Radiance of the Seas
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
March 14th to March 19th, 2011
This is a review of the Radiance of the Seas. From pre boarding to the debarkation. I will give the good points and bad points of the ship and its staff.
The payment process of Royal Caribbean is very standard. Make your deposit. Make payments, until everything is paid for. I chose "My Time Dining" so pre paid gratuities were charged in the beginning, not on board. I made my final payment prior to the due date. I also sent in a "special needs" request by the 30 days prior to sailing deadline. Explaining I needed large print "Daily Compasses" while on board. Two days prior to sailing I reconfirmed that this request was on my account. They confirmed this, and that my suite attendant was aware of this. I emailed the concierge a week before sailing and asked if there were magnifying mirrors onboard, or did I need to bring my own. I was told there were no magnifying mirrors in the stateroom so I should bring my own if I needed one.
I booked my own flights, so no need for explanations on the "choice air" program in this review. I also booked my own transfers, so no review is needed there, but I have to comment that Execucar private transfers are the only people I will recommend for future cruisers.
Arrival to the pier. I arrived at 12:10PM at the pier. (Before leaving Tampa airport, I checked my luggage with my mirror to make sure it was not broken. I had put fragile stickers on this luggage; it was not broken by the airlines. Whew for that) the pier had some arriving passengers, but was not bustling with new passengers. I think this is because we were told to arrive around 2:00PM. But I couldn't, because of my flight schedule. I was greeted by a port luggage handler who very kindly and efficiently took my luggage, and directed me to the entrance. When I walked in, I was amazed at how few passengers were there, but how efficient the staff was. They checked my passports and sea pass print out and directed me to the next step. I was then given a health form to fill out prior to check in. One per adult. Thank goodness I had two teens with me, so I got to fill this out for all 3 of us. Once I filled it out, I was directed to the check in desk. This had NO line what so ever. I walked straight up and was assisted by a very courteous staff member. She checked my documents, my children's documents and my credit card that matched my online check in. Then handed me 3 sea pass cards and sent me to the picture process desk right before boarding.
Just a quick note for those of you that are parents traveling alone with your children. Anyone under 18 years of age, take their passport, birth certificate and a letter from the other parent that is notarized that the other parent knows you are taking the children on a cruise out of the country. Because I had all of this, it took me less than 3 minutes to go through the check in desk. Very impressive.
Back on subject. There was one family ahead of us to get their pictures taken for the sea pass cards. Not really a wait at all. We had ours taken, and off to the ship we went. We were greeted by the teen counselors with a list of teen events for the evening so my teens would really know what to expect. We went to our deck. Our rooms were not going to be ready until 1:00 PM. We were asked to enjoy lunch at Windjammer cafe and explore the ship until they were ready.
I must tell you, we were on the pool deck by 12:25PM. Just 15 minutes to do all of this. I had never experienced that before in all my cruising. Truly, efficient staff who knew exactly what they were doing.
Our rooms were ready at 1:00PM like they said; there were no mistakes what so ever. Everything was what they told us and very prompt. We had a Grand Suite on deck 10. The room was large for a cruise ship. Our balcony was nice. We were starboard side. But, the dock in Tampa has you facing the oil refineries from the Starboard side. But I knew we would be leaving soon, so not a big deal.
We went though the safety drill at 4:15 PM. Luckily, since the staff started directing us down there around 4:00PM, we started promptly at 4:15PM and were done at 4:35PM. Simplest safety drill I had been through. After that we went to our stateroom since we had a balcony (besides, we hadn't found our way to the helipad yet) and watched our launch from there. Our luggage came to our room around 6:15PM, which is kind of late because I met others on board who had arrived at 2:00PM and had their luggage by 3:00PM. But, that is hearsay since I did not see it.
There are several perks to booking a suite. But not as many when you book a 5 night cruise instead of a 7 night or longer cruise. We had the use of the concierge lounge throughout our stay. Adults had the benefit of complimentary cocktails between 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM every night while on board. We had a reserved area for shows, but not reserved seats for the shows. Even though other cruises have reserved seating at the pool, the radiance of the Seas did not offer this perk for their suite guests. Galley tours and bridge tours were not scheduled. But when I showed interest in them, I was told the galley tour would be available the last day only at 10:00AM on Friday. Anyone could go, just to meet at the Cascades restaurant 10 minutes before the tour. The bridge tour could only be on a day that was in port. I do understand the need to do this when the crew is not constantly steering the ship, but cruises past, we could go to the bridge while sailing because most people go on excursions on port days.
