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This was our second cruise ever, first was on Disney in the Caribbean. So I have a bunch of ins and outs in here that I hope are helpful to the newer cruisers looking for some dope on the RCCL line in Alaska. First off, our cruise was great. We left Seward on July 4, southbound to Vancouver on a 7 night on Radiance. She's a big boat, but not as big as the Dream we'd sailed on before. And the crew kept talking about the Oasis which is 4x wider and 6 decks taller and holds 3x the people and crew. Holy cow! We had a great set of weather, with sunny skies in every point except Icy Strait where it was merely overcast and drizzly. Unheard of, according to many familiar with the cruise itinerary. So, first off, bring long pants, and a jacket, and you need to have a rain shell, seriously. Don't think it will be warm enough to dry in the air either. It was 70s most days even in mid July. You also need warm clothes for being out on deck on the boat during sailing days. And at the glacier. I packed for summer, with a couple warm things. Do yourself a favor and pack for Fall with a few summer things. Dining on the boat was good. Food was good. Service was great. We ate at the first sitting in the Cascades dining room every night but one. We ate in the cafeteria area every other meal except when we ate on shore. Drink plans, let me address those here. Because RCCL lies to you about it. Here's the deal, with meals, and in 3 or 4 other places on the ship, you can get water, coffee, tea, cocoa, some juices, iced tea, flavored waters any time of day 24x7. You can get milk, chocolate milk, more juices, at any mealtime, which is most of the day somewhere on board. If you get a Drink plan, for anything less than $20 a day, you need to carry a cup around with you. For $20 a day per person, you get soda basically. And fresh squeezed orange juice in the galley at breakfast only. Do yourself a huge favor, and take a week off of soda and save yourself $140 a person. If you drink alcohol (I don't), then the cheapest plan is $40 a day. $280 a week per person. This gets you regular beer, wine and such in addition to soda. Now, each beer is $6, wine is $8-10. If you drink 5 or more drinks per day at the bars and dinner, then this pays. Also if you drink more than 5 drinks per day, helpfully, there are also AA meetings on board each morning at 8am, ironically in the champagne bar. RCCL told me and others in my party that you could get no coffee without a drink plan. In reality you can get no cappuccino/latte/espresso coffee without a meal plan (or by paying), but these take 20 minutes to come from the bowels of the ship, so not worth it regardless. They told us you could not get orange juice without a drink plan, but you get orange juice with every breakfast, just not the fresh squeezed from their fancy fresh squeezing machine. In short, they lie to you on the first day, a lot, to get you to buy into these plans. They are not worth it unless you are pounding shots and beers. Do the math before you start drinking and save some money to go ziplining sober. Our room was on deck 3, 3604. It had two pull down beds that come out of the ceiling to the left and right over the master bed. It doesn't seem like it will work, but it did. It got a little tight when all 4 of us (2 parents, 2 kids) were getting ready for dress-up dinner on short notice, but otherwise the cabin was workably large enough. There's lots of storage spaces, just all small. Do yourself a favor and unpack, then stow your luggage under the bed. There's just not enough room to leave your suitcases out and open anywhere, and you'll be much more relaxed. 3604 was very quiet. Even our neighbors, who we knew, didn't wake us or do anything that made loud noises. Deck 2 was the exit from the ship usually and one floor down by stairs. Deck 4 was the main dining area, so easy to get everywhere. Deck 11 was the swimming pool and outdoor stuff, so we usually took the elevators, but that was pretty easy. Speaking of dress-up dinners, there were two nights we dressed up, second night at sea and Icy Strait point night. I wore a jacket and slacks, no tie. That was plenty dressy. The captain eats at his captain table at the late sitting the first night, and at the early sitting the second one. I didn't see anyone in tuxedos at all. I believe they still only encourage that to bolster the onboard tuxedo rental business they run. Photographers were everywhere and insistent. Going into most meals, and leaving the ship they constantly tried to take pictures. Also at most dinners they came around. Keep in mind that RCCL outsources this whole operation to some other company, so they don't have to deal with it probably. The photographers are very pushy. On dress-up-dinner nights they set up photography studios on the stairwells on Decks 3, 4, 5 and 6, which seems to me like a fire hazard. When you offer a simple no thank you they encourage you to come on, have