I took the Thanksgiving cruise on the Radiance of the Seas. I went with my DH, DD, DS. We had connecting inside cabins on Deck 4.
Embarkation- As we were going down the pier in Miami, I was able to see what the other cruise lines did as far as embarkation. To say I was dismayed is an understatement. People were standing in line outside in 85 degree heat and their luggage was being abused like the gorilla commercials for Samsonite. We pulled up to the RCCL area and there was almost no one around. We immediately gave our luggage to the porter and they took care of everything else. We got there at 11:45 so I figured everyone was inside the building. From the curb to the Windjammer it took us 15 minutes. We literally walked at a consistent pace through the check in area and onto the ship. I was very relieved and impressed.
Food- The Windjammer was our first eating opportunity and it was very good. A buffet meal but very good quality. The main dining room was very good also. We sat at an upper table for four and were served well by Ruati and Peter. Our favorite spot was the Seaview Cafe. The food was very good and the service excellent. It is kind of a hidden gem and we never had a bad meal. The kids also ate there frequently for lunch and loved it. We ordered room service 2 times and it was prompt and good. We tended to use this service on Port days so that we could get off quickly. We ate pizza in the Solarium once and it was OK, not up there with the best but I tried fruit pizza for the first time. We also ate once in the dining room for breakfast and had a very entertaining waiter. I tried Eggs Benedict for the first time and they were great!! Yum!!
Adventure Ocean programs- Kids not very interested. Very few kids in the 12-14 age group for DD-7 I think. Really no one ever there. The 15-17 had many more but DS is really not a joiner. Note of caution the older kids talk and spend time trying to get drinks and cigarettes. Not all but some just keep an eye on your kids. There were 500 kids on board and I never saw any bad behavior. They kept an eye on them and made announcements reminding parents to watch their kids. That seemed to work well.
Entertainment- We thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment on this ship. It was top notch-Don't miss the Piano Man- awesome and I am totally impressed with the quality of cast members and stage. They rival Broadway. We also went to Love and Marriage- hysterical, and Bingo in the Aurora Theater. Comfortable seating and fun atmosphere. We also enjoyed the Karaoke and the Quest game.
The Cruise Critic Radiance Gobblers- That's our Meet and Mingle name- Participated and had a great time!!We also loved the Belly flop contest and all the music supplied in the Centrum and all around the ship. One night I was on Deck 7 and looked into the Centrum and this older couple were waltzing to the musician-piano I think- they were all by themselves in the area and they looked beautiful and graceful. Rooms- We had two connecting rooms right off the Centrum- very quite I hardly ever heard anything-I was really amazed. The rooms are larger than you picture them although I was glad that we only had two to a room. Any more really would get a little crowded. The rooms were in great shape and the showers aren't that bad. I used 4 clothes pins on the bottom and had no problem with shower curtain cling. Our attendants were invisible but very competent and Orlando did assist my husband with his ties...Thank Goodness.
Ports- Very organized disembarkment and again RCCL couldn't have done it any better. Even immigration was quick and easy. I was always amazed how they could do this with such speed and efficiency. Anyway - Our tour in St. Thomas was wonderful. I found the tour guide in the ports of call area. St. Thomas has excellent quality in jewelry. The prices are very competitive- but the selling style is very aggressive. Not great for the browsers among us. Just say no politely though and they leave you alone. We loved our tour and Sapphire Beach is lovely. Good snorkeling. Easy re-entry onto the ship. Make sure you make your arrangements on island time- which can be one hour off during daylight savings time. St. Maarten was beautiful- again a private tour. Enjoyed the sights and history of the island. Very laid back especially compared to St. Thomas. The shopping experience was calm but I found the quality of the jewelry a little light in the gold department but bigger stones. I would return to this area for a land based vacation in a minute!!
CocoCay- Was very well kept up and a nice place to unwind for the first day of the cruising. Even with touchy weather it was quite relaxing. Photography- There are so many options for different kinds of pictures. Make sure you try at least some of them. The Black and White was awesome. The photographers are very talented. It took us almost the whole cruise to get a keeper but we really had a hard time with our facial expressions. You have to go to the Schooner bar-say hi to Rada and Simon. They have a great piano player and great bands in the colony club. You have to play at least one game of pool on the self adjusting tables- Very neat!!
Staff- The staff was kind, generous, and highly competent. We rarely received the miraculous treatment that some speak of, but we were treated very well and I have the utmost respect for the hard work and dedication that they all show every day. I never saw one glimmer of bad behavior- Note One of our group experienced something that I must mention. Please put your purchases away so that the cabin attendant does not think the bag is garbage. They will throw it out. It broke their hearts and put a damper on their last night.
Believe it or not you may find yourselves alone in areas on this ship. With 2400 people onboard, we found ourselves all alone on many decks. On the helipad, and in the Solarium. It was really cool when it happened. I couldn't believe that with that many people aboard we really never stood in a long line or felt crowded except on the elevators. Sometimes you had to wait quite a bit. I solved that by walking the stairs. Two things that accomplishes, get there quicker and burning calories. When I got home I had gained one pound and I admit I didn't really restrain myself much. Try the sugar free desserts and they have a salad with crab salad in the Seaview that is yummy.
Working out in the gym was great. I only got there one day but walked constantly. The rock wall was an experience. Especially for those afraid of heights. I was put on an intermediate -Brown grips- part and I almost made it to the top but the wall curves a little and you can't see the grips. At that point you have to look around and my knees started shaking and fear set in. Happens to everyone but worth the experience. Read your Compass and mark what you want to do. You can be as busy or not as you want!!
Disembarkation- Packing always sucks but it helps to have a garbage bag on hand for packing dirty clothes. This process was also quick and orderly and I was totally amazed by their efficiency. Remember to count your bags. We left one there in the luggage are but RCCL kindly sent it UPS to our house. It only took about 4-5 days and was $18. They called right away on my cell phone number. Put this on your luggage instead of home number. There is no one at home.