I would like to start out by saying I have been on cruises before, but nothing like the Radiance. My cruises consisted of the Fantasy, The Ecstasy and the Big Red Boat, so I consider myself a first time cruiser now after experiencing the Radiance, it was nothing like the other cruises I have been on.
We went on the Radiance's first cruise to the Caribbean, which was Thanksgiving week. We got to the port in San Juan early (about 12:00) and I am very happy we did. We only had to wait around the Port for about an hour before they started organizing us and within two hours we were aboard. My only complaint was that people were squished together at the port and we had to share the room with the Adventure of the Seas which was taking its inaugural voyage. They finally told us to get into two groups and then everyone had to squeeze through a small entrance with their luggage. I was not at the end of the line so I don't know how long those people had to wait, but the line went allthe way from the cruise terminal check in to the street. The wait was a little longer then usual because the network went down for about 20 minutes. I am sure the people in line outside were not happy especially since it was very hot and they were only letting people in in small groups. The ship was delayed for about 2 hours because of the Atlanta mess. We finally got going around midnight.
Because of the delay everyone wore shorts and jeans in the dining room that night. Their luggage had either just gotten to their rooms or was not there yet so some people pretty much had to wear what they came in. There were two formal nights, but only one smart casual night which is not what it said in their brochure. The rest of the nights were casual. I did see some a couple of pair of shorts one night. Since the cruise was not full, no one stopped those people. The food in the dining room was excellent. Chops was even better. I had Mississippi mud pie for dessert and I don't know if I will ever find a better dessert. My husband had a steak, which he said was better then a famous and expensive steak house we have here in Tampa. We did not try Portfolios, but our table mates did and they said they loved it. My biggest complaint about the food was that it was too tempting causing me to gain 5 lbs on the cruise, oh, and the Turkey was dry. There was a Chefs Gala Buffet at midnight on Thursday night. Of course it was a beautiful display of art and food. We hung around the dining room just before they opened and managed to get in to the front of the line. We headed right to the back where they kept all the desserts. Every time I asked the attendant what was in one of the cakes he would say lets see and cut a piece and put it on my plate. I was starting to feel like pig so I stopped asking. Then we had to cut past the long line of people where everyone booed us and the people in front of us for bringing our food past them while they waited in line, which was sort of embarrassing considering I had a plate full of sweets.
This cruise pretty much made all the other cruises I have been on seem pretty sad to say the least. I noticed all sorts of little things that avid cruisers may not think much of, but first time cruisers might appreciate; there was a hairdryer, a well lighted vanity, a full length mirror and a small refrigerator in the room, the beds were surprisingly comfortable, the captain actually came around and talked to the guests (he also sang one night), in fact he asked us how our food was when we were eating at Chops, they had a channel that showed where the ship was going, how fast etc..., the staff was the most helpful and friendly that I have ever dealt with, instead of having to bring our identification with us as in my past cruises, we had a blue card, which was all you needed to get off, on, and spend money on the ship. Using the internet was .50 a minute. The drink of the day was $4.25. The best drink in my opinion was a three layer drink called a Love Connection. The Windjammer closed at 6:00, but room service was available 24 hours. Of course you will come back to your room each night to mints and towel animals, which were the best I had seen. There was plenty of storage room and even room under the bed for suitcases. The shower had a shampoo dispenser which they filled with the shampoo/conditioner mix. For you men out there that can't seem to find a cold enough room, those rooms will get very cold if you turn the air down to the max.
The actual ship was beautiful as everyone has said. It was very easy to find my way around. As far as elevators or lack of as I had read in many reviews, I am a bit confused. A few times the elevators got crowded, but most of the time we had no problems. In fact there were two sets of elevators and the elevators closer to our room (8558) were never crowded. Although, our cruise was about 500 people short. I loved the balconies, they were fairly private, maybe a gap here and there where we could see into the balconies next to us. The lifeboats were a deck below us and obstructed our view looking down, but I did not care about the view down, I only cared about the view across. I am 31 and like to go out dancing so I was a bit disappointed in our crowd. The disco was only crowded one night and that was 70's night. They also played Latin music for an hour each night, which was not so popular, probably because the people that danced that night were really good and no one wanted to look bad. My husband played blackjack in the casino every night. Him and about 4 other people stayed up until 3:00 in the morning one night and closed the casino, which according to the bartender (who had to get up at 8:00 the next morning) was a record for that ship.
The ship went to St. Thomas, Antigua, St.Maarten, St. Lucia and Barbados. They did confiscate the liquor on the ship and gave it back on the last night. You can't hide it because they x-ray all bags. I did notice they did not see the small airline size bottles I bought nor the cream rum liquor, which I brought to my room. They staff lives off tips, which is the reason they don't let you take liquor to your room. They also let you bring water and soda to your room. I was least impressed with Barbados. St. Maarten definitely wins for best shopping in my book. St. Lucia is the most beautiful Island. The taxi drivers in St. Lucia are the pushiest out of all the islands. I wanted to get a t-shirt made that said, I will find you when I need a taxi, no I don't want a tour of the island, no I don't want to look at the condos and no I don't want my hair braided. I was so worn down by the taxi drivers by the time I got to Barbados, that I finally just yelled, NO I DON'T WANT TO GO ANYWHERE! The funny thing is, that it worked and they all backed off. Another trick, if you are on the beach, pretend you are sleeping when you see the locals selling their wares from chair to chair. If you like snorkeling I suggest taking an excursion to St. John from St. Thomas. Antigua is bad, the reefs look like a third world country because of the hurricane. I did not get to test out Barbados or St. Lucia for snorkeling because there was a big storm off the coast somewhere and it had churned up the waters. In fact St. Lucia had waves big enough for surfing. They are all beautiful and unique islands and we had a great time on and off the ship and will be cruising with RCCL again.
This was our second cruise, and first on Royal Caribbean. My husband and I are 43 and 37 and love to travel. We have previously cruised to Alaska on Carnival. The Radiance is one stunning ship, and I fear we are spoiled forever now. I don't see how another ship could measure up.
Embarkation We arrived at the Bell Street Pier in Seattle at 10:45 a.m. It took 15 minutes to present all our documents and get our cruise cards validated. We then waited in chairs until boarding began at 11:30. Clowns entertained us while we waited, and lemonade was served. We were asked not to go to our cabin before 1:00 p.m. After getting our picture made, we were on the ship at 11:40. Very smooth process.
Cabin We had room 9590, a Category D cabin with balcony. The brochure said it was 204 square feet. It was the roomiest cabin we have ever had, and this was our first balcony. Our room was in a great midship location, right where the rooms bulge out from the ship. From our room we could look straight down onto the water. We wereon the starboard side and the elevators were opposite us on the port side. This was very convenient all during the cruise. We were only steps away from the overlooks from which we could look down into the Centrum lobby. The music could be heard clearly from these overlooks, but not in the cabin. My husband spent a late evening listening to the music and watching the dancing down below. We peeked into a Category E1 balcony cabin and it had a love seat instead of the couch that we had. It was 179 square feet. The Category F outside didn't have a balcony. It had a large overstuffed chair and was 170 square feet. All of these cabins were excellent. We didn't see the suites or the inside cabins.
Cabin Steward We met our cabin steward soon after 1:00. We asked for a few items, which he supplied. I asked that he remove the food and drinks from the minibar, as we had brought our own supply of soft drinks. He refused to do so, which put a damper on things, but I didn't let it spoil my attitude. We never saw him again, but he kept our cabin spotless for the next four days.
Sail-Away We had great fun at the sail-away deck party. A stilt walker was line dancing and a good time was had by all. I bought a non-alcoholic frozen drink card for $26.00. This allowed me twelve virgin frozen drinks throughout the cruise. It was very convenient and saved us money as well.
Entertainment We missed the first night's Welcome Aboard show because it was scheduled during the main seating for dinner. Since it was not repeated, there was no opportunity to attend if you had main seating. I thought this was odd. It was replayed on the cabin TV the next day and featured a juggler. One night a comedian was the entertainment and he was very funny. The other two nights were the production shows by the ship's singers and dancers. They were both good, especially the last night of the cruise. Two of the dancers went "flying" on wires and it was very well done. The theater had a great sound system and sophisticated lighting effects.
Food We ate in the dining room three nights and the Windjammer one night. The food was great, although lobster was not on the menu. (It was on the menu of Portofinos). We had prime rib, shrimp scampi, chicken Kiev, turkey and dressing, salmon and halibut. I was surprised and pleased by the food in the Windjammer. The embarkation buffet was large and varied. At night they had stations for salad, fruit, cheese, bread, desserts, main courses and vegetables. In addition, they had pizza, a meat carving station, grilled to order steaks, a pasta bar with your choice of sauces sauteed while you waited, and a chef preparing stir-fry Chinese food. This was definitely not typical, leftover buffet food. Breakfast in the Windjammer was equally diverse, with eggs, bacon, hot oatmeal and cream of wheat, fruit, cereal, and bread. The only negative in the food department came on the one day we had breakfast in the main dining room. Big mistake. The service was painfully slow, and we didn't have time to finish before we had to leave for our shore excursion. My pancakes were cold when I got them, and were served without syrup. My husband had to ask three times for a glass of water. We never ate there again for breakfast. We were very happy with the Windjammer breakfast buffet.
Portofinos We had previously decided not to spend the $40.00 extra for this restaurant, or Chops. The third night of the cruise it was printed in the Compass that lunch would be available in Portofinos the next day for half price. I immediately made reservations for 11:30 a.m. the next day. We had a table by the window, with a magnificent sea view. We were the only two people in the entire restaurant until 12 noon. Talk about romantic. We were pampered and proceeded to enjoy the best meal of the entire cruise. We took our server's recommendation to get the lasagna. It was heavenly. Since it was lunch, we didn't order the entire five courses. She must have thought we would starve, as she brought us an appetizer anyway. It was, of course, wonderful. After eating there, I know it is worth the price they charge, and I wouldn't hesitate to pay full price next time. The only strange thing was that two workmen in coveralls kept wandering through the dining room. They were going between the kitchen and another room behind a door. One of them had a drill with him. This was jarring to say the least. After eating dessert, (Boston cream Pie) we waddled away.
Shore Excursions We booked our own independent tour in Vancouver. It was longer and less expensive than the ship tour. It was a five-hour highlight tour, and our driver was a native of Vancouver. In Victoria, we booked the ship's whale watching tour. We saw minke whales, dalls porpoises and sea lions. We got lots of good pictures from this small boat. We then went on the ship's tour to Butchart Gardens and Butterfly World. We enjoyed both, but we won't book two excursions in the same day again. We were frazzled by the time we got back to the ship.
Miscellaneous A lot has already been written about the public rooms but I must single out the Solarium. It was my favorite place on the ship. The green plants and huge stone elephants made this area seem like a tropical oasis. It was very relaxing here, with no hustle and bustle. It was the perfect retreat.
Even though the ship was supposedly sold out, I have no idea where all the people were. The ship was not crowded and many nights after the show we strolled the outside decks all alone. I have many pictures of the completely empty decks at night. Royal Caribbean has done a great job of designing a ship that distributes the passengers all over the ship.
My husband and I climbed the Rock Wall up the back of the funnel. The children scampered up in no time flat, making us look bad, but we had fun.
Drinks were not pushed on this ship, which I appreciated. I would rather not be bothered all the time. Announcements were kept to a minimum and could not be heard in the cabins at all. I thought this was strange. I would like to have had a control knob in the cabin to turn the announcements off or on, but no announcements can be heard at all in the cabins. Oh, well, this is preferable to the non-stop announcements on some ships.
We went to the Ship Chat with Captain Ringborn on the last sea day. The Captain and two of his officers answered questions from the audience for one hour. This was a real treat. My husband got to hear about the special engines the Radiance has and it was a great hour.
