This was our third cruise on Radiance. We had done B2B cruises last April from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso and then Valparaiso to San Diego. Because of the "Swine Flu" problems in Mexico we were not able to stop at three Mexican ports (Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo). Captain Selvag and the folks in Miami compensated us generously with a FCC equal to 1/4 of the cost of our cruise.
The only condition was that it had to be used on Radiance or Mariner and it had to be on a Mexican Riviera cruise. This showed real class to us. They were under no legal obligation to do anything except get us to our final destination which they did one day early. We were given the choice of spending a night onboard in San Diego (which we did) or disembarking on the first day. The FCC was the main reason we did this cruise. Sadly it wasn't combinable with the Diamond Balcony credit or the Shareholder Credit.
We had taken the Amtrak Surfliner to San Diego from our home in Santa Barbara (It's a beautiful train ride with much of it being right next to the ocean!) and had an easy walk from the old Santa Fe depot to the pier. We did not have tags for our bags but that was taken care of very quickly and we were soon inside to begin the boarding process. This was our first cruise as Diamond members of C&A and we appreciated the special line. It took perhaps fifteen minutes for us to complete the checkin process and proceed to our cabin. It was ready so we were able to drop our carryons, meet our cabin attendant and head up to the Windjammer for some lunch.
We were pleasantly surprised to find two people we had cruised with on our South America cruises already there and even more surprised to find our favorite waiter, "Ida From Idaho" (Actually from Bali) there to greet us.
We were fortunate enough to have the same cabin we had from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. 9594 is a D1 balcony at the aft edge of the "hump". Because of that it has a somewhat larger balcony and a nice view aft as well as straight out. It is also very close to the elevators (no problem with noise) and the Library which is an excellent wi-fi hotspot.
The cabin was in good repair and we only had one problem with the plumbing. There was never any really hot water in the sink. The shower curtain, of course, becomes your new best friend.
Our attendant, Inyoman, was outstanding. He always had a smile and we never came back to the cabin without finding it made up. He was very quick to take care of a few special requests: Isotonic pillows, extra red and white wine glasses and ice twice a day. Our bathrobes and Diamond coupon books were in the cabin when we boarded.
One very small complaint is that there are no more free postcards of the ship. They were available for 50 cents each in the Gift Shop but they didn't seem to sell many. I think they are missing out on a good publicity opportunity here.
The food in all of the venues we tried was very good to excellent. We were on MTD and, except for a few nights, were able to have the time and table we wanted. It was really nice to have Ida back. He would, most nights, just tell me what I should have or shake his head if I made a choice he didn't think I would enjoy. (Remember, we had spent 29 days together going around South America.) His assistant, John from Goa, was also outstanding. Every night he brought the bread we each liked without asking and when I had my after dinner coffee he would bring the cream and pour it for me. He will move up very quickly.
One night, through a misunderstanding with reservations for MTD, we had dinner in the Windjammer. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of food. We renewed our acquaintance with the manager (She also happens to be the Captain's wife.) and told her how pleased we were.
We ate at Chops one night and had a wonderful meal. It is well worth the surcharge for the food and the atmosphere. They do offer one of the Chop's steaks on the MDR menu at a surcharge but I would suggest going for the whole deal!
Since this was our first time on RCCL as Diamond we were interested in what would be offered. The coupons are pretty standard but were useful for buying internet time and for a couple of glasses of wine on the "2 for 1" offer.
The best perks, though, were the lounge event in the evening and breakfast in Portofino. They used the Hollywood Odyssey for the Diamond/Diamond Plus lounge and we really enjoyed the complimentary wine and discounted cocktails. Because we went when most people were at Early Sitting it was never crowded. Beresford was our bartender and he does a generous pour.
Breakfast was a real treat. There was always a nice special and the service was good and very personalized.
Cabo San Lucas -- We did an independently arranged whale watching trip on the Pez Gato. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and we did see whales up close!
Mazatlan -- We did another private tour here that included the highlights of both the old town and the "Golden Zone". We had a pleasant lunch on the beach at "Tony's On the Beach". The tour was led by "Mazatlan Frank" who does a great job. He learned his English is Canada as a kid. A special treat was having his eight year old son Fernando along as "Assistant". There was no school because of Mardi Gras.
Acapulco -- Yet another private tour, this one with "Rudy". He does a great job and we got the highlights of old and new Acapulco. It's a bit sad to see this resort in the state it is in, however. We had a nice lunch on the beach at Playa Caleta and Rudy also took us to the Casa Blanca hotel which is almost in ruins. It was "the" hotel in the '40's and '50's and the view is still spectacular.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo -- We really liked Zihuat. We didn't go to Ixtapa at all since we met up with friends from San Diego who were in port on their 50 foot catamaran. We hung out with them, did some shopping in the mercado and just generally soaked up the atmosphere. From nowhere the Spanish for orange juicer (exprimadora), which is what they were looking for, came to me. We bought it for them as a boat gift.
Puerto Vallarta -- We were surprised when we came back to our cabin after breakfast to find that our view was of a huge WalMart. We had booked another private tour here with Alfredo AKA "El Oso". He is a friend of Mazatlan Frank's and does an excellent job. We had some free time in the old part of town where I found the hotel I'd stayed in 40 years ago and also the "Sister City" dolphin fountain from Santa Barbara. They've done a nice job of cleaning up the area. From there we drove down the coast with a stop for drinks and guacamole and views at "El Set" and also at Mismaloya. Our last stop was at a small, family run Tequila Factory. It was interesting to see the process and also sample the wares.
On board Activities
The Activities Staff was busy all the time. We played BINGO a couple of times and our team ended up winning the "Progressive Trivia" competition. We got nice shirts, and other gifts.
The shows were good to very good. It was especially good to see "Tango Buenos Aires" again. It is probably the best show we have ever seen on a cruise ship but I understand that the contract is up and the show is not on the schedule any more. There is a version of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina"/"No me llores, Argentina" that is just incredible. We saw this production twice on the South America cruises and once on this one and the crowd went wild with a true standing ovation all three times.
We had a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer and then headed to the Diamond/Diamond Plus waiting area in the MDR. There were too many people for that area and very little organization. The young woman calling groups really needed a microphone. Once our group was called, though, we were off the ship quickly and found our luggage with no problems. We did the walk back to the train station and had an uneventful train ride back up the coast.
We had a great time but don't think we'll go back to any of the ports with the possible exception of Zihuat.
We really like Radiance and suspect we would enjoy the other ships in this class as much. The only real complaint we had was on the second South America cruise where we had a Jr. Suite that was near the stern. It is a loooong walk from there to the Centrum.
Thanks to Captain Trym Selvag and Officers and crew!
Our next cruises will be on Navigator and we will report back on how we liked the larger ships.
This is a great cabin. It has a larger than normal balcony for the category and has views both aft and out. Some people might say it has a bit less privacy, however. That was not a problem for us. The location is great with the Centrum literally outside the door. The elevators and stairs are there as well and we did not notice any noise from them. The Library is also outside and it's a great wi-fi hotspot.
This was our second time in this cabin and we really like it. RCCL does need to do some updating, however. Flat screen TVs would be a nice addition. It's also time for new bed coverings and carpet. They are in good condition but just look a bit dated.