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81 Royal Caribbean Cruise to Nowhere Cruise Reviews

I knew this new ship was going to cause "FREEDOM FRENZY" :-) I am a CLIA Certified MCC. (Master Cruise Counselor) While on a Royal Caribbean Seminar at Sea, each person on our winning Team WON a stateroom on the Freedom of the ... Read More
I knew this new ship was going to cause "FREEDOM FRENZY" :-) I am a CLIA Certified MCC. (Master Cruise Counselor) While on a Royal Caribbean Seminar at Sea, each person on our winning Team WON a stateroom on the Freedom of the Seas as our Reward! WOW! AND we could take our spouse or whoever else we wanted! I was thrilled to be able to take my honey! We are Diamond Members with Royal Caribbean and are booked on the Sept 24th sailing so we were REALLY excited to check out 'OUR SHIP'! We live 20 minutes out of Boston so we drove our car in. RCCL had complementary Event Parking for us. From the parking lot they shuttled us over to the Black Falcon Pier. (3 minutes?) I LOVE cruising out of Boston as they always have dozens of people there to check people in! After showing our ID's we were given out SeaPass Cards which were inside a nice 3-D Pocket folder. The cards were marked Inaugural Celebration 2006. We were appointed an Aft Inside Stateroom on Deck 9. We were onboard early. They announced that the Staterooms were not ready but we were invited to explore the ship. So we immediately headed up to Deck 5 to see The Promenade. We walked across the lighted walkway that we had seen so many time on the RCCL website! To our right was the Guest RElations Desk, to our left the elegant Champagne Bar. Our first stop was up ahead on our left, the Cafe Promenade for a chance to get our bearings and grab a quick bite, but first I walked our to Guest Relations to get a copy of the 'Compass' to see what was going on for the Days Events. There were not many people on board yet so I walked around and got a few photos of the barber shop, A Clean Shave (there was already someone getting a cut!) and Ben N Jerry's. We walked the promenade taking photos of the pubs and headed up one deck(6) to check out the Schooner Bar, then the Crypt, the Gothic two level Dance Club. Continuing on Deck 6 we approached the Casino. IT IS HUGE! I was really surprised as I had not heard a word about it's size! A BIG SURPRISE! Lots of machines, pennies and up. Plenty of Tables, Roulette and one Craps. We continued to the Photo Shop and learned about the new way to get your photos. At certain times during the cruise, say you wanted your portrait taken .... they swipe your SeaPass Card. The next day, you go to the photo shop, swipe your card and ANY of your photos will come up on their computer for you to see, IF you had it swiped before it was taken. Very Cool! Next on to Boleros. I met Adrianne. We told him we'd be back 'cause we 'heard about him on Cruise Critic! And that he has a wonderful reputation already! :-) We took a peek at the Dining room....WOW! Beautiful! Then grabbed the elevator UP to Deck 8 to see if we could locate the stateroom we'll be in in September. We choose this location as it is near the internet cafe, Royal Caribbean Online. It has a nice open feeling and a small seating area that overlooks the promenade. (Good idea as it will help pass the time for someone who's waiting for you... when your checking your emails.;-) Next UP to Deck 11, The Pool Deck, we HAD to see Whirlpool that jets out over the sea! WOW! We were surprised to see how spacious the whirlpools were! Got a great photo with the first man in! Heading towards the pools we decided time to have a Welcome Aboard Cocktail at the Pool Bar. I belive I had a Dirty Banana? It was delicious! (Did I mention everything was FREE!) We left a nice gratuity. With drinks in hand we walked across the 'bridge' between the two pools (sports pool on the left, main pool on the right and then two hot tubs also on the right.) It is AWESOME! WOW! I am not a pool person but I can become one real quick as one of the pools is wading shallow. We continued to walk towards midship to see the H2O Zone. When we walked around the corner (there's a big wall separating the two pool areas) I literally exclaimed WOW!!!!! IT IS AWESOME!!!!!! AWESOME!!!! There are plenty of chairs of all types available... in the shade, in the sun, in the line of the fine spray that may blow your way. NICE! Real Nice! Next is Squeeze, a Juice Bar. Fresh and Friendly. Checked out Chops and Portfinos and walked through the Windjammer Cafe. All pretty much the same as the larger Voyager Class ships. We walked back past the pool area and took the stairs near the Pool Bar UP to Deck 12. We walked the upper deck noticing there is a jogging track that is about 1/3 the length of the ship. That'll make a nice walk in the mornings working towards collecting those ShipShape Dollars! Next was all the Young people's area...Adventure Ocean, FUEL(A soda bar that has internet access available too) Looks like a place I'd enjoy. :-) No Adults allowed. :-( Johnny Rocket's is on the other ship of the ship offering hot dogs, burgers, etc and ONION RINGS!!!! YUM!!! We HAD to SEE THE FLOW RIDER!!!!!!!! Only One More Deck UP... I thought the Flow Rider was going to be a Gimmick, a fun gimmick. IT IS SO MUCH MORE! FUN!!!!! We did not get to do it (we can't swim anyway) they had Demonstrations going on every 1/2 hour. BUT the surfers were enjoying it SO much they just kept DOING IT!! THEY are LOVING their JOB!!!! It was mesmerizing and SO FUN to watch! It's Exciting! It's addicting to WATCH! I know where I'll be much of the time when we cruise in September.... WATCHING people WIPE OUT!!!! FUN!!!! Wicked FUN!!! I think we will even DO IT! It isn't deep, what is there to lose? LOL except maybe your bathing suit top. :-) LOL Be careful. FUN. Big KUDOS RCCL! Plenty of seating and tall horizontal surf boards off to the side so you can stand and eat and drink and enjoy, in the sun. Fun! Next to the Flowrider is the Mini Golf then the Basketball Court and Rock Climbing wall. A very active deck in deed. OK..... where's the "Diamond Club" we've been hearing about? UP one deck to Deck 14. Located up near Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge high atop the ship. It was not open. It is what used to be the Ninth Hole. I'm sure it will be real nice when it's open. Great View! It was time to head down to our stateroom as dragging our carry on around was, well, becoming a drag. We headed back up to the Promenade, Deck 5 and bumped into our neighbors who were invited guests. They wanted to have a cocktail so ...... we took them to SCHOONER BAR! They have never been on a cruise but he was in the Navy a WWII Veteran. They had a meeting to attend so we headed down for a slice of Pizza at Sorrentos. :-) We headed back to our stateroom. We had an inside stateroom which had a BIG ROUND mirror on the wall, over the bed directly across from you as you entered. A small sofa (small) and mini coffee table, a vanity and plenty of storage. (But please know we are used to the 'smallness' of stateroom living.) There was a refridge and hair dryer but nothing more than wrapped soap. No Shower cap etc. There was a soap dispenser in shower. The TOWELS thou.... Oh! The Towels! They were SO THICK and SO SOFT I thought for sure they would not be absorbent...They WERE! They WERE AWESOME!!! Now the bed. We BOTH did an Ahhhhh......when we laid down. Unbelievably comfortable. Thick 9" mattresses with pillow tops. Sheets ... smooth and crisp and yet soft. WHITE and embroidered with the RCCL logo in satin thread. PILLOWS!!! Lots of pillows! The bedding and the sleep was delicious. Our bed was made into a queen configuration which doesn't leave much room to get over to the night table or phone. If you wanted more room and didn't mind not sleeping together, have them make it into two twin beds and it would double your walking space.(You can meet in the middle between the two beds. ;-) hee hee We got changed and headed down to the dining room for dinner. It was open seating. The service was great! To my surprise they had the Best of Everything on the Menu.... so I had the escargot, salad and beef. The meat could melt in your mouth and the escargot....as expected. :-) They served our choice of wine again complimentary. Dinner was wonderful, again Great Service. The weather was very nice all day. The two days prior were pretty rainy and yucky, so we were lucking out. All of a sudden my hubby pointed out the sky, it was white on the bottom and a thick darkness that looked like a 7 and white caps in the water like I've never seen before while at sea! We were fine... we headed to check out the casino as we were now far enough out for it to open, but FIRST we have to go see Adrianne at Boleros. Boleros was hopping. Adrianne was everything I heard he was.... very entertaining. He WILL become a Freedom of the Sesa attraction! We look forward to seeing him and his bar mates again. We had a Mojito and headed to the Casino. I made a small donation and had fun trying to figure out HOW to play the machines. It was a long day but now we were off to see the SHOW in the main theater. We sat way up high in the balcony. There was plenty of room everywhere but that's where we choose to be. The Cruise Director Ken Rush introduced the show and the lights went down. It NEVER fails, It doesn't matter WHAT show I am at...... When the lights go down, and the music is playing ... I nod off. A sleepy comfortable NOD. (Like how some people NOD OFF when they are 'watching' a a ball game?) Same thing....comfy nod. What i DID see of the show was very good. After the show we headed to bed, never did get back to The Crypt, but we will. It was a long day., but FUN! I thought the Freedom was going to be Too Big...She's Not! Where you 'feel' the largness of the ship is in the public areas, The Ship Shape Center, The Casino, the Adventure Ocean, the Pool Deck, the H2O Zone. She's very similar to the Voyager (ie: Voyager Class) which made it very easy for us to navigate. Great ship. Not too big. Didn't "SEEM' like there were that many people on the same ship. We only had the one day, did what we could and Can't WAIT to get back onboard on September 24th with my Cruise Critic Pals! Bon Voyage! Did I mention the bedding? :-) Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
