There were 2 of us on this cruise: my girlfriend and I. She has sailed on RCCL once before, and I have sailed on RCCL 3 times before, on the Legend, for the Panama Canal cruise in 1999, on the Rhapsody, for the Hawaii cruise in 2000, and on the Vision for the Circle the Caribbean cruise in 2001. We've always found our cruises with RCCL very enjoyable, despite occasional glitches; and this cruise was very enjoyable, with only a couple of glitches.
This was the first cruise we've ever taken where we didn't need air transportation! This cruise began in Seattle, and since we live in Portland, Oregon, we were able to drive to the pier in about 3 hours. We parked in the Bell Street Parking Garage at the corner of Wall Street and Alaskan Way. (And as an investment advisor, I enjoyed parking on Wall Street!) This parking garage offers secure, covered parking for $12 per day. You can check your bags right there in the garage, and then walk across the sky-bridge to the check-in lobby.
EMBARKATION / DEBARKATION:
Driving along Alaskan Way, on our way to the parking garage, we were gawking at this immense white beauty that would be our home for the next 4 days. After parking the car in the parking garage, we walked into the check-in lobby, and stepped in line. We arrived at the pier at about 11:00am in the hopes of boarding the ship around 11:30am, and we succeeded! Officially, boarding begins at 2:00pm, but I've always been aboard ship long before that. I would recommend arriving at the pier around 11:00am - you'll probably be aboard long before 2pm also. We filled out our boarding forms online at RCCL's website, and when we checked in, our information was already in the computer. Check-in was a simple matter of signing a couple of forms, setting up our SuperCharge cards, and waiting about 15 minutes to board the ship.
With heightened security levels, RCCL is now photographing every passenger prior to initial embarkation, recording your photograph in the ship's database, so that when your SuperCharge card is presented to the ship's security officers upon subsequent boardings of the ship, they can check you against your photograph. They really have this process down to a science, and it doesn't slow boarding and re-boarding the ship at all. Embarkation went as smoothly as any we've ever experienced, and we were aboard Radiance at 11:45am!
Debarkation was absolutely the fastest we've ever experienced! I mean, we walked out of our cabin, rode the elevator down to deck 4, and walked directly off the ship. The staff made an announcement that any passengers not having airline flights could just walk right off the ship without any further delay. We were out of our cabin around 7:50am, and were in our car about 7:55am. Another advantage to not having to fly to the pier, I suppose!
And I thought the Vision-class ships were big......... You know, the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are the largest warships ever constructed. Each of them displaces over 90,000 tons of water. And this lovely lady, the Radiance of the Seas, carries the same displacement ever more gracefully. She's big, she's beautiful, and she was ours for four days! RCCL seems to be really perfecting its ship's designs. And as big as the Radiance-class ships are, it's in the little things that RCCL is achieving this perfection. From the wonderful carpeting and handsome wood paneling in the hallways, to the soothing sounds and tropical rainforest feel in the Solarium, to the refined luxury of the Colony Club, RCCL has reached the pinnacle of cruise ship appointments. A luxury liner at a bargain price.
The Radiance, along with the newer RCCL ships, features a multi-deck atrium amidships called the Centrum, rising from deck 4 all the way up to deck 10. Featured above the Centrum is a circular sculpture, with radial spokes emanating from its center, illuminated during the day with daylight, and at night with multi-colored spotlights. And it's in these subtle touches, the multi-colored spotlight accents, the pinpoint lasers, that RCCL is really beginning to achieve the aforementioned perfection. A minor annoyance to note is that the 6 elevators in the Centrum seem to operate significantly slower than on the Vision-class ships. On our day in Victoria, with everyone off the ship, we still waited several minutes to catch an elevator car. The Solarium is a rainforest/jungle environment, complete with tranquil auditory effects, and just the right amount of humidity. You really feel as though you're in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest! The Solarium features a saltwater pool, 1 ho! t tub, and 2 overhead shower booths. Inside the shower booths, the showerhead is mounted on the ceiling, and the water falls upon you like rain. The Solarium also offers a snack stand, and a full bar. We dined in the Cascades Dining Room, encompassing 2 decks in height, and it is a pleasure to behold. The furniture is upholstered in subdued blues, creams, and yellows. The chairs are comfortable, and have armrests. In addition to an opulent staircase near the front of the dining room is a cascading waterfall that draws your eyes in for visual sips throughout dinner. Up on the pool deck you will find a respectably large saltwater pool with several water jets shooting into it. There are 2 hot tubs located at a rear corner of the pool, and despite the cooler weather on our cruise, they were usually full of passengers. It seems passenger liners strive always to keep food and alcohol never more than 30 seconds away, and as such, the pool area offers not 1, but 2 watering holes!
