We had a family group of 10 sailing on this cruise. Ages ranged from 12-81. All experienced cruisers. This was my 14th cruise, (5th on RCL, 4 Carnival, 3 Norwegian, 1 Celebrity, 1 Princess)
Booking: We booked this cruise with Skyscraper tours , 1st and last time booking with them. Despite the reputation this agency has on the Internet, we had many problems that made this experience one that I would not repeat. The price was good, customer service was not good and having to double check the entire booking every step of the way made this the worst agency experience I have ever had. Cruisers beware.
11/22/03 Saturday We left home around 10AM, picked up our daughter in Virginia and arrived at Dulles Airport around 1PM for our 2:45 flight. Quiet in the airport all went well with our connection in Atlanta. Arrived in Fort Lauderdale just past 7:30PM. All the luggage arrived. (thank you Delta) and we called our hotel Amerisuites on 17th St. to pick us up. Check in went well, ordered pizza from the local doughboys tho there is an outback and mexican restaurant nearby. Hotel adequate, we had 5 in the room, 2 double beds and a very uncomfortable sofa bed. Husband and another passenger on the shuttle mixed up their very similar black suitcases with yellow streamers on them. Glad we found out that night, they were headed on a Holland American ship the next day.
Embarkation (11/23/03) : Up early the next day for decent continental breakfast at hotel. Checked out at 10:30AM and joined the large group waiting for the shuttle to port. We decided after 15 min wait to just get a cab on our own. Desk called and one arrived in 5 min. Was $6.75 to the port on the meter..well worth it. Gave the porter a few $$ even tho he only had to move the bags from the curb to the waiting steel container. In the terminal we were in the check in line (where they teased me about using our Carnival Mastercard to pay for our Royal Caribbean shipboard account) and on the ship at 11:30AM..think this was the fastest embarkation ever!!!! Come aboard ship on Deck 5. We headed down 2 levels to our cabin and unloaded the carryons..put documents in safe. Getting on early and having a chance to explore the ship is one of our favorite activities...Thanks RCL for this painless embarkation!
Cabin: We had 5 outside cabins located on deck 3 near the elevators. (3102, 3104 for the 4 in our family , with adjoining door between) Great cabin for the week. Had our steward (Vic) make the beds as double in our room, kept the twins for our sons ages 12, & 15 in the other. Layout was good overall. Only weird thing was the closet on left as you first came into cabin. Just had maybe 12 inches of hanging closet space, a top shelf and then these maybe 6-8 inch wide shelves with open side that were not that useful. Would have been better to just have shelves across. Next to that had a nice sized hanging closet, probably 3 ft. wide, had bars you could pull down to make as double rods. Then inside the room there was the main desk/vanity with 2 sets of 3 drawers besides the chair area. Drawers fairly small, maybe 2 ft wide, 1 foot deep, 8 inches tall or so. One narrow 5 inch tall desk drawer in middle. Nice lighting, had a hairdryer that would plug into special outlet, had to hold down the button on the hairdryer to keep air flowing. Next to desk, vanity was the TV - had 2 shelves in cabinet above where the safe (use 4 digit number code) was located,,, below TV was the refrigerator. The bed was over sized queen when placed together, found it very comfortable and had 2 pillows for each passenger. The window was large, probably 4 ft wide and 3 ft tall. Had nice drapes with set of sheers underneath for the daytime. Beside each bed there was a small nightstand. Had one small drawer and a shelf underneath. Good lighting controls by bed, The bedside lamp has 2 controls, one for a small lamp that has a half circle shade over it and the other for a directional light that you can focus on your bed without