Just returned from the magnificent Freedom of the Seas. WOW! WOW! WOW! You never need to get off the ship....of course, this was a cruise to nowhere so we couldn't, but who would want to anyway. This ship has everything. Great ... Read More
Just returned from the magnificent Freedom of the Seas. WOW! WOW! WOW! You never need to get off the ship....of course, this was a cruise to nowhere so we couldn't, but who would want to anyway. This ship has everything. Great service, nice cabins, and good food. Entertainment was awesome. Something for everyone to do and see. We actually tried to stay up for the entire 3 days so we could experience everything. We arrived at Miami airport on Monday around 12:30. Our flight was actually a half hour early. RCCL met us at baggage claim and transported us to ship. Embarkation was quick and easy. Smiling faces, glad to see us all around the ship. When we arrived at our cabin someone else was in there so we had to go to guest relations, which was a bit crazy with people trying to upgrade their cabins. They kept our luggage and told us to go have lunch and come back in an hour and they'd have everything straightened out. When we came back, our cabin was changed from a beautiful Promenade cabin on Deck 8 to an inside cabin on Deck 10 which was very, very small. A little sad about that, but hey...what can you do? Set out to explore from Deck 15 to Deck 12 and found wonderful places to eat and drink. Then to Deck 11 for even more fun with pool and solarium and surfing and on and on. This is a great ship for kids and families and singles and couples looking for relaxation. There are so many things to do that it never seems crowded even in the restaurants. We absolutely loved this ship and plan on changing our Mariner of the Seas August cruise to a Freedom of the Seas cruise. Questions....just ask. We'd be happy to try and answer them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
Overall this was not a bad cruise, but there was still a lot of disappointments. Getting to Cape Liberty was so much easier than New York. Check in was a little slow but not unbearable. Our room was ready and we went right to it. We ... Read More
Overall this was not a bad cruise, but there was still a lot of disappointments. Getting to Cape Liberty was so much easier than New York. Check in was a little slow but not unbearable. Our room was ready and we went right to it. We were traveling with friends who were celebrating their 40th Anniversary. We had called ahead to order flowers and cookies to be in their room when we arrived for their anniversary. Neither were there. We ask the steward and she looked into it. The cookies came about an hour later and the flowers never arrived until we were back from the show in the evening. No one seemed to be very helpful. Our cabin was nice and not a bad size. I thought the balcony was small. We were disappointed that we could not open the door between our friend's balcony and ours (since we had rooms next to one another). In our past cruises we have been able to open the door between the balcony and we enjoyed having a larger balcony to have breakfast and late afternoon snacks and drinks on. Room service was bit slow and I was disappointed in the menu. The food was good and our dining staff was great. We especially liked Clavin who was our wine steward -- he was fantastic. I thought our main waiter was a little rude and didn't seem to want to spend much time with us. The pool area was TOO crowded! Not enough chairs or too many people I'm not sure which! TOO many kids in the hot tubs! They were not soaking like you should be in a hot tub, but rather they were jumping and swimming like it was a pool! This should not be allowed and should be supervised, since the parents seem to not be supervising their children. Also all times of the night there were kids running up and down the hall waking us up! There obviously is no curfew for kids of any age! I think it is the cruise lines responsibility to make a curfew and stick by it. Kids up and down the elevators and playing in them. This is very very disturbing. Also the front desk was not very helpful for a problem that I had. They just shrugged it off well that is your problem you solve it. The shows were ok but not as good as Carnival's shows. Also, everything started too late. The Mardi Gras parade one evening started at 11:45 p.m. We are not early people but it's a little late for wait around for a parade. Also the 50's night didn't start until 11. I think there should be early times. I love to play bingo, but I never did on this cruise it was too expensive! The ports of call were all good. We did not reach Freeport for some reason or another which was disappointing. That was another day at sea which is just too much for me! Overall it was good. I am not sure I would go on RC again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
Wow, reality check time... Woke up this morning and no balcony overlooking the entire Pacific Ocean. No sound of the water churning. No rocking of the ship. All of my new best friends scattered to the four winds. Bummer...Time to book a ... Read More
Wow, reality check time... Woke up this morning and no balcony overlooking the entire Pacific Ocean. No sound of the water churning. No rocking of the ship. All of my new best friends scattered to the four winds. Bummer...Time to book a new one, fast! Background Info Departure date: 10-8-2003 Ship: Radiance of the Seas Cabin: 9256-category D, aft corner balcony We initially booked this cruise back in September of 2002. The date was switched from November to October and we were given $300 onboard credit for the trouble. Not only was this now a month earlier and warmer, but also cabin 9256 was originally booked and it came available after the dates were switched! Pre Cruise Spoke online with about 30 of our newest friends on Cruise Critic and they talked us into coming out to Honolulu early, so we left San Diego on Friday, Oct. 3 via limo for the Crowne Plaza Irvine hotel. I booked this hotel via Priceline for $28 for the night and it was literally within ½ mile of the John Wayne Orange County Airport and we caught a free shuttle to the airport in the morning. Unlike some of our fellow travelers, we had no problems with the flight on Aloha Air. We left John Wayne at 9:15 am and arrived in Honolulu after an exceptionally smooth flight at a little after 11:30am. We took a shuttle for about $9 per person to our hotel, but they packed us in and dropped off at several hotels before ours, so it was more than an hour to get to our hotel. I think I might spend the extra $ to take a cab next time and not have to make all the other stops. Our hotel was the Sheraton Waikiki. I booked this on Priceline for $100 per night. I really wanted to get the Hilton Hawaiian Village as it looked like a nicer property (it is) and also we have heard stories about getting the 'Priceline' rooms at the Sheraton (ie: 'city view' rooms above the A/C condenser). Upon arrival, we found we had been 'upgraded' to the Royal Hawaiian next door. Now, although the Royal is a 5 star property, what we wanted in Waikiki was ocean view. We knew that at the Royal, there was no way we were going to get upgraded to an ocean view, so we told them that I was doing reviews for both Cruise Critic and Priceline (true) and asked to be switched back. They did this with no problem. However, there were no ocean view rooms available at either property, even when we offered to pay more to get one, so we ended up with the City View over the A/C for the first two nights. By this time, practically everyone there, including the managers knew who we were (we were nice, but persistent about trying to get an oceanview as soon as one came available), and we checked a couple times a day to see if one had opened up. The hotel was hosting American Idol that weekend so I guess that's why it was so crowded. At one point, Cindy whispered, 'look behind you'. I did but did not know what she was talking about. I said, 'what?' She said, 'That was Paula Abdul who just bumped into you!!!'