Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas personal review. 16 night cruise sailing out of Sydney 18th December 2011.
Embarkation 12noon. Arrived at Sydney's International Passenger Cruise Terminal located at the Rocks area (near Circular Quay), to be met with long lines of passengers waiting to board and go through security. Baggage taken to the drop off point and we seemed to join the line at a break point in the line, as instructed by a guy giving out health slips to fill in. Time from arrival by taxi, to boarding the ship, approximately 50 minutes.
Radiance of the Seas has recently gone through a multimillion dollar refurbishment of the public areas and staterooms in May-June of 2011. The main public areas located on deck 6 are extensive and spacious, giving three separate entertainment and bar venues in a line. Indeed there are numerous bars located throughout this cruise liner, certainly drinkers are very well catered for on this ship, nobody should go thirsty cruising on this lady of the seas.
We never found it difficult to find a relaxing seat to enjoy a tipple or, to sit and just read a book on a sea day. Occasionally the Colony Club was a tad cold with the air conditioning, as this is where all the main cocktail parties were held, when chocker bloc with bodies in the Colony Club the temperature was just right. So this is why when not fully occupied, I guess this room was set to be cooler than the other excellent venues. Overall though, the whole ship seemed to be at an excellent temperature to enjoy this luxurious ship.
This is Radiance of the Seas first season sailing out of Australia and, I consider it to be the best overall luxury ship currently located here for the Australian summer season and in the main the Australian market. The staterooms are spacious, bright and well designed to give a good feel. The beds have rounded corners, again I suspect, to give that extra feel of space. I'm 5'10 and always my feet were hanging over the end of the bed. Nevertheless, an idea that made the cabin feel bigger than it actually was, although I would have preferred a full length bed. The mattress's had a comforter on top and this helped with a softer feel than those without. Pillows are supplied in two size heights, one firm, and one softer. The bathroom is tiny and the shower the smallest I have encountered in 20 years of cruising. I think that some larger framed individuals would find it a challenge to squeeze into these shower cubicles.
If you have a balcony cabin, either forward or towards the aft, you will not be able to view the length of the ship at anytime, as at mid-ships it has been designed with a curve that overhangs the decks below. This prevents you seeing what a monster length this ship has and unlike some ships when you view the internal corridors you feel, wow what a length, with this one, you feel you are on a much smaller ship than what you actually are. I personally liked the effect on the corridors but would have preferred to be able to see both the bow and towards the stern from my balcony. But as they say, you just can't have it both ways.
The food in the Windjammer both for breakfast and lunch was always plentiful and fresh, along with being extremely appetizing. At breakfast the choice was excellent, with both English, Continental and American sausages on offer. With lean back bacon on offer as preferred by the English and Australian guests, along with the fattier streaky, crunchier type bacon as taken by our American cousins. Eggs of all types we freshly cooked to order and, on the three occasions that I was tempted to throw caution to the wind, mine were cooked to perfection. A very full and outstanding quality breakfast was available each and every day of our 16 day cruise. Outstanding is the only word to describe this breakfast and one has to compliment the Radiance of the Seas for achieving such constantly high quality of food, day in and day out.
Lunch in the Windjammer again was of an extremely high quality, with the hot plate dishes and variety changing daily. Along with the roast meat choice, this again, was always immaculately cooked and served to you by a delightfully helpful chef. The vegetables also changed daily along with the choice of European/ American and or, Asian/Indian type dishes, again, absolutely outstanding. Always hot, always fresh and never left to go dry or cold. My only little crib, as if I only say the good things about this, you would all feel I have been paid to write this for Royal Caribbean, is the fact that at lunchtimes only one type of sliced bread is offered, which you could make a sandwich with. Yes, there are also available two types of small cob style rolls, but, these are small and are ideal to accompany soup but, not ideal for a lunch roll. The bead was also the very hard full wheat type, not enjoyed by most European/ Australian palates. So a plain brown or multi grain full size sliced bread would have been a welcome change, in which to fill and make a sandwich. Also the cooked meats offered, were a mortadella, cooked thinly sliced ham and processed sliced chicken these three never changed or varied. Every day it was the same selection which made you feel that the food was always the same. Which as indicated here, it most certainly was not. Both the variety of cooked food and hot plates did change daily but the cold selection was always the same. But please this is the only negative I could find with my Windjammer experience.