The staff was very friendly on this ship and always smiled and said hello when passing by. When we first boarded the ship we were given a letter saying that Radiance was trying something new regarding the dress of the crew. Only ship's officers wore the traditional white uniforms. Everyone else wore blazers and slacks such as you see in resort hotels. The letter said it was to make guests feel more at ease. The ship did have the distinct feel of a resort hotel. I was not surprised to learn that the Radiance's godmother is married to the Hyatt hotel owner. Everything was impeccably kept on the ship, and the whole atmosphere was one of elegance and beauty. We can't wait to sail on the Radiance again.
This was my 7th cruise. The Radiance of the Seas sailed its maiden voyage in March 01. I purchased this cruise, because I wanted to experience a new ship. My cabin was on Deck 7, Category E3, with a balcony. The cabin was adequately sized and well designed. There seemed to be an efficient storage place for all of my personal belongings.
Overall, I was very impressed with the ship. Since the ship held 2000+ passengers, I had expected the ship to feel crowded. However, quite the contrary, it didn't feel crowded at all. I attended main dinner seating at a table for 12 on Deck 5. My waiter was from the Philippines. She was extremely conscientious. The food was very good. It was much better than I had expected, because I had read reviews of other Royal Caribbean International ships that categorized the food as average. My Headwaiter was also outstanding. He was French and remained continuously involved in our meal service.
My Housekeeper was new to the housekeeper role. He had previously served as a kitchen worker. Even though he was inexperienced, he served me well.
The crew was very friendly. WheneverI passed a crewmember in a hallway, the crewmember would give me a friendly greeting. However, the crew was inexperienced. When I asked questions, I typically received shallow responses.
The Aurora Theatre is very nice. It consumes multiple decks. Consequently all seats have an excellent (unblocked) view of the stage. The professional entertainment was excellent.
The Movie Theater is modern, but small. It filled rapidly.
The ship's high technology propeller pods rotate 360 degrees and give the ship exceptional maneuverability. Therefore, tugs are not required for maneuvering in port. The Radiance tied up at a dock in Skagway, while other smaller ships anchored in the harbor and tendered their passengers ashore. The Radiance Captain was able to close to within 1/2 mile of Hubbard Glacier. He said he could have maneuvered closer, but that would have limited the passenger's view of the glacier and surrounding scenery.
While waiting to board the ship in Vancouver, I completed an application for participation in the 'Survive the Challenge' Game. At 1700 that day, I received a telephone call in my cabin informing me that I had been selected. There were 9 total participants; 5 female; 4 male. The game started that evening with introductions in the Aurora Theatre during the evening's entertainment. We competed on daily challenges every day of the cruise. Challenge competitions lasted 30 minutes. The daily challenge winner won immunity from that evening's 'vote off' by our 'fellow cruisers' in the Aurora Theatre at completion of the evening's entertainment. The final 'vote' took place 15-minutes prior to debarkation. I finished in second place. First place winner received a 3-figure cash award. Second place winner received a smaller 3-figure cash award. (Think very small 3-figure numbers). All participants received a Thermal Bag award. Game emphasis was on entertainment, not competition. Unfortunately, the title, 'Survive the Challenge,' led applicants to think the game may be similar to the popular 'reality' television shows (Survivor, Big Brother, Fear Factor, etc), when it was not. At the beginning of the game, there was little emphasis placed upon communicating participant information (background & personality) to the 'fellow cruisers.' Therefore, the 'fellow cruisers' had little information upon which to base their voting during the first couple of voting sessions. The game was more a personality contest than a challenge competition. Indeed, at the beginning, the game was effectively a lottery. The voting throughout the week took place in the Aurora Theatre, where the 'fellow cruisers' had been attracted by professional entertainment. However, the final voting occurred in the Aurora Theatre immediately prior to debarkation, when the 'fellow cruisers' had not been attracted by professional entertainment. In fact, many 'fellow cruisers' were distracted with debarkation errands and responsibilities. In my opinion, the final voting should have occurred the previous evening in the Aurora Theatre immediately after the professional entertainment. Again, game emphasis was on entertainment, not competition. Highly competitive individuals run the risk of being disappointed in the competitive aspects of the game. In my opinion, people with low competitive mind-set would be most satisfied with the game.
My husband Jim and I have just returned from our three night on the Radiance of the Seas. We booked this cruise at the last minute, and were thrilled to be getting away for a fun long weekend. This is our 9th cruise, so we have some idea of what makes a cruise enjoyable for us. Everyone has different criteria, I have found. It is hard not to compare cruise ships and lines while you are on the ship, but we try to keep it to ourselves if we are not happy with something, so we don't ruin the experience for others. We are not really too picky. I see that there are already a few reviews that describe the ship in great detail. So, I will not go room to room, describing everything.
The ship is gorgeous! The decor is very tasteful. The rooms that I thought were particularly beautiful, are... The Grand Atrium, Colony Club, Solarium Pool, Schooner Bar, Cascades Dining Room, the public rest rooms, yes, I said the public rest rooms! :)
We are lucky to live only about an hour's drive North of Seattle. So wewere able to get to the port around 10:30 in the morning. The cruise parking is in the Art Institute parking garage, directly across the street from the port. There is a sky bridge connecting the two. When we pulled into the garage a man told us to pull over if we were going on the ship and they took our bags right there! This was great! So much easier than dragging them to the port. We were going to drop them off before we parked, but there were too many taxis and buses taking the disembarking passengers home.
When we got into the port, we were able to go right to a desk and check in. Royal Caribbean had a surprise for us. We were UPGRADED to a balcony!!!!!! We booked and Oceanview and they gave us a cat. E1 cabin. We were able to board the ship by 11:30. The cabin was very nice. A lot of thought was put into the design and we benefited from it. I loved the curtain you can draw to separate the room in half. When room service came in the morning, I just hid behind the curtain :) The only thing bad was the small shower. The tile accents above the sink were a nice touch. Nice big closet and lots of drawer space. I really liked the shelves in the closet. Since we booked so late, we were not able to get late seating. They had a time and place to meet with the Matre D to change your seating. There was a small room right next to the Cascades restaurant where we lined up. They happily changed us to late seating. We got a very nice large table in the center on the main level (4).
After exploring every nook and cranny of the ship and taking pictures of EVERYTHING ( I took 8 rolls of film and video taped two hours worth of tape!) we relaxed in a lounge chair by the main pool. It was sunny and warm. After a nice long swim, we had Strawberry Margaritas and dreamed we were in the Caribbean! One of my complaints on this cruise was the lack of a pool band. Last year we did this same itinerary on the Vision of the Seas, and they had a pool band. When we set sail, the Seattle Fireboat gave us a water show! What a nice surprise. Way to go Seattle!
We had a nice dinner, casual, and met our new table mates. They are all nice, interesting folks that added to our whole cruise experience. The food was all excellent. The steaks were tender and served hot. I cannot say enough times how PERFECT our service was on the whole cruise. The waiters, bus people in the Windjammer, guest relations, the crew, our cabin attendant. The ship was kept spotless.
I have heard that on earlier cruises there was a problem. Not any more. The Captain was great. He was more like a cruise director. He sang to us at the Captains Cocktail Party, and told jokes. We had a good view of the bridge from our balcony and he was up there a lot.
We were informed my the Captain Friday night, that the ship would pass under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver at approximately 6:15 in the morning. So, that is when we woke up to get photos. I am glad we did. The bay was beautiful. The water was like glass. In Vancouver, we got off the ship just long enough to walk around Gas Town for a bit, to look for suitcase presents for our two boys. I found a very nice Chinese tea pot set at a shop, for my early Mother's Day preset. We spent the rest of the day swimming and eating and napping. Very relaxing. Formal night... A lot of ladies in long ball gowns, some tuxes but not many. Some people were completely underdressed. I think many of the passengers opted for the informal Windjammer. There were NO LOBSTER TAILS and NO GALA MIDNIGHT BUFFET! Again, we had them on our Vision of the Seas cruise. I am getting the feeling that Royal Caribbean is cutting corners :( It bothered me, because a lot of folks were on their first cruise. It would have been nice if RCCL gave them a taste of the WHOLE experience.The Filet Mignon was heavenly. I think it was the most tender of any I have ever had.
Victoria was great. I really love this town. So much to see and do. We took the bus from Ogden Point, where we docked, to town. It dropped us off right next to the Empress Hotel. There is a $5. each rountrip, charge for the bus. Right behind the Empress on the corner is a bus station, where you can purchase tickets to the Butchart Gardens. They bus you there in a very nice comfortable tour bus. The drive is about 25 minutes. The Gardens were spectacular. The Tulips are in bloom right now. There is a lot of hiking around and stairs. But there are easier paths for people in wheel chairs. After the tour we were dropped back into town. We walked over to the Sticky Wicket pub. Very nice. If you go by there, walk in and look around.We had a cup of seafood chowder and a beer.
The last night was resort casual. I lost $50.00 at the casino :( The casino is really quite small for the size of the ship. It was hard to find a vacant slot machine. Then went to a good comedy show in the theater before dinner.
Now for the BAD... If I was a fairy that could wave a magic wand and change a few things on the cruise, this is what I would do. There was only one main pool. The very tiny children's pool on the back of the ship was not much larger than a hot tub, so only the preschoolers went in there. The one pool ouside was always full of kids jumping into the pool splashing each other, running around and around the shallow sides of the pool splashing salt water in our faces. It made for a very unpleasant swim. I was kicked and splashed and one large boy almost jumped right on my head. I finally gave up and went to the Solarium Pool. It is shallow and not meant for lap swimming. There are no children under 16 allowed in there. NOT. There were children in there as well. Two girls were having a splashing fight and I got it right in the face. There is an adorable little cafe on the back of he ship right above outside eating area. The Seaview Cafe. It served fish and chips, pizza and hamburgers. It would be a great place to go during the day for lunch. But the only hours it was open, were from 11pm to 4 am! Who needs fish and chips at 3 am? I was disappointed that there was no pool band, lobster tails or Grand Midnight Buffet . They needed a children's pool next to the main pool. Every other ship we have been on have had two pools next to each other. One for the children and one for the adults. This is why we have decided to take the Infinity to the Southern Caribbean in Feb, 2002 instead of the Radiance that also has S. Caribbean cruises at the same time. Not enough pool area. There are 2100 passengers. In the Caribbean a LOT of passengers will be wanting to swim and sunbath by the pool. I can't imagine how crowded it would be!
We are booked for the Sept. 21,2001 cruise for this same ship and itinerary. We booked this a few months ago. We are definitely going to go again. Great service, great ship.
This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise so we were anxious to try it out and compare it with the other cruises we have taken, all of which we have enjoyed. We are still fairly new at cruising, having taken only four other cruises - Carnival Inspiration, HAL Veendam (twice) and the Sea Princess. In fact, we had just taken the family on the Sea Princess in January and weren't really planning another cruise so quickly, but the rates for this repositioning cruise on a brand new ship were just too good to pass up. We had read much of previous problems with its early cruises, so our expectations were "guarded", to say the least. The final experience was generally very good to excellent.
The itinerary for this repositioning cruise included Ensenada, San Diego, Catalina, San Francisco, Victoria and Seattle, with two sea days. I understand that most passengers flew into San Diego and then were bussed to Ensenada, although I heard that RCI flew some of them into LA. Since it was our anniversary, we booked our own air and flew in two days early to enjoy San Diego beforeleaving on the cruise. San Diego is a great place to visit and we saw Old Town, Gastown, the pier and Ocean Beach area. We used Priceline and were able to get a nice King, non-smoking room at the Hyatt Sand Diego Resort on Mission Bay for only $100 per night. This is a great resort setting and a perfect location, so we were very pleased. Priceline worked for us on this one, as the room generally goes for $250 per night.
We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around San Diego and look forward to going back when we can spend more time.
