Cruises to Nowhere -- April 1-4 & 4-6, 2001 These were our 15th and 16th cruises (back-to-back) in the past four years and our 6th & 7th on RCI. We booked these cruises so that we could be among the first to experience the much ... Read More
Cruises to Nowhere -- April 1-4 & 4-6, 2001 These were our 15th and 16th cruises (back-to-back) in the past four years and our 6th & 7th on RCI. We booked these cruises so that we could be among the first to experience the much touted new ship the Radiance of the Seas which is the first of a new class of ships that RCI is introducing. The new Radiance class ships will be in size between the megaships (Vision class) and gigaships (Voyagerclass). Unlike the most recent gigaships, the Voyager and the Explorer, this one is Panamax (can pass through the Panama Canal). She is indeed a beautiful ship. Needless to say, we had another interesting cruise. Again the weather was perfect, the Caribbean Sea was calm, the moon was full and the stars were bright: the right ingredients for relaxation. First Impressions The Radiance of the Seas at 90,090 tons and 962 feet long, can accommodate 2,100 passengers and 900 crew members. She has the beautiful sea green tinted windows on the upper exterior, typical of the RCCL ships, which distinguishes them from all other lines. Approximately 50% of her exterior is glass walled including four glass elevators facing the sea and two more facing the Centrum. Her sleek silhouette recalls the smaller RCCL ships, yet simultaneously she incorporates several amenities of the larger Voyager class while avoiding the boxier shape. She looks more like a gigantic yacht. The Radiance is truly a lovely ship with nautical motifs and tasteful comfortable appointments. Inaugurated on April 7, 2001, (one day after we left her) she left for repositioning to Seattle, via the Panama Canal, and will cruise to Canada, Alaska and Hawaii before returning this fall to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to cruise to the Southern Caribbean Islands. She has many exciting cruises ahead and we wish her Godspeed! Embarkation This was the first time that we arrived in Port Everglades and couldn't locate our ship. Due to a late departure of the Millennium from Pier 18, the Radiance was kept out of port until well after 1:00 pm, as matter of fact she docked at the pier a little before 2:00 pm. We had this straight from Captain Ringborn himself; even with this unexpected delay, the Radiance missed its scheduled 2:00 pm boarding time by only 15 minutes. We arrived in port at 12:45 pm, were processed and went by elevator to the upper waiting room from where we could see the ship approaching Pier 18. This was the first boarding of this ship in Ft. Lauderdale, with mostly new personnel, so there was some chaos. Some passengers were upset, but most of them understood the problem and knew that boarding time had been set at 2:00 pm, thus they were not perturbed by this small inconvenience. Life can be wonderful with a bit of patience. Unfortunately we heard some strident loud voices, when in actuality boarding was only slightly delayed and the reason was given over and over to people who didn't care to listen. It's for sure that these people never heard the statement: " I travel a lot; I hate to have my life disrupted by routine." The unexpected can be refreshing. Our boarding cards were not at the counters on the pier, but we received a temporary boarding pass and were told to pick up the cards at Guest Relations on Deck 4, which we did. We were disappointed for not receiving wheel chair assistance during embarkation or debarkation. Vincent lately has been having mobility problems and has extensively used his wheel chair, thus we had asked for assistance, but to no avail. On our recent cruises, on the Celebrity Millennium and CostaAtlantica, we were escorted to our cabins by crew members, but on this ship we had to search for the cabin ourselves, without a ship's map or deck plan which had not yet been printed, thus not available for passengers. Upon entering on Deck 4, the Centrum was alive with piano music and we took the glass elevator to Deck 9 and in a few minutes we were in our cabin. Our luggage arrived while we were at dinner (main seating). On a new ship, it takes time to put into place all of the services which we take for granted (i.e. Do Not Disturb/Make Up Cabin signs, water carafes in cabins, etc., which were not yet available on this ship). The Ship In 1998, for the initial planning of the Radiance of the Seas, Captain Kent Ringborn became the site manager for RCI at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where he remained for the entire building project of this ship. It can be a source of comfort for cruisers to know that this Captain has an intimate knowledge of his ship. He literally came on board before she was afloat! (More later about the amazing Captain Ringborn). The nine deck high Centrum is refreshingly different; it has two tall waterfalls and each deck has semi-circular balconies from which guests can look down over the entire Centrum. Up high is a suspended sculpture of delicate spoked half wheel arches which create interesting light patterns on the walls. There is a spectacular bar flanked by huge crystal urns filled with yellow lemons and white calla lilies, a green glass stairway between decks 4 and 5 and tropical plants everywhere. The large dance floor has a nautical compass-like design in colored marble. People were dancing in the Centrum every evening. On deck 6, toward the aft, is located the traditional Schooner Bar, augmented by a long foyer with small refurbished antique cannons and ship's ropes; when walking through this area, the air is pungent with the smell of old ships. On the left is a full length portrait of Jenny Lind, the famous soprano of the 1850's, known as the "Swedish Nightingale" and appropriately placed on the next wall is a painting of the ship "Nightingale" in a storm. We hope the passengers recognize the intended pairing. In this bar are also the foyers and entrances for Portofino and Chops Grille, the upscale "reservation only" restaurants. Further on toward the rear is the Colony Club, styled after an English Men's Club, which consists of four separate areas: The Bombay Billiard Club, the Jakarta Lounge, the Singapore Sling's and the Calcutta Card Club. In the Billiard Club there are the first two self-leveling billiard tables at sea; it's amazing how they compensate for the ship's motion through the use of gyroscope technology, yet the balls remain absolutely stable. Captain Ringborn related to us that on the transatlantic voyage, the engineer, who oversaw installation of these tables, was found sleeping blissfully on one table during a rather nasty storm at sea: clever fellow to avoid rolling, pitching, and motion sickness. This made us wonder if there would be gyroscopic beds, cabins or decks some day, eliminating the needs for motion sickness medicine. Beyond the billiard room is the center of the Colony Club. It has tiered seating and a sunken dance floor. It was here where Captain Ringborn sang to the passengers "Welcome to Our World;" quite a pleasant surprise and he was in fine voice: a cultivated baritone. A modern day Renaissance man! The captain's welcome aboard cocktail was held here, as were the daily bingo games. The Cascades Dining Room, Decks 4 & 5 is elegant with its two deck sweeping semi-circular staircase flanked by two dark blue waterfalls (for those planning an onboard wedding this would make a dramatic backdrop). On the ceiling there is a simple huge oval glass light, and ten round glass lights circling the lower tier. There are ten two deck high columns covered with white sheer fabric and twenty wooden columns downstairs; the chairs are blue/green with arms -- very comfortable. But the most fascinating sight in this room is the back wall mosaic: Three mermaids and a dolphin cavorting on a copper and gold sea, while the gods of the wind blow down on them from clouds above. Tres belle! We found the nicest public place for relaxing to be the African themed Solarium Deck 11; three bigger than life elephants, with a bridge in front of them, form a wall overlooking the pool. There is a bronze lion cub reposing on the edge of the pool and monkeys high up in the tropical plants and a bald eagle and a background audio tape of jungle sounds. Very relaxing. They should remove the English ivy plants, since they are not tropical and mostly dying anyway. There is a medium sized jacuzzi, two thatched roofed cabanas for rinsing off and more than enough wooden chaises. On Deck 13 is the Starquest Disco and it's a RADIANT room with sparkling crystals imbedded in the windows and walls in galaxy designs: A must see! Right next door is the Hollywood Odyssey featuring a life-size bronze of Marilyn Monroe with billowing skirts from the movie the "Seven Year Itch." This ship has many delights for the eye, some of which are quite remarkable and every stairwell has huge colored glass murals. There are many more public places that we have not yet mentioned, but the three deck high Aurora theatre is a must see. We believe that there are no bad seats or obstructed views in this theatre. Other interesting places are the Champagne Bar on deck 6, the Sports Court/Country Club, with the rock-climbing wall and miniature golf course on deck 12, a very spacious Ship Shape Spa, the Seaview Cafe and the Adventure Beach with water slide and splash pool for kids. We are certain to have missed some interesting locations on board, but our cruise on this ship lasted only five days. We must plan a longer cruise to get the information needed to write a thorough review, but for now this must do. Vincent recommends Books, Books & Coffee on deck 5, adjacent to the shops. There were not too many books for sale, but we bought some exquisite liquor filled chocolates (reasonably priced). However, the most favored spot here is Seattle's Best which brews the best specialty coffees at sea, such as Espresso, Cappuccino, Caffe`- Latte and Granita, and these beverages were all free of charge, including some great cookies. The Cabin Our Deck 9 Deluxe Oceanview cabin #9592 with balcony was a nice size. When entering on the right, there is a bathroom with circular shower with curtain (we missed the Plexiglas door), a single sink with triple mirror and a single medicine cabinet (beware of the sharp corner on the cabinet door). There is blue decorative tile with a lifesaver motif centered with white daisies, nice touch. Then there was a double blue/gold velour sofa and what was listed as a queen sized bed was really a king sized one with an extra firm mattress. Entering on the left there is a triple wardrobe, a vanity/desk with a triple mirror and after that a three-tiered cabinet with a safe in the top section, in the middle an interactive TV (nice for checking on your onboard account, but not yet functional) and on the bottom a well-stocked mini-bar refrigerator. A wall-to-wall drape separated the sitting area from the bedroom and another drape covered the far glass wall with the sliding door to the small balcony. The cabin was pleasantly decorated in blue, gold, and burnt orange with lots of natural maple wood. The stewardess, Neneng, was new and needed prompting, but was willing and pleasant. Since our veranda was a bit larger than others of similar cabins (the shape of our veranda was trapezoid, not rectangular, due to our cabin's position near the ship's center where it bulges out), we asked Neneng for a chaise to be placed on the veranda with the two chairs and tiny table already there. She took a while but did bring one. Note on shipboard etiquette: Do not flick cigarette butts off your balcony -- they will land on our balcony if your cabin is above or forward of ours. The Food The Welcome Aboard Buffet was very good as with all of the Windjammer offerings. The new set up with several islands is a bit confusing with a chaotic traffic pattern on the first day, but the signs above the fare are helpful and it did get better in future days. There was staff ready to carry trays to the tables, which was necessary due to the wheel chair. The desserts were excellent: fantastic fruit tarts, eclairs, cookies (Mary was hooked on the oatmeal and chocolate chip ones). We had breakfast (full American) in our cabin the first two days, but then room service was inexplicably terminated for the rest of the cruise, from then on we ate breakfast at the Windjammer. However, the last morning we had breakfast in the dining room and it was almost deserted. Perhaps too many rumors of two-hour breakfasts scared people away. We usually ignore rumors and see for ourselves. We had excellent service and a delicious meal. On our way out, we encountered Mehmet Soyler, Wait Staff Trainer, whom we had previously met on both the Voyager and the Explorer. He had been an excellent waiter to us on the Voyager and he appreciated our writing him up in our review. We are sure he will be successful in training the new crew to bring "snappy" service to this ship, a badly needed improvement! There was some improvement in service in just the five days we were on the Radiance, but we expect to see better reviews as time goes by. The main dining room food was fair to good. The best dishes were shrimp cocktail, Peking duck and the desserts (chocolate soufflE, tiramisu`, ice cream but no swans!). The lack of wine stewards was soon evident when Vincent's wine was misplaced. Service was slow but pleasant, we guess they need to find their "sea legs"! The ship has two alternative dining options: The Portofino, an upscale Euro-Italian restaurant, and the Chops Grille, both requiring reservation and a $20 fee. We checked out the menu at the Portofino and found it the same as the one on the Explorer. We also found out that there have been no changes in the chef involved in the creation and formulation of the Portofino's menu. Thus we decided not to try this restaurant again, since our last experience on the Explorer was not satisfactory. In our review of the inaugural cruise of the Explorer we suggested that for creating a menu with the true taste (gusto) of Italian cuisine, RCI has to hire a chef who truly knows what Italian food should taste and use the right ingredients to achieve the expected flavors, which is not currently happening at the Portofino. We did dine at Chops Grille with the Captain, and the Environmental Officer Debbie Nylund (this was a treat for Vincent since he is a retired Professor of Environmental Health) and Debbie's friend, a lady passenger from Chicago. The Captain is a wonderfully warm gentleman, who has spent most of his life at sea after graduating from the Swedish Merchant Maritime Academy. His love of the sea and ships is much in evidence. We had a wonderful meal consisting of grilled veal, cooked to perfection, broiled portobellos with roasted peppers, New England clam chowder (as a native Bostonian, Mary gave it an A+) and desserts were Mississippi Mud Pie, Tiramisu` and ice cream. Don't miss it, allow approximately two hours, if you make reservations for 6:30 pm, you'll just make the 9:00 pm show as we did. Service was casual and we had an excellent time with delightful company. To be sure that there are available tables, make your reservation during the first few hours aboard the ship. Entertainment Cruise Director Gordon Whatman (England) was highly visible, ebullient and has set the goal of making the Radiance the friendliest ship afloat. We feel he is succeeding. A university educated mechanical engineer, he also has a finely tuned voice (opera background). We have it on good report from reliable sources (Mary's sister Elizabeth and her husband Vito who raved about his performance) and other cruisers who said that he wowed the audience. The welcome aboard show "Rockin in Paradise" had great dancers, but the singing (the microphone check failed to tone down a too loud sound) and the costumes were not the greatest. The second night there were two brothers from Argentina (Mario & David) who did a hilarious routine on the "trip to nowhere" and on the strange habits of elderly Italian gentlemen hitching up their trousers. They ended up with a breathtaking performance of twirling "boles" and were warmly applauded. They perform on Telemundo (Spanish) TV, Miami. The final show was "Welcome to Our World," an around the world tour with wonderful costumes: Chinese, French, African and Spanish segments with excellent visual effects! Great dancing, but the singing was loud and dissonant. The Casino is the usual smoky, busy place. The final night it was crowded with so many gamblers trying to recoup their losses, that we gave up and sought the peace and quiet of our veranda. But on this "Cruise to Nowhere" it was open every day and cruisers were truly enjoying it. We had our time in it, when it was less crowded, and made our usual