fun. when you offer them a more stringent no thank you, they badger you. When you turn away, they often send their costumed minions to come pose with you physically anyway. When you ask them to stop assaulting you, they get really bitter and mean. If there was something I could change first about the cruise experience, it would be to make photography more discreet and optional. They want upwards of $20 a picture. I got a camera pal. I also hate that they print thousands of prints throughout the cruise and hang them on the walls to entice you to buy them. What a colossal waste of paper, chemicals and time, and no wonder every picture they sell has to cost so much with this amount of waste. Barbaric. There were lots of activities on the ship. We were sailing during FIFA quarter and semifinals week so we went to the quill and compass a lot to watch the live games. The kids loved the climbing wall, kids club, putt putt course (so much nicer than Disneys!) and soccer/basketball area. The indoor solarium pool was a big hit also, and was open to kids from 10 to 12 and from 2 to 4. The staff at the kids clubs were awesome awesome. The teen club was a big hit with our one teen, though roving gangs of hooligans were seen to deface the coffee services and other areas of the ship without rebuke at times. Before we embarked on July 4, we stayed at the Breeze Inn/Motel in Seward. They were great. We also did laundry there before we embarked, since we'd been in Anchorage a few days (not planned through the cruise line) prior to leaving. The Breeze was one of the only air conditioned places in town, be warned, it gets stuffy sometimes in Seward when it's sunny. We tried to do laundry again at Skagway. However, the ship wouldn't allow us to bring laundry off the boat. They claimed that we had to have our laundry pass 'customs" to be allowed off, that we needed to notify them 24 hours in advance, and that we had to clear customs only at 9am on the morning of arrival. I don't think any of this is true, I think they just want you to do laundry on the boat. At about $5 per article, that gets expensive. On Day 3, they had a special where they'd do a full bag of laundry for $30. Not including dress clothes, long pants, jackets, dry cleaning, dresses, etc. etc.) so budget extra. In Juneau, my brother got off and washed laundry in town, but they took it out in backpacks, rather than in a laundry bag, so the security guy didn't stop them. Speaking of security, it's weird. So, you can't bring a weapon on board, they'll confiscate it. But you can put it in your luggage, that's okay, since I guess people only kill people with weapons they carry on board themselves. They confiscate your weapons if you do try to carry them through security, but then they give them back to you the afternoon before the last morning. Because no one ever kills anyone with a weapon on the last day of a cruise. Security also makes you take your hat off a lot. Not going through the detector but when you scan your card in. You can keep your shoes on though. All in all, security seems like kind of a joke, and I'm not sure just what they're scanning for, I guess to make sure you don't bring guns on from Alaska once you embark, but there are so many holes around security that it kind of makes you wonder why they bother. I haven't figured out how the security makes them an extra $8 per day per passenger yet, but I'm sure it does, since everything does. We did a number of excursions. We arranged the dogsled camp visit through the cruise line in Juneau and that was fun. We arranged a Bear tour with Teckk outfitters in Icy Strait point ourselves. That was the worst excursion ever in my history, but it was not through the cruise line (and I can see why). We arranged Ziplining in Skagway for most of our group (we were 11 in all). That was awesome, but I didn't go on it, but all reports were that it was phenomenal, and it would take kids down to 6 and 50 lbs. which the longer/scarier zip lines didn't. We met a lady the last day who broke her leg landing the zipline in Ketchikan, so please be careful with the zip line. I love machines and big things, so I took the Behind the Scenes All Access tour on the boat the last day at sea. It was $150, which seems like a lot (because it is). But for me, it was worth it (and I saved $140 by not drinking diet coke all week). You tour the galleys (wow! 15,000 meals a day), the laundry, the trash operation, the engine control room, the print shop, the crew areas, the theater backstage and the bridge. A 3 and a half hour tour, they really try to make it worth $150, and I'd recommend it if you're insatiably curious about how exactly you run a 980 foot boat with 3500 people on board. The entertainment was okay, not similar to Disney's shows which were lavish and daily. They had three shows the onboard dance troupe did and two nights where a singer/comedian performed. We did one show and one comedian. They were fun. There's a movie theater on board