Radiance of the Seas - Pacific Coastal: Radiance of the Seas Cruise Review by gerapetritis

Radiance of the Seas 4

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Radiance of the Seas - Pacific Coastal

Sail Date: May 2007
Destination: British Columbia
Embarkation: San Diego
Radiance of the Seas May 12-18, 2007

My wife and I took the repositioning cruise from San Diego to Vancouver May 12 through 18, 2007. This was the second cruise for both of us- both on Royal Caribbean and both on a Radiance Class ship. (The other was on the Jewel of the Seas.) We chose this cruise mainly for the ports of call, and we were not disappointed.

We arrived in San Diego two days before the cruise and spent some time at Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado, and Balboa Park. Our hotel was the Best Western Bayside Inn and it was perfect for a pre-cruise stay. They provide a free shuttle ride from the airport and also to the cruise port. That more than makes up for the lack of a free breakfast.

Embarkation at the Port of San Diego was fast and easy. This was exactly the same experience as our first cruise. Since our cruise ship was scheduled to depart at 6 pm, our embarkation instructions said to arrive between 3 and 5 pm. We arrived at More the port around 2:30 pm, had no trouble offloading our luggage to the port baggage handlers, and breezed through the Sea Pass card process with our Set Sail documents already completed. We boarded the ship directly and had immediate access to our cabin, balcony unit #9564 on the starboard side. We chose the starboard side thinking that we might have a view of the west coast as we headed north. However, the ship travels in the shipping lane so far from land that it really didn't matter for much of the cruise. Where the right side really paid off was when we were traveling the Straits of Juan de Fuca entering British Columbia. Here we had a terrific view of the Washington State mountains from our balcony. Our luggage arrived not more than a half hour after boarding. This was much faster than on our last cruise, and we were actually able to unpack before the muster drill. We headed off to the Tides dining room, and this is where we encountered the most difficulty on our cruise. When we reached the head waiter, we were told that we did not have a table assignment and that we would need to stand aside along the wall with all the other people who had received a table assignment of "000." I was taken completely by surprise that our request for main seating had not been accommodated. Our cruise documents listed main seating and did not contain the customary asterisk if your first seating request could not be accommodated. We waited against the wall for 15 minutes while all the other guests (arriving late) were seated. The head waiter then called up each party in the waiting list line one at a time to give them a new seating assignment for dinner. When it was our turn, we were asked to come back for second seating. When we complained about this, we were surprisingly given a table for two at main seating that night. While this was fine, it was only for that night. Our table assignment was then changed for the next night, and since we planned on dining at Portofino's the second night, we didn't actually meet our dinner table partners until much later in the cruise.

Besides the seating confusion, I thought that most of the entrees were very mediocre and that the service was quite average. It was very difficult to get soft drinks delivered to the dining room in a timely fashion.

As expected, the quality of the food in the alternate restaurants, Chops and Portofinos ($20 per person), was much better.

The west coast weather was quite chilly and windy while we were at sea, so most on-deck activities were cancelled. However, we enjoyed the self-leveling pool tables, the technical talk by the Captain, the trivia-contests, and the wonderful shows in the Aurora Theater. The Radiance did have some additional wear compared to the newer Jewel, but we expected that and were not too disappointed in the condition of the ship. It is quite lovely if you haven't already seen the Jewel.

Our first port of call was San Francisco, and it was thrilling to cruise in under the Golden Gate Bridge at daybreak with the sea lions at Pier 39 barking and Alcatraz visible through the morning fog. We booked an early-day excursion to Muir Woods and Sausolito through the cruise line, and then visited Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 on our own later in the day. We enjoyed our day there very much and were glad to have so much time in port. Our next port of call was Astoria, Oregon. The city was quaint and the view of the Columbia River was beautiful, but I couldn’t help thinking that this city wasn’t really ready for cruise ships. The waterfront is underdeveloped and the riverwalk trolley was unable to handle the crush of tourists pouring from cruise ship. Tour buses did handle some of the demand, but there were many people who purchased “all-day ride” tickets on the trolley who simply couldn’t reboard at any of the major stops because the trolley was always too full. We took the excursion to Cannon and Seaside Beach. We got some terrific shots of the Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, but we were never dropped off right at the Rock. All of our stops were just a little too far to allow us get to the rock and back before the bus departed, so we were a little disappointed in the excursion. Perhaps we would have enjoyed this port better if we had taken the longer excursion to Mount St. Helens, but I’m not sure the visibility would have been very good. In short, Astoria’s waterfront has tremendous promise but it is completely unrealized at present, and cruise ships should bypass this port until that changes.

After a day at sea, we arrived in Victoria, British Columbia and were immediately charmed by this beautiful city. Our excursions included the Butchart Gardens (absolutely stunning) and the Butterfly House (too crowded to enjoy). We also spent some time in downtown Victoria visiting the Empress Hotel and the Parliament building. The views from any vantage point in the city were gorgeous, and we could have definitely spent more time there.

We finished up our cruise at Vancouver, British Columbia with a departure excursion which included a city highlights tour. We were somewhat disappointed by our tour bus. It had advertisements plastered all over the windows which greatly restricted our view. The ads were supposed to be “see-through” from inside the bus, but it was much like looking at everything through a gray fog. If we would have been heading back to the ship after this excursion, we probably would have complained to RCI about the quality of the bus.

We spend a night at the wonderful Richmond Marriott Hotel before flying out of Vancouver Airport back to the U.S. The Vancouver Airport was fine, but if I had it to do over, I’d catch a transfer by bus back to Seattle, and fly home from there since it is cheaper.

The quality of the RCI cruising experience seemed to be quite consistent from our last cruise to this one. The area most in need of improvement continues to be the standard dining room and buffet food. While the alternate restaurants always provide outstanding food and quality service, the buffet and dining room are usually quite mediocre. The featured chef selection entrees at dinner were usually the best offering. In the Windjammer, we noticed that the buffet food was seldom hot, but at least the crew does a good job at keeping item trays filled. Since, for us, cruises are not primarily about the food, we can overlook this disappointment and still consider the cruise a good value.

On the plus side, our cabin, cabin attendant service, cruise shows and productions were all terrific. The ship activities were sufficient for adults, and the staff had special activities and clubs to keep kids occupied. I do, however, think this cruise itinerary is strongly geared toward adults, and especially seniors. I went on this trip feeling that RCI provides a quality cruise for a reasonable price, and my experience on the Radiance has not changed that opinion. Less

Published 06/28/07

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