donation to the slot machines and the poker table. The Centrum frequently had a wonderful group "Upscale" with a female vocalist so terrific that she attracted people on all nine decks of balconies. Sorry we can't attach a name to her, we asked at guest relations and everyone was so new that they couldn't identify her. There was an abundance of activities to suit all: art auctions, Ship Shape exercise programs, bingo, line dancing, contests, horse racing, etc., etc., and a fine library. If a passenger was bored it was not Gordon's fault. Service Since many new ships are scheduled to come on line in the near future, a new experiment took place on the Radiance: More than 60% of the staff is new, not just to the ship, but also to the service industry. RCI has initiated a new system aboard this ship. There are no longer officers in charge of the service crew, such as a Chief Purser or Hotel Manager, who are in the chain of command of the ship, but in their places there are civilian administrators: a comptroller and a general manager, who oversee the hotel activities on board. We did write to Helmut Leikauf, General Manager, requesting an appointment; however, we did not have the chance to meet with him. He set up two appointments, which he had to cancel due to emergencies. Basically since our questions went unanswered, we approached this cruise like ethnography and tried to make sense out of some of the incidents we encountered: we ended up attributing problems to "unschooled help." Some passengers complain loudly and rudely. We prefer to ask politely for whatever we need and we are always served pleasantly. We were onboard for a restful cruise and we had one. Debarkation We had priority white tags, and were on land by 8:15 am. However, unlike Costa and Celebrity Lines, there was no one to help with the wheel chair upon debarking. We had a hair-raising experience when on a long steep ramp the chair picked up speed and was difficult to hold back. We did the fifty-yard dash in record time for us! In retrospect we should have insisted on some assistance to debark. After this close call, next time we will. Conclusion This was one of our worst cruises as far as service, but we still loved it. The service was the poorest, especially to those who consider RCI among the lines with the best service at sea. Not that it matters much, but this was our first cruise without having chocolates on the pillows at night. We suggest that RCI train the staff prior to offering cruises to paying passengers; otherwise, the line's reputation becomes tainted, especially with new customers. When novice cabin stewards or waiters are utilized on board they should be closely supervised by experienced staff. In our opinion this experiment has failed and we want to post this review on the Internet hoping that RCI will become aware of the mistakes and try to prevent repeating them. We are addicted to cruising and plan to remain so for many years. Are we going to cruise again with the Radiance of the Seas and with other RCI ships? Of course we will! One positive note on the training of the new crew of this ship was passed to us by Debbie Nylund, the Environmental Officer. She assured us that her priority has been training the crew on safety in emergency situations. This was done prior to other training activities, including service. Safety to us is the most important aspect on a ship or in any other place indeed. And we hope that the lessons on safety are not forgotten while the crew is trained to perform excellent service. Happy Cruising! vnfinelli@mindspring.comApril 2001 Read Less
This is a review of our spring break cruise on the brand new Radiance of the Seas. There were 3 of us including my wife and our 15-year old son. Before embarking on it's maiden season of Alaskan and Southern Caribbean cruises, ... Read More
This is a review of our spring break cruise on the brand new Radiance of the Seas. There were 3 of us including my wife and our 15-year old son. Before embarking on it's maiden season of Alaskan and Southern Caribbean cruises, RCI was offering several short 'reduced rate' cruises to nowhere on the Radiance from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale starting March 24th. Our particular cruise was the 3-night embarking March 26, and was the first cruise scheduled for paying customers. The actual maiden voyage of the Radiance was set for April 7th, a 14-day trip through the Panama Canal as the ship heads to Alaska for the summer. The Radiance is a brand new class of ship for Royal Caribbean. At around 90,000 tons it is supposed to bring together some of the best aspects of both the Vision and Voyager class vessels while still being able to navigate the Panama Canal, spending half her time in Alaska and the other half in the southern Caribbean. Before going any farther I need to answer the question of why take such a short cruise, especially since we had to travel a long distance just to get to Miami. In fact, our only previous cruise was a short cruise aboard the Disney Magic 2 years ago and I swore then I would never take a short cruise again because it was over too soon (though that experience did hook us on cruising). However, there were several compelling reasons we decided to go on this cruise. First of all was the price. I received an e-mail in early January from a large internet cruise agency advertising special prices on this ship in March and April. Even for a short cruise I thought they were misprints. I called, verified the price, and booked on the spot. I was also able to secure really reasonable airfare to Florida. I have found you can get good rates most any time of the year, even during peak periods, if you just look for them. The internet is an invaluable tool in this regard. Second was the itinerary. This cruise was originally to be sailing only, with no ports of call. So, unlike most short cruises that sail only at night and are docked at Nassau and maybe a private island during the day, we would get to spend the whole time on the ship and take advantage of all she has to offer. Just what we wanted As it turned out the itinerary was changed, a fact I will discuss later. Third was the chance to be among the first passengers on a brand new ship. I know many people avoid initial cruises on a ship because of the anticipated problems that occur. No doubt it takes awhile to get everything to work correctly, and for the crew to get their act together. However, this is why it was a reduced rate cruise in the first place. We decided up front to accept the fact that there would be problems, and just go with the flow and enjoy ourselves. Fourth (but first in level of importance) was to spend some quality time with our youngest son, who at 15 is not far from joining his brother and sister in the real world. Lastly, my e-mail friends Tom and Mary Milano, who have taken over 20 cruises the past 4 years with various cruise lines and write wonderful reviews of both their cruise experiences and their views on life convinced me that Royal Caribbean gives the most bang for the buck for average folks like us, and here was an economical chance to prove them right. They were! We arrived at the cruise terminal in Miami at about 1:00 on Monday, March 26, unloaded our bags, and then I took our rental car around the corner to the Avis location. It was about 1:15 when we actually entered the terminal. Unfortunately, we had not beaten the rush as I had hoped (traffic on I-95 was terrible) and had to wait in a rather long line. The line moved quickly, however, and we stepped on board about 40 minutes later. My first impression as we walked on board was that the ship was an engineering and artistic marvel. It was stunning. My son was almost speechless as he had never seen anything like it, and believe me that does not happen often. I will attempt to describe the ship from the bottom up, and then reflect upon other aspects such as the itinerary, food , service, cabins, etc. You enter the ship on the 5th or promenade deck where the lifeboat drills are held. After winding through an attractive shopping area you came to the heart of the ship, the centrum which was truly beautiful. It extended from the 4th deck all the way to the top with overhanging balconies on each level. On either side of the centrum was a glass wall that extended up to the 10th deck, flooding the area with daylight. Unlike previous RCI ships the bank of elevators in the centrum were on the port side instead of centered and the exterior elevators went up alongside the glass wall so you could look out over the ocean as you rode. Same was true for the interior elevators that looked out over the centrum as you rode them. There was another bank of elevators in the bow, centrally located, but none in the stern, only stairs, which made for some long walks for people with rooms in the back. The centrum lobby, lobby bar and guest relations desk were on the 4th deck. There was adequate seating in the lobby and an open area for dancing or congregating. There was also a large seating area alongside the glass wall overlooking the centrum on the 5th deck. Live music was played in the centrum lobby much of the time. The dining room, Cascades, was located from mid ship back on both the 4th and 5th decks, with a beautiful staircase connecting both levels, and two lines of majestic columns running the length of the room. It was truly elegant. There were also floor to ceiling windows from the front to the back both levels. Access to the dining room from the centrum area was available on either level so that you could walk to your table without having to use the staircase. The Aurora Theater was also multi level and located up front on the 5th and 6th decks. It was truly state-of-the-art with a beautiful multi-colored curtain on the stage. The design of the theater was what I would call modernistic. Seats were stadium theater type with large cup holders. A bar was in the back of the auditorium. As I mentioned earlier, the shopping area was on the 5th deck and included a coffee shop and bookstore called Books, Books, and Coffee which is supposed to a scaled down version of a Borders Bookstore or equivalent. It was only open a few hours on our cruise as they were still putting it together and I never got to visit it. Working back from the Aurora Theater on the 6th deck was a movie theater and a large (and active) casino. After crossing the centrum area you entered a nightclub / entertainment area that included the nautically appointed Schooner Bar (including the appropriate nautical smells as you entered), and an area called the Colony Club which featured a billiard room, a card playing room, another lounge, and a stage area for other entertainers. The billiard tables are unique in that they will always be level, no matter how rough the sea may be. The Schooner Bar featured a piano player/songtress that had a large following each night. Also located in this area were the alternative restaurants, Portofino's and Chops Grill, which featured hefty $20.00 per person cover charges. I looked in both and they were elegantly appointed but not enough to entice me to spend extra money to eat there. Decks 7 through 10 were all cabins. All the exterior cabins on these decks had balconies, with the expensive suites being on the 10th deck. The less expensive cabins were all on decks 2 through 4, with the outside cabins featuring large portholes. If you want a less expensive cabin on this ship (certainly the best values) you better book it early because they are not that many of them. Deck 11 had the Shipshape spa area, a stunning solarium pool area decorated in an African motif fronted by several elephant statues, the main pool area, and the Windjammer Cafe. The latter was large and airy with windows all around. I thought it was an extremely attractive area for casual dining. The various serving stations were adequately spaced so that you were not always bumping into others, and there was enough seating both inside and out to meet the demands of the breakfast and lunch rush times. My son camped out here. Many people commented that the Solarium was the most impressive and beautiful part of the ship. The 12th deck had the children's program areas, including a children's pool with a long slide, an outdoor sports court, a golf simulator, and the Shipshape fitness area. . There was also the Seaside Cafe, a small eatery at the stern that served late night snacks from 11:00 on. I actually thought the food here was the best served on the ship. My son also camped out here. The main sunning areas were around the main pool on deck 11 and overlooking the pool and down either side on deck 12. The main pool area was nice, but not overly large. There is not enough room on these 2 decks to accommodate everyone that would want a deck chair on days when the ship is at sea. Thus the necessity to stake out a deck chair early. Finally, the 13th deck featured the rock climbing wall and carpet golf area, both at the stern, and RCI's traditional Viking Crown area that was divided into a pulsating disco and a much more laid back lounge. Now that you have a feel for the layout of the ship let me give my impressions about the ship and this particular cruise. There were problems of course, lots of them. You heard apologies from the crew all day long. Many cabins had no ice buckets or glasses. Quite a few people did not get their luggage the first night until after 9:00. Second seating dinner the first night was delayed for 45 minutes and overall service in the dining room was very inconsistent. Room service was extremely slow. Lots of things like that, but one should expect that in a shakedown cruise, which is what this was. A far as I know most of the problems were of the annoying variety, not really critical. On the cruise immediately following ours, however, there was reported to be serious water damage caused by faulty seals on doors and windows when the ship encountered a strong storm with high winds. Now for a few detailed observations. The Itinerary It turned out not to be a cruise to nowhere. Instead, we went to Nassau the first full day. There were some complaints from passengers but the cruise line has the right to change the itinerary for whatever reason and we understood that going in. My son really enjoyed sailing into Nassau's harbor, turning around, and docking next to other ships. We dwarfed them. While I probably would not have booked the cruise if I had known up front that we were going to Nassau, it was no problem. In fact I got some beautiful video of the ship from the dock area. The weather was great all 3 days we were on the ship and we were able to experience everything on her we wanted to. The full day at sea was particularly nice. The Service Very spotty but this was a very green, inexperienced crew. I was told that 50% or more had never been on a ship. It is going to take some time to indoctrinate them into the RCI way of doing things. The dining room staff in particular had a lot of problems, with some of the assistant waiters not having a clue as to what to do. This caused a lot of tension between the waiters and assistants. On all three nights there were mistakes on our orders and it was clear that the waiters could not be counted on yet for making dining suggestions. Our cabin attendant did the best she could, considering she had to come up with makeshift ice buckets, glasses, etc. Room service was late both mornings with our breakfast, but to their credit on the second day they called and apologized for the delay and inquired if we still wanted them to bring the food. We appreciated that. I want to point out, however, that the crew tried hard under difficult circumstances and that is what was important to us. They were to a person friendly and willing to help, and always had a pleasant greeting. I know some people probably under tipped the cabin attendants and wait staff but we thought they did an admiral job under the conditions and gave them the recommended amounts. I am sure RCI will quickly mould them into a superb crew. The Food I sometimes have a problem with people who go on a cruise and suddenly become food critics when I know they mostly eat out at places like Chili's and Applebee's. That certainly describes us. And let's be honest, people have different likes and dislikes when it comes to food, so that any comments about it are subjective at best. However, in this case I would be charitable if I said the food was anything better than average. The main problem was inconsistency. For example, dinners in the dining room were very inconsistent in their quality and presentation and that included all aspects from appetizers to desserts. For lunches the Windjammer always had a nice variety of hot and cold items and desserts and what I had was tasty and nicely presented.. Breakfast from room service, despite being late, was above average, plentiful and filling, but