On this cruise, there weren't any poolside activities, such as horse races and belly-flop contests, but given our weather conditions, that was to be expected. We did, however, enjoy the sail away party there on our first evening. We especially enjoyed a young lady way up there on very tall stilts, wandering through the revelers. And stay tuned for more about her..........! The Radiance offers Internet access up on deck 5, and also in the Seattle's Best Coffee shop, at the rate of 50 cents per minute, charged to your SuperCharge card. Utilizing this service is quite easy, and the Internet service provides access to web-based e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo; and you should establish one of these accounts prior to your cruise, otherwise it will cost you 50 cents per minute to do it from the ship! The ship's stabilization was absolutely first-rate! Although, we were sailing on inland waters, which may account for our smooth-as-glass sailing. If you're seasick on cruises,! I recommend that you bring something just in case. The purser's desk offers complimentary Bonine, if you forget yours. The Aurora Theatre, where the evening's entertainment is held is beautiful. It is on 3 levels, with the main seating area, and a 2-level balcony. The seats were a bit wider than on the Vision-class ships, and had drink holders. I know I've used the word beautiful frequently in this paragraph to describe the Radiance, but I can think of no better adjective with which to describe her.
Seemly everyone's point of contention with RCCL. That and shower stall size! Well our food was generally good. I'm not particularly hard to please - and hey, someone else was doing the cooking! So I was generally satisfied. But not completely. Having read about 2 years ago on RCCL's website that they intended to improve the quality of their food, I was expecting some improvement over their previous offerings. And I was a bit disappointed that the food has not recognizably improved. This was my least favorite cruise with respect to the food in the dining room. The food is still generally good - but only just good. I was looking forward to enjoying the improvements. A noticeable menu change seems to have been implemented since our last cruise, that being the elimination of the pasta dishes one could order prior to the main entree. As a person who truly loves pasta dishes, I was very dismayed to discover this. The chilled soups, and especially the deserts were very good, and al! ways the highlight of my dining experience each evening. The Windjammer offers buffet-style dining. The food is cafeteria quality, but filling, as you can eat as much as you like, without waiting for a server. And on the Radiance, the Windjammer Cafe has been redesigned such that the food stations are now separated, enabling you to select the items you want, without having to wait in line. Additionally the Radiance offers a wonderful little cafe called the Seaview Cafe up on deck 12, offering burgers, fries, onion rings, chips and guacamole, and also beer and wine. So, food... While the be all and end all to some cruisers, it's not of paramount importance to me. Still, RCCL must make improvements in this area, or continue to suffer the slings and arrows of disappointed passengers.
Well, let me tell ya....! We citizens of the United States have things pretty good, all things considered. And considering that exchange rates with the Canadian Dollar are in our favor, the shopping is just about spectacular. Anything and everything is available at a substantial discount, and many of our fellow passengers really stocked up. And the ship's stores offered very good duty-free prices on just about their entire inventory. If I were a shopaholic, I may have O.D.'d on this cruise! Liquor prices were very reasonable in most cases, with a litre of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum on sale for $8.95, and 3 litres of Bacardi Rum for $29.95. With the State of Oregon's sky-high liquor prices, I considered relieving the ship of its entire stock, until Patti reminded me that we had no way of transporting it all home. Oh well - next cruise!