Embarkation Undoubtedly, our biggest complaints would revolve around the embarkation procedures for this cruise. We've been spoiled by the ease of boarding on our other cruises out of Fort Lauderdale and Vancouver, and I can say with good confidence that it is highly unlikely that we will ever book a cruise again that either starts or ends at Ensenada. They're just not set up to handle large numbers of passengers, yet. We dropped our rental car off and were at the appointed place at the San Diego airport at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning. RCI staff was there and they were all very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, the company they have contracted with to transfer passengers to Ensenada uses very old buses and some of the drivers didn't know their way to the Ensenada processing point. (Nothing like the smell of an old bus restroom for three hours to get you in the mood.) We were on the bus by 10:00 a.m. and on our way. Don't believe what they tell you, the drive to Ensenada is not a "scenic" drive. While there are certain areas with spectacular views of the ocean, it is spoiled by the ugliness of the passage through Tijuana. It does not set the best mood to begin a cruise. The bus ride did however include a nice box lunch. by the way, once you load you luggage on the bus, you will not see it again until your stateroom. On arriving in Ensenada about 3 hours later, we were dropped off at a hotel for processing. We spent at least an hour standing in line or sitting in chairs waiting to be processed. The RCI staff did the best that they could, they are just not as well organized or set up in this town yet. They did offer bottled water and eventually you were inside a building and able to sit down to wait, but we spent at least 30 minutes standing outside. Fortunately, the weather was fine, but I think this could be very difficult if it were real hot or raining. At check in, you are given your passenger card, which serves as your shipboard credit card and key to your stateroom. (RCI required you to show this card when getting on and off the ship, but you did not have to insert it into an electronic reader slot as we have always done before. They only keep visual track and not computer track.) >From registration, it is a short shuttle ride to the ship and we were onboard by 2:30 p.m. exploring the ship and having a light lunch in the Windjammer. Our luggage showed up to the stateroom around 5:30 p.m.
Again, we were lucky and don't have too many complaints, but it was definitely more difficult than we have experienced on other cruises. I suspect someone of ill health or that had difficulty standing would find this a real challenge. We also heard of at least two bus drivers getting lost going through Tijuana. We also noted that prior RCI passengers were given a special line to go through, although I don't think it went any faster than the regular line.
The Ship I realize that our perspective is limited, but the Radiance has to be one of the most beautiful ships on the sea. We heard this from many others who had cruised a lot more than we have, but the beauty was one of the real highlights. We were continually noticing new details that were unnoticed before. This ship is a marvel of glass, granite, tile and wood. The public areas are incredible, but the Centrum or atrium area is exceptionally unique. The lighting and breadth of this area are wonderful. There is even a place up on the top where you can stand on a glass floor and look straight down to the bottom. Don't miss this.
There are plenty of bars and wonderful small alcoves to sit and visit with others. Especially nice is the Schooner Lounge and Colony Club, although the "special effects" odor of the Schooner Lounge was not to my taste. These are areas where much of the nightly entertainment will take place and they are very spacious and comfortable. During the day, you can always find a nice table or chair to visit or relax.
You might want to note that there are only two banks of elevators, one in the middle (Centrum) and one forward. They were faster than those on other ships and we never had to wait very long. A nice touch was their posting the day of the week in a marble insert in the floor of each elevator. There are also only two sets of stairs, one at mid-ship and one forward. The ship deck plan shows a staircase towards the stern, but this is for staff only and is not available to the passengers. If you have a stateroom towards the back of the ship as we did, it can be a long walk to the stairs and elevators. With all the eating to be done, this can be a good thing, but some might find it inconvenient. The ship has two Internet lounges with new computers with fairly responsive access to the Internet. I believe the charge is $15 for 30 minutes. The staterooms are also wired with Internet connections, but we did not try these.
Stateroom We booked an E3 Balcony Stateroom and were upgraded to an E2 on deck 8, Stateroom #8666. This is the last room on the hallway and has an extra large balcony that bends out giving you a great view looking forward on the ship. The rooms are smaller than most we have seen and the storage is a bit more limited, although adequate for a 7 day cruise. Ladies may not like the fact that the closet does not have a space for hanging longer gowns. The closet is split with two racks, one above and one below, that will accommodate only shirt or skirt size clothing. There are also shelves in the closet and drawers at the dressing table and two very small bedside tables. Lighting is excellent with even small reading lights available next to the beds and there is a room temperature control that kept us comfortable. The room safe is bigger than most and the room has a small refigerator but it is full of items for sale and there is no room for your own things. Your room steward will keep the ice bucket full, though. The bathrooms are again the smallest we have seen, but they are very efficient and met our needs. I would suspect that a larger person would have some difficulty in the shower, though. Beds were comfortable but have rounded corners and seem shorter than usual. A taller person will have to adjust. The room TV had CNN, Headline News, The Weather Channel, TNT, Ship Movies, Pay Per View movies, plus some music and other channels. One problem we have had is that our 29" suitcases will not fit under the beds and most cruise lines will not stow the luggage so it sits against the wall and takes up room. One other thing these rooms could use would be some hanging hooks for jackets, cameras, etc.
Entertainment: Casino - we are not big into gambling, but this was the largest casino we have seen at sea. There seemed to be lots of slot machines from $1 to quarters to nickels, as well as blackjack, craps and other games.
3D Movie Theater - we didn't watch any movies, but this is a great theater with stadium seating and a reasonably sized screen. Many of the movies they showed were old classics, so if you're into movies, this will be a real treat.
Aurora Theater - this was where the main shows were held and it is wonderful. It is a true theater type setting with comfortable seats, all of which seem to have excellent views of the stage and have convenient drink holders. There is also a second floor balcony that provides good views also. The entertainment staff were pretty good and I would rate the shows as good, but not exceptional. There is a lot of energy and the singers and dancers seem talented, but I would rate what we have seen on HAL and Princess as better. There were also two comedians, one (Kelly Monteith) of which was excellent, the other (Robert Wilde) only good. Kenny James, a Star Search champion was also a fun performer. The hypnotist, Steve Baynor, was very entertaining and since we knew one of the subjects we thought it was hilarious. Don't miss these shows, as they were certainly enjoyable. Many ladies may certainly enjoy some of the costumes worn by the male dancers.
Lounges - as I already mentioned there are plenty of lounges on board, including a sports bar that showed different games that were on during the cruise. There is also a great band from Seattle playing in the Colony Club and a pianist/guitarist taking requests in the Schooner Lounge. You will also find string quartets, duets and other performers playing in different clubs and lounges from the Centrum to the Sky Lounge. Always a lot going on and the entertainers are talented and enjoyable. You will also find the standard karaoke, "Newlywed Game", "Dating Game" (although that was a bit unorganized), trivia, bingo and other activities going on. Perhaps I should say here that Gordon Whatman, the cruise director is excellent and contributes a great deal to the success of this ship. Much of his staff appears to be new, but they will get up to speed.
Dining / Food: The dining facilities on this ship are beautiful and certainly exceed the overall quality of the food. I would rate the food as good, but again we did not feel that it was as good as we experienced on Princess or HAL. The one exception to this was the food in the Windjammer, the more casual, 24 hour restaurant. The breakfast and lunch experience in Windjammer was very nice. This is the first cruise ship that actually cooks its scrambled eggs. I hate runny eggs. Breakfast generally included two kinds of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, French toast and pancakes. There is also an omelet bar and a separate area with donuts, bagels and other breads. Lunch was varied with pasta, burgers, sandwiches, salad bar and meats. Desserts were also available, including soft serve frozen yogurt.. We never found the Windjammer crowded and thought the layout was a great improvement over Sea Princess. Complaints we had read about cold food and difficulties with drinks did not exist on our cruise. It was also fairly easy to find a table and many people filled up tables sitting with strangers, more so than we have seen on other cruises. We enjoyed meeting so many new people every day.
We ate dinner every evening but one in Cascades, the formal dining room and enjoyed the experience. We asked for a large table and were so pleased with the friendliness of the other tablemates. We hit it off so well, we spent much of the cruise together. This was a real highlight and helped us look forward to each dinner. We had the main dinner seating at 6:00 p.m. and were there generally until 8:00 p.m. It wasn't that the service was slow, we just took our time, enjoying the good company. Menu selections include three appetizers and two soups, one salad choice and generally five entrees, served in three courses. The cold soups were excellent and we found ourselves ordering more than one appetizer on a regular basis. The rest of the fare was pretty standard. Not featured, but always available is the Caesar salad, steak and chicken breast. Desserts were also good, but not as strong as Princess. The service problems that we had read about didn't play a large part in our cruise, but it is obvious that there are a lot of new employees with little or no experience. The service process is a little disjointed and the room is noisier than usual; lots of dropped plates and glasses. Our waiter, Sulaymon, was wonderful and seemed to do a good job directing the assistant waiter that obviously was only beginning to learn. The head-waiter was invisible until the one night that the captain sat at an adjacent table. On that night she seemed to be everywhere, but was seldom seen on other nights. If they have a maitre'd, we never saw him at all. I'm sure that with time they will get their act together and service will be on a par with other ships. We expected this since it was a new ship.
Radiance has two alternative restaurants, Chops and Portofino. To eat at these restaurants there is an additional charge of $20 per person, plus tip. We looked into these restaurants but didn't eat there. I find it a bit offensive that these additional dining options are available for a fee. I'm afraid this may be a taste of the future. You get on the cruise for a base price, but additional fees are charged for all the really fun stuff. Besides, isn't this like the cruise line admitting that they can do better than what is served in the formal dining?? It just doesn't make sense to me and seems to be a dangerous direction that cruise lines may be taking as things become more competitive and cruise prices are driven lower.
Since we don't drink alcohol, we were particularly pleased that RCI didn't charge for soft drinks or fruit juices in the dining room or in the Windjammer. There was a charge for soft drinks only in the lounges. Coffee, tea, lemonade and hot chocolate are readily available in the Windjammer and drink service throughout the ship is not pushy at all.
Spa Facilities One of the real strengths of this ship is the spa facilities. I can't speak for any of the special treatments, although my wife was pleased with a cut and highlight treatment, but the layout and decor is incredible. One of my favorite experiences of the cruise is to walk my miles, then sit in the whirlpool and take a steam before showering. This ship has a nice walking/jogging track up on top and the largest collection of training equipment I have ever seen. Plenty of treadmills, stair-steppers and lots of weight equipment. Inside the men's changing area are lockers and a great steam room and dry sauna room. The steam room is made of beautiful tile work and has a cold water hose (rare in these days) and interesting lighting in the ceiling. There is a separate area called the "Thermal Suite" which includes heated tile lounge chairs, a steam, sauna and eucalyptus room. There is a $15 per day charge for this room, but since swimsuits or robes are required, it is something that can be done with your spouse. Hidden around the front of this spa area is a relaxation room with great padded lounge chairs for quiet reading and napping. What a great place. It seemed that many people spent much of their day in this room.
Unlike many ships that place the treatment room towards the center of the ships in small closet like rooms, the Radiance treatment rooms are located on the outside with views of the ocean. This should add to the overall experience. There is also a special partner room that is available for a fee to partners to have fun with the mud, steam and shower on their own. I don't know of anyone that tried this, but I've never seen it on other ships.
Again, the use of marble and tile in this area is just phenomenal, although the shower drains never seemed to work and the floor was always wet.
Shopping Minimal at best. There is a jewelry story, sundries store and a book store that is more like a small Barnes and Nobles, including the coffee bar. We were disappointed in the items available. Very limited clothing and few quality sales. The photo shop seemed to have a bigger inventory and better prices. The photo people make themselves available but don't put the hard sell on. Its easy to by-pass their picture taking if you want, although we were pleased with the quality of the photos taken. We just wish they would come off of the $9.95 price.
