Cruise Critic was on hand last week in Victoria, British Columbia, to check out the project, the first major revitalization in the 10-year-old ship's history. Among the changes are the addition of 15 new staterooms, an onboard nursery and a slew of dining venues, all of which need to be completed before the 90,090-ton, 2,112-passenger Radiance sets sail June 10 on an Alaska itinerary from Vancouver.
Radiance's redo is just part of what's shaping up to be a busy year for Royal Caribbean. Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas were both dry-docked for seven days in early 2011, Oasis of the Seas has been enhanced with more Allure of the Seas-style entertainment (think Shrek and the rest of the DreamWorks team), and Splendour of the Seas will enter dry-dock in Cadiz, Spain, for 28 days in November.
For now, however, it's all about Radiance, being tended and upended by roughly 1,700 hardhat-sporting workers (including subcontractors, Royal Caribbean's riding teams and the ship's roughly 850 person crew).
When we arrived, we found sheaths of protective carpeting and plastic wrapping stretched across nearly every visible surface of the ship's interior. Banquette cushions from lounges lay piled in hallways. And every piece of artwork hanging in the ship's gallery had been individually swathed in protective plastic.
Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of hotel operations, said the inspiration for Radiance's upgrades came largely from guest feedback from Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, the line's newest and largest ships.
For instance, the "nursery on Oasis was such a big hit, and this is such a family brand, we realized it was something, as we continue to renovate and revitalize the ship, that's very important to our customers," said Bauer. Radiance, which had no nursery, will now sport a facility on Deck 12 aft (within the ship's former video and arcade space, which is being relocated) that will be open to children ages 6 months to 36 months at a cost of $8 per hour.
Still, most tongues are wagging over the addition of eight new dining spots, including specialty restaurants that come with a cover charge and complimentary venues. "Because of the popularity of some of the new specialty restaurants we introduced on Oasis and Allure, we thought it was a great opportunity to really bring those back to Radiance," explained Bauer.
Among the new restaurants are Giovanni's Table on Deck 6 (previously Portofino's), an Italian restaurant with a $15 cover charge for lunch and $20 for dinner, as well as Park Cafe (on Deck 11 inside the ship's solarium), a gratis addition specializing in panini and salads.
Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse (replacing Seaview Cafe and open for dinner only, $25 per person) and Chef's Table, with its five-course set menu with wine pairings ($95 person), will also debut on Radiance, as well as Rita's Cantina, a Mexican restaurant on Deck 11 that has no cover charge.
For the gotta-have-something-new set, there's the Quill & Compass Pub (previously Scoreboard Sports Bar), an English-style watering hole complete with dark woods and an old-world atmosphere that's being added on Deck 6. "Wherever you go in the world, everyone has their favorite pub," said Bauer, and Radiance will be no different.
In addition, all of the ship's staterooms have been upgraded with new flooring in the bathrooms and the addition of interactive flat-screen TVs. And the ship's 15 new staterooms include three geared specifically for solo travelers; they're being built in an area formerly used for room service staging.
For all the new things guests aboard Radiance will notice -- from pervasive WiFi and new Digital Wayfinder signage throughout the ship to the oversized outdoor movie screen on the pool deck -- there's much passengers won't lay eyes on, too, including upgrades to the ship's navigational systems and improvements to the crew cabins and lounges below deck.
And for passengers who've sailed before on Radiance, she'll be very much recognizable as her former self.
"The footprint of the ship hasn't changed," said Bauer. "She still has all the beautiful woodwork and glass." And brand icons such as the Schooner Bar, main dining areas, gift shop, spa and fitness center have been updated but not overhauled, she said.
For a look at the work being done onboard Radiance, check out the slideshow above.
--by Terry Ward, Cruise Critic contributor