the breakfast served to us in the main dining room on the morning of debarkation was rushed and hurried and the hot items (eggs, etc.) were barely lukewarm. On the other hand, the sandwiches, snacks, and desserts served late nights in the Seaview Grill were really good,. However, we did not have to prepare the food or clean up the mess, so we had no real complaints. It was certainly as good or better than what you receive in the above mentioned chains. The food is mass produced, not gourmet, and I am amazed they do as good a job as they do. I am confident this area will show marked improvement over the next few weeks and months. The Cabins We had a balcony cabin on the 8th deck. It may be ages before we have one again. The balcony was surprisingly large with a small table and 2 nice size chairs. While not the largest cabins afloat, they were extremely well designed. There was more than adequate room to store things, and the furniture and fixtures were of a very high quality. The circular shower curtain in the bathroom ingeniously doubled the effective size of the shower. We had a triple and the third bed came out of the ceiling and was above and perpendicular to the main bed. This is fine if you have children with you but an elderly person would have a hard time climbing into this bed. You would have to go to a quad to get a couch that also makes into a bed. As I mentioned earlier, the best values on this ship are the less expensive cabins on the lower decks but there are not that many of them. I would not have booked a balcony cabin if it had not been for the special pricing we received, but we certainly enjoyed and took advantage of it. The Entertainment: I thought the entertainment was good to excellent. The RCI ensemble cast of singers and dancers put on two high energy shows featuring pop and rock music. A couple of the dancers were really good and the singers could all sing in key and we could understand every word. The sound system was excellent. The real highlight was the second night when a ventriloquist, Ronn Lucas, was the featured act. He was tremendous and had the entire audience in stitches. I did not check out all the other entertainment but the trio that played evenings in the centrum lobby were good and the piano player/songstress in the Schooner Bar attracted a very large following. Final thoughts on the ship It is a beautiful, beautiful ship and is yet another advancement in ship design and function, of which RCI seems to be in the forefront. The new vibrationless propulsion system is so good that you hardly know you are on a ship, especially if you are cruising at less than maximum speed. On the cruise immediately following ours the ship encountered 80 mph winds and torrential rains and people were more concerned about the water damage than the rough ride. I think RCI did a very smart thing by having the Radiance go on several short shakedown cruises before launching into it's regular schedule. It is easier for one to put up with the annoying problems encountered on a new ship on a short cruise rather than on a longer one. When they get their act together, which I am sure will be soon, this is going to be a very popular ship which will garner consistently high reviews. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and my son had the absolute time of his life. As we were pulling away in our rental car there was a tinge of sadness, like one has when saying goodbye to an old friend. That best describes our trip. Considering what we paid for this cruise it was more than worth it, problems and all. We would definitely sail RCI again if the opportunity presents itself. Any comments or questions are welcome. My e-mail address is wolfstl@juno.com.March 2001 Read Less
4-Day cruise to Vancouver, Victoria, and Nowhere On April 30th, My wife and I went on the first Pacific Northwest cruise offered out of Seattle on RCI's brand new ship, the Radiance of Seas. This is our umpteenth cruise and the ... Read More
4-Day cruise to Vancouver, Victoria, and Nowhere On April 30th, My wife and I went on the first Pacific Northwest cruise offered out of Seattle on RCI's brand new ship, the Radiance of Seas. This is our umpteenth cruise and the 6th cruise with Royal Caribbean. Reading reviews from the earlier Miami pre-inaugural cruises; I expected a great ship, so-so food and poor service. What we got was a REALLY GREAT SHIP, outstanding evening entertainment, OK food and mediocre, but friendly service. Overall I rated the 4-day cruise as EXCELLENT. The reasons for this assessment follow. NOTE: Earlier reviewers have written much about the ship, the public areas and the rooms and I will not repeat it. I will focus on the unique aspects of my cruise and my impressions of the CHANGES on the ship after being in service for a little over 1 month. The ship is indeed magnificent, a throwback to the elegance of ships built in the 70s and 80s, with all the features of the ships built in the late 90s, minus the modern glitz. Our room, a category "D" deluxe outside veranda cabin (#9054) was located on deck 9, halfway between the two sets of elevators. I feel the cabin was ideally located for walking to the ships activities. Quick overview of the itinerary and ports. Most of the time at sea on the Pacific Northwest Cruise is spent circling the bay between Vancouver Island and Vancouver. Our cruise started with a high-speed dash out of Seattle to Canadian waters to get the shops and casino open. Then for the next two days, except when in port, the ship went in very slow circles throughout the night. On the Day At Sea, we cruised SLOWLY about halfway up the inside passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland to a point opposite Campbell River. I found this portion interesting as on the standard 7 day Alaskan cruises this part of the inside passage is covered at night. Concerning ports: In Vancouver we docked at Canada Place in the heart of downtown. In Victoria, the ship docks about a 20-minute walk from Downtown, through a nice residential neighborhood. Also I noticed in Victoria (but not in Vancouver) that one could easily arrange for all the ships tours just outside the pier at much lower prices from the locals. The Major Positives of the Cruise. The biggest surprise for us was that we experienced several "firsts" and "best of all cruises taken" during this short cruise. In no particular order of importance here are our highlights: a. The Captain sang a beautiful welcome song to us at the Captain's Cocktail Party on the second night in a magnificent baritone voice. The very first time I have ever heard a Captain sing. In all his many shipboard announcements he always referred to himself as "Captain Kent" instead of Captain Kent Ringborn. b. The waiters in the bars were not at all pushy and did not bother us many times to ask if we wanted a drink. c. The ship has the largest and best-equipped exercise area (Shipshape Center) I have ever seen afloat. In fact the variety and number of machines and equipment rival many small land-based gyms. d. There were never any lines at the Windjammer Cafe, NOT EVER. This buffet eating area is one of the best laid out I have ever seen. The food quality, variety and service are much better here than in the dining room. In fact, the food selections at night during the "alternate informal dinner", are much better than on the main dining room menu. My only regret on the cruise is that I did not have dinner here. e. Another unique and nice feature on the ship is the smell of gunpowder in the air in the hallway as one enters the Schooner Bar. f. The Gala evening Review Show, "Welcome to Our World" was the best I have ever seen on any ship, surpassing even the fantastic Cirque De Soleil shows found on Princess cruise ships. I also like the fact that on two of the nights the shows were held before dinner, for second seating. That frees up after-dinner for dancing and evening activities. g. A unique debarkation feature. Independent travelers who want to carry their own luggage off the ship are allowed to leave as soon as the ship has cleared customs. Customs cleared the ship at 8:35 am. We got off at 9:00 am. The delay was due to the fact that we were not the only one by any means trying to make an expedited departure. There were huge lines of people, luggage in hand, trying to get off the ship with me. g. The climbing wall and the putt putt course. Both were excellent and surprisingly both were free. All needed equipment was provided. BUT THE NEGATIVES: There were also several significant negatives during the cruise as well. Part of my unhappiness arises from the fact that cruising has changed radically during the past 10 years. Once upon a time on mainstream ships such as the Radiance of the Seas, all activities were covered in the fare price and one only paid extra for drinks and shore excursions (neither of which were ever cheap). Many ships did not even have a casino! I remember cruises in the past where there were so many FREE events to choose from, many going on at the same time, many with great prizes, that one could go nonstop from wake up to sleep. Now in order to support the "cheap" fares, the free activities have been greatly reduced and the prizes replaced with cheap trinkets. In their place are an ever-increasing number of so called "nominal fee" activities. When I last cruised with RCI had three years ago, RCI resisted this change, but no longer. With this in mind here are my negatives for this cruise: a. THE SERVICE. Every staff member I met was friendly and I think tried his or her best to provide service, but the quality was below average overall. Most of the crew has only been at sea since the ship left the shipyard in January and has only actually worked their 11 to 16 hour daily shifts since late March. After the "service disasters" of March and early April, I was told by a senior crewmember that the experiment to go with all new employees was partially ended and several "veterans" from other ships were brought aboard. Our room Steward was one such person and he was excellent. My dining room waiter and his assistant were new and often forgetful. The Cruise Director, Gordon Whatman, was a pro but much of his staff was inexperienced and late to activities. b. THE CHECK-IN PROCESS at Seattle. What a disaster! The worst I have ever been involved in. Many people spent 2+ hours checking in. The staff had never done checkins before and were poorly trained. It took 20 minutes and two supervisors to help the staff person check us in. In fact the ship sailed one hour late due to the slow process. The casinos still opened on schedule, however! c. DAYTIME ACTIVITIES. There were very few shipboard activities during the day at sea. Gone is RCI's excellent free "shipshape program" which really kept one in shape between meals. The few daily Aerobic and yoga classes offered now cost $10 plus a tip each. I guess this does free up time to allow one to shop, gamble, play video games, surf the Internet, drink or indulge in the many outrageously overpriced spa services. d. The two $20 per person themed restaurants. Unlike the free Windjammer Cafe, which did offer unique food choices, nothing new appeared on either menu of the overpriced dining alternatives. Steaks were available every night on the dinner menu, so no need to pay to go to the Chops Grille. One of the theme nights in the main dining room was Italian Night. Featured that night were the same menu items, with different names to be sure, as at the Portofino Restaurant. e. OLD OLD MOVIES. While the ship does have a very nice small movie theater, the movies shown are nowhere near first-run or recent-to-video movies. f. ARTIFICIAL FOOD SHORTAGES. And finally one very minor personal irritation, Shortage of some food items. For example on the first day the ship ran out of milk. Later in the cruise Earl Grey Tea became a "collectors" item. The problem seems to arise from the inexperience of the crewmembers assigned to stocking duties. We enjoyed delicious mashed potatoes the first three nights, but on the final evening, they served "instant" dehydrated mashed potatoes. Did the kitchen run out of real potatoes or had they been misplaced? So overall, the cruise was indeed wonderful. The beauty of the 10-story central atrium (Centrum) and the wonder of riding in outside elevators facing the water defy description. The climbing wall and exercise room are unique. And finally I am sure that eventually the crew will learn how to provide the high quality service found on other Royal Caribbean ships. MSELLIE555@aol.comMay 2001 Read Less
April 23 -April 30, 2001 The Radiance of the Seas is a gorgeous ship, inside and out, from the yacht-like prow to the etched glass elevator doors. Imaginative use of glass, wood and metal was used in design elements throughout the ... Read More
April 23 -April 30, 2001 The Radiance of the Seas is a gorgeous ship, inside and out, from the yacht-like prow to the etched glass elevator doors. Imaginative use of glass, wood and metal was used in design elements throughout the ship. Repeating curved shapes were everywhere. Our "D" cabin on Deck 9 is listed as 204 sq. ft. with a 41 sq. ft. balcony. From the balcony, we had a queen bed with small bedside tables, sofa and bathroom on the left. On the opposite side were closets, desk with drawers and small cabinet shelves beside the mirror above; then TV, mini- refrigerator, safe with combination set by us, and more shelves. Overall, slightly larger cabin than usual, and more storage space. Our cabin attendant was quick to make up the room in the morning, and cheerfully brought another blanket, etc... We ordered 'continental breakfast' most mornings, and it came hot and on time, with hot coffee for me and hot water for Ed's tea. The servings of fresh fruit and rolls were so generous, we only got one breakfast, so we could later have our eggs or whatever upstairs. The food far surpassed that of the Galaxy of Celebrity we sailed on last fall, both in freshness and flavor. Vegetables are cooked in small batches so they arrive freshly cooked at the table (yes, we took a short kitchen tour). I have been very disappointed on the previous eight cruises with the lobster - it was either dried or mushy - but on the Radiance, the lobster was delicious - my only disappointment was not being able to take more when our waiter appeared with a platter of more lobster tails, urging everyone to take another one or two or more. (I was already full with two appetizers). One night I ordered the salmon steak from the "always available" menu, and it too was delicious. Desserts? Well, for a chocolaholic like me, it was heaven - chocolate cake of a different variety every evening, and each intensely chocolate. While they had the usual Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee on separate nights, they were simply items on the menu, with no extra fuss over them. (Fine with me, as I don't care for either). The Windjammer Cafe had an extensive selection for breakfast and lunch (we never had dinner there) with 'scatter islands' rather than long lines.. In the morning, there were made to order omelets, as well as the usual, and the pastries delicately flaky - the cinnamon roll had intense cinnamon flavor. The one morning we had breakfast in the dining room, their routines were not yet well worked out. Six servers came by and offered coffee, but though he repeatedly asked, Ed did not get hot tea until after finishing his breakfast. However, the assistant dining room manager asked how things were going that evening, and she paid attention to Ed's plight, and promised to see that it would not happen again. Did we go to Portofinos? Yes, but only because it was the mustering location for our lifeboat drill! Lovely room, as were all the public rooms. The stadium seating for the theater makes clear viewing for a thousand people. Unfortunately, the entertainment was the weakest part of the week. One night there were two 'comedians' - neither was at all funny - people just walked out on the 2nd one. There was a very good singer one night, and the ensemble singers and dancers were energetic - I heard complaints from some women about the 'thong' costumes. The movies shown were ancient! There was bingo, but it wasn't pushed. Art auctions were held in the atrium, tying up not only that area, but all the little lounge areas all the way up to the 11th floor, which were otherwise quiet places to read or listen to the live music in the atrium.. The atrium's glass and green neon staircase was a natural place for pictures on formal nights. Besides the usual clothing, perfume, jewelry, and liquor stores, off in another area there was a coffee shop and bookstore! What a great idea! Elevators were seldom overcrowded or hard to get. The fitness center had more than a dozen different weight machines, as well as many treadmills, bikes, etc. - all with the latest bells