The new enhancements to Radiance of the Seas make her a "must see" ship.
Radiance to Enhance Australia Cruising
One of the most appealing aspects of cruise vacations is the ability of your favorite cruise line to place a ship in almost any world destination. For cruise lines with dedicated and loyal followings, it is a requirement to find new places to position their ships year after year so their fans have new destinations to see.
But deciding what parts of the world loyal customers want to see is just one aspect of destination planning. Other considerations include factors like the local economy and the availability of "lift" to different destinations - the number of flights to your destination, in other words.
Not every gamble pays off. In fact, the last few years have been especially challenging for the cruise lines in their never ending quest to find the most appealing cruise destinations. A few years ago it appeared that cruises to Mexico were going to be very popular for years to come, and so many cruise lines put ships in California, sailing from San Diego and Los Angeles. Within two years the appeal of cruises to Mexico virtually disappeared - mostly due to reports about H1N1 and violent crime. The fact that neither one of these factors ever significantly affected an actual cruise in real terms had little to do with the perception. Mexico became terra non grata and before long many ships were moved out of California and repositioned in new places.
One of those ships, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, was mentioned in this newsletter last year as one of the most desirable ships to take out of San Diego. The ship was making 11-day cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Acapulco and Manzanillo, as well as five-day cruises to Ensenada and Cabo. Every summer it switched to the Alaska region and this year it is still scheduled to sail seven day cruises between Seattle and Seward with stops at Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and either Victoria or Vancouver (depending on whether you are traveling north or south).
But like so many other ships (Carnival Spirit and Norwegian Star among them), Radiance will not return to California this year after seven full years on the west coast. She will be going to Australia to vie with about ten other U.S.-based cruise ships scheduled to call Australia home in 2011 and 2012. I find it just a little ironic that Australia has roughly half the population of California, but now twice as many cruise ships.
Count me as one of the people who is sorry I never took advantage of the proximity I had to this beautiful ship. With a vacation home just 20 miles from her San Diego pier I had seven years to take a cruise on her, which I always meant to do, but I just never got around to it. The saddest thing about California losing Radiance is that the ship is just now concluding a major renovation that will make it the nicest small ship (less than 100,000-tons) in the Royal Caribbean fleet. She is now receiving a $20,000,000 makeover in the Victoria B.C. shipyard - scheduled for completion on June 10.
This makeover is part of a larger plan by Royal Caribbean to add "Royal Advantage" enhancements to several ships in the fleet. The idea is to take what Senior Vice President of Royal Caribbean, Lisa Bauer, describes as the "top drivers of guest satisfaction" from the mega-ships Oasis and Allure of the Seas and put these features on older ships in the fleet.
Radiance will be receiving seven new restaurants, including Samba's for the Brazilian Charascurria style of meat preparation, Giovanni's table for family-style Italian dining, Izumi for Asian Fusion cuisine, The Park Café deli to be installed in the existing Solarium, the "Dog House" for the unlimited consumption of wieners, the Quill and Compass Pub and Rita's Cantina for Mexican food.
What a shame for Californians that they will not get a chance to try these "Royal Advantage" enhancements, since many of them have never appeared on Royal Caribbean ship sailing from California before. Instead, Radiance will conclude its Alaska season with jaunt from Vancouver to Hawaii beginning September 19, followed by a 19-night beeline to Sydney, Australia, landing in November 2011. After seeing the ship in Victoria last week, I feel the enhancements are enough justification to go to Australia myself. If you feel the same way, there is still time to catch this ship in Alaska this summer before she sails south to Australia.
Radiance will conduct a series of diverse itineraries from Sydney; from two-night getaway cruises from Sydney to nowhere, to a seven-night cruise to Tasmania, 12-night sojourns to islands of the South Pacific including Noumea, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and several 14-night cruises to New Zealand.
All I can say is that Australia is very lucky to be getting such a nice ship - especially with all the new enhancements just installed, some I have yet to mention such as the 3-D theater, new lounges for the Crown and Anchor society, new televisions in each stateroom, new "digital signage" throughout the ship, full Wi-Fi throughout, a new outdoor movie screen and of course new décor, carpet and drapes throughout. It is going to be a pretty competitive field "down under" with so many ships headed there, but I feel Radiance will compete very well, and that fans of Royal Caribbean will find her to be a very satisfying ship.
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