Below is a review of our 1/30/2005 Eastern Caribbean sailing on Radiance of the Seas.
Embarkation - Grade A+. Smooth, Easy and Fast. We arrived around 1:00 p.m. and found virtually no line to check in. The only line was waiting to get your Seapass scanned the first time, which was all of 5 minutes.
Ship Overall -- Grade A+. This is the first time for us on a Radiance Class ship. Our previous experience has been one time on a Vision Class ship and a bunch of times on Voyager Class ships. Radiance is a beautiful ship. It is decorated very elegantly and warm with all the wood. I will break down my comments into several areas as follows:
Our Cabin -- Grade A. We stayed in a Junior suite, cabin 1542. It is about midship on the starboard side. Very convenient to everything. The room is in great shape. We found the bed slightly stiff compared to home, but we adjusted. The pillows were the best we have had on any ship. The cabins was kept very spic and span by our cabin attendant, Aaron, who did a great job.
A couple of notes about our room: The chair in our room was not very comfortable at all -- very stiff. The fridge comes loaded with drink and snacks. It has electronic sensors that charge you for the item when removed. We asked our cabin attendant to remove everything out of the fridge for us and he did with no problem.
Centrum Area -- Grade A+. The Centrum area acts as the heart of the ship. There is a constant buzz of activity going on. Bands playing music, bars open, guests meeting, mingling and hanging out, special presentations being made such as cooking demonstrations and much more. This was nice to see.
The Centrum is decorated very elegantly. The bottom is on deck 4, which hosts a bar, sitting area and guest relations. On one side is the main bank of elevators for the ship. All of them are glass elevators. Two of them face the Centrum with a great view of the ship. Then there are 4 of them that face the ocean with breathtaking views of the ocean. One side note about these elevators though. They are designed so narrow that the buttons were placed on the sidewall. This is a real problem because as people stand in the crowded elevator, they tend to lean up against the wall (and buttons) which creates many extra stops.
Promenade -- Grade A. The main promenade (at least this is what I call it) hosts a good portion of the nightlife (other than the main theater). This is on deck 6 aft of the Centrum and hosts the Schooner Bar, Billiard Club and Colony Club. All are decorated very nicely and all offer great views outside.
When you enter the Schooner Bar area, you go through a walkway that has a smell to it. Not sure what it was but my wife thinks it smells like beef jerky. It was not a bad smell, just different. Once in the Schooner Bar area there is ample seating at tables and chairs along with the bar and piano. This entire area is non smoking, which we liked.
If you continue past the Schooner Bar area you get to the Billiard Club where the self leveling pool tables are. It was very cool to watch them. We played a game one night when it was a bit bumpy out and the balls did not move a bit. The table bit though. Go to take a shot and the table itself is moving up and down a good 12 inches or so.
Continuing past the Billiard Club is the Colony Club. This area features a couple of bars, a stage, dance floor and in one area card tables and board games. This is a fun place to be at night.
Windjammer -- Grade B. The Windjammer is elegantly decorated. For the most part it is well laid out. The food stations are broken down into several small sections with about 2 sections each having the same offerings. I am torn as to how well I like the setup. On one hand it makes lines look smaller. On the other hand it creates lots of traffic problems as people jump from station to station to see if there is something different or better.
There is an outdoor section in the back that seems real nice. Unfortunately we did not check it out toward the end of the cruise and thus did not get to take advantage of it.
The only real negative I can say about the Windjammer is that on the port side, the basketball court is directly above. It makes a lot of noise in the Windjammer. If you sit on that side, you will be greeted with a constant boom, boom, boom. There are supposed to be limited hours on the court above (e.g. closed before 9:00 a.m. and closed during main dinner hour at 6:00 p.m.) but we observed this problem numerous days at early hours and during dinner time.
Pool Deck -- We did not spend any length of time at the main pool, however it seemed to be in great shape and adequate. The band played by the pool most days and they had most of the typical games such as the belly flop competition.
Solarium -- The solarium is decorated very uniquely and is a very pleasant, relaxing place to be. We used the pool there one day and it was heated with fresh water. Yes, that right, fresh water. That's not a misprint.