and whistles. Unfortunately, we didn't use it, nor did we do the 6 and 1/3 laps for a mile as had been our custom. The climbing wall was entertaining to watch for awhile, as the youngsters clambered up, and young men took much longer to find their way. Our Captain Kent Ringborn had shepherded the Radiance of the Seas for eighteen months as Site Manager as it was being built in Germany, so he truly knows his ship inside and out. His 'welcome aboard' cocktail hour was held in the Colony Club lounge. It has the biggest dance floor we have ever seen on a cruise ship - and there was good music to dance to. Since this was the third week of passengers aboard the Radiance, the crew of over 900 (from 54 countries) took good care of the over 1500 passengers. There were still some glitches to be worked out, but overall, everything went well. All members of the crew we met were cheerful and friendly and did their best to keep everyone happy. There were errors in our bill when we reviewed it on our cabin TV (which always greeted us by name each time we turned it on); but they were quickly corrected. Several times our arrival times were delayed, but then so was our departure, so shore time was the same. The worst part of the cruise was getting onboard! We had expected to be bused from the San Diego Airport to the Cruise Pier to be checked in. Our plane arrived in San Diego at 9 AM and 'greeters' were waiting at the airport, gathering luggage and passengers. After much calling, busses arrived at 10, and we were loaded on, to find a box lunch on our seats and be told we were going directly to Ensenada. By the end of the two hour trip, we decided we would never take a bus tour (no leg room, hard seats, etc.). When our driver found a place to park among many busses, we were told to walk over to the nearby buildings - before we entered the courtyard, we were already in a line. When the line got to the door of the building, we were stopped again. The room had rows of seats that were already full, and two long lines of people waiting to be checked in. After a long wait, we graduated to chairs, and finally to the lines. Actual check in was fast and efficient, and we were directed outside to another bus, which took us to the beautiful ship we could see from there. Once aboard, we found our cabin and cooled off. A terribly frustrating and disorganized beginning to a lovely week. The only consolation was seeing the long line of people waiting two blocks to board the Norwegian Wind moored nearby - they must have been even more upset to be beside the ship and still couldn't get on! By contrast, disembarkation went smoothly - just had to cope with Seattle rain, wind and cold. It was good to have only a three hour flight home to Arizona - actually arrived home rested instead of exhausted from an all day ordeal of changing planes. We would certainly love another cruise on the Radiance or one of their other new ships. azjaywalk@aol.comMay 2001 Read Less
Pacific Coast April 23, 2001 This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise so we were anxious to try it out and compare it with the other cruises we have taken, all of which we have enjoyed. We are still fairly new at cruising, having ... Read More
Pacific Coast April 23, 2001 This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise so we were anxious to try it out and compare it with the other cruises we have taken, all of which we have enjoyed. We are still fairly new at cruising, having taken only four other cruises - Carnival Inspiration, HAL Veendam (twice) and the Sea Princess. In fact, we had just taken the family on the Sea Princess in January and weren't really planning another cruise so quickly, but the rates for this repositioning cruise on a brand new ship were just too good to pass up. We had read much of previous problems with its early cruises, so our expectations were "guarded", to say the least. The final experience was generally very good to excellent. The itinerary for this repositioning cruise included Ensenada, San Diego, Catalina, San Francisco, Victoria and Seattle, with two sea days. I understand that most passengers flew into San Diego and then were bussed to Ensenada, although I heard that RCI flew some of them into LA. Since it was our anniversary, we booked our own air and flew in two days early to enjoy San Diego before leaving on the cruise. San Diego is a great place to visit and we saw Old Town, Gastown, the pier and Ocean Beach area. We used Priceline and were able to get a nice King, non-smoking room at the Hyatt Sand Diego Resort on Mission Bay for only $100 per night. This is a great resort setting and a perfect location, so we were very pleased. Priceline worked for us on this one, as the room generally goes for $250 per night. We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around San Diego and look forward to going back when we can spend more time. Embarkation Undoubtedly, our biggest complaints would revolve around the embarkation procedures for this cruise. We've been spoiled by the ease of boarding on our other cruises out of Fort Lauderdale and Vancouver, and I can say with good confidence that it is highly unlikely that we will ever book a cruise again that either starts or ends at Ensenada. They're just not set up to handle large numbers of passengers, yet. We dropped our rental car off and were at the appointed place at the San Diego airport at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning. RCI staff was there and they were all very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, the company they have contracted with to transfer passengers to Ensenada uses very old buses and some of the drivers didn't know their way to the Ensenada processing point. (Nothing like the smell of an old bus restroom for three hours to get you in the mood.) We were on the bus by 10:00 a.m. and on our way. Don't believe what they tell you, the drive to Ensenada is not a "scenic" drive. While there are certain areas with spectacular views of the ocean, it is spoiled by the ugliness of the passage through Tijuana. It does not set the best mood to begin a cruise. The bus ride did however include a nice box lunch. By the way, once you load your luggage on the bus, you will not see it again until your stateroom. On arriving in Ensenada about 3 hours later, we were dropped off at a hotel for processing. We spent at least an hour standing in line or sitting in chairs waiting to be processed. The RCI staff did the best that they could, they are just not as well organized or set up in this town yet. They did offer bottled water and eventually you were inside a building and able to sit down to wait, but we spent at least 30 minutes standing outside. Fortunately, the weather was fine, but I think this could be very difficult if it were real hot or raining. At check in, you are given your passenger card, which serves as your shipboard credit card and key to your stateroom. (RCI required you to show this card when getting on and off the ship, but you did not have to insert it into an electronic reader slot as we have always done before. They only keep visual track and not computer track.) From registration, it is a short shuttle ride to the ship and we were onboard by 2:30 p.m. exploring the ship and having a light lunch in the Windjammer. Our luggage showed up to the stateroom around 5:30 p.m. Again, we were lucky and don't have too many complaints, but it was definitely more difficult than we have experienced on other cruises. I suspect someone of ill health or that had difficulty standing would find this a real challenge. We also heard of at least two bus drivers getting lost going through Tijuana. We also noted that prior RCI passengers were given a special line to go through, although I don't think it went any faster than the regular line. The Ship I realize that our perspective is limited, but the Radiance has to be one of the most beautiful ships on the sea. We heard this from many others who had cruised a lot more than we have, but the beauty was one of the real highlights. We were continually noticing new details that were unnoticed before. This ship is a marvel of glass, granite, tile and wood. The public areas are incredible, but the Centrum or atrium area is exceptionally unique. The lighting and breadth of this area are wonderful. There is even a place up on the top where you can stand on a glass floor and look straight down to the bottom. Don't miss this. There are plenty of bars and wonderful small alcoves to sit and visit with others. Especially nice is the Schooner Lounge and Colony Club, although the "special effects" odor of the Schooner Lounge was not to my taste. These are areas where much of the nightly entertainment will take place and they are very spacious and comfortable. During the day, you can always find a nice table or chair to visit or relax. You might want to note that there are only two banks of elevators, one in the middle (Centrum) and one forward. They were faster than those on other ships and we never had to wait very long. A nice touch was their posting the day of the week in a marble insert in the floor of each elevator. There are also only two sets of stairs, one at mid-ship and one forward. The ship deck plan shows a staircase towards the stern, but this is for staff only and is not available to the passengers. If you have a stateroom towards the back of the ship as we did, it can be a long walk to the stairs and elevators. With all the eating to be done, this can be a good thing, but some might find it inconvenient. The ship has two Internet lounges with new computers with fairly responsive access to the Internet. I believe the charge is $15 for 30 minutes. The staterooms are also wired with Internet connections, but we did not try these. Stateroom We booked an E3 Balcony Stateroom and were upgraded to an E2 on deck 8, Stateroom #8666. This is the last room on the hallway and has an extra large balcony that bends out giving you a great view looking forward on the ship. The rooms are smaller than most we have seen and the storage is a bit more limited, although adequate for a 7-day cruise. Ladies may not like the fact that the closet does not have a space for hanging longer gowns. The closet is split with two racks, one above and one below, that will accommodate only shirt or skirt size clothing. There are also shelves in the closet and drawers at the dressing table and two very small bedside tables. Lighting is excellent with even small reading lights available next to the beds and there is a room temperature control that kept us comfortable. The room safe is bigger than most and the room has a small refrigerator but it is full of items for sale and there is no room for your own things. Your room steward will keep the ice bucket full, though. The bathrooms are again the smallest we have seen, but they are very efficient and met our needs. I would suspect that a larger person would have some difficulty in the shower, though. Beds were comfortable but have rounded corners and seem shorter than usual. A taller person will have to adjust. The room TV had CNN, Headline News, The Weather Channel, TNT, Ship Movies, Pay Per View movies, plus some music and other channels. One problem we have had is that our 29" suitcases will not fit under the beds and most cruise lines will not stow the luggage so it sits against the wall and takes up room. One other thing these rooms could use would be some hanging hooks for jackets, cameras, etc. Entertainment Casino - we are not big into gambling, but this was the largest casino we have seen at sea. There seemed to be lots of slot machines from $1 to quarters to nickels, as well as blackjack, craps and other games. 3D Movie Theater - we didn't watch any movies, but this is a great theater with stadium seating and a reasonably sized screen. Many of the movies they showed were old classics, so if you're into movies, this will be a real treat. Aurora Theater - this was where the main shows were held and it is wonderful. It is a true theater type setting with comfortable seats, all of which seem to have excellent views of the stage and have convenient drink holders. There is also a second floor balcony that provides good views also. The entertainment staff were pretty good and I would rate the shows as good, but not exceptional. There is a lot of energy and the singers and dancers seem talented, but I would rate what we have seen on HAL and Princess as better. There were also two comedians, one (Kelly Monteith) of which was excellent, the other (Robert Wilde) only good. Kenny James, a Star Search champion was also a fun performer. The hypnotist, Steve Baynor, was very entertaining and since we knew one of the subjects we thought it was hilarious. Don't miss these shows, as they were certainly enjoyable. Many ladies may certainly enjoy some of the costumes worn by the male dancers. Lounges - as I already mentioned there are plenty of lounges on board, including a sports bar that showed different games that were on during the cruise. There is also a great band from Seattle playing in the Colony Club and a pianist/guitarist taking requests in the Schooner Lounge. You will also find string quartets, duets and other performers playing in different clubs and lounges from the Centrum to the Sky Lounge. Always a lot going on and the entertainers are talented and enjoyable. You will also find the standard karaoke, "Newlywed Game", "Dating Game" (although that was a bit unorganized), trivia, bingo and other activities going on. Perhaps I should say here that Gordon Whatman, the cruise director is excellent and contributes a great deal to the success of this ship. Much of his staff appears to be new, but they will get up to speed. Dining / Food The dining facilities on this ship are beautiful and certainly exceed the overall quality of the food. I would rate the food as good, but again we did not feel that it was as good as we experienced on Princess or HAL. The one exception to this was the food in the Windjammer, the more casual, 24-hour restaurant. The breakfast and lunch experience in Windjammer was very nice. This is the first cruise ship that actually cooks its scrambled eggs. I hate runny eggs. Breakfast generally included two kinds of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, French toast and pancakes. There is also an omelet bar and a separate area with donuts, bagels and other breads. Lunch was varied with pasta, burgers, sandwiches, salad bar and meats. Desserts were also available, including soft serve frozen yogurt.. We never found the Windjammer crowded and thought the layout was a great improvement over Sea Princess. Complaints we had read about cold food and difficulties with drinks did not exist on our cruise. It was also fairly easy to find a table and many people filled up tables sitting with strangers, more so than we have seen on other cruises. We enjoyed meeting so many new people every day. We ate dinner every evening but one in Cascades, the formal dining room and enjoyed the experience. We asked for a large table and were so pleased with the friendliness of the other tablemates. We hit it off so well, we spent much of the cruise together. This was a real highlight and helped us look forward to each dinner. We had the main dinner seating at 6:00 p.m. and were there generally until 8:00 p.m. It wasn't that the service was slow, we just took our time, enjoying the good company. Menu selections include three appetizers and two soups, one salad choice and generally five entrees, served in three courses. The cold soups were excellent and we found ourselves ordering more than one appetizer on a regular basis. The rest of the fare was pretty standard. Not featured, but always available is the Caesar salad, steak and chicken breast. Desserts were also good, but not as strong as Princess. The service problems that we had read about didn't play a large part in our cruise, but it is obvious that there are a lot of new employees with little or no experience. The service process is a little disjointed and the room is noisier than usual; lots of dropped plates and glasses. Our waiter, Sulaymon, was wonderful and seemed to do a good job directing the assistant waiter that obviously was only beginning to learn. The head-waiter was invisible until the one night that the captain sat at an adjacent table. On that night she seemed to be everywhere, but was seldom seen on other nights. If they have a maitre'd, we never saw him at all. I'm sure that with time they will get their act together and service will be on a par with other ships. We expected this since it was a new ship. Radiance has two alternative restaurants, Chops and Portofino. To eat at these restaurants there is an additional charge of $20 per person, plus tip. We looked into these restaurants but didn't eat there. I find it a bit offensive that these additional dining options