CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews


Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Radiance of the Seas by Donna Nye Southern Caribbean February 22, 2003

Ship

Radiance of the Seas is a beautiful 90,090-ton ship measuring 962 feet in length and 106 feet wide. She's packed with unique art work throughout the ship and has a cruising speed of 24 knots (28.8 mph), 13 total decks with lots of glass and windows everywhere. Total passenger capacity is 2,501 and a crew of 859. I totally fell in love with this ship as soon as I walked into the atrium, just amazing and very elegant, a total of 7 decks, with inside elevators. I found this ship very easy to navigate, with the atrium in the center of the ship, anywhere you needed to go had access through this area, not including the sports/pool decks located on decks 11 through 13. With every Royal Caribbean ship, the Viking Crown lounge is also impressive, but divided up into 2 smaller lounge areas where you will find private parties during the cruise, great places for small meeting.

You can also access the sports area and the rock-climbing wall through the Viking Crown Lounge with of course the view overlooking the pool deck. The layout of public areas and cabins took no time at all to figure out. by the 2nd day I could easily find my cabin and NOT get lost. by each of the elevator bays, they have a model that shows exactly where you are and what's on each deck, along with what's on each deck in each elevator. One of my favorite features of all the Royal Caribbean ships, is the day of the week on the floor as you walk on an elevator. Honestly, when cruising, there are days when if someone asked me what day it was, I'd have to say, let me ride an elevator and I could tell you.

This week, being the last week in February, the weather couldn't of been more perfect, temps always in the 80's with sunshine and a few clouds, some days more clouds than others, but the sun was extremely warm. Although a suggestion here, I always go to a few tanning sessions at my local spa to get a base tan started. It really saves on getting that sunburn that I'm sure to get without going a few times prior to cruising. I did it this time again and did come home with a nice tan and not major burning to ruin any part of the cruise. I love cruising this time of year, and leaving the cold of Chicago back home. You will also find the humidity levels still on the low side, with of course nice breezes, great time of year to get down to the Caribbean. Had a few showers here and there, but nothing that ruined an entire day, it never lasted long and within minutes the sun was back out.

Embarking was very simple and painless. We arrived around 3:30 after a direct flight on American Airlines from Chicago O'Hare. Since we arranged our own air reservations we didn't have transfers. It was easy to find the booth in the airport to get a taxi arranged at a set rate. The taxi fare from the San Juan airport was $18.50 plus tip, much nicer than going by bus. Once at the terminal, we turned our luggage over to a porter to scan and transfer to ship. Took about a minute then to get to a cruise employee and get our sign/sail cards. Then there was a small line to get the typical "welcome aboard" pictures taken and we were onboard by 4:00. I think by filling in all your information on-line prior to the cruise saves some time here, they had all the information, we had nothing to fill out.

Debarking the following Saturday was also painless. We had to report for immigrations at 6:45 in the Aurora theatre with your passports before they could clear the ship. After we accomplished this, (about 10 minutes), we proceeded to breakfast in the dining room for the first time all week. The only way I could get eggs benedict was to go to the dining room, well worth it! by this time is was 7:30, so we headed back to our cabin for the last time and picked up the rest of our carry-on and found a place to wait until our flight was called to disembark the ship. I was amazed that we were off the ship by 8:30 and we were in no hurry to wait at the airport for a 2:30 flight. Again, there were plenty of taxi's to drive you to the airport and we also again had a set rate there, made it to the airport by 9 with nothing to do but wait. Security here seemed rather quick considering there was Sea Princess, Celebrity Constellation and Radiance all finishing up a week long cruise, so it wasn't bad at all.

Cascades the 2-tiered dining room is located on decks 4 and 5, very comfortable dining room, midship; you can enter on either floor and there is a staircase inside the dining room itself. Lots of wood, with tables seating anywhere from 4 to 10 passengers and an impressive waterfall on the lower level. On deck 4 you will find the guest reservations desk next to the shore excursion desk. Its also very easy to sign up for tours through your cabin TV if you haven't already pre-booked any on-line, which we did. We did have one problem with and excursion in Barbados. Had them all booked and totally paid for, but when arriving in cabin that excursion ticket was missing. Took me days to have them contact the main office in Miami without any explanation as to what went wrong, but finally said they would issue a credit. Since arriving back home have been in contact and have been assured that my credit card will be credited for the amount. We did end up just getting a cab and seeing Harrisons Caves in Barbados, so it worked out OK, but would of liked this situation cleared up while we were onboard, just didn't happen. That's actually the only problem we had, minor as it was.