There is a cafe in the Solarium which is open in the afternoons with snacks. We found it to be convenient.
One thing we did miss is on Voyager ships they have lounge chairs lined up by the windows in the Solarium. We find that a great place to relax in the afternoon with a great view. Radiance has tables and chairs here and all lounge chairs are around the pool.
Main Theater -- The main theater is comfortable. Chairs have cupholders and some are designed as loveseats, which my wife likes. During our cruise, all the shows were packed and you had to arrive early to get a good seat. This has not always been true on other cruises we have taken so we were surprised.
Viking Crown -- Up top on deck 13 is the Starquest nightclub in the Viking Crown. They have a cool bar area that rotates. We did not spend much time up here though so I do not know what the nightlife is like.
Food -- Grade C. Food is the one area that has the most room for improvement. We did not have problems with service, just the food. That's not to say you can't get a good meal. Our observation is that quality is at times inconsistent and the other part is that a number of menu items either don't appeal to us or the taste just seems off to us. We eat out a lot and don't find food we don't like often so I have to assume it is just not us.
Another notation has to do with late night snacks. The only thing open is the Seaview cafe. That's great if you want a meal, but it would be nice to have a pile of cookies or something else that guests can easily grab and go. That's one thing we really missed with having the cafe of the Voyager Class ships.
Ports -- Grade A+. CocoCay We made the stop in CocoCay with calm seas. We have never been here and I must say seeing CocoCay from the ship was not impressive. Had I not had a Waverunner tour that day we may have stayed on the ship. Once we got onto CocoCay we were pleasantly surprised and loved it. Now we can't wait to go back.
St. Thomas -- We did the island tour in St. Thomas through Godfrey. We learned about Godfrey from Cruise Critic and gave him a try (our first non-ship excursion). Godfrey was great. He picked us up promptly by the ship and greeting us with a sign that had our name on it. Godfrey then took us shopping downtown until noon when he picked everyone up for the island tour. I highly recommend Godfrey. He is very accommodating and knows how to treat his customers.
St. Croix -- We made a stop in St. Croix from about 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. after we left St. Thomas to refuel. We did not get off the ship, but others did. They had buses set up to take people back and forth to town. I would guess that maybe a couple of hundred people got off. I never met anyone who went to town so I don't know if it was worth it.
One note about the fuel stop. Guests are told about the fuel stop in the Compass for that day. It is explained that we will be stopping to refuel. There is not any explanation as to why and many guests questioned it. Questions were asked about it at both C&A parties and also at the ship's chat. It seems to me that quite a few guests were left with the impression that we made the stop to refuel mid cruise so we would not run out. Thus they felt that poor planning in Miami did not load enough fuel for the cruise. RCI might want to explain this a little more so not as many people get confused.
St. Maarten -- In St. Maarten we did not take any tours or excursions. We simply took a taxi to town and went shopping. We found a few things of interest for our house but not much. Jewelry stores account for about 75% of the stores downtown. Throw in electronics and souvenir type items and that's 98% of them. It's hard to find anything else. That's too bad. If they cut the number of jewelry stores in half that would help everyone. St. Maarten is not alone. It is like this in all the towns. I just mention it here as this is where we looked the most at the shopping.
Entertainment -- Overall Grade B. Day 1 -- There was a comedian which they called a visual comedian named Mickey O'Connor. He did a number of funny things while juggling and acting out certain things. My wife thought he was hilarious. I thought he was good, but just not my type of comedy. A little too "dumb funny" for me.
Day 2 -- Tonight we had a comedian named Kelly Monteith. I would grade him a C on a grading scale. He had a number of parts that were funny but I never really connected like some comedians I have seen.
Other events were the Captain's Reception, Battle of the Sexes and '70s Disco Fever.
