We were on the Radiance for the November 6, 2005 Eastern Caribbean sailing with the Cruise Critic's Radiance of the Seas NUTZ group. The group had some extensive cruisers. We were in the minority with this being my third cruise and my Wife's fourth.
The Radiance is a beautiful ship. The extensive glass has been written about along with the glass elevators that face inside or outside. She is a very open ship appointed with beautiful artwork, but she is starting to show her age for one so young. We are told she will be going into dry dock for refitting next February.
Dining -- We ate in the main dining room for all but one Dinner. The Cascades is beautiful and the service we received surpassed our expectations. We are not fancy eaters but I like to try new dishes while on a cruise. I must say everything I had was very good to the taste and pleasing to the eye. The Windjammer received most of our dining time. The food was good and there was a large selection. The layout of the Windjammer leads to an easy dining experience. The service there was wonderful. After getting your food and sitting down you were soon approached by an attendant asking if there was anything you desired. Once in between their visits I had run out of coffee and got up to get more. The attendant not assigned to our table saw me and would not allow me to get it myself. He was insistent on serving me. We were very impressed with all of the staff dealing with food service. As the food and service was so good in the Cascades and the Windjammer we saw no reason to go the specialty restaurants. We understand they were very good though.
Stateroom -- We had a wonderful Junior Suite located on the back of the ship. This was a great location as the deck was very large and the winds were not strong when underway. This stateroom had a real walk-in closet and more than enough storage room. The bathroom was showing it's age with pieces of chrome missing off the mirrors and the bolt covers for the toilet were missing as well. Speaking of the bathroom we were very surprised of the lack of toiletries offered. In every other Jr. Suite we have been in, there were different soaps, shampoos and on Grandeur we received shower scrunches for use in addition to washcloths. Nothing like that was available. Not even a shower cap. Our cabin attendant gave us everything we asked for and was very friendly. He didn't offer extras though. An example was on the first formal night my wife used the last tissue for her makeup. Lucky she didn't need any more because there was no extra box. There was no extra roll of toilet paper -- we ran out but at least that time there were plenty of tissues. The customer should never run out of anything. Great room but we were disappointed with the amenities.
Entertainment -- We saw two shows on this cruise. One was provided by the Radiance Singers and Dancers and was very good. We also enjoyed the celebrity show. That said I feel RCCL needs to have a well-known name for their celebrity shows. Although the entertainer's act was good and enjoyable, his only claim to fame is singing the song for the Happy Days show. It is not that the show wasn't good, it was but I feel the celebrity in the Celebrity Headliner Show would be someone that at least a fourth of the ship's guest would know his/her name.
The entertainment in the Schooner Lounge was a pianist or a pianist/singer. After leaving the Grandeur this March, a comparison could not be helped. The Grandeur had Bing, a pianist/singer and Major Handy, a do everything musically entertainer. If you rate these entertainers on a scale of one to five, the Grandeur Schooner would get a five and the Radiance Schooner would receive a two. The service and drinks were excellent though.
The entertainment poolside was good. The drinks were unpredictable. One "drink of the day" was so bad I had to throw it out. The service poolside was the worst I have ever seen on a RCCL ship. The servers were almost non-existent in the bar area. The one time I did see them they blew by me. Since I determined the only way to get a drink poolside was to fight through the crowd at the bar I didn't frequent this location.
SPA services -- The wife had an expensive facial done. The facial was very good for her but she felt rushed. Even though she bought additional creams (guys you know these aren't cheap) she felt that they couldn't wait to get her out to start on the next appointment. Very unnerving for what was suppose to be a relaxing time.
Colony Club -- This is a nice place. The entertainment was usually good and this is the location for Quest. Don't miss it. The pool tables are flat out amazing. If you are a pool fan you must try this. You have no idea the ship is moving as much as it is until you watch the tables. Remember to check the red light during a pool tournament. If it is on, the table is not working and you find out quickly why these tables are so special. The tables are not level and as predictable as the ocean if the red light is on. Otherwise it is an unusual feeling playing on a table that is level but you move up and down.