Disembarkation Unfortunately, this didn't go well either. I don't know if they had trouble with the Seattle port or if they are just not organized enough as a ship. We were scheduled for the 8:30 a.m. group, but by 9:30 a.m. we were still sitting and waiting patiently. When we did get off, we found their transfer set-up as disorganized as I have ever seen. We were also disappointed to note that some passengers seem to lose their sense of civility on the day of disembarkation. Again, the RCI staff had no paper transfers and there was no manifest. You simply asked where the bus to the airport was and stood in line. Once on the bus, it was a short ride to SEA-TAC and on for home. There were some delays at the airport, but this seems to have become the norm rather than the exception. Nothing to fret over too much,
1) Overall beauty of this ship. If there is a better looking ship at sea, I'd like to see it.
2) People. People who cruise are the nicest people and perhaps one of the best reasons to cruise. (Although some tend to Jekyll and Hyde this on the last day of the cruise.)
3) The Spa area and the many options it provided.
4) The Windjammer restaurant.
5) Large number of lounges and comfortable seating areas.
6) A large ship with only 1600 passengers. What a treat!! No lines. No crowds.
1) Ensenada embarkation and Seattle disembarkation. (I think we've become spoiled by the smoothness we've experienced on other cruises.) While definitely a "con", this can be endured.
2) Temperature of the whirlpools. They are only lukewarm. Not even bathwater warm. I don't know if this is by policy or just an oversight.
3) No tour of the galley and a tour of the bridge was only done at the last minute and we were already committed and couldn't make it.
4) Pillows. Just not that comfortable.
5) Itinerary (Ensenada, San Diego, Catalina, San Francisco, Victoria, Seattle). This repositioning itinerary was interesting, with great cities, but weather wise it is more like an Alaskan cruise. On both sea days the weather was cold and rainy so we didn't really get a chance to enjoy the outside of the ship.
6) There is a Lido type deck that surrounds the ship (I think it is deck 4), but you are not able to walk completely around. The front and rear ends were closed, so you only had the sides available.
As you can see, the complaints really don't amount to anything of great significance. The bottom-line is that this is an incredible ship and from what I've been told about RCI, I'm sure the service difficulties will improve. We look forward to cruising RCI again and wouldn't hesitate to cruise the Radiance again.
My wife and I sailed aboard the Radiance of the Seas on the second official sailing of this new ship April 23rd -30th. We are both 30, without children, and fairly active. We enjoyed the repositioning cruise immensely. I will try to relate our experiences and opinions regarding the ship, service, and itinerary.
The Itinerary: The Radiance had just finished a Panama Canal trek prior to our sailing. We were to board her in Ensenada, Mexico. This required a flight into San Diego and a 2 hour bus ride down to Ensenada. The following day we were to return to San Diego. This was a running joke throughout the cruise, especially for residents of San Diego on board. We then sailed to Catalina Island before a day at sea. We visited San Francisco, another day at sea, followed by a stop in Victoria, BC and then disembarked in Seattle. For west coasters this was an attractive cruise. Many on board lived along the coast. For those of us that had never been west of the Rockies, this was a terrific broad exposure.
The Ship: This new 90,000 gross ton ship is spectacular.I am not a big fan of the all white floating condo on the outside, but once inside, this ship is stunning! Glass is the material of choice for the designers of this ship. There is not a meeting place on board that you cannot see outside. Or if there is, I never found it. The elevators mid-ship off the Centrum are glass and you can watch the ocean as you zip up the 13 decks. The Centrum is the central meeting place from which most all public areas are accessed. It is nine decks high with small seating areas on each level. On Deck 4 there is a baby grand piano where nightly live music is performed and dancing often occurs. Deck 5 leads to the second level of the 2 floored Dining Room Cascades. It is named for the cascading waterfall that drops between the spiraled staircases connecting the two levels. Opposite the falls is a beautiful tile mural. Again, there is glass enclosing the room and ocean views for all!
Deck six was home to the Centrum shops which included RCI logo wear, a perfume shop, a liquor shop, jewelry, and resort wear. Prices were reasonable for liquor and scents, but quite high for the rest of the merchandise. Although they do claim a low price guarantee against anything found on shore. I did find a Tommy Bahama shirt in Catalina about $40 less than RCI had, but I did not challenge the claim - I just bought the shirt in Avalon.
Also on Deck 6 is the Casino and an entrance to the Aurora Theater (two levels). We spent only a limited amount of time in the Casino, ending a positive $25, so we quit early. There is a small movie theater on this deck where we saw one film. The sports bar and small video arcade was located here as well.
The Schooner Bar was here as well. The entrance to this bar was lined with the keel of a boat lining the ceiling. Old ropes framed murals depicting Christopher Columbus landing in the new world. From these ropes a musty smell was piped in to give one the sense of stepping into an old ship. It seemed most were divided on the scent. I found it a nice enhancement, but many were not fans. Also in the entrance was a an old cannon recovered and mounted. Once inside the bar nice leather couches and chairs allowed for casual meetings and listening to a pianist or guitarist for evening relaxation. Beyond the bar was the Colony Club. Here is where the self-leveling pool tables were located. At $90,000 a piece, they were a conversation piece if nothing else. With no charge to play on them, the tables were consistently busy. Continuing inside the club was another bar and meeting area with the largest dance floor on the ship. The Captains cocktail reception was held here as well as bingo, dances, and other parties. Around the dance floor was a non smoking area , but on the outskirts of the room smoking was allowed. Off the side of these rooms were the two alternative dining facilities: Portofino's and Chops Grille.
At the top of the Centrum was the Crown and Anchor Lounge. We never saw much going on here other than the reservations of future cruises. The highlight here however is the Glass floored cutout that allowed you to look straight down nine floors.
Up on deck 11 was the Solarium, main pool and Windjammer Cafe. The Solarium was an African themed room. The life size elephant heads frame the cascading waterfalls that lead into the pool. A wood bridge crossed the water from one side of the room to the other in front of the elephants. The lounge chairs are comfortably padded in a safari themed print. Bird whistles and other jungle sounds were piped in at a pleasant volume providing a nice relaxing feel. The first day of our cruise the roof was open, but was closed the rest of the cruise. It was a nice place, but I wish on sunny days there could have been a bit of a breeze. It got rather warm with no air circulating.
The main pool was not too small as many have mentioned, but it seemed to be a good size given the Solarium and other activities available. Plenty of seats were available and the staff did remove towels that were clearly not being used. They did discourage saving of seats.
The Windjammer Cafe was a pleasant surprise. It was actually quite good food. We ate lunch and breakfast here. We never ate dinner here. It is a buffet with several islands for the different foods offered. Traffic flow was not a problem, although you could not pour your own drinks. This was handled by the staff. Desserts seemed to be leftovers from the previous evening, although still quite fresh. On occasion finding seats for dining was difficult. But our wait was not overly long. Tables are available indoors, in a covered outdoor area and on open deck space.
Art was everywhere you looked. I seem to recall a figure of $5 million in artwork on board. Some of the work was art for arts sake, others were quite attractive.
The sports deck on Decks 11 & 12 included a basketball court that doubled as a volleyball and soccer surface. There was a 9 hole mini-golf course that was challenging, a golf simulator and a rock climbing wall. I did climb the wall and made it to the top! It was quite fun. There was no charge for any of these activities.
The Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 13 was a nice room, but it did not seem to get a lot of attention. It included two lounges with full view of the ocean. We did not spend much time here as we don't do much dancing or drinking and that was the appeal in the evenings for these rooms.
We did not explore the children's activity areas as we are childless. There were not many young ones on board our cruise, so I am not certain how well the areas were used.
We did visit the Shipshape center which provided a nice view of the ocean as it is in the forward section of the ship high above the ocean. We ran on tread mills as we pulled into San Diego. Many cardiovascular machines and weight machines were available and in good working condition. There were aerobic classes offered for a charge of about $10 per person. We did not attend. We did use the spa service twice with pleasant results. The regular prices were way too high, but as the week wore on specials were offered, especially days in port.
The materials used on this ship were wonderfully selected. The warm tones were perfect for an elegant and comfortable feeling. Wood was found in most places that glass or marble was not present. Most bars were marble or granite and often ornately decorated with a design in the surface. Blues, greens, purples, and burgundy colors were used very smartly. This ship is stunning.
The Food Cascades was the only dining room in which we ate dinner. The food was average in our estimation. There were some good dishes, but nothing spectacular. The Lobster, Filet, Prime Rib and Chicken Kiev come to mind as the best meals we ate. We found the desserts pretty bland at times. Only a chocolate flourless cake and tiramisu get high marks. The food was never horrible, just bland and lifeless.
The Windjammer was a pleasant surprise. The choices were quite good and often tasty. Crowds flocked to this option. I suspect the quality of the food, speed of the service and casual atmosphere added to the popularity. Made to order omelets were available daily and wrap sandwiches were made fresh in addition to the prepared entrees, hamburgers, pizza, and salad bar for lunch. As everywhere else on board, a view of the sea was not far away while you ate your meal.
The Service The buzz about poor service and new employees put us on guard. We frankly had nothing to worry about. Our assistant waiter was brand new and he was a little slow at times, but he was working hard. Sometimes I think he was trying too hard! Every night my wife had a Caesar Salad. After bringing my salad dressing he would ask which she would prefer. The Caesars always arrived with dressing. I can't fault him for wanting to do the right thing. Our main waiter had been aboard the Monarch for a few years. Eurdley was terrific. He had a great sense of humor and was always a pleasure to spend time with each evening. We do not drink wine, so we did not deal with the wine steward. Getting extra desserts or entrees was not a problem. Even getting two appetizers instead of a salad was easy enough. Our cabin steward did a great job. He was a shy guy, but was competent and took care of us nicely.
The Entertainment We recall three ensembles, three individuals and the orchestra for musical entertainment. The ensembles included two bands, one for a more mellow sound, a more rock and roll styled band, and a more classical sound which included a violin, accordion and oboe. All the groups sounded great and had a large repertoire. The soloists included two pianists and a guitarist. Dinner was accompanied by live piano or classical ensemble and during the evening hours, live music could be found in various locations. The shows were presented with a live orchestra, which included a keyboardist, lead guitar, bass guitar, 2 (Very good) trumpets, a trombone, and two saxophones (alto and tenor). They provided the live music for the headliners and the singers and dancers. The production shows left us a little unimpressed, although those that enjoy Vegas style reviews seemed to enjoy them. The comedy and hypnosis headliners were the acts we enjoyed most. Hypnotists always tickle my funny bone.
The Cruise Our departure time was moved from 5:00 to 9:00. We never heard why, but the embarkation nightmares must have played a key role here. I will admit that the drive to Ensenada was far more scenic and beautiful than I expected, however the hassle of going from San Diego to Ensenada to sail back to San Diego was annoying. The Jones Act has outlived its usefulness! We did the ship drill at 8:45 right before second seating dinner.
Our first day in San Diego was beautiful. We went to the Zoo. We took a taxi from the port and saved about 10 dollars off the excursion price by doing so and buying a park entrance on site. We also made it to the zoo about a half hour before the excursion buses arrived. Getting a taxi was simple, they line up at both the port and zoo. We took the bus tour of the zoo, which we highly recommend. This allowed us to see most of the high points of the zoo. We were able to watch the Polar Bears splashing and playing in their pool from our perch on the double decked bus. We did have to walk to see the Pandas. Do go to see them early if it is going to be a warm day. They are definitely cool weather animals and get uncomfortable in the heat. They are beautiful creatures though when you can see them. We went back to the ship early and had the place nearly to ourselves. I climbed the wall, we played some mini-golf and we enjoyed a snack in the pool area.
Day two was at Catalina. We had to tender in to the city of Avalon. Fog was thick this day. It was so thick at times we you could not see the ships from the shore. We chose not to take any excursions here, rather we walked around town and just enjoyed being away from home. We wandered over to see the old casino building and did some shopping. This town felt like a Caribbean island. It had a nice charm to it. We did look at renting a golf cart to explore some on our own. However, the price of $40 per hour for a golf cart was a little more than we were willing to pay just to wander. So, again we returned to the ship to enjoy the Solarium and relax.