too that plays movies 4 or 5 times a day. Different movie each day. Check it out on Deck 6 on the first day to see what's playing all week so you can pick a time if you want to see one. Get there early, the theater is very small and popular movies will fill up 15 minutes before start time. The tipping on board was managed, I thought, with them taking (helpfully charging?) $12 per day per person for tips, to your account. This covers your room guy, your dinner servers, and your dinner captain. You can tip more if you want. Most bills on the ship (for the occasional purchased soda or bottle of wine) include 15% already, and give you a confusing line for ADDITIONAL TIP. Don't be fooled. We had some in our group tipping 20% on top because they didn't realize there was already tip on the bill (and tip being charged to their rooms too). As a contrast to the Disney cruise, which makes the servers, the service captain and the room attendant much more personally responsible to interact with you to get their tips, I like this approach more. If you don't want a personal relationship with the room attendant, you know he's going to be taken care of and you can reward any exceptional service at various times. On Disney I felt like the servers and service captain in particular had to come around and spend a lot of time ingratiating themselves with you, hugging you, calling you by name, etc. etc. instead of providing quiet, exceptional service. I like to dine and to interact with my dinner guests not with the waiters. I felt like this method of tip management served my needs better than the way Disney forces it into your face. But the entire cruise, to me, felt like a long series of nickel and dime experiences. It must be very difficult to balance the need to make money with the desire to make customers have a good comfortable experience. I guess this is the normal resort vs. all inclusive thing. And I know part of RCCL's draw is that they are a little cheaper than other cruise lines, so the idea of having every cruise cost $6000 is not appealing to them, but if every cruise ENDS UP costing $6000 because you've bought $100 worth of laundry and $800 worth of excursions and $600 worth of drinks and $400 worth of pictures and $200 worth of jewelry specials and $800 worth of "art" and $500 worth of "tips" and $400 worth of Rita's Crab Shack (which must not be doing well because they push it every. freaking. chance. They get. ) then you kind of get dismayed. I'm sure they're following the scientific best practice to squeeze the maximum amount out of you they can, but man, it's kind of annoying after a while. We got off in Vancouver, cleared Canadian customs with no more than a "have a nice day, eh?" and were off. We arranged a Van to drive us to the airport since our party was so big. They were good. The luggage coming off was well orchestrated. You get a number (random) and a time to leave, and they make sure all your numbered luggage (that you put out in the hall the night before) is ready for you before you leave. It's well done. Much better debark than Disney. However now that I mention luggage, the embark luggage process was weird. We go to the ship at 3 on sail day, and dropped our bags with four guys, none of whom had any uniform or even RCCL logo shirt, all standing a good ways out from the ship dock in the middle of a giant parking lot next to a couple of shipping containers. These are the onshore luggage handlers, and they put your bags into cubes that are loaded onto the ship by big loaders. That coolness aside, it would be really really nice for RCCL to take a sign or an employee or something out there to at least give you a good feeling that these guys weren't locals just taking your luggage. Illness wise, we got to level 1 alert on the ship by day 5, so they were announcing an increased level of gastrointestinal distress among passengers and crew. On my backstage tour, they said the previous two weeks they had gotten to level 2, where passengers are no longer allowed to serve food to themselves, and they station people in the bathrooms to make you wash your hands after you go. Seriously people, wash your freaking hands. We didn't get that far, and none of our party got stomach illness, though two got colds. They said 1.3% of our passengers were really sick, which was only about 30 people or so. Kind of makes you want to wash your hands though. So overall, we loved the cruise, and we had a great time. It had some annoying aspects and we learned a lot, but overall still didn't ruin our vacation at all. Highly recommend this route, this ship, this line.  

Awesome weather, awesome cruise

Radiance of the Seas Cruise Review by robmartin3

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2014
  • Destination: Alaska
This was our second cruise ever, first was on Disney in the Caribbean. So I have a bunch of ins and outs in here that I hope are helpful to the newer cruisers looking for some dope on the RCCL line in Alaska.
