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Radiance of the Seas is currently in dry dock in Victoria, B.C. for renovation.

Redux: Radiance of the Seas
The decade between 2000 and 2010 represented something of a golden age in cruise ship design, from Celebrity Solstice to Oasis of the Seas, Holland America Eurodam, Ruby Princess and Norwegian Epic, we were presented with all-original ship designs the likes of which we may never see again.

All of these "grand new designs" are already in service, although a few sister ships of similar designs are yet to be to be delivered. However, there is nothing "completely new under the sun," in terms of cruise ship design from the golden age of the 2000-2010 generation of ships yet to be seen.

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But this does not mean the cruise lines will stop improving their fleets. The focus now at most cruise lines is on taking older ships and furbishing them.

Royal Caribbean is now undertaking a new upgrade endeavor called "Royal Advantage enhancements" & to upgrade several of its ships. The idea is to define the best elements of their most successful ships and add those features to older ships. For example, the Brazilian restaurant Sambas first introduced on the Royal Caribbean megaship Allure of the Seas will soon be in service on four additional Royal Caribbean ships, and possibly more to follow.

Such upgrade programs are not new or unique to Royal Caribbean. Holland America has already spent well over half a billion dollars on upgrading its entire fleet with a program called "Signature of Excellence" started in 2003. Carnival upgraded all of its "Fantasy-class" ships in the last five years as well.

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But this week I am in Victoria, British Columbia, with an opportunity to see the Radiance of the Seas improvements before the ship is reintroduced to the cruising public on Wednesday June 10. I will be giving you a full report after I return from the shipyard, but that will be later this week.

The ship, which can accommodate 2,114 passengers, will have 15 new cabins, three of which will be single rooms requiring no singles supplement charges. Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean, describes this as a novelty experience, and it is. The first and only other modern mainstream cruise ship to have staterooms built specifically for singles is Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic, introduced in 2010. But Epic has 120 of these rooms - enough to make it feasible for a single to go onboard and meet plenty of other single cruisers.

Since it seems like a very good idea to us, we are hoping the singles cabin concept will catch on quickly and that Royal Caribbean will add many more of them.

For the last half-dozen years Radiance has been positioned on the U.S. West Coast, sailing to Mexico in the winter and moving to Alaska in the summer. But after this Alaska season the ship will make a 10-day cruise from Vancouver to Hawaii (Sept. 19) followed by a 19-night cruise from Honolulu to Australia. She will stay in Australia until further notice.

Royal Caribbean's managing director in Australia, Gavin Smith, said he thinks of the upgrades, "Radiance of the Seas is already poised to become the best ship in the region - the newest, largest and most innovative - but what we're doing is taking an already great ship and transforming her into a truly spectacular ship. And best of all - Australians will be amongst the first in the world to enjoy the enhancements."

The changes being made to Radiance of the Seas include:
Three single cabins will be added which, if successful, will also be featured on other ships in the fleet. Six additional outside, ocean view, staterooms are also being added.

A large outdoor poolside movie screen will be set up on the pool deck for watching movies at night and other kinds of programming during the day.

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There will be seven new dining options added to the ship - borrowed from what are believed to be the best culinary ideas currently in operation on other Royal Caribbean cruise ships:

Samba Grill is a Brazilian Charascurria - a unique way of cooking large cuts of meat on a turning spit high above a heat source. The juices melt in the slow cooked meat after hours of turning. Dinner guests can request cuts of the meat taken directly off of the fire and brought to the table by the waiter at any time. The waiter holds the steel shaft and cuts slices off directly onto the plate of the guest. The per person charge will be $25.

Rita's Cantina (Mexican) also originally introduced on Allure of the Seas, is a standard Mexican food eatery which comes with mariachi singers and other special entertainment. There is an a la carte menu - no reservations.

Giovanni's Table (Italian) features family-style servings of Italian favorites. $15 lunch and $29 dinner, per person.

Park Café (Deli) is a traditional New York style deli, with table seating, self service and no cover charge. You can get freshly sliced deli meat sandwiches as well as bakery items and delicious specialty coffees.

Izumi (Sushi) is a Japanese restaurant with sushi, sashimi and more japanese style food - the menu is a la carte priced.

Boardwalk Dog House (Hot dogs) is an all-you-can-eat, Coney Island style ghot dog stand. There is no cover charge for the dogs. You can get them with any traditional accoutrement you desire; sauerkraut, mustard, relish, catsup, onions, etc.

Chef's Table (High end restaurant) will be the more specialized restaurant onboard featuring fine steaks and other gourmet offerings. There will be a $95 per person cover charge - alcohol included. Reservations are required since this is sold out every night of every cruise before the sail date.

Quill & Compass (Bar) will be a new British-style pub. A brand new Diamond Lounge and Concierge Lounge for Crown & Anchor Society members will also be included.

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Wi-fi will be "enhanced" to make it more available throughout the ship. Interactive televisions to be added to staterooms will allow passengers to book shore tours, order room service or check their onboard spending balance at any time.

Finally, Radiance will also receive a Royal Babies & Tots Nursery to handle children as young as six months old with special babysitting, napping and changing services.

All in all, Radiance appears to be shaping up as a beautiful, like-new, cruise ship with wonderful guest amenities. She should make the Australia market very happy.

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