. So? Anyway, on Monday morning we called down again to see if there were any ocean view rooms and the person said, no they were still sold out, then she looked at our room number and said, 'Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis, I didn't realize it was you, yes, we will have your room available in a couple of hours'. Cool! So by 1pm we were moved into a wonderful ocean view room overlooking the pool area. This is a nice property, Cindy loved it, but I thought it was OK, and the service was VERY mediocre. The Hilton Hawaiian Village was a much nicer property with tremendous service. I would pay the extra $60 per night to stay there next time. Most of the time in Waikiki, we sat by the pool or exercised in preparation for the cruise. Since we were on West Coast time, we were up at 5am every morning and took long sunrise walks all around Waikiki. It was wonderful. I got a chance to work out at the fitness center every day (small, but never crowded). It was $8 per day, but for $16 you could use it for your whole stay and you also got to use the fitness center internet computer for free. Excellent deal. Cruise Critic Group Our awesome online group had arranged to meet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for drinks and dinner on Tuesday night before the cruise. We were told the Shell Bar would be available for us to meet up, but when we got to town, we found it did not open until 7:30pm and we were meeting at 6:30. Quickly posted online we were moving to the Tapa Bar and HHV was kind enough to direct people from the concierge desk to the Tapa Bar for our group and also to pass out name badges. People started showing up right at 6:30 and the HHV staff had no problem with us basically taking over the bar and moving all the tables together for our get together. Again, wonderful staff there. We had a great time and got to put the faces with the names (and logon names). After that we moved to the Golden Dragon restaurant at the HHV and had a fantastic dinner (and used our Entertainment Hawaii coupon to buy one, get one free. I would highly recommend getting the Entertainment book if you are going to spend any time in Hawaii before the cruise). Embarkation We couldn't wait to get on the ship, so we took a taxi early on Wed. to the port. We arrived at around 11:45am and waited about 10 minutes to get our suitcases checked in (they were just setting up the x-ray machines). It's a good thing we were early. It literally took us 5 minutes to get through the security line where everyone else would later have to wait up to 3 hours in the sun. After that, we were about 15th in line at check in, and when they opened up at a few minutes after noon, it again took just 5 minutes for us to check in and get our sign and sail cards. By 12:15 we were on the ship and headed to our room. Important Note: By about 1:30pm, the line was VERY long and people were standing in the hot sun for most of their wait. Either arrive very early like we did or later in the afternoon (after 5pm). Cabin We had the legendary cabin 9256 on the port aft corner (back left for you landlubbers). The room itself is a standard D cabin with no bathtub and small closet, but the balcony is what this cabin is all about. A big size (not as large as I expecting, but plenty big enough for 2 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs and a table. The balcony winds around toward the side of the ship, but you cannot see around the corner, but you still get a more than 180 degree view from the balcony. I was worried about the size of the cabin since we had only had a C cabin before and it was a good 100 sq. ft. larger than the D, and this was a 10 day cruise, but there was absolutely no problem. We never felt cramped, other than the small shower and the narrow closet. We had to have my dressed shirts pressed because the closet is not wide enough for clothes to hang directly perpendicular and they would get wrinkled. Other than that, we absolutely loved the cabin and for the 4 sea days, in October, the sun set DIRECTLY behind the ship, so we felt like it existed just for those of us with aft balconies. We will get this cabin or 1100 any time we sail on Radiance class. Nothing else will do. Just for comparison purposes, we also got the grand tour of cabin 1600, which was considered a B cabin (hi Celia and John!). This was a wonderfully appointed cabin, but really only the size of the C that we had on Explorer. The balcony is probably larger than ours and felt more spacious since it was a deck higher and it had MUCH more storage space than ours, but we felt that for the price of a D compared to a B, 9256 was a much better value for someone of our financial resources. Ship We had only been on Explorer before and this ship was some 1/3 smaller in size and felt much more intimate. The Schooner Bar/Colony Club on deck 6 was by far my favorite area. There is nothing like this on Explorer. Elegantly done in dark woods, this was a warm and inviting area of the ship and felt like cruising in the golden age might have been. We really missed the Promenade as a place to go for the meeting/gathering place. The Centrum area on deck 4 served this purpose on Radiance, but is a small space and was always rather crowded. There is still a lot to do on this ship. The solarium pool is where we thought we would be spending a lot of time, but since it was packed at all times, I actually never spent any time there at all. In comparison, the main pool was never really that crowded, even on sea days, and all the poolside activities always seemed to have the same group of people involved (Hi Nancy!!!), because the average age on this cruise was somewhere around 70. Those of us younger (in age or spirit!) were always doing things together while the majority of the passengers just sat in chairs or ate. The Starquest (Viking Crown) was a disco for adults and played the same music every night. It was fun but got old for me quickly. The Colony Club had some different music every night, but the best music on the ship was by the band Horizon in the Colony Club. They played a variety, but mostly rock and roll and was much more my kind of dancing spot. The walking/jogging track was too narrow and with all the slower moving folks on board, it was impossible to get a workout on it. Which was fine because the fitness center was fantastic. Completely modern machines and it was empty if you went early enough in the morning. The rock-climbing wall was shorter and easier than the one on Explorer (which I did not make it to the top on, even though I have rock-climbed quite a bit in my younger days). On Radiance though, both Cindy and I made the top with relative ease. The Adventure Ocean area looked like a fun area for kids, but there were probably less than a dozen kids 16 or younger on the whole ship, and two of them were the captain's kids. There is a very large casino on board (probably bigger than the one on Explorer) and there were 2 tournament days with one Slot and one Blackjack tournament each day. These were the opposite from Explorer; the Slot tournament on Radiance was much larger than the Blackjack (again, probably a function of the demographic of this cruise). I never once played the slot machines and played Blackjack only once. I broke even and Cindy won $20. She also won about $100 on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine. There are only 2 Wheel of Fortune slots on this ship and I know for a fact that they paid at least 4 $1000 jackpots on our sailing. Food Not as good as Explorer. The first four nights in the dining room were really not very good at all, especially the fish dishes. This improved drastically later in the cruise and I thought the lobster was excellent, both in the dining room and in Portofino's. The Windjammer food was good, not great, and I actually liked the food served during the 'Afternoon Tea' there much better than the lunch choices. Lunch was sandwiches, salads and light pastas, and burgers and hot dogs. The Tea had a taco station and heartier foods like Lasagna. The desserts were good, not great, except for my downfall, the flourless chocolate cake. As some other posters have stated, there were strange choices made for the dining room menus. There was neither Filet Mignon nor Lobster on either of the two formal nights. What's up with that? Room service lost our breakfast order twice so we just got coffee for our morning balcony repose and then walked up for breakfast in the Windjammer after that. There was also mention of the bread baskets not being left on the tables. One word to our headwaiter Mimi (the best customer service person on the seas), and we had hot bread baskets left on our table every night after that. On the other hand, Portofino's was spectacular. The service and food were impeccable. It also didn't hurt that Mimi had taken a liking to our table downstairs and was checking up on us. First he got us a reservation at a window table during sunset on a night when Portofino's was supposed to be sold out. Then, at one point the general manager of Portofino's came by and said, 'I don't know what your situation is, but Mimi is calling every 10 minutes to make sure we are taking care of you'. I would HIGHLY recommend doing at least one dinner here. I heard that the Seaview Cafe food was good, but rich (ie: greasy). The Solarium Cafe was nothing to speak of. Drink We don't drink soda, mostly just water (for non-alcoholic drinks), so I can't tell you about the pricing of that. However, one of the big negatives about this sailing compared to Explorer is that there are no longer drink cards for alcoholic beverages. That, plus the seemingly higher prices on Radiance meant that the minimum for a glass of wine (my preferred poison) went from $3.75 (with the drink card) on Explorer to $6.33 on Radiance. Ridiculous. Even doing the Wine and Dine card for dinners, we got hammered on drink costs at the end of the cruise. It's RCCL's fault, but they're going to drive me to do something I never have. Can you say smuggle? If they bring back the drink cards or have reasonable prices for a house wine, I may change my mind, but $6.33 per glass is just way too much. Ports Kauai By far the best tour we did was the helicopter tour on Kauai. It was absolutely incredible! We used a company called Bali Hai Tours, but for two reasons I would recommend Safari Tours instead. First, Bali Hai is out of Port Allen, which is about a 1/2 hour drive from the port at Nawiliwili. It would have been an $80 cab ride round trip for the two of us, so we just rented a car that morning ($35 for the day from Alamo and they pick you up and drop off right at the ship). Safari Helicopter Tours is located right at the airport, just 5 minutes from the port and they will pick you up at the ship. Second, Bali Hai does not do a tour video that you can buy. Some companies do the videos using stock footage and then add some audio and video from your tour. From talking to folks who used Safari, they do the entire video from footage and conversation on your specific tour. The tour itself was fantastic. The pilot said we had lucked out. It had rained all night the night before but cleared the day we were there, so we got to see all the waterfalls in their full glory. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of them everywhere. The Na'pali coast was awesome. Just get up the nerve and take one of these tours. You will never forget it. We spent a couple more hours driving around to some of the falls, and then we were getting pooped, so we headed back to the ship. As we did the sailaway, with the sunset directly off our aft balcony, it really felt like we were sailing away from Jurassic Park, with the fiery red sunset hanging over the jungle-laden cliffs of the island. Maui We had two days in Lahaina, my favorite of all the towns we visited in Hawaii. The first day we rented a car and drove part of the famous Hana Highway. We rented from Alamo at the Kapalua airport, about 10-15 minutes from the port. They told us they did not pick up at the port but that turned out to not be true. We caught free Alamo shuttles both directions. Just make a note of when the last shuttle from the rental location to the port leaves. The Hana Highway was wonderful, but we found an even better drive in Hilo a couple days later that is mentioned below. The road is not nearly as bad as described, but we stopped about 10 miles before Hana and I heard the road gets worse past Hana. There were numerous streams among the jungle, but they were all dry, so this part of the island must not have had much rain in recent days. I wanted to find a pool under a waterfall that I could swim in, but there were really none to do this in, but I did eventually get to do this, again with help from Hilo, as you will see below. On the way back, we stopped about 8 miles outside of Lahaina, where there is a snorkeling spot right off the main road. We saw many other snorkelers there, so we just pulled off the road and waded right in. There was great snorkeling right off the beach in clear waters, although the water was a bit cold. Great fun though. We later decided to just drop the car off that day and see about doing a snorkel tour the next day instead of just hanging around Lahaina as we had planned. We were VERY happy that we did the tour. The snorkel tour we did was on, I believe, the Lahaina Princess. It was about $59 per person and we just arranged it at one of the tour booths in Lahaina. We do not do tours through the ship at all. There are much better prices just booking online or at the pier. The Lahaina Princess is a big power cat, it made good time over to Lanai and the snorkeling was good. The way back to Lahaina is usually against the wind, which made for some fun wave jumping, but if you are prone to seasickness, avoid it. Also, since it is a power boat, it is not as conducive to seeing dolphins. Others in our group did the same tour but on a sail catamaran and they saw lots of dolphins. We had a great time bouncing over the waves and met some new friends that were on our ship. The women had a great time watching the guys try to negotiate the pitching deck carrying Maitais (which were free on this tour). Then it was back to the ship to watch another sunset sailaway from our balcony. Hilo In Hilo, we rented a car (also Alamo and also painless and quick and both checkout and checkin-we love Alamo) and went to the Volcanoes national park. I thought it would be boring, but it was really a lot of fun. The steaming ridge and all the other viewpoints of the Kilauea caldera are very neat. We did not walk out to see the flowing lava, it was about a 2-mile walk from the end of the road and we had other things we wanted to see in Hilo. Also in Hilo, in town, get the directions to the Rainbow Falls. As I said before, one of the things I wanted to check off my life list was to swim in a pool below a waterfall in Hawaii. Rainbow Falls is beautiful and literally right in town, but if you hike a short distance (100 yards or so) to the top of the falls, there is a big calm pool and some smaller pools under the cascades that you can swim in. The water was wonderfully refreshing (!) and I got to check that off my list. In addition, if you do get a rental car, if you head out of Hilo to the west on Highway 19, just at the edge of town you will see a sign for 'Scenic Route'. Take it and take your time on it. It is a series of tiny canyons full of tropical plants and flowers and cascading streams and waterfalls. It's like being in a ride at Disneyland except it's the real thing! It was absolutely amazing and we thought blew away the Hana Highway for sheer beauty. Kona In Kona, we did the Body Glove snorkel tour. Do the morning tour, again to avoid heavier seas that make snorkeling not as good. The Ironman Triathlon was in town and it made for tight movements for the tenders to get in. More on that below. Here's a tip: the Body Glove had a coupon in the Hawaii Entertainment book (which we bought before our cruise and it saved us hundreds of $$). We called and said we found them from their website and wanted to use the coupon. When they found out we were from the ship, they said that usually we would have to go through the ship tour, since they had a contract, but since we found them from the web, if we didn't say anything, they wouldn't either. We paid $42 per person with the coupon, would have been $89 per person through the ship. The trip out and back was fun and the snorkeling was fantastic! The ship also has a waterslide and a high dive for diving into the bay. The crew was a blast; they had a joke for everything and really know how to entertain their guests. The only problem was that we were supposed to be going on the morning tour with all the people from Radiance, but somehow our ship got bumped to the afternoon tour, so instead we were on a ship full of Infinity guests. Definitely not my type of crowd. Didn't seem very nice or fun, but oh well...We had a good time. Now for the tender situation. HUGE problem! This was the worst part of the cruise in my opinion. Celebrity Infinity was in Kona at the same time we were, as I said, and for most of the day there was only one berth for tenders. This meant long waits in the harbor and lines of 2-3 tenders waiting to drop off. Eventually Infinity was able to get a second berth that only they were using, so their lines in Kona to get back on the tenders were very short, while Radiance lines were very long and some people had to wait for 2 or 3 tenders before getting on (maybe 45 minutes to an hour in 95+ degree heat). I was even feeling light headed in the heat and we only had about a ½ hour wait. Also, Infinity had water and cold towels for their guests while Radiance had none. We actually rode back on our tender with the captain and he was on the radio trying to find a remedy, but I guess there just was not one. Anyway, we then had yet another beautiful sailaway and we were off on our 4 straight sea days. Now I love sea days and we had specifically planned our sailing to have the sea days at the end so we could recover from the GO-GO-GO of the island days. Good choice. Sea Days In contrast to another review, I felt that there was still so much to do on the sea days that I never even made it up to play miniature golf or to try out the golf simulator (which I really wanted to check out). I worked out in the gym every morning, sat by the pool for the first two days (it was cloudy and cooler the last two sea days, so not much pool action), did classes, played Bingo, bought a race horse—Go Cruisin Suzin!, did the rock wall, relaxed, ate and went out dancing with our friends every night. I just think sea days are so relaxing. There is no agenda, if you want to do something, you do, and if you want to do nothing, you do that too. The last evening, still trying to catch up on sleep from the night before, after staying up drinking and dancing all night, I went out onto our balcony in the mid-afternoon, laid a couple of towels on the lounger, pulled a pillow out of the cabin, laid down and covered up with a warm blanket (it was a bit chilly outside by this time). I proceeded to doze off to the soothing sound of the churning water below, and wake up every little while to a more a more beautiful sunset each time. I cannot think of any time in recent memory that I felt that peaceful and content. I never wanted it to end. But most good things do come to an end. Debarkation The last night was spent saying goodbye to all our new friends and exchanging cards and email addresses, assuring each other that we will stay in touch and hopefully someday get the chance to cruise together again. I walked the decks that night in the wind and said goodbye for now. The next morning we arrived in port in Ensenada at around 2 am. We had to have our checked bags packed and in the hall by 10pm the night before and we had everything else packed and ready to go as well, so we got up at 5:30am, 45 minutes before our bus was scheduled to leave. The debarkation by color and number was poorly designed, with many people arriving on time, only to have to wait for an hour + before their bus was finally called. We were scheduled for 6:15 and we actually got on our bus at 8am. For