We occupied cabin 9611, a category 'M' inside cabin up on deck 9, within short walking distance to the Centrum. The cabin was adequately sized, with enough closet space for both of us. The bathroom was a little cramped, but was the standard size for RCCL's ships. The shower, again, was a little cramped too, but with some adjustments, it worked out fine. Apparently with larger ships doesn't come larger inside cabins and larger bathrooms........ And while we were generally satisfied with our cabin size, we were not at all satisfied with our cabin's quietness. When you can hear a conversation in the next cabin about as clearly as one in your own cabin, you know something's amiss. You know, there's nothing quite like having your sleep punctuated with conversation, doors slamming, and toilets flushing. I've sailed aboard 4 different RCCL ships and slept in 4 different cabins, and must say that this cabin was the least soundproof of any that I've occupied. Next time I sail aboard ! the Radiance I'm bringing earplugs.
The service on the Radiance was very good. Our cabin steward, Ida, from Bali, Indonesia, was outstanding! He and his assistant kept our cabin ship-shape despite our unintentional efforts to the contrary. Our requests were promptly attended to, and he kept us entertained with fun towel animals lounging on the bed or swinging through the cabin. He always greeted us with a smile and uplifting demeanor - and we tipped him handsomely. The same cannot be said for our dining room waiter, however. While his service to our table was adequate, his service to myself in particular was sub par. If I weren't thrilled with the menu choices, his attitude was that there was something wrong with me rather than with the choices. He actually insulted me one evening, asking how I managed to survive, not being pleased with that evening's entree. I've never before filled out a comment card on a cruise, but felt compelled to relate his attitude toward me to management on one. I sincerely hope that ! I must never fill out another negative service report! Beyond that, we were well cared for on this cruise; our cabin kept immaculate, our drinks well prepared and tasty, our pleasure well seen to.
Since this was a 4-night cruise in the beautiful - and cool - Pacific Northwest, outdoor poolside activities were understandably limited. We had the sail away party up on the pool deck our first evening, but that was the only poolside activity offered on our cruise. However, as this was a cruise aboard a new Radiance-class ship, there were other outdoor activities offered. What activities, you ask? Well, how about rock climbing? When's the last time you climbed a 33-foot-high rock in the middle of the ocean? Or played golf - or basketball? The Radiance offers all of these and more. In fact, there were almost too many outdoor activities to take advantage of on a 4-night cruise.........! The ship also provides a kid's play area a deck below the rock-climbing wall, where youngsters can slide down a spiraling waterslide, and splash around in their very own pool. For adults wanting time away from the youngsters, this is a brilliant design feature. Of course, indoors, there were t! he requisite activities: napkin folding, bingo, the Quest game, the 50's - 60's sock hop, art auction, bingo, karaoke, and of course the way-too-much-fun 70's Disco Dance Party up in the Viking Lounge! Somehow during the dance party I made it into the ship's cruise video (not so sure if that's a good thing or not.......!). The 70's Dance Party featured the 'Brady Bunch' and the 'Jackson Five', performing live for our pleasure! It's not every day I have the opportunity to dance with Janet Jackson!
Our cruise director was Gordon Whatman, who incidentally is leaving for an assignment aboard another RCCL ship. He seemed to be a good blend of enthusiasm and restraint. On previous cruises, we've encountered over exuberant cruise directors, bombarding us with too many ship-wide announcements and false enthusiasm. Gordon provided just the right balance of fun and enthusiasm. The commanding officer, Kent Ringborn was a competent captain - and surprised us all with his melodious singing at the Captain's Cocktail Gala. Outside of that, I never saw him mingle with the passengers. With the lone exception of our dining room waiter's attitude, we were very pleased with the service provided us.
There were about 1600 passengers on our cruise, out of a capacity of about 2400; mostly Americans, with a smattering of Canadians. The passengers hailed from many of the Western states and Canadian provinces. The ages of the passengers ranged from youngsters of about 5 years old, to many couples in their golden years. Incidentally, there were far more youngsters on this cruise than I've ever witnessed before. As this cruise took place the first week of October, weren't these kids supposed to be in school?! Whatever the case, I think the shorter cruises draw more youngsters than the longer cruises we've been on before. One day in the Solarium, we met a great couple from our home state of Oregon. And on a Pacific Northwest cruise, imagine that........! That's one of the wonderful things about cruising - in addition to everything else, one often makes new lifelong friends!