Day three was at sea. Very cold weather and strong winds limited the outdoor activities. We attended the pool Olympics which were moved inside due to weather. The Colony Club was the site for balloon popping, Hula Hoop transfer and clothes changing relays. We then braved the cold for the mini golf tournament and basketball hot shot contest. In spite of the conditions we had a good time. The recreation specialists did a good job of organizing and making the best of rough situations.
Day four was San Francisco. This was a great place to visit on a cruise vacation. I woke up to see us passing directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. I scrambled to shake my sleepy eyes to track down the video camera to get footage of the passing. We had ordered tickets to tour Alcatraz through Grayline on their website (http://www.grayline.com). We took the first tour out with the headphones. Spend the extra money, get the headset. This tour is very interesting and informative. I enjoyed seeing the historical figures' cells, the hole, the different cell types and the remnants of the marine grenade attacks and escape plots. We spent about two hours on the island and took the ferry back to the mainland. We then had some lunch on the waterfront, walked to Ghirardelli Square, Lombard St and then went shopping at Pier 39. We chose not to take a Cable Car ride as the lines were extraordinarily long. The weather was chilly this day, but comfortable in the upper 50's.
Day five was again at sea. The weather was bright and sunny, but cold. We relaxed quite a bit this day, had spa treatments, watched horse racing, attended the art auction, passenger talent show and basically enjoyed the laziness a cruise can provide!
Day six we docked at Victoria, BC. We arrived late as one engine had troubles and for several hours we had to go much slower than planned. Apparently the crew was able to make the adjustments or repairs and the engine began to perform as hoped. So, we only arrived two hours late. Kudos to Captain Kent and crew for the work they did and keeping us advised.
Victoria is a beautiful town. Riding around the streets you just don't see litter or unkempt properties. It is such a pleasant place to visit. I suspect from the locals comments too that it is a terrific place to live. We did some shopping downtown before we took an excursion to Butchart Gardens. What we did not know is that it would take about 25 minutes to get to the gardens. The bus driver we had was a joy. He gave us a running commentary on the buildings, neighborhoods, political climate, weather trends and basically an overview of Victoria and Vancouver Island. Tourism is the number one economic industry he claimed and with the friendliness of the residents, they'll do fine attracting more. The gardens were beautiful. A small disappointment was that the roses had not yet bloomed, but the tulips were vividly on display. This is almost a zoo for plant and flower enthusiasts, that is the only way to describe it. The cost of the excursion was $50 per person, but throw in the city tour as we went and we felt we more than got our money's worth.
Our final day took us to Seattle where we disembarked. Rain (imagine that in Seattle?) and cold made for an unpleasant experience. Waiting two hours after the scheduled time to have our color called was a horrible start to the day. Then, our bus driver had never been to the airport before, so we wandered aimlessly before he found a bus that was going to the passenger terminal and he followed! Oh my. We were able to catch an earlier flight stand by so we could get back home to the dogs that my wife (OK, I did too!) sorely missed.
Overall thoughts This ship is beautiful. It compares favorably in many areas with the only ships we have sailed previously (Disney's Magic and Wonder), but still has some bugs to be worked through. There were some design flaws that make moving from some areas difficult. You don't want an aft cabin unless you are prepared to walk a good deal. RCI will have to figure how to balance the Windjammer and Main Dining. Many folks passed on the dining rooms to eat upstairs as that facility is wonderful and the food on par with the main room. Veteran waitstaff were clearly frustrated with the new system, so it will be addressed I am certain. They never knew how many at their table would arrive each night. The Captain and his crew were always friendly and seemed more than competent. The service staff was really trying hard. Any deficiencies were overcome with smiles and hard work. The entertainment staff was quite good and were good at what they did. We did not enjoy the production shows too much, but that was more a design issue and personal preference than the talent of the performers.
We would love to sail this ship again, but when she hits the warmer climates. This was a bit of a trial for us to see if Alaska would be something we would enjoy. We found quickly we prefer to be in warm weather. Alaska may be beautiful, but us thin blooded Texans need to see the sunny skies!
On a scale of 1 to 10 we rate the ship SPECTACULAR! My wife, my parents and I feel this was one of our best vacations. The Radiance of the Seas is a well thought out ship and the most beautiful we've sailed on. While not quite a year old it is maintained in gleaming condition. The ship is decorated tastefully and it appears no expense was spared in the extensive art collection found throughout.
The ship was 95% full, which I took as an encouraging economic indicator. Despite this, you never had a feeling of it being crowded. There was always plenty of extra room in the public spaces such as the lounges, gym, pools, upper decks, etc. The folks who designed the ship really got it right. The six glass elevators in the atrium and three additional elevators forward are pretty large for a ship and keep people moving efficiently. You sometimes wish you had eyes in the back of your head to spot the next car stopping on your floor. In each elevator car there is an insert in the floor that states the day of the week.By the middle of the week you come to appreciate this thoughtful touch.
Our cabin was a category "D" Deluxe Ocean View with balcony. We were portside in cabin 9204. This was about six cabins aft of the elevator lobby and very convenient. Kartini our cabin attendant, practiced "feng shui" arranging our pillows each morning. She folded our towels into different animal figures each night to greet us after dinner and on Friday there was a demonstration to teach the techniques. The room is laid out well and is very comfortable. There is plenty of closet space although you could use a few more drawers. The dressing table has outlets for both 110 and 220 voltage appliances and there are high speed internet ports as well. I think the ship charges something like 50 cents per minute or $90/week to surf the net. If you like you can use the computers in the Royal Caribbean Online on deck five or in the upscale coffee shop. Each room has a safe with a digital lock that you set and it's conveniently placed at eye level in the dressing table cabinet.
Some earlier reviews took off points for the quality of the food served. We have to disagree. It was generally excellent. On lobster night, Mustafa our waiter, kept bringing out the tails until we said stop. They were all cooked to perfection and delicious. I had a killer prime rib on the last night that was one of the best I've had anywhere. One night, our party tried Chops Grill. There is a $20 cost but the food was exceptional with large portions, so bring your appetite.We didn't get to try Portofinos, the Italian restaurant, so we'll have to try this ship again. Our dinner service was a bit slow, I think because our table was in the annex to the main dining room.
While you can be served breakfast and lunch in the main dining room, we preferred to dine up on deck eleven in the Windjammer Cafe. It's the most elegant cafeteria you'll ever see with windows from floor to ceiling. It serves basically the same items being served in the main dining room however you have the ability to sample a bit of everything. Coffee, tea, lemonade and ice water are always available at no charge. The ship offered packaged deals with seven bottles of selected wines for a cost of $109. Our group took this deal and feel we made out well compared to buying bottles individually or ordering by the glass. There was also a weekly deal on fountain soft drinks, $35 for adults and $20 for children.
As you board the ship, you are issued a Credit/I.D. card. They take the world's worst picture of you although it doesn't appear on the card. The card is used to get on or off the ship as a security check, open your cabin door, charge drinks, spa treatments, casino chips, shore excursions and purchases in the shops on board. While on the ship, your cash and credit cards are basically no good.
We didn't take any of the shore excursion packages but preferred to explore on our own. For $30 to $50, an island taxi driver would take four of us on a one or two hour island tour. A couple of our dinner companions took a two way sail to Soufriers on St. Lucia and raved about it.
In summary, take the cruise. If you were never to leave the ship for a week, you would enjoy it. We've used a specialty travel agent to help us book three cruises now. Greg Nowling at The Cruise Authority here in Atlanta is a valuable resource that will put you in a cruise to suit your needs, tastes and interest. He's a good guy.
Reach him at: [email protected]
Check the web site at: www.the-cruise-authority.com
Ahoy Mates :-)
Here is my review of our 12 day cruise on the beautiful Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver to Hawaii. This was our 18th cruise but our first with Royal Caribbean. The Radiance definitely exceeded our expectations - Big Time! She truly is a beautiful and elegant floating masterpiece of a cruise ship in every imaginable way. There is nothing which can compare with the pleasure of cruising on a new luxury liner.
EMBARKATION Mary and I arrived at LAX at about 6:30 AM to be processed through security for our 9:20 AM flight on Alaska Airlines to Vancouver. Since our RCI tags were attached to our luggage, RCI reps picked it up at the airport and transported it to the Radiance.
We boarded the motor coach for the 30 minute ride to the pier. There were long lines of passengers waiting to be checked through security prior to advancing to the check in counter. However, since our luggage had been security checked at the airport of origin and controlled by RCI from the airport to the pier, we bypassed the securityprocess and went directly to the check in counter.Within a few minutes, we had finished the processing procedure and were on board the elegant Radiance.
CRUISE ADDICTS MEETING Several years ago, I learned a formula for enriching one's life as well as the lives of others. It is known as ‘Consider the Utility of the Act vs. the Magnitude of the consequences'. So, if the utility only takes a few minutes and the consequences result in someone else receiving pleasure and enjoyment, then it was a wise investment of your time.
I had posted our cruise date and itinerary on the Cruise Addicts Cruise Exchange Board and, as time grew shorter, I received several responses. I offered to put together a list of Cruise Addicts if each person would send me a brief bio. Well, we wound up with a great group of 29 happy adult cruisers and 3 children who met in the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 in the afternoon of the 2nd day of our cruise. Since we had exchanged e-mail several times before our meeting, we felt like old friends when we finally met. The next afternoon, we met in the Champagne Bar on Deck 6 which was a more intimate place to meet. These meetings were an overwhelming success which enhanced everyone's enjoyment of our cruise.
We had two group pictures taken by the ship's photographers which made memorable souvenirs for everyone. Near the end of our cruise, Christine and Richard graciously provided light snacks for a cocktail party in the Starquest Disco Bar in the Viking Crown Lounge which was our last group meeting and another one with many fond memories.
Our Cruise Addicts included: [email protected], Vonnie and Rick from Santa Rosa, California; [email protected], Christine and Richard from Washington D. C.; [email protected], Virginia from Lancaster, California; [email protected], JC and Krystal from Springfield, Missouri; [email protected], Cheri and Lloyd and their granddaughter, Malissa, from Red bluff, California; [email protected], Tracy and Mike and their two children, John (9) and Lexy (6) from Rock Island, Illinois: [email protected], Shelby and Susan from Springfield, Missouri; [email protected], Gretchen and Dudley from Lafayette, Louisiana; [email protected], Jack and Carol from Windsor, California; [email protected], Randy and Denise from Red Bluff, California; [email protected], Pam and Larry from Michigan; [email protected], Steve and Barb from Rochester, New York; [email protected], Ruth and Tom from Mississauga, Canada; [email protected], Judith and Geoff from London, England; [email protected], Benthe and her friend Ann from Zurich, Switzerland.
OUR CABIN Our cabin was a Category E1, Superior Ocean View with a balcony, on Deck 8, which had beige walls and walnut wood for the vanity and chairs. Upon entering, the large closet was on the left, with ample storage space and removable hangers. The bathroom was on the right and it had a triple mirror with a medicine cabinet and a shelf below the counter for additional storage. The shower was circular and ‘cozy' is the word which comes to mind. Since we didn't spend much time in the shower, it was adequate. However, those with large bodied might wish to use the recommended RCI shower procedure - ‘soap the walls -- then, step in and spin around'. Our luggage was stored under the bed. The vanity had a large mirror, 6 small drawers and a hair dryer. There was a cabinet with a large safe over the Interactive TV and a mini refrigerator beneath the TV. There was a small sofa for two (facing the vanity and TV) between the bathroom and the queen sized bed after which was the doorway; to the balcony. The cabin arrangement was very convenient and one which made us feel most comfortable. Our cabin attendant was Maria, who was from; Colombia. She provided excellent service and did so in a friendly manner. We asked Maria to remove the beverages for sale from the frig so we could use it for other purposes and she gladly complied. She always managed a cheerful greeting any time she saw us in the hallway. When she turned down our bed each evening, she arranged our towels into such clever animal arrangements. A nice touch to end an exciting day.