are available for a fee. I'm afraid this may be a taste of the future. You get on the cruise for a base price, but additional fees are charged for all the really fun stuff. Besides, isn't this like the cruise line admitting that they can do better than what is served in the formal dining?? It just doesn't make sense to me and seems to be a dangerous direction that cruise lines may be taking as things become more competitive and cruise prices are driven lower. Since we don't drink alcohol, we were particularly pleased that RCI didn't charge for soft drinks or fruit juices in the dining room or in the Windjammer. There was a charge for soft drinks only in the lounges. Coffee, tea, lemonade and hot chocolate are readily available in the Windjammer and drink service throughout the ship is not pushy at all. Spa Facilities One of the real strengths of this ship is the spa facilities. I can't speak for any of the special treatments, although my wife was pleased with a cut and highlight treatment, but the layout and dEcor is incredible. One of my favorite experiences of the cruise is to walk my miles, then sit in the whirlpool and take a steam before showering. This ship has a nice walking/jogging track up on top and the largest collection of training equipment I have ever seen. Plenty of treadmills, stair-steppers and lots of weight equipment. Inside the men's changing area are lockers and a great steam room and dry sauna room. The steam room is made of beautiful tile work and has a cold water hose (rare in these days) and interesting lighting in the ceiling. There is a separate area called the "Thermal Suite" which includes heated tile lounge chairs, a steam, sauna and eucalyptus room. There is a $15 per day charge for this room, but since swimsuits or robes are required, it is something that can be done with your spouse. Hidden around the front of this spa area is a relaxation room with great padded lounge chairs for quiet reading and napping. What a great place. It seemed that many people spent much of their day in this room. Unlike many ships that place the treatment room towards the center of the ships in small closet like rooms, the Radiance treatment rooms are located on the outside with views of the ocean. This should add to the overall experience. There is also a special partner room that is available for a fee to partners to have fun with the mud, steam and shower on their own. I don't know of anyone that tried this, but I've never seen it on other ships. Again, the use of marble and tile in this area is just phenomenal, although the shower drains never seemed to work and the floor was always wet. Shopping Minimal at best. There is a jewelry store, sundries store and a book store that is more like a small Barnes and Nobles, including the coffee bar. We were disappointed in the items available. Very limited clothing and few quality sales. The photo shop seemed to have a bigger inventory and better prices. The photo people make themselves available but don't put the hard sell on. Its easy to by-pass their picture taking if you want, although we were pleased with the quality of the photos taken. We just wish they would come off of the $9.95 price. Disembarkation Unfortunately, this didn't go well either. I don't know if they had trouble with the Seattle port or if they are just not organized enough as a ship. We were scheduled for the 8:30 a.m. group, but by 9:30 a.m. we were still sitting and waiting patiently. When we did get off, we found their transfer set-up as disorganized as I have ever seen. We were also disappointed to note that some passengers seem to lose their sense of civility on the day of disembarkation. Again, the RCI staff had no paper transfers and there was no manifest. You simply asked where the bus to the airport was and stood in line. Once on the bus, it was a short ride to SEA-TAC and on for home. There were some delays at the airport, but this seems to have become the norm rather than the exception. Nothing to fret over too much, Overall Pros 1) Overall beauty of this ship. If there is a better looking ship at sea, I'd like to see it. 2) People. People who cruise are the nicest people and perhaps one of the best reasons to cruise. (Although some tend to Jekyll and Hyde this on the last day of the cruise.) 3) The Spa area and the many options it provided. 4) The Windjammer restaurant. 5) Large number of lounges and comfortable seating areas. 6) A large ship with only 1600 passengers. What a treat!! No lines. No crowds. Overall Cons 1) Ensenada embarkation and Seattle disembarkation. (I think we've become spoiled by the smoothness we've experienced on other cruises.) While definitely a "con", this can be endured. 2) Temperature of the whirlpools. They are only lukewarm. Not even bathwater warm. I don't know if this is by policy or just an oversight. 3) No tour of the galley and a tour of the bridge was only done at the last minute and we were already committed and couldn't make it. 4) Pillows. Just not that comfortable. 5) Itinerary (Ensenada, San Diego, Catalina, San Francisco, Victoria, Seattle). This repositioning itinerary was interesting, with great cities, but weather wise it is more like an Alaskan cruise. On both sea days the weather was cold and rainy so we didn't really get a chance to enjoy the outside of the ship. 6) There is a Lido type deck that surrounds the ship (I think it is deck 4), but you are not able to walk completely around. The front and rear ends were closed, so you only had the sides available. As you can see, the complaints really don't amount to anything of great significance. The bottom-line is that this is an incredible ship and from what I've been told about RCI, I'm sure the service difficulties will improve. We look forward to cruising RCI again and wouldn't hesitate to cruise the Radiance again. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions. klovell@oneok.comMay, 2001 Read Less
Background I traveled on this sailing with my partner of five years. I have an extensive cruising background, having sailed on 45 or so cruises. Included are all the major lines, Royal Caribbean; Holland America; Norwegian Cruise ... Read More
Background I traveled on this sailing with my partner of five years. I have an extensive cruising background, having sailed on 45 or so cruises. Included are all the major lines, Royal Caribbean; Holland America; Norwegian Cruise Line; Princess Cruises; Carnival; and Celebrity among others. I tend to gravitate towards Celebrity and Princess as my preferred lines. Prior to RADIANCE, my most recent cruises were on the NORWAY in March, SEABREEZE last summer, and VOYAGER OF THE SEAS earlier last year. I may tend to compare aspects of RADIANCE with VOYAGER as they are of the same line, and are the latest offerings of Royal Caribbean International. Pre-cruise We live in Atlanta and spent four days in Los Angeles prior to the cruise. We stayed at the Bel Age in West Hollywood which was quite nice. Unfortunately filming was taking place on the roof top pool for a new movie entitled "Showtime". This necessitated restricting access to the area for all guests, which I was not too happy about. I've contacted Wyndham hotels regarding this inconvenience, and I'll be interested in their reply. From LA it was on to Seattle for one night at the W Hotel. I highly recommend this excellent and eclectic hotel, although it is pricey. Our room was on the 26th floor (highest level) and offered a beautiful view of the Puget Sound of Seattle. Service was excellent and the "unique" amenities deserved a chuckle. I enjoyed dinner at a private dinner club called The Ruins with a friend I met on the NORWAY in March.. My partner had dinner with his Aunt and Uncle who live in Bellevue. Embarkation We arrived at the pier, which is located near Pikes Place Market in downtown Seattle at about 11:15am. There was no line to check in although those that already checked in were beginning to build up. Check-in was painless, with the usual credit card imprint and presentation of the cruise cards. It always helps to have your forms filled out and ready. Too bad the majority of passengers don't seem to feel the same way. An announcement was made that boarding would begin at 12 noon, and so it did. By this time the line to check-in was winding through several barrier straps and those who already checked in had increased ten fold. At 12 noon they began boarding although in no organized fashion. Everyone piled into a wide hallway that led to the A-pass security registration system and the metal detectors. It was basically a cattle call and my partner and I both felt as if we were waiting in line for a popular ride at Disneyland! Your picture is taken for security purposes and embedded with your cruise card. Then the metal detectors and the obligatory welcome aboard photo, and finally onboard the ship. You are welcomed by a single person then on your own to find your cabin. You enter directly into the Centrum Lobby which is quite impressive. The Cabin Deck 10 aft, number 1586, Category C (mini-suite). I had the same type cabin onboard VOYAGER, and for some reason it seemed larger on VOYAGER although the square footage listed states otherwise. RCI lists the cabin as 293 sq. ft. with a 41 sq. ft. balcony. The layout is exactly the same as on VOYAGER, with a walk in closet as you enter on one side, and the bathroom complete with tub on the other. The decor is darker and richer than other RCI ships, more suited to Celebrity than the usual RCI pastel decor. Amenities include a terrific safe, hairdryer, mini-bar (only partially full), and remote control TV. RCTV as they call it is excellent. The TV is completely interactive and you may order room service, purchase movies, make dinner reservations, purchase shore excursions and listen to music all through a touch of your remote control. RCI also provides nice bath amenities which were replenished daily. Flowers and a snack pack were waiting for us which was a nice touch from our agent. Our cabin stewardess introduced herself early on, and provided excellent service throughout the cruise. The balcony was fairly large, and contained two chairs and a table of a high quality (not resin plastic). Privacy was quite good and the only time you could see other people was if you were leaning over the rail. Avoid cabins on Deck Seven midship if possible. These cabins (like most balcony cabins) are recessed from the outer hull of the ship, but since they are the first deck of balcony cabins they are above an awning which hangs above the lifeboats. This overhang restricts your view looking down to the water, and you may only look straight out. As you progress to higher decks, this problem is alleviated. Sound proofing was excellent, and we never heard our neighbors or noise from the hall. A doorbell was a nice touch! The Ship Much has already been written about RADIANCE, so I will not get into too much detail. Suffice it to say, RADIANCE is a stunning ship. Areas that stand out are the African-themed Solarium, the Centrum Lobby, Aurora Theater, and the Colony Club. These areas really left a lasting impression as some of the most beautiful areas afloat. Unfortunately there are some serious design flaws that hopefully will be addressed on future RADIANCE class ships. The most obvious is a lack of a third (aft) staircase and elevator bank. The entire ship only has 9 elevators for 2100 or greater passengers. For this reason, stairs and elevators were ALWAYS crowded and necessitated longs waits. For myself and partner, it's really not a big deal as taking the stairs is not a problem. For those who are elderly or incapacitated in some manner, the lack of elevators is a real problem. It's interesting to note that on MILLENNIUM, which is built on the same hull platform as RADIANCE, has basically the same layout, but carries less passengers, there are 12 elevators and three stair towers. Similarly sized vessels such as CARNIVAL SPIRIT have as many as 15 elevators and again three stair towers. It amazes me that RCI would build a new vessel with such a serious lack of passenger mobility. Although VOYAGER OF THE SEAS only had two stair towers, there were actually four as they were separated on each side of the ship, and 18 elevators in all. While RADIANCE many times felt crowded, VOYAGER never did. The other design flow problem is just aft of the Aurora Theater. On the lower level of the theater, everyone must squeeze through a small hallway which enters the art gallery and photo shop. There is another hall which enters Books, Books, and Coffee, but this shop closes at 8pm and the doors are locked. Therefore, everyone on the lower level of the theater has only one exit unless you decide to walk outside, which is not always possible due to the weather. Another area which seemed crowded was the Windjammer Cafe. The cafe itself is beautiful and very well laid out, so I think the problem stems from colder weather and the inability to use the outdoor seating areas. Once the ship is in the Caribbean, I'm sure this problem will be alleviated. I loved the Solarium and Shipshape Spa area, and made good use of them every day. Women's and men's steam room and saunas are free of charge, and beautifully laid out and decorated as is the entire spa area. There is also a Thermal Suite which is quite beautiful with saunas facing the ocean with huge windows. There is a charge to use this area, and I believe a flat rate provides admission for the entire cruise. The spa area is run by Steiner's, as is the case on many ships. On RADIANCE, they are adopting a new philosophy where as you enjoy the entire "spa experience" rather then be rushed in and out. Food and Service I have nothing but great things to say about both the food and service. The menus have greatly improved since my cruise on VOYAGER. We had second seating on the upper level of the Cascades Dining Room. Our table was directly next to floor to ceiling windows which provided incredible views. Service was timely and professional and all food arrived at the correct temperature. These are the basics which RADIANCE more than surpassed. We also enjoyed room service which always arrived quickly and was well presented. Food in the Windjammer was pretty typical, but was also well presented. One evening we enjoyed dinner in Chops Grill. At $20 bucks per person (+ tip), I expected this to be excellent, and it was. I only paid $5 per person at Portofino's on VOYAGER last year, so RCI has certainly increased this charge. I do recommend it, even at the $20 charge, as it truly was a special evening. Entertainment The shows onboard RADIANCE are two of the best I've seen on a ship. "Welcome To Our World" is the first show, and is more in line with what you might see in Vegas. The second show, "Rockin' In Paradise" was truly excellent, and included some stunts and pyro-technics I have never seen onboard a ship. The theater itself is beautiful and well laid out. I don't think there a bad seat in the house. The dancers and singers were a very talented group, and the leads truly had the strong vocals needed to support these production shows. We also enjoyed the juggler, Jason Garfield who was not only talented, but quite funny as well. Parker Cristan was the Cruise Director, and our cruise was his first onboard RADIANCE. I think he did a great job considering this was his first time on the ship. He was very chatty and could always be seen walking around the ship. The rest of the cruise staff were also very visible and a pleasure to speak with. The Captain, Kent Ringborn is probably the most personable I've ever met. He even sang during his welcome aboard party and I must say his voice is excellent. Staff and Crew: Everyone we encountered was eager, polite and offered a smile. The crew and staff were truly wonderful and seemed sincere to ensure a great cruising experience. Hellos were offered when ever passing a crew member in the hallway, bartenders and wait staff were always available, and our cabin stewardess, dining room waitress and busboy were a pleasure to be served by. The Maitre d' was also extremely helpful, switching us to an excellent table for two directly by the window with no hassle what so ever. The staff and crew seem to be treated rather well on RADIANCE. Each crew cabin is two to a room with private bathroom, refrigerator, VCR and TV. In addition, every crew cabin has an IBM monitor which is linked to the Internet and ship's Intranet. I think this is a first for any cruise ship. Fellow passengers Mostly from the Pacific Northwest, there was a good mix of all ages. No one group really stood out. There were very few children onboard, or at least they were not noticeable. The crowd did tend to stay up late, which surprised me as the disco was crowded on several occasions (with staff as well). Ports and weather Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. The ports were beautiful and it was wonderful returning to Vancouver. Several years ago I used to spend quite a bit of time in Vancouver, and this beautiful city remains one of my favorite in the world. I spent the day having lunch with an old friend and partaking in lots of shopping. It was nice to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, and Vancouver offers excellent shopping especially on Robson Street (a short walk from Canada Place pier). We did not do much in Victoria and the final day was at sea. The sea day was spent cruising at very slow speeds (10 knots or less) around Vancouver Island and up a little way into the inside passage. In fact, we rarely sailed over 10-14 knots which was a little disappointing. I like to "feel" like I'm going somewhere. The weather was mostly overcast and in the 50-60 degree range, fairly typical for this area of the world. There was some drizzle but no downpours which was a plus. RADIANCE sailed with absolutely no vibration what so ever. When I say none, I mean none! The only movement was the occasional turn to port or starboard. In addition, there is no visible emission from the smokestack due to the highly efficient and quiet Gas Turbines. RADIANCE is probably the most environmentally friendly ship afloat, which is perfect for the ecologically delicate Alaska region. I must admit, I really missed the roar of the engines, the slight vibration, and slow rocking that helps me appreciate I am in fact, on a ship! Disembarkation Quick and easy, by colored coded tags. We stayed in our suite until our color was called. This is also a great time to explore other cabins as many of the doors were open. We were off the ship by 9am and at the airport by 9:45am. We took a towncar which was a $35 flat fee to the airport. A very comfortable way to end the cruise. Conclusion All in all a great cruise. At the end of the day I prefer VOYAGER to RADIANCE, basically due to the flow and design flaws of RADIANCE and the feeling of crowds at certain times. As I stated earlier, this problem may resolve itself when the ship is in warmer weather such as the Caribbean. RADIANCE is an incredible vessel with a wonderful staff, and I'm certain she will be a success wherever she sails. I would like to try her out on a longer cruise, and in warmer weather to really take advantage of all the great things this ship has to offer. To all her future passengers, you are in for a real treat!eroller@peoplepc.comMay 2001 Read Less