Day 3 -- Tonight was a show performed by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers named "Piano Man." Supposedly this one is fairly new as we were told it came out in Sept when the current cast members came onboard. Both of us really liked this show and thought it was great. There are a couple of very good singers in this group also. The lead singer, Matt, is excellent and there are 2 girls who are also very good. There is one other guy singer but my opinion is up in arms on his talent. During this show he lip-synched it. Apparently he was sick and they played a tape over his voice. A show later in the week he did sing live and he was good at that performance, but not great.
Other events tonight were Dancing through the Decades and the Quest.
Day 4 -- Tonight there was a show which the comedy/magic of Levent. He was funny and I enjoyed it.
Other events of the evening were the love and Marriage Show and the pool deck party at midnight.
Day 5 -- Tonight was the second performance by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. The show was called "Welcome to our World." The cast did a great performance, but personally I did not care for the content of the show.
The only other noteworthy event was Karaoke Idol, which we did not attend. We watched the dance band, Liza Hendrix, which is very good up until Karaoke started.
Day 6 -- Tonight was a performance by Tony Tillman. He was excellent. Don't miss it. When the show first started I thought it was going to be terrible. I was like who the heck is this guy. He turned out to be great. In the top 5 of guest performers we have seen.
Other events were family Karaoke and the Gala Buffet.
Day 7 -- Tonight was the farewell show and comedian Karen Mills. She had a couple of funny bits but overall I did not think she was that great.
Not much else this night except Karaoke finals.
On Board Entertainers Caribbean Breeze -- Island music by the pool -- I thought they were ok, but not great. I bought their CD to try out and it jammed in our car CD player on the way home. It looked homemade so not sure if that had anything to do with it.
Serenade Trio -- This trio played in the Centrum most nights. Very well liked by everyone.
Liza Hendrix -- Classic dance hits. Played in Colony Club most nights. Very good and singer has great voice.
Nathaniel Malijan -- Piano player in Schooner Bar. He drew a nice crown and kept all entertained. Probably not because of his singing talent but because he has fun doing it by changing words to be funny.
Ship's Crew -- Overall Grade A+. The crew on this ship has to be the best we have encountered. With one or two exceptions, the entire crew is all smiling faces willing to help. You really get the sense that they have good camaraderie and moral, especially with groups like the dining room waiters. Our stateroom attendant has got to be one of the best we have had.
Cruise Director -- The cruise director was Keith Williams. My overall impression of Keith is that I did not think he was that entertaining compared to some of the others I have seen. The entertainment on the ship overall was great and ran well. I believe he is responsible for coordinating all of that so I would say he runs that very well on the ship, just him in general I never really warmed up to.
Captain -- The Captain this sailing was Darin Bowland. We met him at the Crown and Anchor Party and also saw him at the ship's chat. He is a young captain at 40 years old. He seems very personable and took the time to answer everyone's questions no matter how silly some are.
Announcements -- I just want to say something about ship announcements. There are way too many. Not just this cruise, but on all the RCI cruises we have taken. Announcements such as the Captain's report, letting guests know when the ship cleared customs and maybe even a once a day announcement going through activities is ok with me. But that's it. All these bingo, shopping, art auction, pool activity and other announcements are totally unnecessary and a real annoyance. We have a Cruise Compass and if we want to go to an event we will.
Last Evening of Cruise -- The last day and evening I noticed the ship was sailing full speed, 25+ knots. I looked at our positions and had calculated that we would be back way early. I was right, We were in Miami and docked by 2:00-2:30 a.m. There were a couple of trucks waiting for us near the aft of the ship. The next morning I found out it was an underwater repair team and when getting off the ship we saw them bring parts up out of the water. After we got home, a poster on Cruise Critic stated the next cruise was delayed until 2:00 a.m. due to the repairs. Not sure what the exact problem was but it did not affect speed.
Debarkation -- We carried our own luggage off and were out by 7:15 or so. Immigration lines were long, but moved fast. We were in our car and leaving by 7:45.
Summary -- Being our first Radiance class ship, it was a new experience. I must admit after the first day I thought we would get bored as there did not seem to be as many activities at night. However I was very wrong. Once you learn your way around and where you like to be, Radiance is a wonderful ship. We would not hesitate for one instant to go again.