Up on deck 5 are all the shops, the usual type stores you'd find on any ship, nicely located, easily accessed from the atrium midship. Just past the shops is the photo gallery. Forward on both decks 5 and 6 is the Aurora theatre, a very impressive theater, nice sound and lighting system, something Royal Caribbean always does very well. You can enter the theatre from either deck 5 or 6, many good seats with drink holders. There is also a cinema on this deck, never had a chance to watch a movie, but it definitely had a nice seating capacity. Next to the cinema is the video arcade and moving towards the center of the ship is the casino. I found it a good size, but nothing huge, had all the usual games, didn't have much luck either . Moving aft on deck 6 is where you will find the specialty restaurants Portofinos and Chops Grille which is across from the Schooner bar. In the Schooner bar is where you will find the only 2 pool tables afloat, did get a chance for a game or two. In order to play, all you need to do is go to the Schooner bar and give the bartender your sign and sail card and he'll give you some cue sticks, upon returning the sticks, you'll get your cards back. Further aft is the Colony Club Lounge; they held the Crown and Anchor cocktail hour here and the Captains Welcome Aboard party, both nice.

All decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 are basically passenger cabins with a library on deck 9, which seemed nicely stocked. The bridge is located forward on deck number 10. You can, at certain times go out to the bow on deck 6. I did find it open the day we left for Barbados and stayed out there as we pulled out of our berth, nose to nose with Radisson Diamond. We were even able to have some conversations with the passengers on Diamond; they all seemed to be enjoying their cruise as much as we did ours.

Deck 11 is the main pool deck with the Windjammer Café located aft of the pool. You will find one pool with 2 whirlpools and a shower stall. I absolutely loved the way they had different food stations, with 2 of the same on each side. I never had a problem with lines whenever we ate there, and we usually had breakfast and lunch there daily. They have a whole island with just salads and fixings, breads, pasta salads, croutons, etc. There was also an entire island with hot dishes different every day. Numerous "thurst stations" are easily found where you can get your coffee, tea, juice, etc. You will also find a attendant with a card with coffee and juice moving around the café so you don't have to necessarily go and get your own, nice touch. I did notice tables were quickly cleared off, ready for the next hungry cruiser. There was always a dessert table with plenty of selections of fruits, cake, Jell-O, cookies with a soft serve ice cream machine behind it. I was pleasantly surprised to find this café going through out the day, always fresh and hot. Many afternoons, after returning from port, I found I needed something cool to drink and was able to get that plus some more goodies, even as late as 5:00. You can always have dinner in here as well starting at 6:00 or 6:30 if you didn't want to eat in the main dining room. We had hoped to try out Chops one night, but found that eating in the dining room was fine, always a decent menu selection and very well prepared meals and the service there was excellent. We had a great waiter (Dary) and asst. waiter (Mindy), so we never made it to either specialty restaurant. I did hear it was well worth the extra $20 per person cost to eat there, there is always next time, right? If you happen to need any spa treatments or your hair done, you'll find the place here, along with the health center.

Just between the hair salon and the main pool, you will find the inside pool, solarium, which is strictly for adults only, a very nice relaxing area and you had the feeling you were in the jungle, sounds and all. You will hear bird sounds by day and crickets at night.

The ship shape center is up on deck 12, don't usually work out, and so have no idea about the equipment there, but it was very busy some days. Seemed, any kind of work out machine you would normally use, they had. This deck also has the sports court (basketball), mini golf, golf simulators, and teen pool, kids pool, game arcade and the Seaview café. You will also find the kid's center up here as well.

Finally on deck 13 is the traditional Viking Crown Lounge and the rock-climbing wall. I did manage to climb the "wall", what an experience. Although I couldn't of accomplished this feat without the help of the staff up there. There were very helpful for this first time climber, can be difficult trying to figure where to put what foot or hand where, but I did finally figure it out and complete this major feat!

The only major fault I could find on this ship is the lack of another passenger staircase/elevator towards the rear of the ship. We had cabin 8670, an aft balcony cabin, which I totally loved, but it was a rather long walk daily to get to stairs. Another minor problem I found is that the sound-proofing was not as good as other cabins I've had, heard too much noise from the cabin next door, but they were definitely on the loud side. Other than that, I could find nothing to complain about, just a wonderful cruise ship.

