We cruised the Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver to Ketchikan to Prince Rupert and back (5 nights / 6 days) as our first Royal Caribbean International (RCI) adventure, and we will not sail with this cruise line or its affiliates again. ... Read More
We cruised the Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver to Ketchikan to Prince Rupert and back (5 nights / 6 days) as our first Royal Caribbean International (RCI) adventure, and we will not sail with this cruise line or its affiliates again. (FYI-our platinum cruise with Carnival is this September, so we know what to expect when cruising.) The following commentary reflects our viewpoint and opinions organized by the “the Good,” “the Bad,” and “the Ugly.”
Cost.The cruise was inexpensive comparatively, and it met our date requirements. We selected a balcony room (although we normally select suites), and the cost for three was somewhat less than that of our normal cruise line, Carnival, so we thought we would try RCI.
Main Dining Room.Dinner was a pleasant experience in the main dining room. We selected the Carnival equivalent of “Your Time” dining, but the method involved actually coordinating the time either daily or for the entire cruise on the first day. The method was solid, because we did not queue for food. The staff was expecting us and had the table ready every evening. The main dining room wait staff was outstanding, as is typical of most (but not all) ships we have sailed. Compared to the typical Carnival food in the main dining rooms, I would suggest that they are about on par. Some of the food was (in our opinion) better (e.g., some of the meat selections..); some of it was worse (e.g., the deserts…no real equivalent of the warm chocolate melting cake…cold rolls…). Overall, our experience in the main dining room met expectations.
Solarium. The Solarium was a nice place (pool, waterfall, etc.), and some of the lounges were (in our opinion), prettier than many of the Carnival equivalents.
Pre-Paid Packages. RCI Pre-paid packages up front (Internet, pictures, drinks) are awesome. I appreciate not having to coordinate this on the ship. Pre-paying just makes it a done deal.
Pool Table. The gyro-based pool tables were a hoot, even if they didn’t work all that well sometimes. Having a climbing wall is nice, but we did not take advantage of it.
Excursion. We only selected one excursion, kayaking at Prince Rupert. Wow. It was one of our favorite excursions in all of our cruising. About three hours on the water with seals, fish, and wildlife…So much fun.
Casino. The casino was not crowded. One-arm bandits were always available, and there was always room at the craps table.
Drinks. The drink plan was outstanding. It included everything we needed, and there was no “counting,” which is kind of artificial with Carnival.
Herd Dining. The “buffet” was not what we expected. The breakfast food, in our opinion, was not nearly as good as the Carnival fare. The selection wasn’t totally terrible, but (in our opinion) they did not have the diversity of food types that we have seen on other ships. And coffee is “protected.” You have to queue to ask for a cup (probably due to fear of spreading germs.) We hadn’t seen this technique applied to Carnival.
Specialty Dining. We didn’t try the steakhouse, because it was not as appealing to us as the Carnival steakhouse menus. It might have been just as good or even better, but we just didn’t try it.
We did try the Samba Grill to do something new, and we were disappointed. The Samba Grill is supposed to be a Brazilian steakhouse. To us, the taste (perhaps quality?) of the meat was not what we have come to expect from our annual excursions to these steakhouses. Perhaps, we went on an “off night.” We don’t gorge ourselves, either, so taste is the most important factor.
Pictures. We pre-paid the pictures; however, the quality was hit and miss in our opinion. During the formal night, I had my jacket open on some pictures, and my son has his closed. The prep prior to the pictures just wasn’t quite spot on. We would rather have paid more for better quality.
Entertainment. We tried to stomach a show. In our opinion, the opening singer couldn’t sing. (We actually looked at each other and started laughing when he tried a rendition of Piano Man.) They also provided a former “Star Search” winner as an option. Carnival isn’t great, but it is better in our opinion.
The demonstrations that we attended were silent (no commentary). For example, the fruit and vegetable carving was interesting, but it was not narrated. Some commentary would have been better in our opinion.
Taste-Bar? Free Samples? On Carnival, we have always been able to sample the specialty dining at a taste-bar equivalent / demonstration. We attended demonstrations by the Samba Grill and the Asian specialty dining (name escapes me). Neither provided samples. Had we been able to sample the fare up front, I guarantee we would not have chosen the Samba Grill.
On balance, we would have considered Royal Caribbean for another cruise if it were not for “the Ugly.” And here it is.
Sewer Smell. The smell of sewer backed through the drains in the state room, an issue that we have never experienced in ~90 days at sea on cruise ships. This seems to be fairly well-documented issue for this class of ships. Here are three reviews I found that reference the issue, and there are more.
Attempts to Resolve. The apparent “solution“ of the housekeeping and maintenance staff was to try to hide the smell with cleaner and to use “biogel.” (We were having this done routinely.) The small was sufficiently bad that we asked for a different room. None were available. We asked a maintenance staff, who came to place “biogel” into the drains. He indicated that they receive between 20-25 complaints every cruise. Wow.
Customer Service. So we approached Customer Service. One of my family members has an auto-immune disease, and this was made clear to the staff. (Check out the International Medical Guide for Ships, 3d Edition by the World Health Organization for information on the toxic effects of Hydrogen Sulfide. Although I doubt the concentrations were sufficient to be of concern, why would I want to risk continued exposure of my family to elevated levels?). The Customer Service solution (which came quickly, perhaps due to the history of issues with this problem?) was to offer a 20% discount on a future cruise. We would never take a vacation again with a cruise line that has a commonly discussed smell issue and does not inform consumers about that issue in advance. Had this been a hotel, we would have checked out early.
I am quite sure that RCI would like to fix the issue with the sewer gas smells, but in my opinion, they have not been successful at all. Perhaps, some of their other ships do not have the same issues. That said, I would not have purchased our vacation through RCI had I known about the problem. Read Less