future cruisers. Just get some breakfast and then stay in your room until your number is actually called. There is no reason to show up before that time. Once your color and number are called, there is plenty of time for you to get to the theater and sign in before your group will leave. Once we did get called to go, it was relatively easy after that. We walked right onto the bus and then napped for the 2 ½ hour crossing of the border. Most of the time is consumed in the drive from the toll road to the Otay checkpoint. This drive is on city streets and takes forever. Just nap if you can and pretty soon you will reach the border. At the border, the cruise lines have clearly learned their lesson from past bad experiences. We went through a special bus line that took about 20-30 minutes to cross and we did not-I repeat-did not have to get off the bus at all! The customs agent came on the bus and checked identification and collected the customs declaration forms and that was it. We were all pleasantly surprised. From there it was another 20 minutes to the airport where we got off and got our baggage. Since we are from San Diego, we just caught a cab from there, but the bus will drop you right in front of your airline so you can check right in. Overall, what I can say is this: I'm looking at when I can book this itinerary again, since I loved it, and still have many, many things on the islands and the ship that I didn't have nearly enough time to do on this first pass! Read Less
Sail Date October 2003
Radiance of the Seas Cruise Vancouver to Hawaii Sept. 27/03 - Oct. 08/03 This was my 11th cruise to date, and my 4th cruise on Royal Caribbean. I've also previously cruised on Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Princess. ... Read More
Radiance of the Seas Cruise Vancouver to Hawaii Sept. 27/03 - Oct. 08/03 This was my 11th cruise to date, and my 4th cruise on Royal Caribbean. I've also previously cruised on Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, and Princess. This was the Radiance's last sailing of the season from Vancouver, after operating the Alaska cruises since May. We were to leave from Ballantyne Pier at 5:00 p.m. We arrived via taxi down at the pier around 12:30 pm. There seemed to be quite large lineups and it took us about 45 minutes to get up to the front. We immediately found out why the lines were long. Each of the ticket agents was explaining to all the guests and handing out a letter from the Captain which stated that work was being done on the starboard propulsion system, which would delay the departure from Vancouver. The expected time of departure would now be about sunrise the next morning --- guests who so wished could go ashore and return to ship by 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning. We preferred staying onboard. This work had to be done to change around the pod maneuverability from the settings they'd had it on from Alaska cruises before setting off for Hawaii. Gift shops and casino would remain closed due the fact we were still in port, other than that there was no impact on the itinerary and we did catch up the time during our 5 day at sea travels to the islands. Normally we would have pre-cleared U.S. Customs in Vancouver, however they were going to have us wait and clear customs in Hilo, Hawaii when we got there instead. All Non-Americans had to give up their passports for safe-keeping (and to speed up paperwork) with the purser's desk on this trip, as we do on the Caribbean ones. We had a category E1 balcony cabin (#1524) on Deck 10 in the fore starboard portion of the ship. We were right underneath the entranceway to the spa hair salon in one direction, and the solarium in the other. Very quiet and nice location. Cabins in the category are nice, however a little on the smaller side than most balcony cabins in the older series of ships. The beds are rounded off in an odd way and not as long as regular bed I'd bet --- was long enough for me however my partner who's 6'4" had feet sticking out. Little fridge provided with pop supplied as well as water - charged to the room when used. Our excellent cabin steward Ida (pronounced Eeda) from the Philippines was very good at servicing the room promptly and accurately and always provided us a smile and some interesting conversation. He spoke impeccable English and was always beaming. The Radiance of the Seas is a remarkably beautiful ship. The artwork alone is stunning and causes one to take a second look at everything up and down hallways and staircases. The layout of the ship is such that you never feel crowded, even though we'd heard ours was a full cruise with no available rooms left. The children have their own areas and do not bother any adults in solarium at all. The solarium is a relaxing place to lie down and rest, swim, soak in the hot tub, or grab a little snack. The Windjammer Buffet is set out in such a way that nobody is "bumping" into each other and holding things up. They have several different stations with various types of foods being at different stations from others. Beverages are received at another area or one of the wonderful servers on the floor will be happy to get whatever it is you need. That's one thing I feel the Royal Caribbean staff seem to do much better than so many others --- they can always seem to talk to you, clear things away, and help you find a seat and get your beverage all at the same time. Their true friendliness makes one feel special. We ate at the Windjammer each breakfast and lunch and always had dinner at the Dining Room. We were seated at a table for 10, which made me a little wary at first (we had asked for a small table seating - I have trouble hearing) but it turned out that our dining companions were really nice and a joy to sit with. Linda & David from Detroit, and Cindy and Byron from Chicago, were both celebrating their anniversaries on this cruise, and Sverre and Torille from Norway were traveling with their sons Christopher and Patrick, both who'd been adopted from Korea when they were very young. Lots of love could be felt around the table, and many laughs were shared by us all. Our Waiter was Michael from the Philippines, Asst. Waiter was Ashton from Guyana, and the head waiter was Alan from Britain (now Miami). Lovely Rowena from Philippines made sure we had our ginger ales and sodas on the table each night. We missed out on some of the entertainers this time onboard, however a couple of the more notable shows were Kenny James (Motown Hits) - we bought his CD definitely - Spirit of Polynesia, Dave Somerville (original lead voice of the Diamonds) The Radiance Singers and Dancers had apparently just come on in Vancouver and it did seem as if they hadn't yet had enough time to practice and get themselves in perfect "sync". That said, the did put on a couple of good shows. The first one they were to have "Rockin in Paradise" on day 5 Sea Day was canceled, as the Cruise Director Angie felt there was there was too much rocking of the ship that particular night the waves were about 15 foot or so. For those interested in the attire worn on an 11 night Hawaiian cruise, it was as follows: Day 1 Casual Day 2 Formal Day 3 Casual Day 4 Smart Casual Day 5 Casual / Western Day 6 Smart Casual Day 7 Casual / Hawaiian Day 8 Casual / 50's Day 9 Formal Day 10 Casual Day 11 Casual We enjoyed our tablemates and our servers in the Cascades Dining Room so much that we didn't get to Chops Grille or Portofino Restaurant at all on this cruise. We've been on this particular cruise a few times before and weren't sure which excursions we wanted to do until we were onboard. On the Radiance one can easily book excursions from the comfort of your stateroom on the RCTV menu. We decided to return to the Tropical Botanical Gardens tour in Hilo, which we'd taken last year on the Statendam. As expected the gardens were still beautiful, yet had a different look to them being a different time of year chosen to visit. In Nawiliwili, Kauai we also returned to a favourite excursion --- the Kauai Helicopter Flightseeing ---- unbelievable sights to behold and just as spectacular to see it again as it had been the first time. Photos from there (and from this cruise) can be viewed at http://community.webshots.com/user/davemaclean In Lahaina, Maui we took an excursion we hadn't tried before called Rainforest and Water Fall Hiking Adventure. This was spectacular. Emily our naturalist drove the 7 of us who went over to the other side of the island, stopping by at various sites for windsurfing watching, etc... before heading up the Hana Highway to the Garden of Eden Botanical Garden. We took a quite strenous hike and then had a swim in a tropical pool under a waterfall. Lunch, more swimming and back up the big hill for the drive back to the ship. An excellent tour I'd do again in a minute. Speaking of doing it again --- we also had a visit with the amicable Loyalty Ambassador Cindy Dangel , (who also hails from our Province of British Columbia) and decided to book next spring's cruise from Hawaii to Vancouver onboard the new 'Serenade of the Seas'. This time we did not go to the Cruise Critic Party. It was held in the Starquest Disco on day 3 (sea day) from 9:30 - 10 AM --- I didn't even wake up until after it was over ! Passed on the Captain's gathering and the Crown and Anchor repeater's parties this time as well. After the cruise spent some time in Waikiki in the Marriot Waikiki Beach Resort before returning home to Vancouver. Thanks to RCI and to the Radiance of the Seas for providing such a wonderful vacation experience. I was hoping for a repeat of our first fantastic voyage on the Radiance, and I was not let down at all. Anyone who decides to cruise this ship is in for a treat ! Read Less