The entertainment was a mix of Broadway, Las Vegas, and solo performers. We had the Wave Revue Dancers a couple of nights, a comedian, a juggling act, and a solo singer. Our singer, Hal Frazier sang Motown favorites and some lovely ballads. He also had a keen sense of humor that we all enjoyed. One night we had the team of jugglers, 'On The Edge', performing acrobatic juggling with a good dose of comedy. In one of their routines, they brought up on stage from the audience a little boy, and had him throw plastic bowling pins to one of the jugglers as he juggled them. In the following days, everyone aboard ship stopped to congratulate this youngster, and he really seemed to enjoy his newfound celebrity. I also enjoyed the Wave Revue Dancers, as the ladies were very attractive and great dancers! One item worthy of special note was the antics in the Aurora theatre before the show of the young lady who first entertained us up on stilts at the sail away pool party. Remember her? A! t day two's show, we had arrived at theatre 30 minutes early, and were chatting away, when all of the sudden some apparently drunk woman in a long pink dress climbs up on the back of a row of seats, and carrying a metal folding chair, begins to make her way down toward the stage, climbing up and over the passengers in her way! Most us sat there in stunned amazement at this woman's brazenly drunken antics, wondering when security personnel would arrive and remove her. A few moments later, costumed in Keystone Kops attire, a man, now obviously part of pre-show diversion, arrived in the theatre, trying in vain to shoo her away! It was hilariously entertaining, and kept us happily occupied before the show began. The remaining evenings found this marvelous character and her high jinks tickling our funny bones! This bit of pre-show diversion is a brilliant idea, and whoever conceived the idea has this scribe's wholehearted endorsement! Overall, the entertainment was very enjoyable! and I always looked forward to going to the show every night after dinner.
PORTS OF CALL / EXCURSIONS:
Vancouver, BC: I've visited this lovely city many times before, and as such, made arrangements to spend the day with our friends Paul and Lorraine, whom I'd met 2 years ago on our Hawaii cruise. We met them in the lobby of the hotel there at Canada Place, and coincidentally, almost literally stumbled into Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. Apparently we have royal timing............! As we walked outside, the Queen and Prince were emerging from the hotel just across the street. And the security perimeter allowed us far closer to her and him than would be the case here in the States. The Canadians were extremely delighted to see them, and we soaked up their excitement. Next we wandered about Stanley Park, then boarded a water taxi, and shopped and had lunch at Bridges on the island. We walked around a good bit, and were a little tired back aboard Radiance - but I managed to save a little energy for the 70's dance party later that evening!
Victoria, BC: We were planning to take the city bus ($1.50 CDN each way) to the Butchart Gardens, but we were pretty worn out from the previous day's walking tour, and the previous evening's dancing, so we decided to stay aboard the ship and relax in the solarium. You know, there's nothing quite like a nice warm hot tub to soothe a tired body!
This was a fun cruise - and yet it's my least favorite one so far. It isn't really that enjoyable at dinner being insulted by your waiter, coupled with less than stellar menu items. Also, this was a 4-night cruise, and we were constantly on the go, trying to see and do everything. The Radiance is a gargantuan ship, and you really cannot see and do everything on a short cruise. That said, any cruise is a good cruise in my book - and the plusses outweighed the minuses for us on this cruise. Our cabin steward was first-rate, 70's night was way too much fun, the Radiance is a beautiful ship, and it was wonderful seeing Paul and Lorraine again! In addition to all of the other remarkable qualities of cruising, one of the most pleasurable has to be making wonderful new life-long friends!
I hope this cruise review has been of benefit to you, as I know the reviews I've read here have provided me with valuable information. And please feel free to write with any questions, or if you're a fellow cruiser on this cruise, just to say 'hi'.