My partner decided to take a short 5 night Mexican cruise in conjunction with a conference I had in San Diego. All in all, the cruise exceeded our expectations. We had sailed on Carnival twice before (Elation and Legend), and Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas was a step above.
The embarkation was very smooth. Royal Caribbean will send you your baggage straps by mail, via their "Check-In" option on their website - you just have to remember to request them at least 10 days before sailing. With your bags tagged, your Sign and Sail document, plus the credit card you used to pay for the trip, it's all very smooth. From the time we walked onto the pier to the time we were on board took all of about 15 minutes.
The crew makes this ship remarkable. Everyone we met, from the room steward, to the bartenders, to the tender operators, all were warm and always asked us if there is anything more they could help with. Even Guest Services was helpful, unlike the typical bureaucratic way they can be!
I asked several crew members about this hospitable spirit on board. It turns out that most of the senior staff on the ship was from the "Majesty of the Seas" which had been known for its crew's warmth. When "Majesty" was sold, most of the senior staff came on board "Radiance", and continued managing their staff in a similar way. The crew truly was great.
The ship was very well maintained. It may not have the latest and greatest "wow!" features that the newer and larger ships are featuring, but she is large enough to provide plenty to do. Despite the fact the sailing was sold out, we could always find a table at the Windjammer buffet, and could always find an out-of the way place to get relax, converse or just chill.
Some of our favorite places:
The Solarium. This is an adults only area with a 6' deep heated salt water pool, under a retractable clear roof. Great bar, lots of cushy lounge chairs, tropical bird sounds on an audio track, even elephants sculpted on the wall and a bronze lioness dipping her paw in the pool. The plastic foliage on top of the columns are sun bleaching due to the UV light, but it's all very soothing.
Seaview Cafe. You may never find this unless you look. It's located on the top sports deck (13?) all the way aft. You have to walk through a children/tot play area to get there, and there are no obvious signs saying it's there, but it's worth it. It feels like a waterfront cafe in a sea side town, with a limited menu but great soups, chowder, fish & chips, salads, reubens, beer on tap, etc. It's open until 6:30 pm, but open from 9 pm to late. You can eat indoors, or outside on the deck, wind and weather permitting. I saw several people getting "take out" to take elsewhere on the ship. There is no additional fee.
Centrum seating above. There are several small lounges on decks above the Centrum main floor, but open to the atrium. These are comfy corners to play cards, read, chat, while still enjoying the live music in the Centrum.
Our balcony cabin was on the 10th deck, forward, port side. It was a bit smaller than we had on the Carnival ships, but storage was well designed. The balcony makes a huge difference. We smelled nothing that indicated plumbing problems, just smokers puffing on their balconies, with smoke drifting our way. The beds were incredible! Motion wasn't a problem until the last night, heading north into the Pacific swells heading south, but the Captain adjusted course and speed which helped a lot.
Disembarkation was very smooth. There was no "mob" disembarkation as on Carnival where everyone was hauling their own luggage down the stairs. On the Radiance, you put your tagged bags in the hall by midnight, and showed up at a rendez-vous point at a specific time. They told us not to be early, and we all disembarked at the times that were stated. The first ones off were Crown and Anchor Premiere members, then those with flights home, then those with tours in San Diego. We were last, as we had driven to the port and were considered "local". Even so, we left the ship at 9:30 am, had our luggage, cleared customs and immigration, and headed for our car by 9:45.
BTW, we liked the Radiance so much, we booked another cruise in a year, on her sister ship, the Brilliance of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean has a current special for those booking new cruises on board. The deposit is only $100 per person if you book a cabin on another cruise. That is the total deposit and is refundable per their normal policies.
If you don't know what cruise you want to book yet, you can also pay $100 per person for any future cruise, but that is nonrefundable. You can then select another cruise once you know your schedule, and no additional deposit is required until the total payment is due.
Go to the Crown and Anchor lounge if this is something you're interested in. You may have to make an appointment to see their rep later in the cruise. I did and I'm glad! If there are no appointments available, you will not be able to get the deal on shore.
1002- Deck 10, second cabin from the front, just aft of the port bridge extension. It didn't block our view, and the Captain waved at us a few times as we watched him maneuver into port.
Some wave motion due to forward position and high deck, but only just noticeable.
Immediately above on deck 11 is a Massage and Spa. Noise was minimal, but occasionally we heard furniture being moved once in awhile. Overall, a quiet cabin.