Cabin

Our cabin was located aft on deck 8. First time we had an aft balcony cabin and I'd do it again if possible. We had 205 sq. ft and a larger balcony, which was wonderful. Had room for 2 lounge chairs, 2 regular chairs and a table, with room left over, definitely a plus for any cruise! The layout of the cabin is very similar to the "Voyager" class ships of Royal Caribbean, where you have the sitting area as you walk in, then the bed next to the sliding glass door. The bathroom is on the small side, your basic ship bathroom. I would have liked the rounded glass door they had on Explorer showers instead of the standard shower curtain. Not sure if it was just because we were so far back, but the water pressure had something to be desired as well. We did have a full size sofa and small table across from the desk/TV, which made the room, seems larger too. I love the curved beds, same as on Explorer, beds very comfortable. I think I get the best sleep while cruising, even with the next door noise, didn't bother me, I slept great. They did provide a hair dryer in the drawer of the desk and mini fridge under the TV. If you wanted robes for the week, all you have to do is ask your cabin attendant. We had a very efficient cabin attendant, Audry, she did a fine job all week, and has the art of towel pillows down to a science, loved them as you will see in my pictures. Thanks Audry .

Service

I found that the crew and all the staff onboard Radiance to be very friendly, eager to help or assist, had no complaints. This was a very fun cruise for us, busy too, very port intensive. Had great service in the dining room from both Dary and Mindy, and always an evening "Hi" from our headwaiter, very personal guy! In fact I had a terrible migraine headache one evening and just could not eat dinner. They thought I just didn't care for the food, which in fact was delicious, but when I get those headaches, they truly make me very sick, so I excused myself and went to bed, slept for 11 hours. Our headwaiter had a sure all cure, lemon tea with honey. He managed to get it together and had George bring back to the cabin. I thought that was very thoughtful of him. by the next morning I awoke with no headache, so I was happy! We had been seated at a table for 6, but one couple never made it to any meals, we think they changed tables, heard they wanted something smaller. We had lovely tablemates, Jim and Becky from Texas. We were fortunate to help celebrate Jim's recent retirement onboard, hope you are enjoying it Jim! We did have a few tables with families traveling with young kids and noticed that the wait staff really did go way out to keep them happy. As I mentioned earlier, our cabin attendant Audry did a wonderful job, anything we asked for was delivered in a short amount of time; she did a great job! I think the entire atmosphere onboard Radiance was very friendly, always a greeting from a passing staff member.

Entertainment

I think this is the area where Royal Caribbean really shines over the other cruiselines. Saw many good shows, both variety, and dancing type. There were numerous good singers and dancers to keep us occupied for an hour after a big dinner. I did miss seeing an ice shows that Voyager class ships have, but we saw many good shows. One evening Jimmy Osmond was center stage and gave a very well prepared show, very enjoyable. He even had 2 of is younger kids perform onstage. Since we had a port everyday, but one, I was pretty beat after dinner and a show, I did not catch any of the lounge acts that were onboard.

Ports of call

Our first port was St. Thomas, have been there plenty of times before, so we had already seen the downtown area shopping, Meagans Bay and have done the truck over to Trunk Bay, so we thought we'd do something different this visit. I had pre-booked the "BOB" (breathable observation bubble) for this port stop. I must say, I've never done anything like this, it was amazing, what a change from the normal type water activity. To start the tour, we had to take a boat ride to a bay on the other side of the island. Once anchored, they took the bobs out and got them ready. For every 2 bobs, there was a diver there to assist. These "bobs" were little mini subs actually, where you had your own air tank onboard and hand controls to steer you left or right and a button to keep you moving forward. It's a little tricky to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, easy to get where you want to go. Because you are in a bubble, things appear closer than they really are. The divers make the experience something to always remember. They brought fish food along to attract fish for photo ops as you can see in the gallery that has the pictures of this underwater. We were guided over a shipwreck and then through a coral canyon. I would definitely recommend this excursion if you want something totally different and amazing. During the excursion while you were waiting for your turn, they provided snorkel equipment so you could take a look around. What a great way to spend a few hours in St. Thomas. After they took us back to the port it was some time to do some serious shopping and at a fast pace too, being a Sunday the stores all closed at 1:00 PM, so we did a quick tour of the shops by the pier and back onboard for a late lunch and more relaxing by the pool.

