Radiance of the Seas – Alaska

| Monday, 23 Apr. 2012


Last summer I had the privilege of seeing Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas in the shipyard in Victoria, British Columbia, where the line was in the process of adding the brand new "Royal Advantage" upgrades. The idea of our trip was to get a preview of the new style Royal Caribbean is putting into select ships in its fleet, mostly in the restaurants and public spaces, according to a $300-million upgrade program called "Royal Advantage."

You can see my trip report here: Radiance Upgrade in Pictures.

Royal Caribbean had chosen the specific enhancements based upon various offerings that had proven popular on its newer ships, such as Allure of the Seas. Radiance was receiving a Samba's Grill, a Rita's Cantina, a Giovanni's Table, a Park Café Deli, a Boardwalk Doghouse and the Izumi Sushi Bar. Almost all of these restaurants had first been tried on Allure of the Seas, the newest ship in Royal Caribbean fleet; some had originated on Oasis.

In addition, they were adding a 3-D cinema to show the best in 3D movies from the line's entertainment partner, DreamWorks Animation, and the new "Digital Wayfinders" as seen on Oasis, which are large interactive video screens in the elevator lobbies on public decks where guests can make entertainment and restaurant reservations, book tours, or just find their way around the ship.

Without a doubt, the restaurant choices made by Royal Caribbean to add to Radiance were brilliant – especially the Brazilian churrascaria and the Park Café deli as a "Tavern on the Green" park-like setting. Of course, the 3-D movies idea appealed to me a great deal, since I am a technology maven.

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But the thought that struck me as I saw how the ship would look after these new enhancements was this: Radiance was already one of my favorite Royal Caribbean ships, because it has all the attributes of the larger Royal Caribbean vessels; but the ship is just one of a few vessels smaller than 100,000-tons that Royal Caribbean built with all these elements. So, you get all of the advantages of a big ship but in a much smaller package – so it is uncrowded and very laid-back yet also uber-stylish and high-tech.

So I had a real revelation. Even before the enhancements Radiance was named by many as their favorite ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, but that with these enhancements Radiance now offers an unprecedented cruise experience. It isn't just the restaurants or the movie theater the line added to Radiance in 2011, along with upgrades to the "Royal Tots" nursery facilities for tots, a cupcake cupboard, new Quill and Compass Pub connected to the Cinema area and not far from the Casino or even the few new cabins for single cruisers with no singles supplement.

The main thing about the upgrades is in how they were implemented. The entire feel of the ship has been enhanced, with the focus on ambiance and a connection to the sea. For example, the beautiful new Solarium with a grand dome of glass for climate controlled dining and relaxation in a room that looks like its outdoors but still offers indoor comfort.

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Catch Her While You Can

Importantly, Radiance has been one of the finest ships serving the West Coast for years, but that market dwindled in attraction sadly in the last few years. So, right after this summer season, while the ship is in Alaska, Radiance will be heading from its current home port of Vancouver to Hawaii (September 14) and following that sailing (September 24) from Honolulu towards to Australia. After that we won't be seeing her anywhere near the United States for quite awhile. She will be taking her magnificent new shipboard experience to the Australian market; sailing from Sydney to Tahiti and New Zealand.

But here is the good news – the 2012 Alaska cruises on Radiance are real bargains, and so are the cruises to Hawaii and Australia.

I now think of Radiance as a first-class ship, a real jewel of contemporary style and small-ship convenience, but I am currently seeing seven-day cruises to Alaska onboard for as little as $449 per person. The cruise sails from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska.

Admittedly, a one-way cruise sounds a little inconvenient, so I researched current airfare from the lower 48 to Seward and it is not that bad.

From Phoenix I can fly to Anchorage for just $284 per person. That is a steal compared to previous years for flights to Alaska and especially compared to flying to Europe. Unfortunately you can't fly directly to Seward commercially, but there is a train that will get you to the ship before noon for just $70 per person. I am sure Royal Caribbean also offers a shuttle coach to the ship from the airport.

The seven-day cruise visits Seward, Hubbard Glacier (the biggest in Alaska on any cruise itinerary), Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait (a wonderful spot for more glacier sightings or whale watching), Ketchikan and then just one day at sea to return to Vancouver. As far as Alaska itineraries go I would say this is one of the better ones because of the number of days in port in Alaska – five on a seven day cruise.

In other words – you could see the best of Alaska for about $800 per person including airfare. For more information go to: Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas.

Following the Alaska season the 10-day cruise to Hawaii starts at just $1389, and the 17-night cruise to Sydney starts at $1879 – 17 days of cruising for what I guess is about the same price as airfare to down under.

Now – just so you know, Radiance will be returning to Alaska in the summer of 2013, coming all the way back from Australia, but the prices next year are not as low as the current 2012 cruises – so right now is your chance to try this beautiful newly enhanced ship at ridiculously low prices.

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