My wife and I booked this cruise because it was our 15th wedding anniversary. We are in our early 40s. We had been on a Voyager class (EOS-2002) ship previously, and we wanted to book another Voyager class.
Because we found a great deal, we decided to try a Radiance class and booked on Radiance of the Seas for this trip.
We arrived to the cruise port in Miami (we drove since we live in FL) at 12:30. Since our cruise documents were lost in the mail, our travel agent made arrangements for pier pick-up. We thought this would really slow us down in the boarding process, but we were quite surprised that there was no delay. Embarkation was a snap. We inquired about an upgrade, but were told the ship was full. Nothing gained, nothing lost.
When we arrived to our cabin, we were taken with our room. We booked an outside on deck #3. Our cabin was appointed in rich colors with what I would describe as a honey oak color woodwork with a red comforter on the bed and very soothing artwork. The beds were already made into one, and we were happy we did not have to request it. The roses I ordered for my wife were greeting us in the cabin, which was a very nice touch. We had ample room in our cabin and adequate storage. We like to unpack everything, and were able to find storage for everything. We both brought extra clothes hangers and wood hangers were abundant in the closet. Our empty suitcases fit nicely under the beds.
We always make two advance sets of arrangements when we board on RCI. We arrange for the wine package, which was $109 plus gratuity, and we go to the extra restaurants on the ship to decide whether we would reserve at Portofino or Chops. Because we dined at Portofino previously on another ship, we decided to try Chops. Making these arrangements was convenient.
We were off to the Windjammer for something to eat. We were particularly impressed with this one. It did not flow like a cattle car so to speak. It was appointed differently than other RCI ships we've been on, with a lot of blues and dark woods. It was very welcoming and soothing. At one of the cutting stations they ran out of beef, and I joked with one of the chefs about bringing it to our table when they had more. In a couple of minutes, he delivered it to out table. We were impressed that he took the time to do this. We found ourselves using the Windjammer more on this ship in the afternoon and sometimes for breakfast because it did not have the same feel of a typical Windjammer. We were also very impressed that even on the first day, the staff was abundant to clear tables and they were friendly about it. This was also evident throughout the cruise. No one was shoving alcoholic drinks down our throats.
We left to tour the ship and ended up at the Spa for a tour. Because of all the windows on this ship. The Spa is breathtaking. Each treatment room looks out through the spacious windows. We saw in the Compass that there was a special for unlimited visits to the Thermal Suite for $99 per couple being offered the first day. We really enjoyed having this access. There were heated thermal lounge chairs and 3 types of different saunas: wet, dry and aromatherapy. Most of all, we were able to gaze out through the windows and use this as much as we wanted. We would visit in late afternoon, request robes and enjoy the time in this tranquil setting. Everyone in this area was clothed with bathing suits.
**Recommendation: Once to sea, we noticed in the Compass that the stores were having liquor tasting and liquor for purchase. While we had brought on rum in our luggage for consumption, we found out that they were selling liquor to drink in your room without charging a fee. This was a new change and not advertised. When I went back later in the week to buy a bottle of gin, they were going to charge me the $9.50 fee. The clerk whispered that if I came back after 6:00, there would be no fee. I came back as he mentioned, and brought the gin back to our cabin without paying a fee. So the cut-off seems to be 6:00.
We had checked out our table seating in the dining room. We were on the main level at a table for 6, which was toward the center of the room. We had started noticing a lot of kids on the ship (we have 3, but they were home with grandparents). Because we had the late seating, we did not see any kids at dinner.
The seas were high coming out of Miami on this trip. The captain reported later that seas were 35 feet. The ship was bouncing at some points and people were having slight difficulty getting around. A lot of people did not make it to dinner because of the seas. Even at the show the first night, the cast was challenged with the way the ship was moving. The captain had announced that due to the high seas, that it was too dangerous to tender into Coco Cay, so we missed our Monday port. The good news was that we were going to San Juan instead on Tuesday. My wife and I were high 5'ing because we love Old San Juan. We were there from 12:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m.
By the time we reached the Caribbean Sea, the seas had calmed and as usual the fort leading us into San Juan was glistening in the sun. We had the very first berth at the pier which put us the closest in walking distance to Old San Juan. We had a great time and loved the extra time there.
In St. Thomas we did the usual, shop. Since it was our anniversary, what better place to look for jewelry. My wife found a beautiful tennis bracelet at an excellent price. No better way to celebrate our anniversary. The captain announced that we would have a refueling stop in St. Croix at 9:00 p.m. Since we ate at Chops that night, we ate early and the Captain announced that passengers could leave the ship and did not need to return until 12:00. However, it was late and most everything was closed. It looked like St. Croix was trying to build up their pier area because things were under construction. We walked around, and the people made a great effort to welcome everyone. There was a band playing and they were giving out tastes of rum. Other than that, there were only a handful of things open. We bought some handmade soap and returned to the ship within an hour.
