This was my twenty second cruise, and fifth with Royal Caribbean, having previously cruised twice on Monarch and twice on Freedom. After reading so many positive reviews of Radiance of the Seas, my wife and I decided ... Read More
This was my twenty second cruise, and fifth with Royal Caribbean, having previously cruised twice on Monarch and twice on Freedom. After reading so many positive reviews of Radiance of the Seas, my wife and I decided to try it out. Since Royal Caribbean was kind enough to put it in our back yard, I figured that we would be fools not to brave the 1.5 hour drive to Tampa to experience such a fine ship. We were originally booked into an interior cabin, but after a considerable price drop we decided to upgrade to a Junior Suite. At the time we also had 8 household points with Crown and Anchor, so the extra credit for the suite would make us Diamond Members. We were accompanied on this cruise by another couple going on their fifth cruise. We all drove down together on the first morning and got to the pier at around 11:30 am.
I have to give the Port of Tampa a lot a credit because this was quite possibly the fastest embarkation process ever. We walked into the building at around 11:45 and were walking onto the ship at 11:55. Lines were non existent.
After studying the deck plans my wife found that Junior Suite #1602 had a larger than normal balcony and an aft facing view. We had been in an aft suite on Carnival Spirit and really enjoyed that view of the ship's wake. Upon getting to the room I was very impressed with the space and decoration. The room is large with a full size couch in the sitting area. The bathroom has a nicely tiled floor and a shower/tub. The balcony is very large with two lounge chairs, two upright chairs and a small table. About half of the balcony is covered by an overhang which was very nice considering that the majority of our cruise was plagued by rainy weather. It was also helpful since I prop the balcony door open at night to let in fresh air and enjoy the sound of the wake.
Early on day 3 we discovered a leak coming from under the wall between the bathroom and foyer. It was not much water, but we did notify our cabin steward about it. They brought a floor blower in and let it run, but the floor had mostly dried by them. The leak did not reoccur again during the cruise. The same cannot be said for the other rooms around us. At the opposite aft corner there were blowers going constantly due to leaks, and we saw crew working on plumbing at a few spots in our area. On the last night of our cruise we received a letter stating that we would be getting a future cruise discount certificate for 15% of our cruise fare. I felt this was more than enough for the extremely minor issue we had. I can only assume that all the cabins with leaks got the same letter.
Immediately after boarding the Radiance, one can sense that the ship was designed to offer views of the outside from almost every location within the ship. Huge windows and glass walls provide panoramic views. Everything about the ship is thoughtfully designed and decorated. The layout is easily learned with only a few hours on board. It really seems like Royal Caribbean (RCI) went above and beyond making the Radiance a beautiful ship both inside and out.
Starting at the bottom on deck 4 is the centerpiece of the ship, its atrium. The atrium lobby houses the guest relations and shore excursions desk, as well as a lobby bar with nearby dance floor. There is frequently live music in the lobby, which becomes an unofficial dance club at times. The atrium has the standard glass enclosed elevators, but Royal Caribbean has taken the idea a step farther. One side of the ship adjacent to the Atrium is made entirely of glass panes. There are four additional glass elevators that look out through it, offering tremendous outside views while guests ride between decks.
The lower level of the Cascades Dining Room is also located on deck 4. The Cascades is a very beautiful restaurant. The scale may not compare to the dining room on Freedom of the Seas, but it more than makes up for it with its beauty. The room features a Y shaped grand staircase that flanks a large fountain in the center. At the opposite end is a huge tile mosaic that extends up through both levels. Our serving team Ozgur and Robert were both fantastic and provided us with quality service all four nights.
The Aurora Theater located on deck 5 is the main show lounge of the vessel. The photo gallery, art gallery and gift shops are also located on this deck. In the atrium on deck 5 has the Latte-tudes cafe which serves Seattle's Best coffees along with cookies and pastries. There are also several internet computer terminals in the cafe. On the exterior of deck 5 is a wrap around promenade deck, which if followed all the way forward leads to the helicopter landing pad at the bow. This area is one of my favorite features of Royal Caribbean ships as it offers some of the best views available. It is also a novelty since most ships do not allow access to the bow. I was happy to find that the area was open at night, since it was always closed on Freedom.
Deck 6 is the ship's main entertainment area. It is home to the upper level of the Aurora Theater. The ships Cinema is also nearby. The movies shown on the ships televisions are also shown in the theater. It has stadium seating and surround sound, giving a very close approximation to being in a movie theater on land. Although I never used them, the Casino Royale and Scoreboard Sports Bar are located on this deck. The ship's Champagne Bar is on deck 6 in the atrium.
Aft of the atrium in the gem of the entire deck, a multi purpose area that contains the Schooner Bar, Chops Grille and Portofino's Italian Restaurant. The entrance to the Schooner Bar is made to resemble the keel of a sailing ship, completed with restored antique cannons and nautical mural work. The real surprise though comes when you take your first breaths while walking in. Taking a page from Disney's play book, the faint aroma of wood smoke hangs in the air. The pleasant aroma was obviously being piped in to complete the rustic tone of the room, and it worked. I looked forward to entering the Schooner Bar just to enjoy the theme of the entrance.