First off, our cruise was great. We left Seward on July 4, southbound to Vancouver on a 7 night on Radiance. She's a big boat, but not as big as the Dream we'd sailed on before. And the crew kept talking about the Oasis which is 4x wider and 6 decks taller and holds 3x the people and crew. Holy cow!
We had a great set of weather, with sunny skies in every point except Icy Strait where it was merely overcast and drizzly. Unheard of, according to many familiar with the cruise itinerary. So, first off, bring long pants, and a jacket, and you need to have a rain shell, seriously. Don't think it will be warm enough to dry in the air either. It was 70s most days even in mid July. You also need warm clothes for being out on deck on the boat during sailing days. And at the glacier. I packed for summer, with a couple warm things. Do yourself a favor and pack for Fall with a few summer things.
Dining on the boat was good. Food was good. Service was great. We ate at the first sitting in the Cascades dining room every night but one. We ate in the cafeteria area every other meal except when we ate on shore.
Drink plans, let me address those here. Because RCCL lies to you about it. Here's the deal, with meals, and in 3 or 4 other places on the ship, you can get water, coffee, tea, cocoa, some juices, iced tea, flavored waters any time of day 24x7. You can get milk, chocolate milk, more juices, at any mealtime, which is most of the day somewhere on board. If you get a Drink plan, for anything less than $20 a day, you need to carry a cup around with you. For $20 a day per person, you get soda basically. And fresh squeezed orange juice in the galley at breakfast only. Do yourself a huge favor, and take a week off of soda and save yourself $140 a person. If you drink alcohol (I don't), then the cheapest plan is $40 a day. $280 a week per person. This gets you regular beer, wine and such in addition to soda. Now, each beer is $6, wine is $8-10. If you drink 5 or more drinks per day at the bars and dinner, then this pays. Also if you drink more than 5 drinks per day, helpfully, there are also AA meetings on board each morning at 8am, ironically in the champagne bar. RCCL told me and others in my party that you could get no coffee without a drink plan. In reality you can get no cappuccino/latte/espresso coffee without a meal plan (or by paying), but these take 20 minutes to come from the bowels of the ship, so not worth it regardless. They told us you could not get orange juice without a drink plan, but you get orange juice with every breakfast, just not the fresh squeezed from their fancy fresh squeezing machine. In short, they lie to you on the first day, a lot, to get you to buy into these plans. They are not worth it unless you are pounding shots and beers. Do the math before you start drinking and save some money to go ziplining sober.
Our room was on deck 3, 3604. It had two pull down beds that come out of the ceiling to the left and right over the master bed. It doesn't seem like it will work, but it did. It got a little tight when all 4 of us (2 parents, 2 kids) were getting ready for dress-up dinner on short notice, but otherwise the cabin was workably large enough. There's lots of storage spaces, just all small. Do yourself a favor and unpack, then stow your luggage under the bed. There's just not enough room to leave your suitcases out and open anywhere, and you'll be much more relaxed.
3604 was very quiet. Even our neighbors, who we knew, didn't wake us or do anything that made loud noises. Deck 2 was the exit from the ship usually and one floor down by stairs. Deck 4 was the main dining area, so easy to get everywhere. Deck 11 was the swimming pool and outdoor stuff, so we usually took the elevators, but that was pretty easy.
Speaking of dress-up dinners, there were two nights we dressed up, second night at sea and Icy Strait point night. I wore a jacket and slacks, no tie. That was plenty dressy. The captain eats at his captain table at the late sitting the first night, and at the early sitting the second one. I didn't see anyone in tuxedos at all. I believe they still only encourage that to bolster the onboard tuxedo rental business they run.