In the main evening restaurant Cascades, again the food was of a very acceptable standard. Although I did find that on level 4, the main dining option floor for first or second seating, the food was cooked and presented much better than that of level 5, the my time dining option. Both floors have their own kitchen and different chefs in both, for us, as we experienced 9 days down and 7 up, although the food served and being offered was identical, both the quality and standard were simply miles apart. We also found that the service on level 4 was of a much higher standard than that offered on level 5. Our conclusion on this is that level 4, each waiter gets to keep their own tips/gratuities unlike level 5, the My Time Dining option. On this level you may get a different table on a regular basis and therefore the cruise line distributes the tips on level 5 equally to all waiters. Hence they know if they provide you with a bad service they will still get their share of all the tips given automatically by guests, unlike level 4, where if they don't perform you can revoke your gratuities. This proving, that by keeping control of your gratuities you will receive a better service during your cruise.
Cruise lines sailing regularly out of Australian ports have started to include tipping in your cruise ticket price and listing the cruise as no tipping required. We should not allow or encourage the cruise lines to do this, as clearly our experience shows here, that by keeping control of your tips/ gratuities you will receive a better overall cruise service experience.
Officers and Crew: All crew were delightful and helpful. That being your cabin steward/ dining room waiters and any other service provided to you onboard. The officers on this ship remained mainly behind the scenes, as if they didn't want to mix with the riff-raff, me and you. The front desk/hotel reception staff were all manned by low ranking 1 bar officers. But in reality, I wouldn't call them a real officer, I think they are given the rank to do the job not because they deserve it. Some on the desk were kind and very knowledgeable but most were completely hopeless and useless with their knowledge and understanding of the real world. For example if you wanted to change currency from AU$ to NZ$, firstly this ship has a company policy to change your money to the US dollar then into the NZ dollar, hence charging you a whopping 20% commission level. When asked if they doubled charged you for commission exchange rates some of the front desk couldn't understand the question. Although clearly they were charging you a double rate commission. Only one person out of the 5 on the desk knew that in reality, you were being double charged, but its company policy. Some of the front desk staff also treated you with contempt and insolence, always agreeing with you and yet failing to resolve any issues that you may have. They would not act upon your request unless you made a stand and demanded to see a more senior officer, which produced results, whilst our experience on other ships was a more helpful and obliging front desk, this one thought they were far superior to any of the guest they were supposed to be serving.
The entertainment whilst we were onboard was some of the best overall we have experienced whilst at sea. I managed to see all but one of the shows in the Theatre and enjoyed each and everyone. Normally you get a couple of duff shows during a 14 night cruise but this one excelled my expectations.
The onboard speciality restaurants seemed to be well patronized although I only experienced the Chops restaurant twice on our 16 night cruise. Both times the meals were excellent and the quality equal to that you would receive in such places as the fine dining room of the Versace hotel on the Gold Coast. The steaks were some of the tenderest I have ever eaten, they simply just melted in your mouth. A truly wonderful experience whilst at sea, everyone should do it at least once on a cruise on this ship.
The ship only marketed itself as a 4* cruise ship and as such I think that it probably exceeded that in many ways. So, overall, I cannot say they did not live up to my expectations apart from:-
I do have issues with Royal Caribbean as we paid some $9150 for our cabin and yet 12 weeks prior to departure they were selling Balcony cabins for a low $4500, which makes your blood boil when you know, everyone is treaded the same no matter which fare you choose. But for cruise lines to reduce the fare to such an extent does create problems which I will not go into here. Long-term cruises will know what I am talking about and as such and due to our recent experience of being physically assaulted by a fellow passenger on this cruise, whilst being seated in the main dining room, I will never be returning to another Royal Caribbean ship, or indeed, any cruise ship that discounts their product down to such a degree as was available on this particular cruise. The ship did take the assault seriously and gave a notice to the offending passenger, but for me, that was simply not good enough, the offender should have be put off the ship and the very next port and not allowed to continue his journey albeit under an expulsion/good behaviour notice order issued to him.