Going to some unfavorable review comments for now. In my stateroom was a magnifying mirror. I did not have to bring my mirror after all. I did not check this with the RCCL phone staff on land; I checked this information prior to packing with the concierge on the ship. And was told there were none and to pack mine. Well,, when I opened my luggage and unwrapped my very expensive lighted magnifying mirror for the second time,,, (remember I checked it when I got off the plane and it was not broken) It was broken now aboard the ship. Needless to say, I was furious, because 1) they broke it and 2) I did not have to bring it since there was one in the room.
The next complaint is small but inconvenient. Time changes. What a nightmare. We stayed on Eastern day light savings time the first day. The next morning we were on Central day light savings time. When we entered port, we stayed on Central day light savings time, but local time was regular central time. That part is pretty common. Our last sea day was on central day light savings time, but for our debarkation day, we were on Eastern day light savings time. Three time zones on a 5 night cruise is ridiculous. We should have stayed on one time zone for the entire ship time, and just gone by ship time while in port, instead of all the time changes. This does not make for a restful vacation.
My stateroom attendant Patricia from Lima Peru was absolutely amazing. For those of you booking a suite, please make sure you get a midship starboard side room to get Patricia as your suite attendant. Seriously, she was the best I have ever had. She was not informed of my large print request, but quickly took care of it within 10 minutes and remembered every day without reminders. She took extra care to know what my children's names were and made them feel special. Me too, but usually the adults always get the preferred treatment. She remembered who liked what pillows and made sure each bed was turned down to our liking every night. She changed my dinner reservations when I needed them done for other reasons without hesitation. I even asked her to send a note to a guest on another floor and she did so without complaint and notified me when it was delivered. Truly, one of Royal Caribbean's best suite attendants ever hired. She felt more like a friend helping me than a suite attendant.
Formal night was beautiful. But the air conditioning for the ship seemed like it was working extra hard, but not producing much cool air that evening. I was in sleeveless, so know I was not dressed heavily for this event. I was perspiring from the time I was getting ready to the pictures to the dinner. I t was excessively warm. And honestly, uncomfortable. Dinner in the dining room that evening was alright. The appetizers were limited, but the main course was phenomenal. Dessert was limited too, but very good. The staff seemed as if they wanted to rush us through the dining process. I would understand if we were in first seating, but we were in late seating. So, the need to rush us along did not seem appropriate. I only dined in the dining room this one night.
Chops Grille was on our agenda for one of our evenings on board. The appetizers were wonderful. Unfortunately each of us ordered the same appetizer, so I could not compare the others. We all had the Dungeness crab and shrimp cakes. They should be offered as a main dish. They are that wonderful. We each had a different steak category. I had the filet Mignon butterflied so it would not be so red in the middle. I like medium heat on my steaks. My son had the New York Strip, and my daughter had the porterhouse. Each was good, but the New York Strip was the best. The staff cooked the steaks correctly to each of our preferences of Medium and medium rare. Dessert was as it should be. Absolutely phenomenal with excellent choices. My son had Red Velvet cake. Very moist and not too overshadowed by the food coloring, which can sometimes take away from the cocoa flavor in a red velvet cake. It was done well. My daughter had the raspberry duo. This was beautifully presented. She almost did not want to eat it because it was so beautifully plated. It was a tangy raspberry mousse under a white chocolate mouse with a raspberry and strawberry glaze. The tartness of the berries and the creaminess of the white chocolate were an amazing paring and blended well on the palate. I had the restaurants version of Mississippi mud pie. This was nothing like Mississippi mud pie, but was utterly amazing. The rich chocolate almost frozen ganache and mousse were so delectable. This is what we all look for in a chocolate dessert. It had a hard, crisp crunchy bottom. This was truly a chocolate connoisseur's dream dessert. It will be hard for anyone to choose between these desserts.
Portofinos was on our agenda one night as well. The appetizers were limited. Nothing to really write about. The main courses were wonderful for those that like more exotic flavors. But alas, I chose the filet mignon, my son had the T bone, and my daughter tried to seafood medley. My daughter found out, she does not care for lobster. But that is a personal choice. My filet was better at Portofino's than Chops. My son's T bone was also better than his New York strip at Chops. I know they all use the same Galley, so my night at Chops may have just been an off night for the staff.
