I'm a new professional travel agent with 1 year experience as an agent but with 10 years of cruising world wide for over 17 week on 6 cruise lines. I read some of the reviews of this cruise ship and itinerary prior to leaving and found a mix of reviews. So very crittical. So I thought when I got back i'd wite up something for my peers and for anyone on this site. Here goes...
Note: I paid the FULL fare and received no upgrades. I'm in no way connected with RCCL.
*Radiance of the seas 10 night Mexican Rivera cruise 2/12/10 * Ports of call: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo /Ixtapa, Acapulco.
Bottom line: An amazing cruise vacation on a great, well built, well run ship. Great food, good entertainment, and lots of ports of call all for a very reasonable price and exceptional value.
Embarkation: We started our embarkation at the San Diego cruise terminal, an aged dock-side warehouse structure soon to be replaced by the new Broadway street cruise terminal building. It was a fairly efficient process and we were onboard within 20 minutes of arrival to the facility. Once onboard we went to the Windjammer cafe where we met friends, had a very nice lunch, and then toured the ship. Around 1 PM we were allowed to go to our staterooms. One big area for improvement would be luggage transfer to your stateroom. Our luggage didn't arrive until after dinner the first evening. This was the first time we've not had our luggage in our room either before we first arrived in our room or within 2 hours of arriving on the ship. It made a good first day slightly stressful unnecessarily.
Stateroom: We had stateroom 8138, a category E2 deluxe ocean view stateroom with balcony. It was 179 square feet with a 41 foot balcony. It was on the smaller side of the 4 balcony rooms we've traveled on with other cruise lines but to be fair it was more than adequate and was very comfortable. The bathroom was small and efficient with a corner shower. One area of improvement would be to remodel the baths to get rid of the shower curtain and install glass doors. Even with the limited space a corner shower with doors would almost eliminate the problems of the shower curtain being pulled in too close for comfort and water getting out and all over the floor. This was a complaint we heard from several people and even the cruise director and a comedian made jokes about it. The bed in the room had rounded corners to make it easier to get around the bed but it worked well and was comfortable. The room was in very good shape for its age and we saw no real wear other than one sticky drawer. The closet space and built in desk/vanity was very good and allowed more than enough space and hangers which sometimes can be an issue. The balcony was small but nice with two upright deck chairs and a small table. The balcony gave us a good view forward and aft. It was receded into the ship some so the room above us stuck out about 8 feet beyond the edge of our balcony and it wasn't a straight down the ship side view to the ocean as there was the roof to the promenade deck a few floors below that stuck out about 15 feet. These slight restrictions weren't a problem at all for us. It was better than some balconies we've been on where the balcony was completely exposed to the upper 5 levels where 10-15 balconies could see right into your balcony.
Ship overall: The Radiance of the seas is a Panama Max ship built just large enough to still squeeze through the Panama Canal. At approximately 90,000 gross tons, it's a smaller Royal Caribbean ship as compared to the slightly more modern ships but it was laid out very well. It was easy to get around and had good traffic flows. Glass was abundant on outer surfaces of the ship and you had a great view from almost any location which would be ideal for its Alaskan cruising seasons. Even though the ship is about 9 years old it appeared to be fairly new and not in disrepair or worn. With only a couple exceptions it felt like a fairly new ship.
