This was a cruise we picked for our 30th anniversary. My wife wanted to see a volcano, I wanted to experience a longer cruise and we both wanted to see Hawaii. It was a perfect cruise for us!
For background, we are fairly recent cruisers with our first cruise being on the Monarch for our 25th anniversary. This Hawaiian cruise was our 8th cruise, all being with RCI except one with Disney. For this cruise, we spent 4 nights at a resort on Oahu and took a cab to the port. Embarkation was fairly easy but the wait was longer than on our previous cruises, but not an unrealistic one. It was a little hap-hazard in how the lines would snake but the staff was friendly and everyone was in a pre-cruise euphoria. I’ll say that the cruise terminal was large, not that modern and no-thrills.
Once on board, we went to our cabin and dropped off our luggage. We had cabin # 7658 which was a balcony cabin located in the aft quarter on the starboard side. The first thing that hit us was a sewage smell in the hallway to our room, which put us in a foul mood (we experienced this on Enchantment before as well). Once inside, the cabin didn’t feel as large as what we had on Freedom or Oasis but was probably larger than Enchantment. The balcony was funny. It was a double-deep balcony, being about 6’ deep. However, only about 3’ of it had a divider between our neighbors’ balconies, so any of our cruise mates could easily peak into our room. That we didn’t like at all. Also, this was an older ship and our balcony had parts of rusted metal visible and beat-up flooring. Our cabin did have lots of storage, which was a pleasant surprise. We found the bed to be very hard, the pillows flat and the refrigerator didn’t seem to work. The room was clean though and didn’t have that bad smell that was in the hallway.
After that we went to the Windjammer and were underwhelmed there. I think there was only one protein offered at the buffet, except for their always available hamburger and hotdogs. Selection was minimal we thought.
Our impressions grew more positive after each day. The first 5 days of the cruise were port days and we had an excursion lined up on each of them. We had incredible times! On the ship, we had a great time with our table mates at the main dining room for suppers. The staff on the ship was great, and while the ship was showing its age, many of the public spaces had a very comfortable, warm feeling to them. Of the RCI ships we’ve been on, we like the Schooner Bar on Radiance the best. Also, the Colony Club was very nice and the Solarium and spa areas were top notch. Each day on the ship made it feel more like home to us.
We knew that this would be an older-person's cruise, and it was. There were many in the 50 to 70 year-old category but a fair amount of 30 to 50 year olds. The kids club had only 20 kids registered. This ship wasn't a golden girls cruise though and adults were older but active in general. Still, there were more than a few people snoring away at the seats in the Centrum or the Schooner Bar during the afternoon. This cruise had 100 or so members of a square dancing club and also maybe 200 hearing impaired cruisers on a group cruise. The ship did well to accommodate them by giving the square dancers places to practice and by having closed captioning and general assistance to those in the hearing impaired group. Most of the shows and events had an ASL interpreter and there were event a few ASL classes offered. I don't think the staff was coached on ASL as I didn't see any of then sign even a basic "thank you". That would have been a welcoming touch to all those on board who were hearing impaired.
While the strength of this ship for us were the staff, overall ship cleanliness and the ambiance of many of the public spaces, the negatives for us were the generally low food quality, the mediocre entertainment and the slightly beaten-up condition of the ship in various spots.
On cruises, we typically have dinner at the MDR and have most other meals at the buffet and this cruise was no different. What made our dinners at the Cascades dining room great was our tables mates, who we loved talking to (all are very experienced cruisers with a couple being on a back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back Radiance adventure). MDR food was fine, nothing top shelf but no duds either. The service was very good and the venue was beautiful. We had breakfast once at Cascades but the eggs were powdered and the toast was actually very crusty, like it was sitting out for more than a few days. We left and went up to Windjammer.
We only did one specialty dining and that was at the Samba Grill, which we have never experienced before. The food was very good but we wouldn’t call it a top shelf experience. The location is funny and the tables were very close together. Service was efficient but seemed a little scripted and impersonal. At Windjammer, the selection did develop over time. There were always Indian food and British food it seemed and I was very happy the day that BBQ chicken was offered. We really enjoyed the Park Café at the solarium as it offered a good assortment of sandwiches and treats in a very relaxing environment.
Entertainment is a hard thing to review because it is very subjective. I am not enthralled by song and dance shows and a majority of the evening events were just that. I saw 2 comedy shows and one was quite good but another fell very, very flat (at this show, the audience actually heckled the comedian, something I have never seen on a ship before). We like relaxing at poolside but on Radiance the poolside movie screen wasn’t working right (to compensate, they offered free in-room movies). Other entertainment was the Quest and the Love and Marriage show, both of which were great as always. Of course, there were various trivia contests on the ship and there were a few enrichment talks that reviewed Hawaiian history.
The Centrum is often the hub for activities like cake decorating, musical performances, lectures, dance events and so on. However, there is limited viewing space on the floor or on the decks above. Still, the staff does a great job utilizing this space and there is enhanced sound and lights that really help add excitement.
For us, we loved the first 5 port days as our “let’s explore Hawaii” time. The remaining sea days were our time to relax. It was a perfect vacation for us. Yes, we felt the age of the ship at times and, compared to Freedom or Oasis, the entertainment was very junior varsity, but as I mentioned the staff was super and many parts of the ship had a level of comfort that just can’t be easily explained.
I won't review all the excursions we did but only one would I call "average" and the rest were above average. This was a our first trip to Hawaii and the weather was perfect, so it isn't hard for us have fond memories of our trips. I will give one shout out to the Body Glove catamaran excursion we did. The staff was great, they had prescription snorkel goggles on hand and we saw dolphins, whales, sea turtles and more.
Would we go again? That is a tough question. For the right price we would. We won't be able to afford another Hawaii trip and Alaska trips are even more, so I don't think we'll be on Radiance again. Still, we would love to go back on this thoroughly relaxing ship some day.
I really don't know what category of cabin we had, except it had an extended balcony. As I mentioned, the openness of this longer balcony was strange. There was a missing tile piece on the bathroom floor, the refrigerator was broken and the bed was very hard. However, the amount of storage space was surprising. The room was very clean and our attendant was great.
It was a short bus ride to (I think) the Westin hotel. It looked exciting on paper but in life it was just a bus ride to a nice, albeit narrow, beach with no guidance. More comfortable chairs, food, activities all were for an added cost. We had a good time there, but it was an expensive day.View All 19 Ka'anapali Beach Reviews
This was one of the best water excursions we have ever done. The crew of the Body Glove boat was great and offered many perks like prescription goggles, water toys, food and the like. The staff was interactive with the guests. While the reef was not that impressive I did get up close with a sea turtle, which was awesome. On the short boat ride we also saw dolphins and whales. It was a great day!View All 10 Waterfall Adventure Reviews
This was actually a fairly short boat ride up river and a short walk to the fern grotto. It was fairly quick. On the boat they sang and played the ukulele, which was nice. I will admit the cave and grotto was nice and we had a good time.View All 85 Wailua River Reviews
This was a memorable day. Yes, it was expensive but we saw things we'll never have the chance to see again. We hiked down into Kilauea then across the crater and back up again. It was great! Afterwards the bus stopped at a waterfall as well.View All 7 Kilauea Walking Tour Reviews