disturbing the others in cabin. Also by the mid cabin light there were controls for the ceiling lights as well. There was a small 2 person love seat with a movable oval table next to the beds before you had the wall for the bathroom. Not that comfortable,,but nice place to sit or put on shoes in am. Had 4 square pillows on back that are removable. Bathroom had smallish shower with fabric curtain. Nice rain shower head with removable head, 2 wire racks for shampoo or soap. Has on wall dispenser with conditioning shampoo inside. No other toiletries provided. Usual push to flush toilet. Mirrors over sink area, one has 4 small corner shelves behind it. One long shelf about 6 inches wide underneath the sink. Shelf holds a small waste paper container. (never saw any of the famous BROWN water all week. no problems for us)
Elevators: Our cabin location was right by the centrum elevators and I would recommend anyone on the Radiance try to locate themselves near these elevators or by the ones in the front of the ship. They are heavily used on this ship and tho beautiful with glass around it on all sides. they are functionally inadequate for the number of passengers. The ones in the centrum are narrow at the entrance and somewhat longer than usual. It was especially difficult for those with strollers, scooters or wheelchairs to manage to get inside. These were the coziest elevators we have ever ridden on.. passengers would cram inside til it was completely filled.the capacity says 20 persons, I would say 12 is barely comfortable and usually 15-18 were inside at busy times. They did seem to work fairly well, we learned to hang out in the middle area near the centrum ones by the ship diagram, and watch the numbers so we could jump on as soon as one arrived. The ride itself by the centrum was great. You could watch the activity there as you rode up and down. On the outside there was an excellent view of the ocean and a small enclosed area with plants etc. Only the outside elevators travel up to the 12 & 13th floors and you needed to push a separate UP button to go there. The front of ship elevators are pretty standard, didn't seem to be used as much as the ones in the centrum.
Windjammer: The windjammer is located on Deck 11.nice layout. Only had 1 entrance> A greeter was always there to welcome you , nice touch. Bathrooms are outside the main entrance which was a bit different than usual. Liked the overall set up with different food stations on deck here. Good omelet man in the mornings. Thirst stations with already prepared drinks (lemonade, ice tea, water) and then had coffee. (sorry it tasted horrible in Windjammer, burnt??,,, needs to have machines cleaned? Replaced?? ,pretty vile stuff every morning, much better in dining room) Otherwise, I found the food and choices to be very good and adequate. We ate most breakfasts and lunches here during our cruise. Royal Caribbean uses large plastic platters instead of trays and plates. The silverware is rolled up in napkins. No spoons usually?? Only sticks to stir the coffee. In Windjammer, nice sets of tables rectangular, square and round with seating for 2 -10 .outside there are nice padded wicker lounges with tables and out aft there are square tables and chairs. When windjammer is closed there is no way to access back into the ship from the aft deck area. Cookies are excellent..we would grab some to take back to cabin for snacks or on excursions. Each day different varieties. Think this was one of the best buffet setups and food quality on all of our cruises.
Luggage Delivery: We had all luggage before our dinner seating at 6PM.some in our group didn't get theirs til after dinner.
Lifeboat Drill: Scheduled for 4:30.we headed up to our crowded station on deck 6 in the Portofino restaurant. Most are located on deck 5 promenade so don't understand why those on lower decks are not located there. Fairly painless, showed how to wear lifejacket..didn't tell us where our lifeboat would be if we needed one tho!