THE SHIP - FACTS AND FIGURES Captain Kent Ringborn was dispatched to Germany for two year to oversee the construction of the Radiance. He did an outstanding job for it is an impressive ship in every minute detail.
The Radiance was built at Meyer-Werft Yard, Papenburg, Germany. 90,090 Gross Tonnage - 962 feet long - 106 feet beam - 28 feet draft - 24 knots cruising speed. It is environmentally friendly and powered by two smokeless Gas Turbine Engines and one steam turbine which generate 77,000 horse power. 2,150 guest capacity (double occupancy) and 2,500 maximum guest capacity. The maiden voyage was on April 7, 2001. Disembarkation to the pier or the tenders was from Deck 2 rather than Deck 4 on most other ships which we have sailed. This eliminated the need for an elevated stairway for the gangway which was a problem for those confined to wheelchairs.
DECK 13 The Viking Crown Lounge, the climbing wall and the putting green.
DECK 12 The shipshape Fitness center, jogging track, game arcade, art studio, voyagers and explorers areas for children, teen pool, sports court, golf simulator and Seaview Cafe.
DECK 11 Shipshape Spa, Solarium pool and whirlpool and the Windjammer Cafe. DECKS 10, 9. 8 AND 7 Passengers' cabins.
DECK 6 Aurora Theatre Balcony, Video Arcade, Casino, Schooner Bar, Chops Grill, The Colony Club, Portofino Restaurant, Bombay Billiard Club, Calcutta Card Club, Jakarta Lounge and Singapore Sling's Bar.
DECK 5 Aurora Theatre Balcony, Photo Shop, Art Gallery, shops, Royal Caribbean Online and the Cascades Dining Room, Upper Level.
DECK 4 Aurora Theatre, Conference Room, Guest Relations Desk, Explorers Tour Office, Breakers Bar, Tides Bar and the Cascades Dining Room.
DECKS 3 and 2 Passengers' cabins.
THE ATRIUM Words alone could not describe the magnificent atrium which was open from Deck 4 up to Deck 12. The view from the mini balcony on each deck was spectacular for you could view the vast openness of the atrium and appreciate the detail planning which went into its breathtaking design. The floors were covered with beautiful marble and hardwood in the main lobby area of Deck 4. There was a curving stairway from Deck 5 down to Deck 4 which was under lighted with green lights in the evenings. The chairs were upholstered in medium blue with walnut arms and trim. There was a small stage for musicians who played for us at various times during the days and evenings. There were two glass elevators with a stunning view of the atrium and four others which provided an ocean view for your ascents and descents to your choice of activities.
CASCADES DINING ROOM The dining room was situated on decks 4 and 5 with two staircases from the upper level curving around a lovely waterfall ‘cascading' into a small pool on the lower level. The chairs were upholstered in medium blue with walnut arms and trim, the carpeting was dark blue and gold and the table cloth and napkins were subdued yellow to harmonize with the gold in the carpet. An impressive dining room, to say the least.
We were seated at a table for ten and our dining companions were Jim and Shirley, from Oologah, Oklahoma, (birthplace of Will Rogers), Joe and Joyce, from Lajal, Quebec, Canada, Harold and Em from New Westminister, B. C., Canada, and Orlando and Pearl, from Penticton, B. C., Canada. We all exchanged interesting stories (OK, some weren't so good) during our cruise. We were a very compatible group. We were fortunate to have two exceptional servers who provided us with excellent service to enhance our dining experience. Our waiter, Ovidio, was from Rumania and our assistant waiter, Sunjah, was from India and both always had a cheerful smile and a friendly greeting when we arrived for our evening meal.
Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were open seating. The menu included a variety of seafood, chicken, lamb and beef dishes and all of our choices were well prepared and of very high quality. The filet mignon and lobster tail were as good as any that I've ever had. Needless to say that the deserts were sinfully delicious. Chocolate lovers thought that they had found heaven on a cruise ship.
WINDJAMMER CAFÉ The Windjammer cafe was located on Deck 11 and rather than having long, continuos serving counters, the serving stations were on separate islands. There was one for hot entrees, and others for fresh fruits, bred and rolls, an egg station and one for deserts. The food quality was very good and we had breakfast and lunch in this cafe daily.
ENTERTAINMENT Gordon Whatman, from merry ole England, was one of the best Cruise Directors we have had the pleasure of cruising with on any of our cruises. He was never at a loss for words and most of his comments were clever and witty. He kept his audience laughing during the cruise. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers put on two production shows, "Welcome To Our World" on day two and "Rockin' In Paradise" on day ten. Both were presented in a professional and entertaining manner. Gordon later told us that each show is cast in Miami and rehearsed for three weeks before being assigned to a cruise ship. Their contracts run for six months. Other entertainers included Burt Leigh, a comedian, Comedian Marty Allen and Kate Blackwell, a singer and his wife. Jan Downs, a singer and impressionist. Lenny Welch, a great singer, one of our favorite performers on this cruise. Terri Bryant, a former 5th Dimension singer, who had a terrible attitude and insulted the audience to the point that several got up and left the Theatre in the middle of her sarcastic remarks about low level of our applause. Wild and Hanes, billed as dangerous comedians, and they were a riot and extremely funny. Martin Lass, an international violinist. The Diamonds, who sang the favorite songs of the 1950s and 1960s. The final show included the comedy of Milt Abel, who talked so fast that it was hard to follow his stories. Gordon Whatman closed with a song and had a remarkably good singing voice. I need to mention that Captain Kent Ringborn, who was born and raised in Sweden, had a great baritone singing voice and sang for us at the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party.
PORTS O' CALL After six days at sea, we called at our first port which was Hilo, Hawaii, the largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 4,038 square miles. It is known as The Big Island, and is the youngest of the island chain. Tours were available to Volcano National Park, the Parker Ranch near Kamuela with 480,000 acres of land, and a city tour. We went shopping to help improve the islands' depressed economy. Day eight was Maui, the Valley Island, and we were there for two days and had to tender in to this island. We took the tour to the Haleakala Volcano National Park, at 10,023 feet, which is dormant, and to the Iao Valley State Park which is in the crater of another dormant volcano. The weather was good and the cloud cover stayed below 8,000 feet so we were able to take several pictures of the magnificent scenery on this lovely island. Day ten was Nawiliwili, Kauai, the Garden Island, and fourth largest and the oldest island. We took the boa tour up the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto, where hundreds of weddings are performed every year, mostly for Japanese tourist. Another tour which we had taken in a past visit was of the Waimea Canyon, known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific', which is 200 million younger than its Arizona cousin. The colorful river cut gorge is 2,758 feet deep. Also, many movies have been filmed on this island including Elvis Presley's ‘Blue Hawaii', all three Jurassic Park pictures and several others. Day eleven was Kona, on the Big Island, known for the famous Kona coffee. We went shopping and did some sight seeing. Day twelve was Honolulu, Oahu, which is the capital of Hawaii. After shopping at the International Market in the morning, we met with Carole and Gerry who have lived on Oahu for several years. We had become acquainted via e-mail with Carole and had looked forward to this meeting for several months. It was a delightful afternoon spent chatting about our children, pets and life in general. The time went by far too quickly and it was time to say good-bye. It was a joyful ending ashore to our wonderful cruise.
DISEMBARKATION The night before disembarkation, Gordon Whatman told us of a significant change to the usual procedure for leaving the ship the next morning. Instead of gathering our carry on luggage and waiting in one of the public areas, Gordon invited us to join him in the Aurora Theatre for a little entertainment. He would have two chairs on stage and invite members of the audience up to ask questions and chat with him. This was a terrific way to spend the last few minutes on board the Radiance and enjoy Gordon's humor and have a few good laughs. We were off the ship before 9 AM and on busses to the airport to catch our flight home. Our flight wasn't until 12:55 PM and it was a good thing with the increased time spent going through the security process. We had our checked luggage x-rayed before going to the check in counter and for some unexplained reason, they were screened again afterward. This meant that all of us from the Radiance had to stand in yet another line. Before we were able to board the airplane, we had random checks of our carry on bags. We were among the lucky ones who had our checked thoroughly. As a consequence, our flight departed about 15 minutes late. I think that everyone felt that it was justified and believed that the flight was more secure. After arriving at LAX on time, we claimed our luggage and took the shuttle to the parking lot and drove home.
CONCLUSION We thought that the staff on board the Radiance was the warmest and most friendly of any ship on which we have cruised. During the cruise, many other passengers indicated that they felt exactly the same way. Naturally, your last cruise is always the best one and that definitely was true this time. Because of all of our cyber friends we met on board and in Hawaii, it was one of our more memorable cruises. In the future, we will have the Radiance and her sister ship, the Brilliance of the Seas to choose for our cruises.
Life is good.
I booked this cruise in May of 2001 in a category M guarantee. I was assigned cabin # 1005, a category M, on the top passenger deck. It was a good location, other than being almost all the way forward. It was 1 cabin from the bridge.
I took this cruise with my mom who had never cruised before. This was my 3rd Royal Caribbean Cruise and 4th over all (the other being Celebrity Infinity in March 2001 to Hawaii). The Radiance and the Infinity are built on the same hull design, but are quite different in the public areas. The Infinity is quite elegant with bizarre artwork. The Radiance has more of a "wow" factor, more color, and I found the art more tasteful and more pleasant. The Infinity, however, wins hands down for more pools and more hot tubs! The Radiance has only 1 hot tub in the Solarium and 2 outside, whereas Infinity has 2 and 4, respectively. If I were going to Alaska, I would take that into account.
Now for the cruise itself!
We arrived at the Port of Seattle a little after 11 am onMonday the 8th of October. We had dropped our Hertz rental car at their downtown location and they gave us a $5.00 credit to cab it to the pier. We rented the car at the airport on Saturday and spent 2 days visiting friends and relatives. No charge to drop downtown?good deal! We gave our big suitcases to a porter at the door and then proceeded to get in line.
Security was definitely extra tight. I have never had to show my I.D. so many times to get on a ship! The lines were not too long and we checked in, got our super-charge blue cards activated, and we went to wait by the door. Good news! Only 1 card to carry! Your super-charge is also your room key. This was not the case on my previous RCI cruises. They made an announcement that we could board, but not to go to our rooms until 1 pm. Lunch would commence at Noon, so we had some to look around before eating. The ship is definitely stunning. We went up to deck 11 and viewed the Seattle skyline. It had been raining in the morning, but it was starting to clear up and blue sky was peeking through the clouds!
At noon, we went to the Windjammer for the welcome aboard buffet. It was very good! I have only made it to 1 welcome aboard buffet before (on the Enchantment) and this was ten times better than that one was. They had carved roast beef, mashed potatoes & gravy, wrap sandwiches, pasta, salad, salmon, veal stew, fruit, etc. But the desserts were AMAZING! They had pastry tarts filled with cheesecake and fruit on top (peaches, kiwi, blackberries, raspberries, etc.) that were very good. They also had several other selections, including a very rich chocolate cake brownie. Royal Caribbean's desserts are much better than Celebrity's in my opinion.
by the time we were finished eating it was 1 pm so we went to check out our cabin. It was much bigger than previous inside cabins I have had (Category M on the Rhapsody and Category K on the Enchantment). There was room for a loveseat and the table was nice and small so it didn't get in the way. Our beds were pushed together, so we talked to our cabin steward about making them into twins. I guess he didn't understand, because they were still together after dinner. So we just pushed them apart ourselves, and put the night stands in the middle. Our luggage arrived in the afternoon sometime and my mom and I took turns unpacking and we found enough space for all of our stuff.