Pacific Northwest-Three day cruise to Canada My husband Jim and I have just returned from our three-night on the Radiance of the Seas. We booked this cruise at the last minute, and were thrilled to be getting away for a fun long ... Read More
Pacific Northwest-Three day cruise to Canada My husband Jim and I have just returned from our three-night on the Radiance of the Seas. We booked this cruise at the last minute, and were thrilled to be getting away for a fun long weekend. This is our 9th cruise, so we have some idea of what makes a cruise enjoyable for us. Everyone has different criteria, I have found. It is hard not to compare cruise ships and lines while you are on the ship, but we try to keep it to ourselves if we are not happy with something, so we don't ruin the experience for others. We are not really too picky. I see that there are already a few reviews that describe the ship in great detail. So, I will not go room to room, describing everything. The ship is gorgeous! The decor is very tasteful. The rooms that I thought were particularly beautiful, are... The Grand Atrium, Colony Club, Solarium Pool, Schooner Bar, Cascades Dining Room, the public rest rooms, yes, I said the public rest rooms! :) We are lucky to live only about an hour's drive North of Seattle. So we were able to get to the port around 10:30 in the morning. The cruise parking is in the Art Institute parking garage, directly across the street from the port. There is a sky bridge connecting the two. When we pulled into the garage a man told us to pull over if we were going on the ship and they took our bags right there! This was great! So much easier than dragging them to the port. We were going to drop them off before we parked, but there were too many taxis and buses taking the disembarking passengers home. When we got into the port, we were able to go right to a desk and check in. Royal Caribbean had a surprise for us. We were UPGRADED to a balcony!!!!!! We booked an Oceanview and they gave us a cat. E1 cabin. We were able to board the ship by 11:30. The cabin was very nice. A lot of thought was put into the design and we benefited from it. I loved the curtain you can draw to separate the room in half. When room service came in the morning, I just hid behind the curtain :) The only thing bad was the small shower. The tile accents above the sink were a nice touch. Nice big closet and lots of drawer space. I really liked the shelves in the closet. Since we booked so late, we were not able to get late seating. They had a time and place to meet with the Maitre' D to change your seating. There was a small room right next to the Cascades restaurant where we lined up. They happily changed us to late seating. We got a very nice large table in the center on the main level (4). After exploring every nook and cranny of the ship and taking pictures of EVERYTHING ( I took 8 rolls of film and video taped two hours worth of tape!) we relaxed in a lounge chair by the main pool. It was sunny and warm. After a nice long swim, we had Strawberry Margaritas and dreamed we were in the Caribbean! One of my complaints on this cruise was the lack of a pool band. Last year we did this same itinerary on the Vision of the Seas, and they had a pool band. When we set sail, the Seattle Fireboat gave us a water show! What a nice surprise. Way to go Seattle! We had a nice dinner, casual, and met our new table mates. They are all nice, interesting folks that added to our whole cruise experience. The food was all excellent. The steaks were tender and served hot. I cannot say enough times how PERFECT our service was on the whole cruise. The waiters, bus people in the Windjammer, guest relations, the crew, our cabin attendant. The ship was kept spotless. I have heard that on earlier cruises there was a problem. Not any more. The Captain was great. He was more like a cruise director. He sang to us at the Captains Cocktail Party, and told jokes. We had a good view of the bridge from our balcony and he was up there a lot. We were informed my the Captain Friday night, that the ship would pass under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver at approximately 6:15 in the morning. So, that is when we woke up to get photos. I am glad we did. The bay was beautiful. The water was like glass. In Vancouver, we got off the ship just long enough to walk around Gas Town for a bit, to look for suitcase presents for our two boys. I found a very nice Chinese tea pot set at a shop, for my early Mother's Day preset. We spent the rest of the day swimming and eating and napping. Very relaxing. Formal night... A lot of ladies in long ball gowns, some tuxes but not many. Some people were completely underdressed. I think many of the passengers opted for the informal Windjammer. There were NO LOBSTER TAILS and NO GALA MIDNIGHT BUFFET! Again, we had them on our Vision of the Seas cruise. I am getting the feeling that Royal Caribbean is cutting corners :( It bothered me, because a lot of folks were on their first cruise. It would have been nice if RCCL gave them a taste of the WHOLE experience. The Filet Mignon was heavenly. I think it was the most tender of any I have ever had. Victoria was great. I really love this town. So much to see and do. We took the bus from Ogden Point, where we docked, to town. It dropped us off right next to the Empress Hotel. There is a $5. each rountrip, charge for the bus. Right behind the Empress on the corner is a bus station, where you can purchase tickets to the Butchart Gardens. They bus you there in a very nice comfortable tour bus. The drive is about 25 minutes. The Gardens were spectacular. The Tulips are in bloom right now. There is a lot of hiking around and stairs. But there are easier paths for people in wheel chairs. After the tour we were dropped back into town. We walked over to the Sticky Wicket pub. Very nice. If you go by there, walk in and look around. We had a cup of seafood chowder and a beer. The last night was resort casual. I lost $50.00 at the casino :( The casino is really quite small for the size of the ship. It was hard to find a vacant slot machine. Then went to a good comedy show in the theater before dinner. Now for the BAD... If I was a fairy that could wave a magic wand and change a few things on the cruise, this is what I would do. There was only one main pool. The very tiny children's pool on the back of the ship was not much larger than a hot tub, so only the preschoolers went in there. The one pool outside was always full of kids jumping into the pool splashing each other, running around and around the shallow sides of the pool splashing salt water in our faces. It made for a very unpleasant swim. I was kicked and splashed and one large boy almost jumped right on my head. I finally gave up and went to the Solarium Pool. It is shallow and not meant for lap swimming. There are no children under 16 allowed in there. NOT. There were children in there as well. Two girls were having a splashing fight and I got it right in the face. There is an adorable little cafe on the back of the ship right above outside eating area. The Seaview Cafe. It served fish and chips, pizza and hamburgers. It would be a great place to go during the day for lunch. But the only hours it was open were from 11pm to 4 am! Who needs fish and chips at 3 am? I was disappointed that there was no pool band, lobster tails or Grand Midnight Buffet . They needed a children's pool next to the main pool. Every other ship we have been on have had two pools next to each other. One for the children and one for the adults. This is why we have decided to take the Infinity to the Southern Caribbean in Feb, 2002 instead of the Radiance that also has S. Caribbean cruises at the same time. Not enough pool area. There are 2100 passengers. In the Caribbean a LOT of passengers will be wanting to swim and sunbath by the pool. I can't imagine how crowded it would be! We are booked for the Sept. 21,2001 cruise for this same ship and itinerary. We booked this a few months ago. We are definitely going to go again. Great service, great ship. ketchum@whidbey.netMay 2001 Read Less
In the weeks and months leading up to the cruise, I found CruiseCritic.com to be extremely useful when it came to gathering information on both the Radiance of the Seas and Alaska. Now that my cruise is over, I figured I'd write a ... Read More
In the weeks and months leading up to the cruise, I found CruiseCritic.com to be extremely useful when it came to gathering information on both the Radiance of the Seas and Alaska. Now that my cruise is over, I figured I'd write a review and share my experience, along with a tip or two along the way. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this sure-to-be-really-long review that will cover the good (of which there was plenty) and the bad (Hey, nothing's perfect, right?) of the cruise. Embarkation I guess there is no better place to start than the beginning. Embarkation was well under way by the time my wife and I arrived at Canada Place pier. This was due to the fact that we were coming from Victoria that morning, and our bus driver taking more of a transit route (likely due to the transit strike in Vancouver) instead of going straight to the pier as I had been led to believe, causing us to be almost 30 minutes late in arriving, and thus putting my impatient self in a foul mood, and making my wife ready to shoot me. On the bright side, we did see quite a bit of the city on the way in. The highlight for me was going by the GM Place arena, which is home to the NHL's Vancouver Canucks (I'm a huge hockey fan). After finally arriving at the pier, we were given a number and herded into a large waiting area with hundreds of other soon-to-be passengers. Surprisingly, the wait didn't turn out to be too long, as we only had to wait about 30 minutes before our number was called. From there, it was an easy check-in and we were on board shortly after. A simple tip is start edging to the beginning of the line shortly after the number before yours is called. This way, when your number is called, you can jump right into the main line, and your wait will be a lot shorter. Also, make sure all of your forms are filled out in advance. Common sense stuff, I know, but I was amazed at how many people hadn't filled out a thing until they reach the check-in counter. There are cruise personnel wandering around checking forms, but I guess they can't get to everyone. The Ship Itself What more can be written about the Radiance than has already been written. She certainly is a beauty, and seemingly was built for Alaska with all of glass employed in her construction. Her beauty extends to the inside of the ship as well, and while I won't cover each and every area in this review, I'll touch on the few that made an impact on me. First though, I'll start with the general stuff. Our Cabin When we first booked, we got a category E3 cabin on Deck 7, but our wonderful travel agent got us bumped up to a category D on Deck 9, located a little over halfway between the Centrum and the front of the ship, which gave us options as far as which staircases and/or elevators to use. The cabin itself was rather spacious with plenty of storage space. The bathroom was your standard size for a ship stateroom, but both my wife and I could fit in there if needed. The closet was big enough to fit everything we needed to hang, but it's broken up so that my wife's long dresses hung over the bottom rail. She ended up hanging most of her dresses on the door. The bed was very comfortable, and we made use of all eight pillows that were available. We tried to use the refrigerator as little as possible, but we did take a soda from it on the first day. Strangely enough though, the charge for the soda never appeared on our bill. Maybe the electronic recording feature was broken in our fridge, but not wanting to tempt fate, we bought a six-pack in Juneau, which sustained us for the rest of the trip. This was our first time having a balcony, and we made the most of it. I can't think of many other things more enjoyable than sitting out there with a cold drink watching the scenery pass by or the sun set over the horizon. Getting Around Being where our cabin was, we had easy access to stairs and elevators, but the folks on the back part of the ship had quite a distance to walk to just find some way to go up or down. The ship could have used a few more elevators and another staircase. The Centrum elevators were almost always full, and would routinely stop on every floor. The bank of the elevators near the front also filled up, but not quite as bad. Taking the stairs wasn't a bad option, but there were those times when we had just spent hours walking around in port, and just wanted a smooth elevator ride up to our floor. Food Interestingly enough, we had seen a special on cruise ships on the Learning Channel the weekend before the cruise, and part of that special had focused on food preparations for this large ships. Therefore we weren't expecting anything gourmet. I think it's also unreasonable to expect every meal to be a 5-star, gourmet affair, especially when the chefs and galley staff are cooking for over 2,000 people. Still though, I give credit to Radiance Executive Chef Raymond Southern and his staff of about 120 chefs to creating a wide variety of meals that should appeal to anyone's taste. I can't say if there was one specific dish that stood out for being either exquisite or awful, but I had no problems with the food served in the Cascades dining room, and neither did my stomach for that matter. The food in the Windjammer was edible, standard buffet fare, and while there was a large selection, I would have liked to see different items pop up from time to time, such as biscuits and gravy for breakfast. That would have gone well with the fresh omelets that made to order. We never tried either Chops Grille or Portofinos, as we didn't see the point of spending the extra money. We heard mixed reviews about the two, with some saying that it was a waste of money, and others saying the food was fabulous. Entertainment Unfortunately, we were unable to attend many of the shows in the Aurora Theater, only making it there twice. Many times we were just too tired to go after dinner, but other times, the early show time was inconvenient for us. What we did see though, we enjoyed. The various lounges and bars had live music in the evening. Our favorite was the band Upscale, which performed