Cascades Restaurant: We had 10 of us on this cruise all booked together. We had been waitlisted for main dining and that cleared for us by the time our documents arrived. Unfortunately somehow my Dad (who paid our cruise fare!) was not assigned to the table with the rest of our family. Luckily our wait staff was able to move us to the adjacent table that seated 10. Our waiter Jimmy and Franco assistant waiter did an excellent job. Miss you guys! Only negative to dining experience was the inconsiderate table behind us who had a 6 mos old with screeching talent that could shatter glass, and a toddler who was allowed to roam freely between tables causing a hazard to all nearby. As a parent I can sympathize with how difficult it would be to have young children on a cruise..but they seemed to be totally unaware of how their kids were affecting the rest of the passengers. I did speak to our waiter Jimmy and they did move our table as far away as possible from the other table. We enjoyed most of the food tremendously, good breads, salad dressings etc. Even the ranch steak got a thumb's up from my brother in law. On lobster night there is no beef on standard menu. the pork tenderloin tasted like pine sap according to my sister so you may want to try something else. Overall we were happy with the food and thrilled with the service. Since there is only one dining room there is a noise level that just hums during your meal. (course ours was even more impacted by the kids behind us) On Thanksgiving there was a special menu for the day with turkey as the main entrée. Not sure what happened but it took over 2 hrs plus that day to get our food. Jimmy said they were having technical problems with the kitchen. they changed some of the side dishes for the turkey entrée. all tasted good in the end. The head waiter came by just about every meal to make sure we were happy with the food and service. Jimmy spoiled my son with double shrimp ######### and mashed potatoes every day. Franco brought huge glasses of chocolate milk to satisfy his thirst every night. Their caring attention made the dining experience one of the nicest ones we have had on the sea. Good job guys! We made sure to give them excellent on the comments cards to reflect their wonderful attention all week.
Dress Code: Casual was the dress for Embarkation day..saw some still in shorts probably waiting on luggage delivery. Formal nights for us were Monday and Thursday. I think most were dressed in formal wear.. and I would say probably half changed clothes after dinner to something more comfortable. Otherwise just standard long pants, collared shirts,,,nice outfits for women seemed to be the standard. Didn't see anything that inappropriate in the dining rooms. After feeling stifled on Celebrity with their all night in formal wear policy, it was nice to have a more relaxed evening.
Aurora Lounge: Located in front of ship decks 5 &6.nice stadium seating lounge, we always went from deck 5 so not sure what sightlines are on upper balcony levels. Seemed a bit too small for the number of passengers. Have round cup holders for drinks.
Other lounges: besides the main show lounge there are several other lounges mainly on deck 6. The schooner bar is located right off of the centrum on deck 6. When you walk into the lounge there is an area with ship replica items, cannons, rifles on wall, wood stays like on the framework of a ship. The musty bacon like smell will surround you as you enter. After that main hallway you enter the main schooner bar. Good views from the windows there, the piano bar with David in the evenings is the main entertainment. We did enjoy his music several evenings. Especially liked the way he could quickly include the people walking by in his music. He even managed to do a decent version of Stairway to heaven on his piano one night. The schooner bar leads into the colony club where the self leveling pool tables are in use. Didn't try them as they were in use most of the day and night time. There are adjacent tables with chess and backgammon for your use. The colony club lounge is beautiful but a bit too small for the many activities scheduled here. Table seating near the dance floor is limited..there is a large bar area behind there with smoking allowed. It did seem to me that they needed another place on the ship for the activities like the quest and rock and roll party-these were too crowded for most of the passengers. Past the stage there is a room with tables set up for card playing..they also had a nice selection of board games for use in the room.
On deck 13, the usual Viking crown lounge was divided into 2 rooms. The starquest disco in one. It had a rotating circular bar with bar stools around it. Nice size dance floor. My daughter (21) and niece (25) had fun up in the disco. Not that crowded when we stopped by but seemed popular especially on the village people 70's dancing night. The cruise critic party was also held here. Next to the disco was the Hollywood lounge. Nice small lounge, only used for private parties and also for a not that thrilling magic show on Friday. There were small areas on most decks near the centrum with several couches, tables and chairs. Deck 7 had a library which I should have visited since I am a librarian!..could see it from the elevator but never managed to go there. On deck 4 centrum there was a decent sized lobby bar and small dance floor. There were musicians playing music there most evenings. Nice place to hang out pre dinner since the entrance to the Cascades lower level is on deck 4.
Promenade deck: off of centrum on deck 5. Has some vinyl slatted lounges. Narrow walkways for making the circuit. We went out after shows in the evening to transit from the front of ship the back without having to go with the crowd on deck 5 thru the shops and photo gallery.
