outdoor seating in the back of the windjammer. Drinks are very reasonable. I looked up my receipts from our Monarch cruise in 1995 and found the following: Beer then $2.50, now $3.00 Frozen drinks then $3.75, now $4.75 Whisky Sour then $3.25, now $4.25
Negatives: Too few hot tubs to handle a ship with 2100 passengers. The basketball court's bouncing balls can be heard in the windjammer below it and are loud. I think that to have a basketball court on any ship is a terrible waste of deck area that could be utilized for a larger percentage of the ship's passengers with something else.
I know that this review was one of my longest. Hope you enjoyed though. I'd be glad to answer any questions I can. Email me at Cruisinfantic@aol.com