Photographers were everywhere and insistent. Going into most meals, and leaving the ship they constantly tried to take pictures. Also at most dinners they came around. Keep in mind that RCCL outsources this whole operation to some other company, so they don't have to deal with it probably. The photographers are very pushy. On dress-up-dinner nights they set up photography studios on the stairwells on Decks 3, 4, 5 and 6, which seems to me like a fire hazard. When you offer a simple no thank you they encourage you to come on, have fun. when you offer them a more stringent no thank you, they badger you. When you turn away, they often send their costumed minions to come pose with you physically anyway. When you ask them to stop assaulting you, they get really bitter and mean. If there was something I could change first about the cruise experience, it would be to make photography more discreet and optional. They want upwards of $20 a picture. I got a camera pal. I also hate that they print thousands of prints throughout the cruise and hang them on the walls to entice you to buy them. What a colossal waste of paper, chemicals and time, and no wonder every picture they sell has to cost so much with this amount of waste. Barbaric.
There were lots of activities on the ship. We were sailing during FIFA quarter and semifinals week so we went to the quill and compass a lot to watch the live games. The kids loved the climbing wall, kids club, putt putt course (so much nicer than Disneys!) and soccer/basketball area. The indoor solarium pool was a big hit also, and was open to kids from 10 to 12 and from 2 to 4. The staff at the kids clubs were awesome awesome. The teen club was a big hit with our one teen, though roving gangs of hooligans were seen to deface the coffee services and other areas of the ship without rebuke at times.
Before we embarked on July 4, we stayed at the Breeze Inn/Motel in Seward. They were great. We also did laundry there before we embarked, since we'd been in Anchorage a few days (not planned through the cruise line) prior to leaving. The Breeze was one of the only air conditioned places in town, be warned, it gets stuffy sometimes in Seward when it's sunny.
We tried to do laundry again at Skagway. However, the ship wouldn't allow us to bring laundry off the boat. They claimed that we had to have our laundry pass 'customs" to be allowed off, that we needed to notify them 24 hours in advance, and that we had to clear customs only at 9am on the morning of arrival. I don't think any of this is true, I think they just want you to do laundry on the boat. At about $5 per article, that gets expensive. On Day 3, they had a special where they'd do a full bag of laundry for $30. Not including dress clothes, long pants, jackets, dry cleaning, dresses, etc. etc.) so budget extra. In Juneau, my brother got off and washed laundry in town, but they took it out in backpacks, rather than in a laundry bag, so the security guy didn't stop them.
Speaking of security, it's weird. So, you can't bring a weapon on board, they'll confiscate it. But you can put it in your luggage, that's okay, since I guess people only kill people with weapons they carry on board themselves. They confiscate your weapons if you do try to carry them through security, but then they give them back to you the afternoon before the last morning. Because no one ever kills anyone with a weapon on the last day of a cruise. Security also makes you take your hat off a lot. Not going through the detector but when you scan your card in. You can keep your shoes on though. All in all, security seems like kind of a joke, and I'm not sure just what they're scanning for, I guess to make sure you don't bring guns on from Alaska once you embark, but there are so many holes around security that it kind of makes you wonder why they bother. I haven't figured out how the security makes them an extra $8 per day per passenger yet, but I'm sure it does, since everything does.
We did a number of excursions. We arranged the dogsled camp visit through the cruise line in Juneau and that was fun. We arranged a Bear tour with Teckk outfitters in Icy Strait point ourselves. That was the worst excursion ever in my history, but it was not through the cruise line (and I can see why). We arranged Ziplining in Skagway for most of our group (we were 11 in all). That was awesome, but I didn't go on it, but all reports were that it was phenomenal, and it would take kids down to 6 and 50 lbs. which the longer/scarier zip lines didn't. We met a lady the last day who broke her leg landing the zipline in Ketchikan, so please be careful with the zip line.
I love machines and big things, so I took the Behind the Scenes All Access tour on the boat the last day at sea. It was $150, which seems like a lot (because it is). But for me, it was worth it (and I saved $140 by not drinking diet coke all week). You tour the galleys (wow! 15,000 meals a day), the laundry, the trash operation, the engine control room, the print shop, the crew areas, the theater backstage and the bridge. A 3 and a half hour tour, they really try to make it worth $150, and I'd recommend it if you're insatiably curious about how exactly you run a 980 foot boat with 3500 people on board.