Public places: The main pool was nice and had a fair amount of seating. The African safari-themed solarium area was forward of the main pool area and had a retractable glass roof. It was a small adult only pool and had two whirlpools spas. It wasn't used much during the warm weather days as it was much too hot but was highly used on the last two days at sea when the weather was much cooler. The seating was more upscale with wooden lounge chairs and a dedicated bar and cafe with healthier options available. The gym was pretty good size and had good views and equipment. We didn't use the spa but went through on a self guided tour. The shops had good selections of gifts, alcohol, and lots of other duty free products. There were several bars we checked out including the schooner Bar which had a great nautical theme and was fun and the Champagne or Martini bar was a kick as we participated in a martini class with the entertaining Bartender, Jerry. The Colony Club, a unique British colonial-style lounge had some unique self-leveling pool tables which we saw used a lot but we never got a chance to try out. It was a great area for activities and many of the fun late night events occurred there including an unusual and extremely funny adult oriented scavenger hunt! It reminded me of my Windjammer Bare Foot Cruise trips. There was a sport court that was home to basketball and volley ball tournaments. The Radiance of the Seas boasted a 30 foot high rock climbing wall which was really fun to try and was complimentary. The miniature golf course was fun but was in need of a remodel. The Royal Casino was fun and had a few non-smoking nights which was refreshing (on formal nights).
Food/Service: I had read several negative reviews on the food on the Radiance of the seas so I was very happy to find it outstanding. We ate 8 nights in the main dining room and tried a variety of different food selections among our group and every meal was excellent. It was hot and well prepared with the right seasoning. The steaks were tender and cooked perfectly. The lobster tail was large and flavorful. Overall really great. I'm not sure where the people who wrote negative reviews ate their food but it wasn't at my table. So you have to take reviews with a grain of salt. The room service we ordered in the morning came with a good selection of food including a few egg dishes which was a surprise as some cruise lines only provide this in their suites. The windjammer cafe buffet was large and had lots of choices and was like any buffet. It was about middle of the road as compared to other similar cruise lines. The Sea View cafe offered a great selection of pub type food with excellent fish and chips, sandwiches, clam chowder, onion rings, and other comfort foods.
Alternative restaurants: The alternative restaurants were also very good and a step above the main dining room in terms of service, style, and food quality. The Chops Steakhouse was a small and delightful dining venue. All of the food was amazing and the huge filet mignon was cooked perfect, and almost fork cutting tender. A great place to enjoy a Birthday dinner. The charge for Chops was $25 per person and well worth it! The Portofino Italian Restaurant was also very nice and we actually enjoyed it slightly better. The service was just as good. The multi course food selection was excellent. The charge for Portofino was only $20.
Crew: Our cabin steward, Steven, from Trinidad and Tobago was very good and always had things perfect in the cabin. He was very personable and responsive to requests. We really enjoyed him and coming back to his creative towel-origami animals each night. Our waiter and assistant waiter, Joseph and Ronald, were the best we've ever had on any cruise line. We has select dining as our option which is anytime dining and we just lucked out and were seated with these two personable and fun people. After that first night we made reservations to be with them every night we weren't in an alternative dining venue. By the second day they knew our names, preferences, and had befriended us with some funny personal stories and escapades on the ship. It made the dining experience very memorable for more than just the great food and the best we've experienced. The cruise director, Dan, was very funny and had lots of energy. You can tell he's done this for a while as everything went smoothly. The entertainment was first class with a great comedian, a fun magician, a great singer and impressionist, Bobby Arvon , and a talented ship dancing and singing group. There was even the comedic legend, Marty Allen, with his talented wife Karon Kate Blackwell. They were great!
Stateroom: We had stateroom 8138, a category E2 deluxe ocean view stateroom with balcony. It was 179 square feet with a 41 foot balcony. It was on the smaller side of the 4 balcony rooms we've traveled on with other cruise lines but to be fair it was more than adequate and was very comfortable. The bathroom was small and efficient with a corner shower. The bed in the room had rounded corners to make it easier to get around the bed but it worked well and was comfortable. The room was in very good shape for its age and we saw no real wear other than one sticky drawer. The closet space and built in desk/vanity was very good and allowed more than enough space and hangers which sometimes can be an issue.
The balcony was small but nice with two upright deck chairs and a small table. The balcony gave us a good view forward and aft. It was receded into the ship some so the room above us stuck out about 8 feet beyond the edge of our balcony and it wasn't a straight down the ship side view to the ocean as there was the roof to the promenade deck a few floors below that stuck out about 15 feet.