Sail Date September 2003
Day 1 May 18th I'm not normally a morning person, but on this day I was up and at em'! After packing, driving 2 hours, parking at the Park n Ride and being dropped at the San Diego airport, DH and I met with the RCCL rep, and ... Read More
Day 1 May 18th I'm not normally a morning person, but on this day I was up and at em'! After packing, driving 2 hours, parking at the Park n Ride and being dropped at the San Diego airport, DH and I met with the RCCL rep, and about an hour later, we were boarding the first buses leaving for Ensenada - this was about 11 AM. We had a sort of crazy bus ride down. Even though our driver was very good (Heard some harrowing stories from other cruisers.), our "problem" was a bit different. We had a seat, second from the back, that was loose and we literally rocked the whole way down! The seat even started squeaking in a rhythmic fashion; this was getting downright embarrassing! (Sounded like we were doing something, if you know what I mean!) Luckily, we met a very nice couple, Randy and Lisa, who were sitting in the seat behind us. In addition to being really good sports about our seat bouncing around, our lively discussion sure made the trip go faster. After the Hotel check-in process, we showed up at the pier around 2:30, the thing was, the Vision of the Seas hadn't made it there yet! A famous ship "The World" was docked there, and sailed away while we were hanging tight in our buses. Vision docked about 3 PM, and we were boarding about 30 minutes later. Finally, we arrived at our suite. It was wonderful! We enjoyed looking around, did some unpacking, then went up to the Windjammer for some refreshments. Of course, we had to do the muster drill, I think it was at 6 PM. Skipping to dinner, we were seated at a table for 6, but only 4 of us showed up that evening. Sometimes we have trouble remembering names, but not tonight. This great couple had the same names as my parents, Cathy and John. They were the nicest people, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We did skip desert and the evening show, because I had made arrangements over the web to meet some of the Cruise Compass folks at the Viking Crown Lounge at 10 PM for a "bon voyage toast." About 8 of us showed up, I'm sure the people on East Coast time were passed out by now. We had a fun time putting some faces to names after our months of chatting on-line. We even all got on the dance floor for some of the songs. By this time, we were far enough out to sea that the swells were getting big (and the Viking Crown Lounge is at the top, Deck 11), you should have seen how we were dancing to compensate for the moving dance floor. You don't even have to drink to feel like you're half-loaded in this situation! Day 2 May 19th Even waking up to heavy swells (they were about 8-10 feet), I was doing fine. We went the dining room for breakfast, and one of our tablemates we just met decided to talk quite a bit about seasickness. I don't know if that's what did it, but that breakfast felt like a small boulder in my stomach! We went back to our cabin (we saw our cabin attendant and she did not feel good!) and I drank some soda, took a bonine, then went out to the balcony for some deep breaths of fresh air and a look at the horizon. For a few minutes I questioned whether I would make the Cruise Critic Party, but since I basically promised everyone on-line that I would host an icebreaker, I made myself go. It's back to the Viking Crown Lounge (oh, Deck 11!) but once I got there and started working with the RCCL staff, my mind got off the seasickness track. Either that, or the bonine was kicking in. Anyway, we played a "20 questions game" fill out the form with 20 different names, many of the questions were cruise-related, but many were not. We had about 40 people attend our party, and they really got into the game. Thanks to my trip to the Purser's desk the day before, RCCL supplied pens for everyone, and gave me a box of prizes to give out to the winners. I put DH in charge of collecting and numbering the completed forms so we could award the prizes. I got to meet most of the people who conversed on-line for months and even though the 1-hour party was too short, we then saw each other throughout the cruise and had more time to socialize. Steve took a group photo and has posted it on line. That afternoon we saw the Cabaret with comedy magician, Nick Lewin. He was very good with that great British humor. DH liked him a lot and he is a tough critic! We got gussied up for Formal Night, saw the Theatre production "Boogie Wonderland" and had another enjoyable dinner with Cathy and John (still just the 4 of us). The Captain's table was right next to ours and this was the only evening he dined at our seating. Afterwards, we went for late night dancing in the Viking Crown Lounge, and danced with "the almost Village People" to the Y.M.C.A. It was a blast! The place was packed. Day 3 May 20th OK - The sea was calmer, and we were really into the "relaxation" mode! This was a day for pampering. I had a pedicure in the morning (my second ever), and then coerced DH into a "Couples Massage" class after lunch! There were about 10 couples in the room, including one we knew from the CC Party. We got to keep the bottle of oil provided, Lotus Flower, and we learned some of the "proper" techniques of giving a back/shoulder massage - very good!! Later in the day, we checked out the pre-dinner show with The Van Dells. They are like a 50's Sock Hop Trio, and they throw in some 3-Stooges like comedy between performing their songs. One of the guys (looks like a younger replacement member) comes out later in full Las Vegas Elvis gear and does a few Elvis numbers with enough pelvic moves to whip the women into a frenzy! They were a pretty good act, but I have to say, the "funny" guy of the group gave me the biggest laugh of the whole cruise! He did a "dead on" imitation of the Crocodile Hunter while making fun of the other guy's "teeny tail." I was laughing so hard I was crying!! That evening, we finally met our other tablemates from New Hampshire, Mark and Melody. They were so nice! They spent the first evening in their cabin, exhausted by their 15-hour trip, and the 2nd night Mark got seasick. We were glad they were feeling better and ready to join in the cruise dining experience. Whenever the 6 of us were together, we started doing the after dinner "shooters" and it was especially fun to get Cathy to do it! Her eyes would water, she'd have to take off her glasses and she'd be laughing really hard all the while! We had the best bar waiter, Jai, who was a pleasure to be around. He would really entice us with these drinks - one night we had the "Italian Stallion" which had Kahlua, Frangelico and Bailey's. I asked him when we'd be having the "Mad Cuban" (that is the name I tease my husband with!) After dinner, we caught a bit of the Hoe Down, then went to see the Late Night Comedy with Rick Corso (nothing to write home about). Day 4 May 21st Here we are - our third day at sea, "Polynesia Day," and we are really enjoying it! We decided to watch the "Spirit of Polynesia" entertainment after breakfast, but after about 35 minutes of watching a Hawaiian style fashion show, we headed off to the next activity. We went to a Backstage Tour of the Masquerade Theatre - we primarily watched how the sound board is operated during a performance and we got to see the changing areas for the performers backstage. We had an extensive Q&A session with one of the dancers who was from Canada. After this informative session, we went up to deck 10 for a mile of walking and a short workout with machines and free weights. We took it easy after lunch, then went to a 5 PM Lecture on the History of Magic from Nick Lewin. It lasted an hour and we wanted it to go longer! He interspersed magic tricks, tales about magic's history and entertained questions from the audience, of course, adding in many humorous comments! We got a brief biography of Houdini and how he would conduct his performances to enrapture his audiences. Afterwards, we bought a copy of Nick Lewin's DVD and had him autograph it. He really was one of the highlights of our trip! Prior to dinner, we also saw "On the Edge" which features two young guys who do juggling and comedy. I cracked up when they came out in the audience (we were in the 5th row and they went to about the 10th row) stood on the seats, and juggled several eggs over the heads of 4 audience members! After dinner, we went to the Love & Marriage Game Show - it was funny, but not as good as some we'd seen in the past. One unexpected thing happened (for me). The Cruise Director, Mark, announced that only 1 act had signed up for the Guest Talent Show being held the following evening, and welcomed additional people to come to the Purser's desk right away to sign up, or else this was going to be the shortest show in history! I'd been on 10 cruises before and had never tried to sign up, but I decided I wanted to! So we headed over to the Purser's Desk - I was now officially act number four. We took our video camera up to the pool deck for the "Party Under the Stars" which was really like a late night luau (11 PM to 1 AM). This was very well done - food, ice carvings, and especially the entertainment! They did dances from several traditions, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Tongan. It was better than what I was expecting and it really put us in the mood to reach our destination and start enjoying the "Aloha Spirit!" Day 5 May 22nd Wow - our last day at sea! Time seems to be going