The Schooner Bar itself resembles its contemporaries on other RCI ships. The nautical theme of the room is replete with faux sails, ship models, and a large lighted globe. Chops Grille and Portofino's are both accessible from the Schooner Bar. I did not eat in either one of them during this cruise.
Aft on deck 6 is the Colony Club complex. This area is really a unique multi use zone made up of two bar areas (Singapore Slings and Jakarta Lounge), a lounge area with a stage (The Colony Club), a board and card game area (Calcutta Card Room) and a small billiards room (Bombay Billiard Club). It is interesting that the area is divided so that each area can be used independently, or as a whole for large events. The two pool tables probably inspire the most surprise. While they appear to the naked eye to be run of the mill billiard hall pieces, they are far from it. The tables are actually gyroscopically controlled to self level regardless of the ship's movement. This allows for play regardless of the water conditions.
Decks 7-10 are mostly cabins so there is not much to report. Deck 9's portion of the atrium is where the ship's small library is located. One deck above that is the "Yacht Club", a small sitting area that I could not determine a use for. The Concierge Lounge is also on deck 10, which makes sense as most of the ships suites are located on that deck.
Deck 11 is the ship's lido area. The lower level of the Shipshape Spa is on this deck. It features treatment rooms, steam/sauna rooms and the beauty salon. The Solarium area is for adults only and has its own pool and Jacuzzi tub. The lounge chairs are much nicer than those by the main pool. A jungle theme with large sculpted elephants, tweeting birds and a bronze tiger lounging by the pool set the mood. The area also has a retractable glass roof and a small snack bar. Although I missed the cantilevered whirlpools, a lot more effort seems to have been put into creating the Radiance's Solarium than it's counterpart on Freedom. The forward walls have flat glass fountains that empty into a small stream (with real river rocks) that runs behind a small bridge.
The main pool area is just aft of the Solarium. It is uncovered, but does have two covered hot tubs. There is also the obligatory pool bar nearby. Aft from the main pool is the Windjammer Buffet. The food was good as usual, but the attraction of this area had nothing to do with what was being served. I loved the outdoor seating areas that flank the buffet. There is an enclosed verandah on the port side of the buffet which connects to the main pool area. At the very aft end of the deck was yet more outdoor seating. Some featuring low slung patio style furniture, and the rest with typical upright tables and chairs. Having the option to dine outside is a real treat, and I wish it would have been included on later RCI designs.
At the forward end of deck 12 is the ship's gymnasium. A wrap around observation deck is also found there with two mounted observation binoculars. The jogging track also encircles the gym and continues on to encircle to area above the pools. The Sky Bar is also perched on deck 12 overlooking the pool. Near the center of this ship is the teen and children's rooms. The small video arcade is also located there. Adjacent to that is the basketball court and children's pool area. The ship's water slide snakes its way through that pool area.
At the aft end of deck 12 is the awesome Seaview Cafe. The table service restaurant features made to order sandwiches, soups, salads, and other dishes. I really liked it, and I ate there several times. I was dismayed to learn that it would soon be converted into a Rita's Cantina which will have a cover charge. While I have no ill will toward pay-extra venues on ships, they should not come at the expense of free dining options.
The Viking Crown Lounge is at the very top of the ship on deck 13. It has two distinct areas. The StarQuest lounge is the larger of the two and serves as the observation lounge during the day. At night it becomes the ship's only nightclub. The other lounge is the Hollywood Odyssey cigar bar. There is a small stage set up for live music. They held several private functions and Diamond events being held there. They also have a small humidor with a few brands of cigars for sale. It was nice to have a place to enjoy cigars inside the ship. Aft of the Viking Crown Lounge on deck 13 is the rock climbing wall and mini golf course.
Day 1, Tampa:
After the incredibly fast embarkation I spent a lot of time exploring and photographing the ship. We all had a nice lunch in the Windjammer and then went to our room to drop off our carry on luggage.
We arrived at the muster drill right at the end and had to stand out there a grand total of 30 seconds. Our group then made a bee line for the Viking Crown Lounge, my favored spot for sail away. After relaxing and enjoying the sail away we had a snack at the Sea View Cafe. I thought their Cuban sandwiches are very good, as are the onion rings. There wasn't a lot to do on deck since a light rain set in late in the day.
Later in the afternoon we made our way down to the Colony Club and got in a few games of self-leveling pool. The seas were pretty choppy, so the gyroscopes were working overtime. Playing pool on a moving table is different to say the least. At dinner that evening we met our awesome waiters Ozgur and Robert. We had a great dinner, and turned in early since we had to wake up so early.
Day 2, At Sea:
Our first day at sea started with a nice breakfast in the dining room. I had intended to spend some time up on the lido, but the weather would not cooperate. It stayed overcast and rainy pretty much the entire day. So we made the best of the day by getting drunk on our balcony. My friend and I enjoyed a couple cigars out there as well. In spite of the weather we had a great time. Drunks tend to want snacks, so we devoured some delicious sandwiches in the Sea View Cafe later in the afternoon. A long afternoon nap was in order after the merry making. That night my wife and I spent a little time in the Viking Crown Lounge.