For sail-away, I had made plans to meet with Carol and Terry from B.C. and their friends Dan and Denise poolside. Carol and I had been e-mailing each other before the cruise, and she was nice to send me brochures of things to do in Victoria because she lives 30 minutes from there. My mom and I ordered a drink from the Solarium bar and off we went! It was a little chilly, but we managed to stay out there awhile. We all went up to deck 12 to get a better view.
We went back to our cabin to freshen up for dinner and there was a note on the door that our table was changed to 407, a large table by the window.
We went to the dining room and a waiter brought us to our table. We were the first to arrive so we took a window seat. The Cascades Dining Room is very nice, but not as stunning as the Infinity with her windows spanning both levels in the back.
Our other dining companions were Leslie and Marshall from Dayton, TN; JP and Cindy from Vancouver, BC; and Mike and Kathy from Vancouver. Mike and Kathy only ate with us once as they ate in Chops the first night, dined with the Captain the second night, and in Portofino on the last night.
Mike was the manager/director of the Port of Vancouver/Canada Place so he knew Captain Kent. Mike had toured the Radiance early in the season and said he told his wife they had to take a cruise on this ship! He was very impressed.
Dinner that night was an Italian theme. I had Prosciutto and Melon, Strawberry Bisque Soup, Turkey Picatta, and Tiramisu and Pistachio ice cream for dessert. My mom had the Sirloin Steak. The wait staff sang for us that night. Our waitress was Branka from Slovakia. Our server was Illi (sp?) but I can't recall where he was from. He was very quiet. Branka was an excellent waitress. She has previously worked on the Majesty and the Voyager.
That evening after dinner was the welcome aboard show. There was only one show that night at 8 pm. There were plenty of seats. Gordon Whatman, the cruise director did a little introduction and sang with the orchestra. He is very good, probably the most memorable cruise director I have had and this was the shortest cruise I have taken. Then the entertainment was the juggling comedy of Chuck Gunter. It was entertaining.
Later that evening I went to the Hollywood Odyssey to watch Karaoke (I don't sing), and then I hung out in the Starquest Disco (a.k.a. the Viking Crown Lounge) but it was pretty dead that night.
Day 2, Vancouver, BC
The night before I placed an order for some room service breakfast to be delivered, to tied us over until we could get to the Windjammer for breakfast ;) We received 2 plates of fruit, 2 plates of pastries (about 6 on each plate!), coffee, juice, and a plate of bacon (I love their bacon!) We nibbled while we each got ready for our day. We put some pastries in some Ziplocs to bring ashore. After meeting my mom in the Windjammer, we left the ship to look for the bus stop. We planned to do the Horse drawn tours of Stanley Park http://www.stanleypark.com . They had a 9:20 am scheduled pick-up by Canada place. We boarded the free bus and the driver took us to Stanley Park. We then bought tickets for the tour and got on the "trolley". It was quite nippy, but they provided blankets to sit on and place over your lap. The tour lasted 1 hour. We saw the sights and it was better than walking!
After the tour, the shuttle bus was about to leave, so we hopped on and were taken to Downtown Vancouver. We got off at the Art Museum and we walked Robson St. and shopped all afternoon. The bargains were great with the strong US dollar. Before returning to the ship, I decided I wanted to do the "Lookout!" at the Harbour Centre Tower to get a good view of the ship http://vancouverlookout.com . It was about $6.00 US to go up there but it was worth it. My mom did not join me because the Space Needle was enough for her (we did that before the cruise and she is afraid of heights!)
We returned to the ship and grabbed a bite in the Windjammer (nachos, hot dogs, sandwiches, fruit, salad, ice cream, cookies, etc. are served in the Windjammer from 3-5 pm) before we got ready for the Formal Night and the captain's cocktail party. I got a call from Carol to meet in the Champagne Bar beforehand, but we didn't get there in time. But we did manage to meet up with them in the Colony Club for the Cocktail Party. Captain Kent performed his infamous song and we were all impressed. At the cocktail party we met another couple Lois and Fred (who lived in Minnesota at one time). They have been married 50 years and they were quite a hoot, especially Lois!
For dinner we enjoyed our filet mignon! It was the best one I have had on a cruise yet! We enjoyed watching the scenery as the ship left Vancouver at 6 pm. A police boat escorted us the whole way.
The show that evening was "Welcome to Our World" by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. It was your typical cruise show, but well done. After the show, we went to watch karaoke and then I went to the 70's party in the Disco. It was fun. We all learned the John Travolta Dance and then did the Love Train. I managed to get myself in the Cruise Review Video a couple of times!
Day 3, Victoria, BC
We did not make any definite plans for the day, waiting to see what the weather would be like. Well, it was raining. And it rained most of the day. We paid the $5.00 for shuttle service from the pier to DT Victoria. We walked around downtown and did a little shopping. Then we decided to buy tickets to go to the Butchart Gardens http://www.butchartgardens.com/index2.cfm, despite the weather. We bought the tickets right where we were dropped off in the morning. At Noon we boarded a Double Decker British-style bus (http://www.grayline.ca/victoria/Butchart.shtml) and were driven to the gardens, about 30 minutes away. Our driver was a retired Victoria police officer and he gave us a good narrated tour and made the obligatory corny jokes. We had about 2 hours to explore the Gardens. Even in the rain, they were gorgeous. We had just enough time to buy some souvenirs in the gift shop and something warm to drink, and we got back on the bus to head back to Victoria. We paid about $26 US to do this and the ship charged close to $50.
Back in town, we walked to a few more shops, including Roger's Chocolates, and made some last Canadian purchases. My mom and I both managed to spend all of our Canadian money that we brought with us so we didn't have to change any back. The line for the shuttle back to the ship was growing quite long when a deluxe motor coach arrived to take us back to the pier at about 4 o'clock. We returned and had a small snack in the Windjammer again before dinner. Unfortunately, I wasn't very hungry at dinner, but I managed some how! I had the Chicken Kiev with rice and vegetables. It was quite tasty. The food was, in general, very good. It was no worse than the food I had on the Infinity and I felt we had more choices on the Radiance. Also, Alaskan Salmon was offered each night as an alternative entree, as was chicken or steak. The appetizers combined appetizers and soups (I recall these were under separate headings before) but that didn't stop me from ordering 2. Maybe that was the intent, as the first time cruisers at our table only ordered one thing at first. Half way through the cruise they realized they could order as many as they wanted, and more than one entree as well.
The show that evening was the comedy of Greg Otto. He was funny at first, and then it got too long. He was doing magic tricks at the end, which were kind of boring. After the show we went to the Colony Club to take part in Radiance Quest. In all my cruises I have never seen this so I wanted to check it out. My mom and I teamed up with the couple sitting next to us and another solo woman. Needless to say, we had a blast! I won't mention what I ended up doing to get us a point! ;) But I managed to get in the video once again!
After Radiance Quest we trekked up to the Hollywood Odyssey to watch the karaoke again. It is quite entertaining at times, but the talent this evening was lacking!
Day 4, At Sea
Our day was bright and sunny, but was quite chilly in the morning as we sailed north. By afternoon, the winds died down and it was quite pleasant. My mom got in the outdoor hot tub when it was 44 degrees outside! I opted for the Solarium pool and swam around in there for a while. The hot tubs never managed to empty, so I opted for the shower instead, which was wonderfully warm! I lounged in the Solarium for a bit longer before returning to our cabin to get ready for lunch in Portofino. Lunch was a $10.00 cover charge and included a glass of champagne or a mimosa. This was probably the highlight of our cruise dining! It was definitely worth the $10 and dinner would be worth the $20. We were first served bread and butter. Then we received a plate of bruchetta with olive oil for dipping. Then I had an antipasto platter to die for! It was so delicious. Next was the soup. I had the minestrone (excellent); my mom had the cheese tortellini. Next, we each had the Caesar salad. Our pasta entree was next: I had penne pasta with spinach and mushrooms in a light broth, sauteed with peanuts. It was very good. My mom had the lasagna, which was incredible! It was so big and just stuffed with sausage and cheese and sauce. Then, if you can believe it, we had our entree: New York Strip for me, and my mom had an omelet with shrimp. We were too stuffed for much dessert, but we managed to eat a couple chocolate-dipped strawberries! There were many activities scheduled all afternoon. My mom and I attended the art auction to see what that was like. My cousin was hired this year as an art auctioneer for Park West (she's been on a Carnival ship and the Wind Spirit in Europe), so we were curious. We didn't buy anything but it was fun.
Dinner this evening was everyone's favorite- prime rib. I think everyone at our table ordered it and it was excellent! We thanked Branka for her excellent service all week and wished her well. Then she rolled us out of the Dining Room!
The show this evening was called "Rockin' In Paradise" with the RC Singers and Dancers. It was a fun show with a lot of familiar songs. After the show I ended up going back to the cabin to pack and then I went to bed early because I was getting a cold! I ordered some Herbal Tea from Room Service to help sooth my throat. It arrived promptly.
All in all this was an enjoyable cruise, but way too short! This ship is amazing so I wish we were on it for longer than 4 days. I have not sailed on a Voyager class ship yet, but this one definitely impressed me. My mom loved it too and she has already booked another RCI cruise for this winter on the Enchantment. This time she's "letting" Dad come along!
You may view pictures from this cruise at: http://www.cruise-addicts.com/picturepost/index.php and look for "Radiance 10/8/01" in the list.
Here is our trip report on our vacation to the Pacific Northwest. We were worried that the American crisis situation would prevent us from going, or they would keep Tom at work, but we actually traveled with very few problems. We got up at 4 AM Atlanta time to be at the airport two hours early for an 8:45 flight. Long line to check in but routine and speedy once we reached the ticket agent. We flew Northwest from Atlanta to Minn. and then on to Seattle. We took a cab from the airport to the Edgewater Hotel.
It was mostly sunny and warm in Seattle when we arrived - felt wonderful! We had made a reservation months ago for a city view room at the Edgewater at a great rate. But the desk clerk offered to upgrade us to a room facing right out on Puget Sound for a reasonable amount, so we agreed. Then she told us that gave us a balcony and a fireplace! !!! It was a smaller room as the hotel is older, but it has been completely redecorated and was lovely. We went rightout on to the balcony in the warm sunshine and thought seriously about just staying there for all 7 days!
But after a short rest, we took advantage of the weather and walked up to Seattle Center where the Space Needle and other attractions are located. Quite a climb up that hill for Mom's first trip to Seattle. The park was nice, and fairly busy because they had had a special memorial service earlier that day for the victims of the Trade Center bombings. Two Hook and Ladder trucks were parked so that their extended ladders supported a huge American flag and people had COVERED the trucks with flowers. They had also begun to line a huge fountain with a hill all around the size of our cul-de-sac with flowers. They actually kept that going for three more days, even though it was supposed to just be one day. Very moving.
We had spotted an Old Spaghetti Factory on our way up to the Center so that is where we ate dinner. We were totally worn out and went to bed by 9:30, Seattle time, 12:30 AM Atlanta time. We slept well and in the morning consulted with a young man at the guest relations desk for suggestions for breakfast. He sent us just a few blocks away to a place called CJ's. We had a really good breakfast - omelets, hash browns, rye! toast, bagels, juice. Yummy!!!
After breakfast, we walked to the Pike Place Market. It was chilly and misty outside. We saw amazing fresh flowers, unusual characters, loads of fresh fish and other foods. We found a bakery with huge donuts and pastries and knew we would eat here the next day. We bought a bunch of flowers to enjoy for the week. (More on those later.) Since we were cold, we went to a "fish bar" for lunch and had bowls of clam chowder.
After lunch, we rode the trolley to Pioneer Square. We visited a huge bookstore and an antique/flea market place. We didn't spot the Gold Mining history museum til it was time to go back to the room, so we will have to go there another time. Tom wanted to get back to the room in time to see the Norwegian Sea leave the dock. You see, our room was no more than a good Greg Maddox throw from the cruise ship dock. Tom had watched them load her up earlier. So we sat on our balcony and watched her leave, Seattle fire boat squirting and all. We knew our ship, Radiance of the Seas would come in in the morning, but we didn't know what time and were afraid we would miss it.