Desserts at Portofino's. I was so full, I could not even attempt to order dessert. Before dessert arrived, we were given a pre dessert plate for nibbling on. My daughter was so impressed with the leaf shaped dipped crispy cookies, that is what she had for dessert. An entire plate of them. My son had the dessert sampler. It consisted of a chocolate layered shot glass. A decadent fudge brownie dipped in chocolate, a fruit parfait that was extremely light and bursting with fresh fruit, mostly berries. There was one other thing, and I am sorry to say, I have forgotten it. My son ate it so fast that I did not get to see it or get his response prior to going to the next dessert.
The staff at both Portofinos and Chops were good, but when you have young teens, they tend to not serve you as well as they do adult guests. They had no idea that my children were raised trying new things and rating restaurants. They were not rude by any means, please know that. But for those of you who have children and go to restaurants, you know what I am probably talking about. You know, the staff that sees a mother with her children, they think "not a big tipper" so they take care of you, but no doting over you like those dressed to the nines and appear to tip well.
The casino. The casino was average size, they had many slot machines, ranging from penny machines to our standard machines we have all gambled on before. The tables had a good variety. They had Craps, Roulette, baccarat, 2-3 blackjack tables, Caribbean Stud and Three Card Poker. They even had a Texas Holdem Table. Good choices for gamblers. But, the slot machines paid quarters. Most of us are not used to that anymore, so I had to go back about 5 years ago with my mentality for gambling. The casino is not promoted as much as other ships. They want you to enjoy everything else on board. There was only one slots tournament and it was the last day of the cruise. They had a blackjack tournament too on the last day. And for those of you that are non smokers, they had a non smoking night during formal night on the cruise. I didn't do well at slots at all, but I did get a straight flush on three card poker. So my time in the casino was not a total bust.
The pool areas were packed. This was a Spring Break cruise. Only 50 berths were not being used on this cruise. We really were at maximum capacity. The only days you could find a pool deck chair was on port days. And let me tell you, the only thing to do on the cruise ship on port days is lounging around the pool, movies in the theater and eating. Everything else is closed. I had hoped to peruse the photos while everyone was off the ship, but, they had wooden covers over the pictures so you couldn't even look at them. Glass covers would be better. We could at least see them when it is not open for purchase.
The shops on board were the most limited I have ever seen. Clothing was limited, watches were in abundance, and so was jewelry. Cigarettes and liqueur had good choices, but not as abundant as they are in port. But that is pretty common. Other than that, just purses and small trinkets and a convenience store for chips and candy. Nothing too impressive.
Beware the internet!!!!! My daughter had a spending limit per day. Instead of buying things she used the internet every day. I mean every day. Her spending limit was on internet and a few airbrushed tattoos. The internet is $0.65 per minute. Keep your teens away from it, unless they have a really good sense of time management. I heard parents at guest relations just having an absolute cow about their teenagers' usage because that adds up quickly and can cost a fortune. Besides, you want them enjoying the ship and all it offers, not just talking to their friends like they always do. Luckily, my daughter kept within her budget every day.
The teen program.
This program deserves a lot of recognition. My son,, well,, I never saw him except when we ate dinner and when he had to come back to the room because there was a mandatory curfew of 1:00AM for anyone under the age of 18. He rock climbed, he did scavenger hunts. He made so many new friends on board. There were so many activities that were truly age appropriate that he never felt like a small child. He felt like an independent teenager who got to do what he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted. Coming back home to the real world will probably be a let down for him to say the least. His teen counselors were like friends instead of babysitters. And that is how he has felt on other cruises. So, if you are traveling with young teenagers, this is the ship to go on with them. They will never be bored and never complain they are away from there friends at home.
Older teens and drinking.
Royal Caribbean has a no drinking policy for anyone under the age of 21. That is good. But I spoke to several 18-20 years olds with alcoholic beverages in their hands and pretty drunk. They had figured out how to drink on board. The sea pass cards have two holes punched in them to show the guest is a minor. However, if they lose their cards and go down to guest relations to get a new one,,, if they get a tired employee or someone who does not pay attention to the monitor, just looks at the passenger. They don't always punch holes in the new cards. My daughter and son both lost their cards a few times. My daughter always had holes punched in her new card, but my son did not. Luckily he is a young teen and could not pass as an adult at the bars with just his sea pass not punched.