Day 3, Cozumel:
I woke on the second morning to a view of Cozumel, Mexico. Unfortunately it was being pummeled by rain and 30 mile per hour winds. We had a nice breakfast on the Windjammer's enclosed aft patio and waited for the rain to slack up. There were not many braving the weather heading down our pier. The Carnival Ecstasy pulled up to their pier and started letting guests off. I was surprised how many were making their way off.
Once the rain slacked up we walked down the pier and checked out the duty free shops. I have been to Cozumel many times, so I wasn't interested in going to town. My buddy and I picked up some cigars and headed back to the ship. The wind and rain was down right nasty, so we stayed on board the rest of the day. The Solarium was packed so we tried to use the hot tubs by the main pool. The weather was just too nasty so we soon packed it in. We hung out in the Viking Crown Lounge for a bit and watched the rain and winds pelt the island. Unfortunately there were not many activities planned during the day since they expected most guests to be off on land.
I saw the juggling and comedy show in the Aurora Theater later in the evening. It was pretty funny, but one of the guys was having trouble doing the act. This was probably due to the very noticeable rocking of the ship.
Later my wife and I attended the past guest reception for Platinum Members and above in the Colony Club. It was very nice. They served free drinks and had some appetizers (wings, mini egg rolls). They also had a large assortment or chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate treats. They had the usual introduction of the ship's staff, as well as a speech by the Captain. He mostly spoke of the Sunshine class, since they just signed the letter of intent. He did not go into any details about the features. Remarkably, after the party there were still a bunch of the coveted chocolate covered strawberries left. I wasn't too proud to take a plate full to our Gold Member friends at dinner. As the reception was ending they had a medical emergency call to one of the cabins, more would be learned later.
After dinner we went to the Quest. While we were waiting for it to start the Captain made an announcement that we were turning around and returning to Cozumel at top speed. The person who had the medical problem earlier needed immediate care at a hospital. A helicopter evacuation was not possible so they would have to get him to land. We stayed and watched The Quest, it was hilarious as usual. We got there early so we had good seats. We didn't get on a team, but ended up helping the team in front of us get a few points. The cruise director Dan did a good job keeping the crowd going and getting folks involved.
After The Quest we went up on deck to watch our arrival back in Cozumel. Thankfully the rain had finally stopped. We pulled up to the pier around 1 am and they soon had the gangway onto the ship. There was already an ambulance waiting on the pier with EMTs. As soon as the patient and his wife debarked they untied the ship and we took off. We were told the next morning that the man had been stabilized. They had to do over 21 knots that night to make up time, so the ride was pretty rough with all the swells.
Day 4, At Sea:
Our last full day again started in the Windjammer for breakfast on the patio. The weather had cleared up, but the wind was still strong and cold. My friend and I enjoyed cigars and drinks on my balcony. We then went for a swim in the Solarium pool. The seas were still rough, and the pool was having three foot swells. Who needs a Flowrider when there is a wave pool on deck?
Later in the day we finished off our last two cigars in the Hollywood Odyssey. We were unable to get any bar service in there, a shame since we really wanted drinks. I know the lounge isn't technically open during the day, but many people still use it. You would think there would be a waiter that would saunter through from time to time; especially since you can't walk a foot on the lido deck without being offered booze. They also don't leave ash trays out during the day. This is very odd, since its one of the few places where smoking is allowed inside. We grabbed a rocks glass from behind the bar that served the purpose.
While my friend and I were enjoying our cigars, my wife took advantage of the Crown and Anchor lounge to book a cruise for us on Celebrity Eclipse. For those that have not done it, it's a very convenient process. You get an on board credit for the cruise (based on the length), and your travel agent still gets a commission. The lounge itself is very impressive. It is an island that is situated directly above the atrium. The walkways that go to it are the supports. There is a glass window in the middle of the lounge that looks down into the middle of the atrium. Those that are not made queasy by heights are free to stand on it.
Prior to dinner we all spent a couple of hours enjoying the live music in the Schooner Bar. We had a great dinner on our last night and said our good byes to Ozgur and Robert. After dinner we watched "Prince of Persia" in the Cinema and went back to the cabins to finish packing.
After a final breakfast in the Cascades Dining Room we got in line to leave the ship. The process was a little slower than embarkation, but not too much. The line to exit the ship took about 5 minutes, and there was little wait to go though customs. The whole process was about 20 minutes.
Although the weather could not have been less cooperative, we still managed to have a great cruise on Radiance of the Seas. She is a beautiful ship with a great crew. I would like to cruise on her again, although I have read that Jewel of the Seas will replace her out of Tampa next season. I really wish RCI would put a year round ship there; it would be great if it is a Radiance Class ship. Some have criticized the Voyager, Freedom and Oasis classes for their lack of connection to the ocean. I can only say to those people that a Radiance Class ship is the way to go. There are precious few areas of the ship that lack a spectacular view of the outside. I now consider Radiance to be one of the nicest cruise ships I have been on. Read Less