The entertainment was okay, not similar to Disney's shows which were lavish and daily. They had three shows the onboard dance troupe did and two nights where a singer/comedian performed. We did one show and one comedian. They were fun.
There's a movie theater on board too that plays movies 4 or 5 times a day. Different movie each day. Check it out on Deck 6 on the first day to see what's playing all week so you can pick a time if you want to see one. Get there early, the theater is very small and popular movies will fill up 15 minutes before start time.
The tipping on board was managed, I thought, with them taking (helpfully charging?) $12 per day per person for tips, to your account. This covers your room guy, your dinner servers, and your dinner captain. You can tip more if you want. Most bills on the ship (for the occasional purchased soda or bottle of wine) include 15% already, and give you a confusing line for ADDITIONAL TIP. Don't be fooled. We had some in our group tipping 20% on top because they didn't realize there was already tip on the bill (and tip being charged to their rooms too). As a contrast to the Disney cruise, which makes the servers, the service captain and the room attendant much more personally responsible to interact with you to get their tips, I like this approach more. If you don't want a personal relationship with the room attendant, you know he's going to be taken care of and you can reward any exceptional service at various times. On Disney I felt like the servers and service captain in particular had to come around and spend a lot of time ingratiating themselves with you, hugging you, calling you by name, etc. etc. instead of providing quiet, exceptional service. I like to dine and to interact with my dinner guests not with the waiters. I felt like this method of tip management served my needs better than the way Disney forces it into your face.
But the entire cruise, to me, felt like a long series of nickel and dime experiences. It must be very difficult to balance the need to make money with the desire to make customers have a good comfortable experience. I guess this is the normal resort vs. all inclusive thing. And I know part of RCCL's draw is that they are a little cheaper than other cruise lines, so the idea of having every cruise cost $6000 is not appealing to them, but if every cruise ENDS UP costing $6000 because you've bought $100 worth of laundry and $800 worth of excursions and $600 worth of drinks and $400 worth of pictures and $200 worth of jewelry specials and $800 worth of "art" and $500 worth of "tips" and $400 worth of Rita's Crab Shack (which must not be doing well because they push it every. freaking. chance. They get. ) then you kind of get dismayed. I'm sure they're following the scientific best practice to squeeze the maximum amount out of you they can, but man, it's kind of annoying after a while.
We got off in Vancouver, cleared Canadian customs with no more than a "have a nice day, eh?" and were off. We arranged a Van to drive us to the airport since our party was so big. They were good. The luggage coming off was well orchestrated. You get a number (random) and a time to leave, and they make sure all your numbered luggage (that you put out in the hall the night before) is ready for you before you leave. It's well done. Much better debark than Disney. However now that I mention luggage, the embark luggage process was weird. We go to the ship at 3 on sail day, and dropped our bags with four guys, none of whom had any uniform or even RCCL logo shirt, all standing a good ways out from the ship dock in the middle of a giant parking lot next to a couple of shipping containers. These are the onshore luggage handlers, and they put your bags into cubes that are loaded onto the ship by big loaders. That coolness aside, it would be really really nice for RCCL to take a sign or an employee or something out there to at least give you a good feeling that these guys weren't locals just taking your luggage.
Illness wise, we got to level 1 alert on the ship by day 5, so they were announcing an increased level of gastrointestinal distress among passengers and crew. On my backstage tour, they said the previous two weeks they had gotten to level 2, where passengers are no longer allowed to serve food to themselves, and they station people in the bathrooms to make you wash your hands after you go. Seriously people, wash your freaking hands. We didn't get that far, and none of our party got stomach illness, though two got colds. They said 1.3% of our passengers were really sick, which was only about 30 people or so. Kind of makes you want to wash your hands though.
So overall, we loved the cruise, and we had a great time. It had some annoying aspects and we learned a lot, but overall still didn't ruin our vacation at all. Highly recommend this route, this ship, this line.
 
robmartin3’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 3604
Awesome. Quiet. Well situated for meals and debarkation. Plenty big usually. Could use some blackout shades or a clip for the curtains for the northern part of the cruise where it's light all night.
  Radiance of the Seas Deck Plans