St. Thomas -- St. Thomas is a beautiful island and has shopping. We have not had the pleasure of shopping there even though this is our second visit. During the first visit we were on two shore excursions, as we knew there were things we wanted at St. Maarten. This time the Immigration rules have changed. Although the Radiance crew stated they were in the hands of the US Immigration officials, they share in the worst experience we have ever had on a RCCL ship. We got up extra early as we were told that US citizens would now have to go through immigration proceedings. This was not the case before. We had to be there early as we had an early shore excursion so we have time to enjoy shopping St Thomas. The day started when we arrived at the Windjammer for a continental breakfast as the main Windjammer restaurant was not open yet. The continental breakfast had only donuts with white icing. The had plenty of hot water, tea bags and sugar for my Wife's tea but nothing to stir it with. I was noting all this when I went for coffee. It is all I really needed. The coffee was out and it was going to take 15 minutes to brew more. As we were storming out the Windjammer opened 10 minutes early. We were able to dash in and eat before making it to a long line already formed for immigration. When the Immigration officials got there the line moved fairly quickly. Our sea-passes were marked and we told to go through the door to the outside deck. Once outside on deck 5 we followed the line, as there was no Radiance crew seen. The line led back to the Centrum where we clashed with the non-American guests who were trying to work their way through their own line. I reasoned we had to get to deck 2 to get off the ship and tried the elevators. Either they were not working or I could not see them because of the huge crowd that was gathering. My Wife found the first Radiance crew member standing in the middle of this huge gathering crowd. She was doing all she could but needed help in the worst way. She told us to get to deck 2. We took the stairs but instead of getting off the ship, we got in a line to get off the ship. After waiting awhile, I walked to the front of the line and a guest informed me that the ship had not been cleared for port. It is now 5 minutes from the time we were to meet for the shore excursion. The crowed quickly grew and the line snaked all the way to the crew's quarters and back, and then started backing up the stairs. There was no Radiance crew to let us know what was going on. When the gates opened it was pure bedlam getting off and the lines had been destroyed by the amount of people. We met our group almost an hour late, which meant the tour took an hour later so by the time we got back to the dock there was no time to shop.
Now I understand that the Radiance could not do anything until Immigration cleared the ship. It is possible that the Radiance may have been responsible for the delay though. My main concern was for the lack of a coordinated effort to move these people where they needed to go. Had the Radiance saw fit to inform the people of the delay and the cause of the delay, people would not have been so frustrated. This is the worst thing I have ever been through because it showed a total lack of concern from the Radiance management for their guests.
Entering and Leaving -- Boarding the ship was rather long but went without a hitch. Leaving the ship was an entirely different matter. We were assigned gray tags as our flight was leaving at 1:43. We were instructed to go to the Colony Club and wait for the color to be called. Problem is no announcements could be heard there. The speakers were not working. We moved to the Champagne Bar where we could hear. The colors were to be called in order but we heard red called. This concerned us as red were flights leaving at 3PM. Again, there was no communication by the Radiance. I asked one officer and was told gray must have been called as they always go in order. I went to where the line was forming and found another officer. He stated that was not the case. It had to do with when the carrousels were cleared and red's carrousel cleared before grays. Makes perfect sense but instead of having all these people upset, why not make a simple announcement. All the people around me were very upset wondering what had happened and were they forgotten. I told the officer about the speakers in the Colony Club and he sent a technician there. I spoke to an elderly lady while we were walking out and she was very upset. She said she saw the technician walk in and look around the walked out. Once off the ship the process was very smooth.
Meet and Mingle -- The meet and mingle was great fun as this group started the thread in August 2004. We didn't get on the thread until March 2005. This group named themselves the ROS NUTZ and had planned multiple activities onboard. Most fun you can have with your clothes on. The Radiance participation in the M&M seemed lacking. The web site showed the M&M for Wednesday. The ship's schedule called for it on Tuesday catching a lot of people off guard. About twenty people were able to attend out of the 45 that signed up. Part of the reason was because of the switch. There was no Radiance officer present and although the Administrative Assistant's job is a hard one, we expected an Officer from the Radiance. It felt as though the Radiance crew went through the motions and left ASAP. The NUTZ provided their fun though so the time was not wasted.
Summary -- The Radiance is a fine ship. The February refit should take care of her worn furniture and carpets, especially in the Windjammer. The crew is friendly and desires to make your stay onboard pleasing. Continuing with that, the Radiance singers and dancers worked really hard and put on a good show. The Celebrity Headliner although good should be a recognizable name. The Schooner entertainers need to play as background music. They are not good enough for anything else. The Radiance management needs to solve the problems with the immigration process and greatly improve their communication with their passengers. We booked on board this same ship through the Panama Canal. We are staying away from the suite and lowering our expectations of the ship and crew. If we are unable to do that we will reschedule that booking for a better ship.