We went to bed, but had to get up at 4:20 (our bodies were still on Atlanta time). We checked for the ship out our window, but it wasn't there yet. We got up again near 6 and just as we looked out our window, here she came! And came and CAME! She was huge!!! It was still quite dark, so all her lights were lit and it was quite a sight, even with my contacts out! She was much larger than the other ship, so her stern was even closer to our balcony.
We went to the Market for breakfast and sampled those bakery goods - yummmmmm! We came back to the hotel and repacked. We had intended to do something else that morning, but it was just too chilly and overcast. Tom kept an eye on the Radiance from the balcony wanting to be sure they put enough food on board, but actually it didn't seem as if they loaded anything at this port - maybe got enough for the week in Vancouver on Saturday.
We checked out and simply rolled our luggage next door to the cruise ship terminal. We got on in less than an hour total time from leaving the hotel next to the ship. Carried on our own luggage, no problems at all. Rolled it right to our cabin and WHAT A CABIN! #7038 is forward and one of the ones with the double wide balcony. Everything about the cabin was great! Size, balcony, view, location on the ship (near the fore stairs and elevator, but quiet). Our Cabin attendant was Elizabeth from the Philippines and she was adorable and so sweet. She saw us walking into our room with me carrying my bunch of flowers and immediately offered to put them in a vase for me. When we returned from lunch, there they were beautifully arranged. She was there for everything we needed but never hovering - just the right kind of service.
We quickly unpacked everything into the more than ample storage space and stored all the luggage, even our deepest rolling case, under the bed. Then we headed to the Windjammer for our buffet lunch. The new arrangement with 2 stations (4 lines) for salad and fruit, 2 stations for main course, 2 stations for dessert and several other stations for specialty items, plus 2 beverage stations meant that we never waited in line. There is plenty of comfortable seating. The food was good but not spectacular.
Then it was time to tour that magnificent ship! Since we were already nearly at the top, we went the rest of the way up and worked our way down. At the very top are the golfing, the climbing wall and the children's water slide. It was never open on our trip - too cold - but I wonder if they would have let me go down it if it had been? :^) And also the Viking Crown Lounge, which has been giving a different name on this ship - Star something. Just below that was the Crown and Anchor Lounge. A nice lady named Louise had certain hours she was in there if you had questions about future cruises.
Under that was the Shipshape Center with a fantastic view out the front of the ship. It would almost have been worth going in there to work out on something, but we resisted! But just across from there was one of our favorite spots - the Solarium! We never did get in to the regular pool, but we did come down to the hot tube a few nights during main seating for dinner. It is lushly decorated with live plants, elephant sculptured waterfall and jungle insect and bird noises - soothing, not loud or annoying. On that same level was the outdoor pool and the main floor of the Windjammer. We found ourselves at the Centrum area with its beautiful glass elevators that either look out to sea or into the 9 level Centrum itself. There were little reading nooks near the elevators on each of the mainly cabin floors - 10 thru 7. The library on deck 9 was always open whenever we saw it and had a great selection of current fiction, non-fiction and special interest books (and I am an avid, but picky reader!) We brought plenty of books, but would have found plenty to read if we had not.
On Deck 6 was part of the Aurora Theater, the movie theater, the Casino, the Schooner bar, Portofino's and Chops, and the Colony Club that has those self leveling pool tables they keep telling us about. Tom never did try them out though. Deck 5 had the rest of the Theater, the photo gallery, the shops, Royal Caribbean On-Line (at 50c a minute :^/) and the top floor of the dinning room. We went into the dining room to check our table location and found we were around in a corner on the first floor near the kitchen door. So we went to Guest services on Deck 4 of the Centrum and they directed us to someone who was changing seating. They moved us to a table right in the center downstairs next to the Captain's Table. The lobby area of the Centrum was the only place on the ship that felt crowded. It seemed smaller than the Centrum on the Monarch, for example.
That night, we went down for dinner. Our table mates were two young women from Vancouver, a couple from Texas and a man and wife from Santa Fe with their orthopedic surgical resident son from Tucson. Our waiter was Kersi from India and our asst. waiter was "Jerry" from the Philippines. The head waiter for our area was Barbara - she was super and I will tell more about her later. The Matre D' was Brice from Australia and he knew our two young ladies from Vancouver. Tom and I both had delicious pork roast and he had a cold berry soup that he really liked. Our tablemates enjoyed salmon, or steak. Dinner started late that evening, 8:45, so we were barely finished when they called us for the lifeboat drill. We dashed back to our cabins for our life vests and found out our meeting place was IN THE THEATER - INSIDE - IN SEATS! (Our last lifeboat drill, in San Juan, was outside, standing and HOT!) It took a whole 5 minutes and we were done. We went back to the cabin and then walked around the ship some more. There were snacks in the Windjammer so we went to see what they had, because we really needed more food - HaHa! Talked to a nice chef from Australia who mostly works in the Seaview Cafe - we will try that one day for lunch. We stayed up to watch the ship leave at midnight, later than originally planned to make sure everyone got there. We were able to be out on our balcony. We could hear the soft conversations of other passengers, but not a problem.
We woke up Tuesday as we docked in an overcast Vancouver. We ate breakfast in the dining room - good but slow. We went out on the Canada Place pier and found there was a free shuttle to Stanley Park. Beautiful area - huge! There is a seawall walk, and aquarium and lush trees and flowers. We walked in and out for almost two hours and only covered a part of the park. We were very tired by then and the shuttle would not return for over an hour so we decided to take the city bus. When the driver came and we asked him if he went near Canada Place, he said yes, but then we found out he could take no cash let alone American cash. So we were going to get off to find a place to buy tokens and he said, "No, just get on anyway! I'll take you. We all have to stick together in a time like this!" He was very nice and since the bus was virtually empty, we had a lovely chat with him about Vancouver. He took us within one block of the pier.
Back on the ship we ate lunch at the Seaview Cafe. You could order fish and chips, chowder, hot dogs, burgers, etc, at no extra cost. If you wanted a milkshake or alcohol, that was extra. We were all set for milkshakes, but they had not gotten any milkshake mix. The fish and chips were good, though. Then Tom took a nap and Beth went to "Gastown" to look around and pick up a few souvenirs. They have a steam powered clock on one street corner. by the time it was time to leave Vancouver, the sun was just peeking out of the clouds for the first time all day.
This was formal night and we had our picture made. Dinner included choices of filet mignon and shrimp cocktail, so Beth had those. The Captain dined at his table that night, and Brice, the Matre D' had arranged for the two from Vancouver to sit there. Beth sat with the back of her chair backing up to the Captain's chair at the next table and was nervous all evening that she would do something klutsy. But all went well.
We woke up Wednesday as we came into Victoria with blue sky breaking through! We ate at the Windjammer and hurried off the ship as we had arranged for our own tour. We were met at the bottom of the gangplank by folks in colonial costumes handing out mini carnations to all the women. We waited for our shuttle, but when it was 10 mins. late, I called them and they said they would be 1 hour late. We had wanted to get out to Butchart Gardens early so were frustrated by the delay. But there was a Blue Line double decker bus that had been waiting at the pier. When we went over to ask if it was an open tour to the Gardens, we found out it was waiting for a private tour group, but the leader said there was still plenty of room, so if we wanted to join them, for $22 American a piece, we were welcome! That's compared to $50 each on the RCI excursion. So we said yes, and enjoyed a great tour with folks from two large churches in the Seattle/Tacoma area.
First we drove through the city for a while and then headed out to the Gardens. We only had two hours there. It was just barely enough, but we wished it had been more. It was so wonderful to be out in the sunshine! We went to Mt. Tomei and drove along a bit of coastline on the way back to town. We returned to Victoria at 1:45 so some of the ladies in the group could go to Tea at 2:00 at the Empress Hotel. Beth decided to get off too as she had spied some great looking shops in town. Tom went back to the ship with the tour bus. He ate and read. Beth didn't eat (yet) and shopped. Saw literally dozens of violet china sets and cups and saucers, which I collect - I was overwhelmed! Victoria was wonderful and we needed several more days there. We would like to go back and see the Gardens again, and also the Royal Museum, the small underwater aquarium and the antique auto museum.
Beth took a shuttle ($5 unlimited trips) back to the ship and went to find Tom. I passed through the Solarium on my way where they have PIZZA available and got two slices. That held me over til snack time in the Windjammer. We went to the Solarium hot tub before dinner and then dressed for Smart Casual night. Beth had Shrimp Scampi and Tom had Turkey something for Italian night. The waiters all marched around to music and then gathered on the "Twelve Oaks" stairway and sang "O Solo Mio" with the Captain, who had come around to our table and said hello earlier. It was great fun! We were pretty tired and crashed after supper. Haven't been to a show yet.
Thursday was our day at sea and naturally, the sun had gone back into hiding again. But we were in the lower part of the inside passage maybe 150 miles from Seattle, and we had a great view of the land on both sides. Never saw any sea life, and it was too chilly to sit on our balcony, so we went from place to place on the ship, reading and looking out the windows. We had breakfast in the dining room. Beth went to the Crown and Anchor Lounge to talk a bit with Louise. One of the questions was, why was there no C & A reception? I found out they were having just a little coffee that morning for Diamond and Platinum members only. We are Gold, but will be Platinum after this cruise. Maybe next time. They don't do a big reception on cruises under 7 days, she said. She did invite us to the coffee, but we said no thanks.
We had lunch in the Windjammer, and then went to a very interesting talk and question and answer session with the Captain, the Chief Engineer and the Environmental Officer. The Radiance is a gas turbine vessel and this is something new. Like engines on a DC-10. More expensive to buy but much less expensive to maintain, and much quieter. They answered lots of other questions too. And right after that was the cooking demonstration in the Centrum. The Chef had enlisted the help of a male passenger and - surprise! - our head waiter, Barbara. This was her first time to assist him in this and they were supposed to whisk whipping cream for Black Forest Cake. Hers just would not thicken and all her looks and actions were hilarious!!! They were to brush on the sugar/water/liqueur mixture and by then she was behind the others so she just poured it on. Then she started eating the cherries. And she pretty much had to pour the whipping cream on too since it was so thin. The Vancouver girls were there watching too and it was so funny!
Our last night at dinner offered prime rib. We never did eat lunch in the dining room, but I was sorry we had not on our day at sea because I found out they had had trout! The waiters sang again, this time "Hey, Look Me Over!" The Vancouver girls had eaten in both Chops and Portofino's during the trip. Brice had arranged it for them so I doubt they had to pay extra. They said it was very good. They would come and sit with us for our appetizers and then go off to the restaurant.
We got our packing done after dinner and filled out all our forms. We checked the sheet to see what color tag we needed to get off in time for our flight with the 2 hour requirement. And the tags they gave us were not early enough so I went down to the service desk to switch them. As it turned out, since we again intended to carry our own bags, they called all passengers carrying off their own bags to get off, if they wished, at 7:30 AM! We were still eating breakfast in the Windjammer, so we finished and left about 8:30 AM. Debarkation was very smooth. Only line was at immigration, but since we again had our form filled out and no fruit or food off the ship, we were through shortly.
We took a cab to the airport. The posted cost is $25, but since there is a line for the cars to go through for extra security, the extra time cost us about $5 more. It turned out to be fortunate that we were there early tho' as we checked in at the e-ticket kiosk, found out one of our flights was delayed and changed to an earlier flight. We were back in Atlanta before nine and at home before 11 PM. We had some soup and went to bed and slept until 9 AM. It was great to be home and in our own bed!
So hope you enjoyed this report of our trip as much as we enjoyed the trip itself!!