so fast! After breakfast, it was time to "pay the piper" and attend the Guest Talent Show rehearsal. None of the songs I was really comfortable doing were in the book of songs that the House Band knows. They didn't have a guitar for me to do a solo with, so I was getting ready to chicken out. However, there were 6 ladies in the row in front of me and when they heard me say I was not going to do it, they were like, "You've got to do it. We'll be your cheerleaders!" They were 6 sisters, and their brother who was act number one, was there on his honeymoon! I'd seen him in the lounge one evening doing karaoke, and he was very good! Anyway, back to my predicament. We compromised. They got me a guitar, which is normally used as prop for their singing production; me holding a guitar is sort of like Linus having his security blanket. The 3-Piece-Band agreed to do "Twist and Shout," which is a simple 3-chord song. So now I'm in the show, no backing out! We then went to the morning session of Bingo, and I had forgotten how this went, since my last time playing on a cruise was in 1994. It was fun and entertaining, but I'll probably wait another 9 years to play! (Just lots of other things I enjoy doing more.) During the game, we heard an announcement over the loud speaker, "Alpha, Alpha, Alpha" then they said a Cabin number. We didn't think too much of it at the time; DH said it could be someone with a medical emergency, since it was a cabin. (More on this later.) I spent a little time in the afternoon in the pool, during the Horse Races, when the pool was fairly empty and up on a deck chair catching some rays. Prior to dinner, we went to the theatre production, "Rhythm Nation" which we had seen on a prior cruise, but enjoyed again. During the number, "Girl from Ipanema" the male singer was using "my guitar" as a prop! This got me thinking about the upcoming Talent Show, which in turn made me nervous. I tried hard not to think about it. We had dinner, then hurried off to the Masquerade Theatre; we were told to be there by 10 PM and where we should sit. The show started at 10:15 PM and there were 7 acts in total. They changed the order, and now I would be performing second - good, I could get it out of the way and enjoy the rest of the show! I invited the audience to do the "echo" part of the song, and it went very well. DH videotaped my performance, as well as most of the show, so we'll have that part of our trip available to enjoy for years to come! We tried to go up to the pool deck for some "Dancing under the Stars" but there were RCCL employees blocking every entrance. We said something strange must be going on, and headed back to our cabin. Sure enough, the Captain came on the PA system after 11 PM and announced that a passenger had sustained an injury and a helicopter was coming to pick the passenger up. Everyone was to stay off the top decks for this med-evac operation. We surmised that the "Alpha" code about 12 hours earlier had turned into a helicopter ride to the hospital once we were close enough to shore. We felt badly for the people involved; as for ourselves, we knew the next day would be our first ever in Hawaii, so we headed off to bed for some rest before our big day! Day 6 May 23rd First Day in Hawaii - Lahaina, Maui We ordered Room Service for that morning, went through the Customs process, and took our time getting off the ship. Even so, at 9:30 AM, there was still a big line of people waiting for tenders to get to the Lahaina pier. While we were standing in a long line, we asked one of the guys from the Cruise Director's Staff what was the matter with the injured passenger. After a small hesitation, he said, "Well, you could call it a comedy or you could say it was a tragedy." Now we were really interested in this story! It seems that a rather large gentleman was entering the Belly Flop Contest and decided to show his wife what he was planning to do for the competition in their cabin. He went to do a belly flop on his bed, and misjudging the distance, he hit his head on the cabin wall! Those walls are part of the hull structure and they are made of metal. And as a co-worker commented when I related the story, "He sure had momentum going for him at that point." I don't want to make fun of another's plight, but it sounds like a Darwin award to me! Anyway, we made it to the pier and went to get our rental car. Long story short, the process took about an hour (it did not help that it was the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend). But finally we were on our way in a Sebring convertible breezing along the highway! The weather was a bit warmer than usual, about 90 degrees, and we headed to the Iao Needle - I picked this location because we wanted to find a picturesque place for photo taking. This was a great choice! Not only for the awesome beauty, but because it was about 12 degrees cooler and slightly overcast (which is better than direct sunlight for good photo taking because of the lack of sharp contrast by shadows). We spent close to two hours walking and taking pictures; we would see other people from the ship and take each other's photos, which was nice. Around 1 PM we started getting hungry, so we drove around and found a McDonalds. Not my first choice, but we knew we'd be eating at the luau later, so this was just to tide us over. While we had a quick meal, I noticed 2 couples next to us who came there on Harley Davidsons. As we all headed out the door, the one motorcycle dude turns to his wife and says, "Look, it's the lady from the Talent Show!" Nothing like that brief flirtation with fame - ha ha! We then drove around some more and attempted a "romantic walk along the beach" (my idea) but as we tried it, the winds were blowing sand into our eyes, so that was a rather short walk! We then returned the rental car (this was another one-hour process, I won't even go into what happened here), but a good thing did happen when we got into the rental shuttle van. We told the driver that it was a shame he was taking us all the way back to the pier, for us to only then have to make our way back to the Old Lahaina Luau (it was about half way to the pier). He was really nice and said he would drop us off there; we could visit the mall next door while we were waiting for the Luau to open its doors. This saved us time, money for a taxi and a hassle in the heat, so that worked out great. We walked around and enjoyed some Kona coffee (even though there was also a Starbucks in the mall!!) After about an hour, we headed to the luau, and they gave everyone mai tai's upon entering. I sampled several other drinks: lava flow, blue Hawaiian, pina colada, with the heat they were sure refreshing! Then we went to find our table and we were seated across from a couple whom we had met and talked with several times on the ship (Beachnut on Cruise Critic). We enjoyed the meal and the show; got both some good photos and some video of the dancers. We then shared a cab ride back to the pier with two other couples from the ship. After a short wait (about 20 minutes) we were being tendered back to the ship - it sure had been a full day! Day 7 May 24th Second Day in Lahaina. We were able to relax in the morning, since our booked tour was not until noon. We got to the tender around 11 AM and were on shore with some time to kill shortly thereafter. There was a Canoe Festival that weekend in Maui. We went to the crafts faire under the banyan tree and saw some fabulous large wooden carvings, things like dolphins and mermaids made from monkey pot wood. We spoke with some artists and really wanted to buy one of them from a native artist who was teaching his four sons to carve, but we were running out of time, no chance to figure out if they could ship the item to California, so we just have some fond memories of him and his work. A word to the wise - unless you are very physically fit (and a masochist, basically), don't take the Ahihi Kinau Lava Field Hike & Snorkel Tour! First you ride in a van for an hour, then you walk through rocky lava fields for 1.3 miles. It is so treacherous, they caution you that if you want to look up, stand still. Also, our guide said several times, "Falling is not an option." I kept repeating that phrase over and over to myself, like a mantra! Then you finally get to snorkel; the area is very rough, small and not much to see. It did not help that it was overcast, and was even drizzling while we snorkeled. Then you get a Honey 'n' Oats granola bar and water, then get to repeat the 1.3 mile walk back and then the van ride. One lady fell just trying to get into the van! I felt so bad for her, and was surprised that she made it through the rest of the tour. One guy who was talking a lot (not paying enough attention) fell and cut his arm and both legs; I got to look at him bleeding during the whole trip back. This is one of those excursions that just makes for good story telling later - that's the redeeming quality, ha ha! I tried to make the best of it by asking our driver/guide many questions about the history of the island, etc. I don't know if it was true, but he told me one interesting tale. I told him I had seen a Cardinal the day before, how did they come to be on Maui? He said the Seminole Indians sold birds to sailors on the island of Key West, and that the Spaniards were fond of having birds, such as Cardinals, as pets on their long voyages. I thought that was a pretty neat story. We enjoyed a pre-dinner show that evening, featuring an impressionist. Once again, there were only four of us at dinner, and we got on to the subject of reading books. Turns out that John, Cathy and I had all finished reading a book at this