When we pulled into St. Maarten, we were very impressed with what we saw. They had an ultra modern port area that was outside, with little booths and shops. You could rent a car, buy sundries, shop, take a water taxi to town for $5 round trip. If you're there, check out the Octopus, supposedly it's a super yacht owned by one of the Microsoft founders that's docked at the same pier we pulled into. It had helicopters, boats on it, etc. It was a wow! St. Maarten was fun, clean, the people were friendly and we should have saved our jewelry shopping for this port. The shops were much cleaner and welcoming. Everything at this port is centrally located. The beach backs up to the street where all the shops are. You can find everything you need right there. We made the mistake of renting a car and while the countryside is beautiful, we wasted a lot of time trying to find a secluded beach. By the time we found it in the afternoon, it was windy and the water was very choppy. We should have stayed in town. We went back and laid on the beach for a while. The sun was hot and the surf calm. We look forward to seeing St. Maarten again in the future.
Now back to the ship...
We had a very good waiter -- Ashton. He was very attentive, and he would bring us out double orders if we asked for it. He became ill though and we had someone else fill in for him the rest of the cruise. When I asked for a double order, he told me he wasn't allowed, but when I pushed it with him, he brought what I wanted and was fine the rest of the trip. We just didn't know who would get the tips, etc., but later found out they would go to the original waiter. All in all, it ended up working out fine. Food was very good. I ate a lot of beef with vegetables. There were lobster tails Friday night, and myself and some of our table mates ended up with 3 each. Seems greedy, but it was fun. It's difficult to get full on 1 lobster tail.
The only down side we found about the late seating was this. Since dinner started at 8:30, we found ourselves finishing up by 10:00-10:15. The late show was at 10:45, so we would leave the theatre at 11:45. The shops would close at 11:00, so no shopping, even though you walked through the shopping area to get back to the Centrum. We also found that the little lounges stopped bar service at 1:00, so the only place to get a drink was the disco or the casino.
The Seaview Cafe was excellent. The hours they were open was convenient and I think this was one of the best little secrets on the ship. You could go there have a Cuban sandwich, Reuben, chowder, etc. The food and service were excellent. We found ourselves there late in the afternoon after coming back from a port.
Chops Steakhouse was excellent. Marek the Head Waiter was excellent! We had perfect service and the food was outstanding. They acknowledged our anniversary by preparing a special dessert and the staff sang. We were so complimentary in the end, Marek invited us to attend brunch. This is something they were testing, so they only seemed to want a limited crowd. The charge was $10.00 each and the food again was excellent. We had brunch at 12:00 on our last day at sea. They offered complimentary mimosas, which was a nice touch. We had a table by the panoramic windows that we really enjoyed. Can't say more.
We had one service issue on the ship. Since we are repeaters from Crown and Anchor (4 cruises), we just assumed we would receive our invitation and goodies. When we sat down to dinner one night (which happened to be our anniversary), everyone at our table was talking about the party they just came from. We asked "what party," they said the repeaters party. We were upset because we did not receive an invitation. After dinner, we followed up with guest services, and they apologized profusely and told us the loyalty ambassador would contact us directly. Well, we know that time slips away on cruises, so we wanted attention fast. The next morning, we went to the Crown and Anchor lounge and there was a fill-in person for the Loyalty Ambassador. You might as well be talking to the wall, because she did not know how to resolve service issues. She fessed up that she was filling in. Later we saw that she was one of the stage performers. Dreadful... So we asked what time Carol would be back. Carol smoothed everything over excellently. She apologized, ordered us a nice bottle of champagne, etc. Later that evening at dinner, the champagne arrived, which we shared with our table. There were chocolate covered strawberries in our cabin, our goodies, an apology letter, and a voicemail from guest services with an apology. We were very pleased.
Advice: If this event is important to you, you may want to find out in advance when it will take place. Apparently, we were not the only ones this happened to on this cruise. A few hundred people did not get their invitations.
Overall: We had a very nice cruise. The ship is beautiful. The number of windows makes this ship gorgeous. We had a great anniversary! We did not do rock climbing, miniature golf, etc. this time.
Observations: We found the ship had a lot of over 60 crowd. We met a lot of wonderful people, and we talk to everyone. We found the lounge acts to be below par. The band in the Centrum we referred to as the Faded Rose Group. The comics they brought on board were not youthful and their material was dated. The stage shows were typical. We did have a favorite show and that was the Tribute to the Temptations. All in all, I would give entertainment a 2 out of a possible 10. We've often commented that we would pay extra to see a headliner perform. The ship is beautiful, but we've been spoiled by being on the Explorer of the Seas. We love the Promenade area on Voyager class ships. Our next cruise will be on Voyager of the Seas with the kids. We can't wait, but it will be a different kind of cruise, and we will experience it through our kids' eyes.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email.