in the lobby area of the Centrum. Many nights we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink in the beautiful Centrum while listening to Upscale's sultry smooth sounds. Parker Cristan, the cruise director, is a very nice guy with more energy than that pink Energizer Bunny. He always seemed to be everywhere and on top of everything that was going on. The pulse of the ship definitely ran through him. Service We had a rather wide range of service experiences on the ship, ranging from solid to non-existent. Our cabin attendant was a friendly young man, but we rarely ever saw him. He was always prompt with cleaning the room in the morning, turning it down in the evening, providing plenty of towels, and refilling the ice bucket. He was also pretty creative with his towel animals and pillow creations. I did have to ask for an extra bar of soap, but that was it. The dining rooms service was an interesting contrast. Our main waiter was top notch and very personable, but his assistant seemed to disappear for long periods of time, leaving our main waiter having to do a lot of the dish clearing himself. We tried using room service twice with mixed results. The first time being the morning we were in Skagway. We placed an order for breakfast the night before, but they lost the order. Seeing as how we had booked the morning train ride and didn't want to be late, we had just enough time to grab a few pastries from the Windjammer to tide us over until lunch. However, room service did redeem themselves on the last day when we ordered the cheese plate and some soup, and it was delivered within 15 minutes. Bar service was decent for the most part, except once in the Schooner Bar when I ordered ice water, and it never came. Guess they figured they couldn't make money on it, so why bother. My wife had the hot stone massage in the spa, and while she said it was enjoyable, she wasn't thrilled when her masseuse turned into a salesperson and tried to push all sorts or products on her. OK, now that I've covered most of the general stuff, I'll get into some of the common areas (lounges, shops, sports areas, etc) that had an impact on me, either positive, negative, or both. The Centrum I'll start off with the hub of the ship, the beautiful Centrum. Whether you are looking up from the bottom, or down from above, it's an equally impressive view either way. There are the glass elevators going up one side, a humongous structure that's suspended over the middle, and the neon staircase that connects decks 4 and 5. Be warned, that staircase is a very popular photo spot, especially on the formal nights. The lobby of the Centrum is decorated in cool blues and greens, with several trees and a pair of waterfalls surrounding the outer edge. Colored lights add to the affect, making the Centrum lobby one of the most popular places on the ship. This was also the spot of several onboard activities, including the always popular art auctions, and the wonderful cooking demonstration put on by Executive Chef Raymond Southern. The Solarium Pictures don't do it justice, you really need to see it with your own eyes. The tropical design and dEcor are wonderful. The pool is good size, but I was disappointed by there being only one hot tub. The lounge chairs are very comfortable if you are lucky to get one. On days at sea, these fill up very quickly as there are not that many of them. Also, anyone seeking peace and tranquility in the Solarium may want to look elsewhere because it can get noisy in there, especially when kids are in the pool. Despite signs indicating that children under 18 could only use the pool between 8-10 AM and 4-7 PM, kids of all ages were in there constantly, with or without adult supervision, and nothing ever being said by a ship staff member, no matter how rowdy the kids would get. I can understand kids having the run of the pool, given that this is a cruise to Alaska and using the main outdoor pool or the kids pool are not really logical options, but I don't see the point of having rules displayed that are not going to be enforced at all. Maybe when the ship travels to a warmer climate, and the outdoor pools become usable, the rules will see more enforcement. Cascades Dining Room: We ran into a little bad luck here, as my wife and I were stuck at a table in the back corner, so we were unable to take advantage of the many windows that surround both floors of the dining room. Our table of eight was only half filled as only one other couple joined us. I suspect that whoever else was supposed to sit with us figured out where the table was beforehand, and got their seating arraignments changed to get a better view. My wife and I considered doing the same, but the other couple we sat with were so much fun that we decided against it. It was a smart decision as we all became fast friends. The room itself is tastefully decorated with a large painting at one end, a waterfall at the other, and columns that are mostly made of cloth. Windjammer Cafe One first impression, it seems very spacious and well laid out, but it can get crowded in a hurry. Getting a table can sometimes require walking around for long periods of time before something opens up. When a table opens, it's usually a mad dash to get to it first. It's not always like this, but it's especially bad on the days when you get into port late, such as in Juneau or Ketchikan, and it seems like the entire ship runs up there to get a quick bite before heading into town. If you can't find a table in the main cafe, there are some outside tables with large, cushy chairs that are nice to sit in, and you are still sheltered from the cold and the wind. Seaview Cafe Located right above the Windjammer, the Seaview is a great place to go for a quick snack. Open from 11 AM until 2 AM, they offer a nice assortment of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, and desserts, all made to order right in front of you. My wife took a liking to the jalapeno poppers, but I preferred the standard hot dog and fries. Rock Climbing Wall A lot harder than it looks, especially the right side of the wall. I got stuck on this side, and any hope I had of flying up the wall like Spider Man went right out the window. The handholds on the right side are smaller and further apart, not to mention that the task of hauling my huge mass up the wall was not as simple as I had hoped. If you're going up the rock, and are a novice at it, you're better off staying to left side if you can. Miniature Golf Course Very fun, and surprisingly very challenging. My wife and I enjoyed several rounds on the 9-hole course, and I played several more times on my own. On nice days, this is very popular, and the Country Club can run out of clubs. It's a great way to spend some time in the fresh air. I was tempted to try to golf simulator, but at $25 per hour, I decided my money would be better spent elsewhere. Sport Court There were nets up so that you could play hockey or soccer, but only basketball and volleyball were played with any regularity on the cruise. Even when it was raining, there was usually someone out there shooting hoops. Scoreboard Bar This sports bar proved to be a disappointment. The night we set sail was also the night of the biggest sporting event of the year (to me anyway), that being Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Colorado and New Jersey. I had hoped to catch some of the game in the bar, but to my dismay as well as several others who were there to watch the game as well, the game would not be shown, apparently to some problem with cruise ship not being allowed to show network programs. The only sports programs they could show were the same ones I could watch in the cabin. There wasn't even that much in the way of good sports memorabilia to look at either. Colony Club Another of the much-hyped aspects of the ship, this is another one of those areas that is just a pleasure to walk into. The rich woods of the walls and colorful fabrics of the chairs make this one of the enjoyable parts of the ship. The pool tables hold true to their billing as the balls stay in place, even when the ship is in motion. However, since there are only two tables, there is often a long wait to play, unless you go early in the morning, or when everyone else is onshore. Like the Solarium, there are signs saying that children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult to play pool, and once again, I saw no enforcement of that rule. Kids were freely running around the place with no supervision from parents, and no comment from the ship staff. I think this begs the question about whether parents should maintain more control over their children, and is there a point in time when someone from the ship's staff steps in to enforce the rules displayed for proper behavior in places like the Colony Club. Books, Books, & Coffee Nice assortment of books, mostly travel-related, but there is also some standard stuff too, along with the usual selection of coffee-related merchandise.. I'm not a coffee drinker, so I settled for hot chocolate, which was decent. There are also a few Internet terminals for use in case the ones out by the Centrum are all taken (Never saw this happen). Centrum Shops Pretty standard here. Lots of merchandise available, but much of it is overpriced, especially the logo merchandise (golf shirts, T-shirts, sweaters, caps, etc.). There are sales on various items almost every day, so you may be able to find something resembling a bargain during these sales. Casino Again, pretty standard in that you have to spend most of the cruise here to have a chance at winning anything. The nickel slot machines are a joke. They are the video kind that requires 45 nickels to win the big jackpot, and have so many different winning combinations that it's impossible to follow. My wife and I did make a small donation of about $30 and never went back. Aurora Theater Not a bad seat in the house. Very spacious, and the chairs are cushy and comfortable. I wish we had been able to see more shows here. The Entrance to the Schooner Bar I thought the entrance was more interesting than the bar itself. Beautiful paintings and displays on the walls, the cannons and cannonballs scattered around the room, and that gunpowder smell that hits you when you enter. Be warned though, the odor can vary. On some days, I barely noticed it, while on others, it was almost overpowering. Now I come to the ports of call. The rest of this review will be about Vancouver, Juneau, Skagway, the Hubbard Glacier, and Ketchikan, as well as the weather we encountered, the shore excursions we took, and a note about debarkation. Vancouver The embarkation/debarkation city for the Radiance on it's Alaska run reminded me a lot of San Francisco, just as scenic, but a lot cleaner. Unfortunately, all I saw of Vancouver was from a bus window going to the pier, our cabin balcony as we set sail, and a cab window heading to the airport. Sailing out under the Lion's Gate Bridge may not equal the Golden Gate, but it comes close. It was even better on the way back with the sun rising over the mountains. I hope to get back up there someday soon to see more of the sights that Vancouver has to offer. Juneau The capital city of Alaska was our first port of call, and by far the largest and most modern of the cities we would visit. We docked about a third of a mile from downtown, the main shopping district, and the Mount Roberts Tram station. Our main excursion for the day was the Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter ride. I had always wanted to walk on a glacier wearing shorts and my San Jose Sharks hockey jersey, and I wasn't about to pass up this chance, even at $189 per person. After a scenic, but annoying bus ride, thanks to a driver who thought he was the hottest comedian in Juneau, but was actually pretty lousy (his only decent line was about how he had to stop at the Red Dog Saloon to pick up our pilots), we arrived at the airfield, which is adjacent to the Juneau International Airport. After a briefing and boot fitting (which fit nicely right over the shows you're already wearing), we boarded the copters for the flight to the glacier. The flight up was a smooth ride and offered several excellent views of the glacier itself, the mountains and valleys surrounding it, and the many waterfalls cascading down the mountains. We landed on the glacier and were led around a small area by glacier guides. The crevasses and glacial streams were incredibly beautiful. I even got to take a drink of the water rushing through those streams, and let me tell you, 32.8 degree water never tasted so pure and refreshing. If you go, I suggest bringing a small water bottle to save for later or to bring home as a souvenir. After too short a time (roughly 20-25 minutes), the copters were back to drop off the next group of glacier explorers, and to take us back. Including flying time, the whole trip lasted roughly an hour, but it was a memorable experience. Upon returning to the airfield, we boarded the bus (different driver thankfully) and headed back into town. Our driver was kind enough to drop us off in front of the tram, so we could quickly hop aboard (after paying the $20 fee of course) for the 5-minute ride up the mountain, which offers spectacular views and commentary from the tram operator. We even saw a couple bald eagles as well. At the top, there is plenty to do. There are many hiking trails through the temperate rain forest, a movie that can be seen, and of course, a couple places to eat and shop. When we were there, there was even enough snow for a little snowball fight. After the return tram ride back to sea level, we strolled up Franklin St., which is the main street with all the shops. My favorite store was Latitude 58, which has a huge selection of adorable pine bears. There is also a wonderful fudge shop for those chocoholics like myself. Skagway Skagway is a quaint, one-main street town that offers quite a lot of charm and history. We had heard rave reviews of the White Pass Railroad tour, so we booked that early. Good thing too because all the tour times for this were sold out. When it comes to booking excursions, if you don't do it ahead of time, book as soon as you get on board, either via the Excursions desk on Deck 4, or via the RCTV menu on your stateroom television. Popular tours like the White Pass Railway and glacier exploration-type tours like the Mendenhall helicopter ride book up very quickly. The train ride was excellent, and I do recommend sitting on the left side going up the mountain to get the better views. Although you do switch sides when you get to the summit, I still think the ride up is better. The views are absolutely stunning, so bring along a couple rolls of film. Free beverages and a railroad magazine are provided complimentary, and snacks are available for a small fee. The only negative was that although the train stopped at the depot in town, those of us from the Radiance were not allowed off there. Instead, they took us all the way back to the ship, which meant we had to walk the third of a mile or so back into town. Thanks to room service losing our breakfast order that morning, my wife and I were famished once we returned, so we headed for the famed Red Onion Saloon. This place gets awfully crowded at lunchtime, and seating is open, meaning if the tables are full, wander around until you find someone ready to leave, and then grab the table. The food, especially the pizza, is excellent, and the staff is entertaining in their vintage saloon costumes. It's definitely worth stopping in for a bite. The shopping is not quite as good as in Juneau, but there are a few good stores. The Skagway Outlet Store at the far end of town has a large selection of stuff, and my wife got a Lladro figurine at the Little Switzerland store for a decent price. Hubbard Glacier Technically, this isn't a port since you don't get off the ship, but it's definitely something you want to be outside for. The closer we got, the more chunks of ice we could see floating in the water (I managed to suppress any Titanic thoughts). I've got to give credit to Captain Bill Wright for getting us in as close as he did, to within about 1.3 miles from the glacier itself. He also allowed passengers up onto the helicopter landing pad at the front of the ship for the best views. It gets very crowded up there, so bundle up, get there early, and once you have your spot, don't move. The glacier is enormous, stunningly beautiful, and pretty active when it comes to caving. There were many small cavings, and a couple big ones that made me glad to have a video camera. We were only at the glacier for 60-90 minutes or so before we turned around to head out. On the way, a brown bear was spotted on land, so everyone rushed to the windows for a look. Of course, the bear looks like a brown spot from the ship, so keep your eyes peeled, or have a