Our next port was the island of Antigua. We had no shore excursions planned for that day, so wandered off and saw some of the area near the port, did some shopping. First thing you notice when entering the town, is the bombardment of taxi drivers asking if you need a ride, it was awful. Once past this area, we were able to walk around and not be bothered, saw the basic cruise port shopping, nothing special. I did find an internet café in a bank was very slow so had limited time on-line. After a few hours of this, we headed back onboard for a late lunch in the Windjammer Café, not to be disappointed in the variety or selection of lunch items. Spent the rest of the afternoon up on deck 11 and 12 enjoying the warm sunshine at the pool.

Day 3 was a visit to our favorite island of this cruise, St. Maarten. Here we pre-book online the "Rhino" boat. This too turned out to be a wonderful few hours. We were met on the pier and taken to a taxi and driven over to another harbor where the Rhino boats are. These are 2 man 25 horsepower boats with an intertube surrounding it. There is storage space in front and handles for the passenger to hold on to. We had a total gas on these boats and had a long ride to a nice secluded bay/beach where we could swim to the beach, snorkel (equipment provided) or just lazy on your rino. Cold drinks were also available. I liked riding on these actually better than a waverunner, they seem to go the same speed, but they will NOT tip over. I must say a few times I thought we were going to go over, but it didn't happen . Both on the way out of the harbor and back into, you go by some very expensive yachts. We were told, this harbor is a safe haven for storing these kinds of ships for the winter and there were many there. Since this was an afternoon excursion, we were able to fit some shopping here. Made it back onboard Radiance in time to get showered and changed for dinner.

Now we are in St. Lucia, our next favorite island, found if very lush and tropical, very hilly and truly beautiful. We decided to go to one of the local "Sandals" for the day. After a $12.00 taxi ride that took about 15 minutes, we arrived around the corner from the pier and ship in this nice Sandals resort, with golf course. For a total of $40.00 per person we were able to use all the facilities including golf, food, drinks, water sports for the day. Basically everything a resort guest would use, except for the lack of a room. We were even greeted by the MC arranging poolside activities during the day, so I would imagine quite a few cruises have taken advantage of spending a leisure day at their beach resort. They had a nice pool and we had lunch and also played in the ocean. It was nice to just get away from the ship for an afternoon and just relax in the sun, I definitely think this was worth the money. In the process we got a look at part of the island, an island I would consider as a few day land vacation in the future. We had pre-arranged with the taxi driver to come back for us later in the afternoon, and unfortunately we were there waiting and decided to take another taxi back, not a big deal.

Day 6 finds us in Barbados, an island I've always wanted to see. Since our mix up with a shore excursion here, we decided to get a cab over to Harrison's Caves, which is something to see. Ride over there took us through some local areas, sugar cane being harvested along the way and a view of their countryside. I had just pictured Barbados more tropical than I found it. After the tour of the caves our driver dropped us off at the "Boatyard" beach. Very nice beach with plenty of lounge chairs, bar/restaurant and the finest white sand I found the entire week. Had a few of the local vendors offer the use of waverunners, finally had the best offer for $35.00 for half an hour. So, it was an offer we couldn't pass up and had fun on that for half an hour. It had rained a bit earlier and it now looked like some serious rain was going to come, so we headed back by foot to the ship for lunch, on the way stopping at an internet café, since the rain was coming down pretty hard. Once I checked my e-mail etc. the rain stopped and we continued walking back to the ship. I was a bit surprised to find lots of garbage along the way, something I wouldn't expect in a city this size and that relies on tourists as one of their main revenue makers?? After a quick lunch, it was back to sit at the half-empty pool deck.

Our last day is our first and only "sea" day, so needless to say many took part in enjoying the sun out at the pool deck. I did find some lounge chairs at about 8:30, if you wanted one by 10:30, forget it, not one to be found. We enjoyed a nice day cruising. They had the typical pool games, bingo going on throughout the afternoon. Also took some time to check out the photo gallery and the shops, along with half the ship . They had some great specials on sweat shirts and t-shirts, so save this day for your onboard shopping. After lunch and more sunning, spent some time packing up for the return home, funny how a nice vacation week can fly by .

In ending I would say this class of ship does have a lot to offer any cruiser, still many activities to enjoy while cruising through the Caribbean. Although this cruise was very port intensive, there is still plenty of time to enjoy many of the onboard pleasures. I now have a hard time as to which class I prefer, this or the Voyager, both gives a wonderful cruise expierence. I would cruise on either class anytime, they are simply beautiful vessels with nice cabins, good food and many choices of activities and the best entertainment I've seen on water.

Here are links to the Radiance pictures I took while onboard:

http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=938

http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=939

http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=941

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