point, so we agreed to do a "trade." I stopped by their cabin with my book and got 2 of theirs in return! After the strenuous day, reading was about as adventurous as I was getting! Day 8 May 25th The Big Island - Hawaii! Our day in Hilo. Rented a car from Budget - this went very smoothly, and we got a free upgrade to a Lincoln Town Car. Just as I had read on the CC boards, it is very easy to find your way around, and we were soon making our way to the Volcanoes National Park. (On a side note, I have to mention that I liked the innovative signs along the highway for wearing a seat belt; they stated "Click-it or Ticket!") After stopping at the Visitor Center for a map, we headed to the Thurston Lava tube, which we walked through. It was more like a damp cave and was wetter and muddier than I expected. We stopped at many of the places designated for photo taking along Crater Rim Drive. We drove along the Chain of Craters Road, which ends near the sea, and did some walking. This was another day of "unusual" weather for the islands - high eighties and no clouds in sight. After we saw the March and April 2003 lava flows, we were getting hot and going to head back. Then we hooked up with a park ranger who gave us the history of the area and a detailed explanation of the methane gas explosions and showed us a huge one of these. DH really loved that part! On our drive back to the highway, we saw many helicopters with buckets hanging from them, performing a fire rescue. Suddenly, after curving around a bend, the helicopter was only about 100 feet in front of us, dipping its bucket into what looked like an elaborate kiddie pool of water. We quickly got out the video camera and filmed 2 other helicopters repeating the process. It was way more exciting to watch than how it sounds in writing! After having a meal at the Lava Rock Cafe (wouldn't recommend the place), we succumbed to the shopping bug and spent some time at Hilo Hatties. It seemed like we knew half of the people in there! After speaking with a local craftswoman who was selling her wares in the store (we bought a painted sea shell and a necklace from her), I got her to recommend some Hawaiian music CD's. We bought a "Brother Iz" CD, which contains a rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that DH really enjoys. Getting into the music of the islands is part of the vacation experience, and really puts you in a good mood! After boarding the ship, we went to the pre-dinner show, this time featuring Craig Dahn, a concert pianist. He was a protEgE of Liberace and he evoked the same style and flourish. I only wish we sat closer to get a better look at his hands along the keyboard. We went to our balcony after finishing dinner in a hurry and got out the binoculars, cameras and video camera. We took turns using all of them, but viewing the red molten lava through binoculars was really the best way to see details - this went on for about 45 minutes. Another great day on our cruise!! Day 9 May 26th - Memorial Day Kona - Thanks to the MANY great reviews of the Captain Zodiac tour from CC, we decided to book this. Also liked the idea that the boat would come right up to the ship and we would not have to use a tender for this tour. We had another lazy morning on the ship and took the afternoon tour. I read that the visibility in the morning is better, but hey, this is our vacation! Anyway, the weather was sunny and hot, again, not the typical afternoon clouds - great! One of the passengers even noticed a school of dolphins frolicking and pointed it out to the boat driver - he stopped the boat so we could get a better look and take photos. They were swimming on one side of the boat, swimming under it, then coming out the other side - we all got a great view! Then we went on to the snorkeling spot (Captain Cook's Monument), which is really only accessible by boat. This was the best snorkeling I've done, except for Grand Cayman. Though the water is cooler, we saw many different species and types of coral, and it was a large enough area for all of the snorkelers. Then they took us back to the ship with a few stops along the way to explain about rock formations, lava flows, blow holes, etc. The wind was picking up and that ride was E-ticket, man! One guy with several body piercings and tattoos sitting in front of us was trying to go it "no hands" and when we hit one large wave, he flew a few feet into the air and landed in the pile of snorkeling gear! I can't tell you how much I was laughing at this guy! Then the boat driver made him hang on like the rest of us!! We decided after this excursion that we needed some "down time" before the formal dinner, so we watched "2 Weeks Notice" in our cabin and relaxed. Our dinner was very nice, and our bar waiter, Jai, returned after being gone a few days with a toothache. Even with a wisdom tooth removed, and his cheek puffed out like a chipmunk, that guy was still smiling like crazy! You had to give him credit, and his good mood was so infectious!! We then went to see Norm Crosby perform, and even though that guy is older than dirt, he was still hilarious! After that, we caught the end of the karaoke idol, but the judges (passengers) were only selecting people singing country/western numbers, so I decided not to throw my name in the ring - I am a rock 'n' roller! Day 10 May 27th Our last port - Kauai! This was really the most lush and beautiful spot on our trip. We ended up with a banana-yellow Mustang convertible from Budget rental car, and soon we were zooming along the highway! Our first stop was Fern Grotto - even though this is recognized as being a "tourist trap" we had a really nice time riding the boat up river, making fools of ourselves doing the hula (with the band on board) and of course seeing the grotto. DH got a few lovely photos there. On the return boat ride, I sat next to my new friends (the 6 ladies I met at the Talent Show) and we got our photo taken together. Next we went to the Opaekaa Falls. Just can't help taking lots of photos; the view was breathtaking. Then we drove to the Kilauea Lighthouse, and the view from there was spectacular. We met a nice couple from the ship and we took each other's pictures. We also stopped at a turnoff near Princeville with a panoramic view of the valley and farmlands before heading back. Last stop before returning the car was the set of Wailua Falls. The last 2 miles to get there included some treacherous single lane roads that had to be shared by 2-way traffic! Hmmmm.that was interesting. The drive was worth it, spectacular view! This whole island is just filled with beauty and it was hard for me to leave and get back on the ship. I hope we can return here someday. All good things must come to an end; we spent quite a while before dinner packing for our trip home. (Gotta do it!) We did make most of the Farewell Show, complete with the top ten stupid questions, including a few that I had not heard before: "Is this Island completely surrounded by water?" "Do you need to leave the ship to take an excursion?" "If the pictures in the photo gallery aren't marked, how can I tell which ones are ours?" and my favorite - "Has this ship ever sunk?" They also filmed us dancing at disco night, DH was shown dancing for about 5 seconds (just him on that big screen!). We had a fun last dinner with our tablemates (I have videotape to prove it!) and got a printed list of the ingredients for all the Liquor shots from Jai. Then we packed it in early. Day 11 May 28th - Disembark and return home After eating breakfast in the dining room and meeting a very nice couple who had 4 boys waiting at home (!), we went to our cabin to pack the carry-ons. We finally found our cabin attendant, Ana, to give her a tip. She was so nice to us, I could not help it, I gave her a hug good-bye. We then went to a "Priority Departure Lounge" for Diamond & Platinum members, and it was like a reunion - many of the couples from Cruise Critic were there, plus we chatted with a new couple who own grocery stores in New Orleans. The hour there til our group was called passed quickly. Then out to the terminal for the chaotic process of picking out our bags (went smoothly), boarding the bus to go to the airport (very unorganized but really only took 25 minutes), then the drive there. By 10 AM we were at the Honolulu Airport and our flight wasn't til 1:50 PM. After the baggage screening, check-in, etc. we walked around for a while and went to the Main Terminal. We had lunch at a place called Stinger Ray (I think) and the roasted pork on the sandwich was better than at the Luau! Also saw an interesting thing while eating. Since most of the airport is "open air" a bird came into the restaurant and was banging into the window, trying to get outside. The customer sitting next to this was getting upset that the bird was hurting itself and next thing, the waitress went and cupped the bird in her two hands and walked it out if the restaurant where there were open windows. Looked like she was used to doing that on a regular basis! Our flight home on Hawaiian Airlines was uneventful (good) and arrived in San Diego on time about 10 PM. We then had a 2-hour drive home, after some lousy directions from the Park n Ride attendant (or maybe we were just really out of it) we couldn't seem to get on any freeway, and almost drove into Sea World! A few minutes later, and we found the 5 FWY then we were on our way. Upon reaching our house at 1 AM, we were greeted enthusiastically by our 2 doggies (and received a groggier greeting from our son) - it was a great vacation, but it was good to be home! Read Less
Sail Date May 2003
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