So, the drinking policy has to be corrected with guest relations staff. The bartenders don't really have to check ID's for age, they go by the sea pass cards. If they don't have holes punched in them, they can be served.
I only went out a few times for night life because I am a morning person, but the night life options were great. They had 80's and 70's theme nights at the discos. Karaoke and great shows in the Aurora Theater. But again, I saw several under age people drinking. The reason I know they were under age is because I spoke with them and asked how they had drinks being 19 and 20. Being tipsy like they were, they told me.
Availability of everything.
Hours of operations for different things was confusing to say the least.
The first day on board, we went several times to the rock climbing wall to sign waivers for my teens to climb, and no one was ever there. Even though there were times listed on the daily compass. The second day, my daughter was told, no waiver was needed. But that afternoon, my son came and got me to sign it while they were open so he could climb. I signed it for both.
Instead of having the rock climbing wall open during the daytime all day, it was open two hours at a time and closed for two hours at a time. It took a lot to get there in time to climb. The restaurants like Windjammer, cascades and so on, were closed for time periods during the day. So if you were active during the hours of operation and then were hungry when they were closed, you had to order limited room service, or go to the back of the ship for the sea view cafe. Room service for a suite guest has its perks. You can choose from the main dining room menu, and you are not charged for room service after 10:30 PM like the rest of the ship.
But, you can only get the menu items during operating hours of the main dining room. I understand that policy. But all we had in our room was the main dining room menu. Not the room service standard menu. Okay, didn't realize there was a room service menu on the TV. That was my misunderstanding. So when I called for room service the first time and only could get standard menu, they told me to look on the TV and then call back. Not giving me a chance to say I would just take a hamburger. When I would call room service close to the cut off or start time of the Main dining room menu. They did the same thing. It's as if the 15 minutes before the dining room opened, they wouldn't take the order and rudely tell me to look at the TV and order from there. Forget taking my order and in 5-15 minutes make it when the dining room opened. They just brushed me off each time.
Late night before going to bed (okay, late night was before midnight for me most nights) most bars were closed that offered drinks to take with you to your room so you could have something to drink in your room. I am not talking alcohol, I am talking sodas, juice, etc.
I know I have probably left some stuff out. But I must comment on efficiency. The staff is trained so well in efficiency, that it has come across to many of the passengers as the feeling of you need to get off the ship because your vacation is almost over on the second day of the cruise until the end.
Settling your Sea Pass Account
A few things were good and bad about the sea pass account. Each day's charges were on the interactive TV. That was nice, it saves paper. But, only one account had total amount due. The main cardholder of the account. So you could not check without taking your calculator out and adding up each person's charges to make sure they kept in their budget. Each person had their own line items of purchases, but they were on there twice as positive and negative charges. The positive were the actual purchases. The negatives were moving them from the child's account to my account balance. So, the teens had 0.00 balances each day. As a personal preference, I really did not like that. But others would probably love it.
If you pre pay your gratuities before you board... you are not allowed to remove them or transfer them to an employee or a few employees that truly deserve them. If I paid gratuities on board, I would have been able to remove them and then pay each employee as I preferred. So if you prefer to pay your staff personally, do not pre pay gratuities, they will not take care of this at all.
I was in group 1 for debarkation. Since I was a suite guest, the suite guests had a private waiting area at Portofinos. So as not to be crowded. They offered continental breakfast. This entailed a few pastries, cheese, and canapEs with honeydew melon. Not really a great way to spend your last breakfast on board. The main dining room where most people sat and waited had a full breakfast. I am not sure how Royal Caribbean can consider this a perk for their suite guests.
We had to be at Portofinos and out of our room by 8:00AM. Our debarkation time was 8:30 AM. We left the ship then. Went though immigration and customs and were out of the terminal by 8:40AM. No one checked my bags, they just checked my passport. They did not even check to see if I was getting off the ship with the correct children. My children have a different last name than me. So I figured they would check. Nope.
While I was waiting at the airport, I met several people who were on board our sailing as well. They told me their horror stories of what happened to them. Very few people had good stories to tell. Most of them kept repeating the same scenario. They felt like they were being forced to hurry up and finish their vacation from the beginning. One ladies story was so horrific, I don't know how embellished her story was, so I will not write about it because my hopes are that it was embellished a lot. I cannot fathom it really happened.
Will I sail Royal Caribbean again? Probably not. Will I sell it to my clients? I will, but inform them completely of what is entailed so they make an informed decision to book or not. Read Less