pair of binoculars handy. Ketchikan Smaller than Juneau, but more much bigger and more modern than Skagway. It was also the only port where we experienced rain (more on the weather later). The original plan was for us to tender in Ketchikan, but once again, big credit goes out to Captain Bill for managing to shoehorn the Radiance into the dock behind the Holland American ship Zaandam with about 40 feet or so to spare. My wife didn't do an excursion in Ketchikan, as there wasn't anything that really sparked our interest. I hear that the Misty Fjords floatplane trip is quite a ride, and if I hadn't done the helicopter ride in Juneau, I probably would have done this. Instead, we just wandered around town, doing our own thing. Ketchikan is supposed to have the best shopping of all the ports, and while I don't know if I agree with that, there certainly were more jewelry stores there than you could shake a totem pole at. The definite highlight of Ketchikan is Creek Street. It's a bit of a walk from the pier, but well worth it. Lots of little stores and eateries nestled into a forested hillside, all suspended on wooden piers over the rushing Ketchikan Creek. If you've seen photos of Ketchikan in travel magazines and brochures, many of them were probably taken here. Weather I didn't have high hopes for the weather since rain was being predicted for every port we went to. However, we got pretty lucky in that we only had a little rain on our first day at sea, as well as light rain off and on in Ketchikan. We even had quite a bit of sun in Skagway, at the Hubbard Glacier, and on our last day heading back through the Inside Passage. No major storms or rough seas at all, and with the ship being as smooth sailing as it is, there were times where I hardly felt the ship moving. This is Alaska though, and it can get pretty cold when in port, so unless you're pretty much immune to the cold like me (who wandered around in shorts and hockey jerseys most of the time), I would recommend pants, a sweater or two, and a jacket. Debarkation Although we had a 12:30 PM flight, we were given tags for the group with flights before 10:30 AM. The process is hardly what I'd call organized chaos as everyone gathers in the Centrum area, although there are other places to sit. If the weather is nice, I'd recommend waiting outside, or perhaps in the Aurora Theater, where a final show is performed. Once our color tag was called, we managed to get off the ship without too much waiting. The baggage holding area is always a mess, but we found our bags easily enough. The luggage carts there are free so make use of them if you need to (we needed two of them). Customs was not a problem, and from there it was a short walk to a waiting taxi, and off to the airport. Final Thoughts I take away nothing but good memories from this cruise vacation aboard the Radiance of the Seas. My wife and I had a wonderful time, and saw some sights that almost defy words with their beauty. The ship itself still has a few minor glitches and problems, but she is coming into her own, and is a definite jewel in the Royal Caribbean crown. I'd do it again in a second if I could, but for now I'm content with the memory of an exciting experience, not to mention the 12 rolls of film and 5 hours of video I have as well. CSchutz@digitalimpact.comJune 2001 Read Less
4-night Pacific Northwest This was our second cruise, and first on Royal Caribbean. My husband and I are 43 and 37 and love to travel. We have previously cruised to Alaska on Carnival. The Radiance is one stunning ship, and I fear we ... Read More
4-night Pacific Northwest This was our second cruise, and first on Royal Caribbean. My husband and I are 43 and 37 and love to travel. We have previously cruised to Alaska on Carnival. The Radiance is one stunning ship, and I fear we are spoiled forever now. I don't see how another ship could measure up. Embarkation We arrived at the Bell Street Pier in Seattle at 10:45 a.m. It took 15 minutes to present all our documents and get our cruise cards validated. We then waited in chairs until boarding began at 11:30. Clowns entertained us while we waited, and lemonade was served. We were asked not to go to our cabin before 1:00 p.m. After getting our picture made, we were on the ship at 11:40. Very smooth process. Cabin We had room 9590, a Category D cabin with balcony. The brochure said it was 204 square feet. It was the roomiest cabin we have ever had, and this was our first balcony. Our room was in a great midship location, right where the rooms bulge out from the ship. From our room we could look straight down onto the water. We were on the starboard side and the elevators were opposite us on the port side. This was very convenient all during the cruise. We were only steps away from the overlooks from which we could look down into the Centrum lobby. The music could be heard clearly from these overlooks, but not in the cabin. My husband spent a late evening listening to the music and watching the dancing down below. We peeked into a Category E1 balcony cabin and it had a love seat instead of the couch that we had. It was 179 square feet. The Category F outside didn't have a balcony. It had a large overstuffed chair and was 170 square feet. All of these cabins were excellent. We didn't see the suites or the inside cabins. Cabin Steward We met our cabin steward soon after 1:00. We asked for a few items, which he supplied. I asked that he remove the food and drinks from the minibar, as we had brought our own supply of soft drinks. He refused to do so, which put a damper on things, but I didn't let it spoil my attitude. We never saw him again, but he kept our cabin spotless for the next four days. Sail-Away We had great fun at the sail-away deck party. A stilt walker was line dancing and a good time was had by all. I bought a non-alcoholic frozen drink card for $26.00. This allowed me twelve virgin frozen drinks throughout the cruise. It was very convenient and saved us money as well. Entertainment We missed the first night's Welcome Aboard show because it was scheduled during the main seating for dinner. Since it was not repeated, there was no opportunity to attend if you had main seating. I thought this was odd. It was replayed on the cabin TV the next day and featured a juggler. One night a comedian was the entertainment and he was very funny. The other two nights were the production shows by the ship's singers and dancers. They were both good, especially the last night of the cruise. Two of the dancers went "flying" on wires and it was very well done. The theater had a great sound system and sophisticated lighting effects. Food We ate in the dining room three nights and the Windjammer one night. The food was great, although lobster was not on the menu. (It was on the menu of Portofinos). We had prime rib, shrimp scampi, chicken Kiev, turkey and dressing, salmon and halibut. I was surprised and pleased by the food in the Windjammer. The embarkation buffet was large and varied. At night they had stations for salad, fruit, cheese, bread, desserts, main courses and vegetables. In addition, they had pizza, a meat carving station, grilled to order steaks, a pasta bar with your choice of sauces sautEed while you waited, and a chef preparing stir-fry Chinese food. This was definitely not typical, leftover buffet food. Breakfast in the Windjammer was equally diverse, with eggs, bacon, hot oatmeal and cream of wheat, fruit, cereal, and bread. The only negative in the food department came on the one day we had breakfast in the main dining room. Big mistake. The service was painfully slow, and we didn't have time to finish before we had to leave for our shore excursion. My pancakes were cold when I got them, and were served without syrup. My husband had to ask three times for a glass of water. We never ate there again for breakfast. We were very happy with the Windjammer breakfast buffet. Portofinos We had previously decided not to spend the $40.00 extra for this restaurant, or Chops. The third night of the cruise it was printed in the Compass that lunch would be available in Portofinos the next day for half price. I immediately made reservations for 11:30 a.m. the next day. We had a table by the window, with a magnificent sea view. We were the only two people in the entire restaurant until 12 noon. Talk about romantic. We were pampered and proceeded to enjoy the best meal of the entire cruise. We took our server's recommendation to get the lasagna. It was heavenly. Since it was lunch, we didn't order the entire five courses. She must have thought we would starve, as she brought us an appetizer anyway. It was, of course, wonderful. After eating there, I know it is worth the price they charge, and I wouldn't hesitate to pay full price next time. The only strange thing was that two workmen in coveralls kept wandering through the dining room. They were going between the kitchen and another room behind a door. One of them had a drill with him. This was jarring to say the least. After eating dessert, (Boston cream Pie) we waddled away. Shore Excursions We booked our own independent tour in Vancouver. It was longer and less expensive than the ship tour. It was a five-hour highlight tour, and our driver was a native of Vancouver. In Victoria, we booked the ship's whale watching tour. We saw minke whales, dalls porpoises and sea lions. We got lots of good pictures from this small boat. We then went on the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens and Butterfly World. We enjoyed both, but we won't book two excursions in the same day again. We were frazzled by the time we got back to the ship. Miscellaneous A lot has already been written about the public rooms but I must single out the Solarium. It was my favorite place on the ship. The green plants and huge stone elephants made this area seem like a tropical oasis. It was very relaxing here, with no hustle and bustle. It was the perfect retreat. Even though the ship was supposedly sold out, I have no idea where all the people were. The ship was not crowded and many nights after the show we strolled the outside decks all alone. I have many pictures of the completely empty decks at night. Royal Caribbean has done a great job of designing a ship that distributes the passengers all over the ship. My husband and I climbed the Rock Wall up the back of the funnel. The children scampered up in no time flat, making us look bad, but we had fun. Drinks were not pushed on this ship, which I appreciated. I would rather not be bothered all the time. Announcements were kept to a minimum and could not be heard in the cabins at all. I thought this was strange. I would like to have had a control knob in the cabin to turn the announcements off or on, but no announcements can be heard at all in the cabins. Oh, well, this is preferable to the non-stop announcements on some ships. We went to the Ship Chat with Captain Ringborn on the last sea day. The Captain and two of his officers answered questions from the audience for one hour. This was a real treat. My husband got to hear about the special engines the Radiance has and it was a great hour. The staff was very friendly on this ship and always smiled and said hello when passing by. When we first boarded the ship we were given a letter saying that Radiance was trying something new regarding the dress of the crew. Only ship's officers wore the traditional white uniforms. Everyone else wore blazers and slacks such as you see in resort hotels. The letter said it was to make guests feel more at ease. The ship did have the distinct feel of a resort hotel. I was not surprised to learn that the Radiance's godmother is married to the Hyatt hotel owner. Everything was impeccably kept on the ship, and the whole atmosphere was one of elegance and beauty. We can't wait to sail on the Radiance again. If I can answer any questions, my email address is coasterwiggs@home.com.October 2001 Read Less
We embarked THE RADIANCE OF THE SEAS in Vancouver BC on October 14, 2001 for the cruise to Honolulu. The Radiance has been reviewed here on Cruise Critic and other places numerous times so I will just hit the highlights of this trip for ... Read More
We embarked THE RADIANCE OF THE SEAS in Vancouver BC on October 14, 2001 for the cruise to Honolulu. The Radiance has been reviewed here on Cruise Critic and other places numerous times so I will just hit the highlights of this trip for me. To put this in context, this is our 18th cruise, 2rd on RCI. We are of Medicare age. We had Cabin 7552 on Deck 7, Category E3. This is probably the greatest ship we have been on. The Gas Turbine powered propulsion is vibration and smoke free (at least on our deck). Everything is highest tech. The ship is super clean and well maintained. This was the best crew we have ever had. To a man/woman, they are friendly and helpful. Captain Kent Ringborn was the greatest. He started off at the Welcome Aboard show by singing in his rich, professional quality voice, "Welcome To My World". It was almost like a Hollywood Musical or TV show. Later he held a question and answer session and made frequent appearances all over the ship. The Cruise Director, Gordon Whatman was A#1. Very active and available, he had an engaging British personality, and a great Broadway style singing voice. We also had the best cabin attendant ever. Room seemed to be made up the moment we left the room and his talent in pillow arranging and towel sculpture was phenomenal. Would have to rate the food as just good. Waiter service and dish presentation was fine, but the preparation and selection had its ups and downs. My wife is allergic to fish and there seemed to be an unusual amount of fish dishes on the menu. However, there was no problem finding an alternate. The Windjammer Cafe, with its various serving stations vs. the usual cafeteria line, was the best buffet we have encountered. Variety was good and most food fairly warm and well prepared. Entertainment was outstanding. Comic Marty Allen, from early days of TV told many classic jokes. Other singers and musical groups, such as The Diamonds from the 60's, presented a variety of music that seems to appeal to all age groups. A group of highly talented singers and dancers did two very well rehearsed production shows that were outstanding. Very high tech staging and lighting with superb sound and lots of on-stage pyrotechnics. The high-energy music was maybe a little too modern for our more mature tastes, but still was entertaining. During the five days at sea, the ship held a series of "Academy At Sea" sessions. We took "Theater Production". During four sessions we got a detailed backstage look at technical setup, costumes, and met the cast. They are a wonderful bunch of kids, very talented, of interesting backgrounds, and seem to love their jobs. We were very impressed! If available on your cruise, highly recommend this activity. The Aurora Theater itself is the best. Theater style seating is comfortable and sightlines from most are tops. Cabin. E3 category is the lowest price balcony cabin. It has ample room for two people of average size and is well laid out with lots of closet and drawer/shelve space. The bathroom is compact and the shower a little small, but adequate. The balcony has room for two chairs and a small table. This category balcony overlooks the cover over the lifeboat deck and you cannot look directly down at the water. Nevertheless, a balcony is a must; particularly on a Hawaiian or Caribbean cruise. Embarkation/Debarkation/Security. Due to the tragic 9/11 situation there was a lot of security. Considering, the embarkation was relatively efficient. We arrived early (BTW, strongly recommend arriving in Vancouver a day early) and there were several ID checks and some baggage inspection. We were on-board by 12:00P, but understand some of the later arrivals had to wait quite a while. At each port there were security checks on the dock and on the ship that comforting if a little slow. Had the best disembarkation ever. Something we have never encountered before. The Cruise Director, Gordon held sort of a talk show in the theater answering questions and entertaining. Since we were staying in Honolulu a week, we were one of the last to get off. Still we were off by 10:00A and his entertaining made the time go fast. In general, I would have to rate this cruise one of our best. As good or better than the Voyager last year at Christmas. RCI Customer Service is difficult to deal with setting up the arrangements and requires perseverance to make it happen. However, I can find very little to nit-pick once on-board. jdmel@earthlink.netDecember 2001 Read Less
Radiance of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.5 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.5 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.5 0.0
Rates N/A 0.0

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