Shops: several small area shops on deck 5. Logo shop, perfume shop, jewelry in middle of walkway. Had special merchandise on sale every day on tables on both sides of walkway thru shopping area. Liquor and snacks in one store. They did tell me on Friday if I wanted to purchase liquor that I would be able to take it to room that day instead of waiting til last night to have it delivered. My niece did buy a bottle of bacardi the first day was charged a $9 surcharge to consume on ship..made price about usual US retail.
Photo Gallery: located deck 5 between shops and show lounge. Usual display racks of photos. We had several pictures taken near the centrum that and had one photo made into Christmas cards ($25 for 20 cards) also bought the picture of the family on Thanksgiving. Usual prices and quality for most part.
Casino: located on deck 6. Didn't use much besides a walkway thru to front of ship. Hard to navigate in evenings. Had the usual slots, roulette tables, black jack tables. Bar in middle had 2 for 1 beers several nights during the week. Lost about $10 in slots bit by bit during the week.
Sports Bar: located on deck 6 in front of the casino. Had a nice bar area and lots of tv screens..we didn't stop there except one time to get their 2 for 1 beer special.
Cinema: small 50 seat stadium style theater on deck 6 between sports bar and aurora theater. Had movies 3x a day. Too crowded sometimes for size of ship. My son's both saw several movies there during the week..X men, how to lose a guy in 10 days. No popcorn sorry!
Guest relations and Exploration desks: both side by side on deck 4. Small lines and helpful personnel for the most part. Did have one issue with them both the last day of the cruise which left a bad impression. (see Nassau/last day later in this review for details) They did give us extra keys for our rooms so that we could access either one since we had the boys in an adjoining one.
Sailaway: Had music playing and dances on deck by cruise activity staff on Sunday 5PM. Photographers on deck getting pictures. We were the first to leave port that evening and the ship made a quick exit just before sunset.
Ship activities & cruise activity staff : had the usual pool games, love and marriage show, quest etc. planned for the week. Cruise Director was Bill Brunkhorst who just came on the ship same time as we did. He is an experienced cruise director and tho lacks dazzle he is competent and out there as needed. His assistant Gina did the bingo and had a high level of energy. Other staff seemed to be on board to make you happy. I had just been on the Majesty of the Seas a month ago and I have to say that the quest, rock and roll party and the love and marriage show were better on their ship. Just wasn't as energy packed on the Radiance. (hard for Bill to compete with the cruise director Ricco with his HOT body on the Majesty... sorry their village people was not a thrill this voyage!!) We still had plenty of fun. didn't participate in the horse racing, bingo or star quest karaoke. Did enjoy the last night idol karaoke competition. Lots of talent out there on the ship.
Rock Wall: this was my 12 yr old son's favorite activity. Located aft on deck 13. Great crew helping to cheer the participants. Have to get their shoes (bring socks) and use the harness that they clip to the safety line. Up you go..too bad there is no bell to ring at the top. My son progressed thru the cruise and managed to master the most difficult purple pegs by the end of the week. On Saturday morning there is a competition for the adults. Wish they included the kids in one as well.
Miniature golf: My boys also enjoyed the miniature golf and we had a family golf tournament on Fri afternoon. 9 holes with simple greens, on deck 13 aft past the rock wall. Get clubs in country club room below on deck 12.
Seaview Grill: this was my favorite little snack place, located deck 12 aft. Open strange hours noon-3PM or so and then 9PM til 2AM. Has menu of fast food ranging from fish and chips, ruben sandwich, great onion rings, desserts, and salads. You order the food and then get a number and the food is delivered to your table. We did have our orders messed up often but it was still great for late night munchies. Biggest rip of ship is the milkshake available there... It costs $4.15 with gratuity and is about 12 oz. in size. Made with milk mix in one of the frozen drink machines. Not worth it. Only free beverage is water here..even have to pay for coffee or hot chocolate etc. Has inside and outside tables. We visited this place just about every day.
Solarium: Located forward of main pool deck 11. Nice indoor pool setting, has retractable roof but was closed while we sailed. Somewhat humid but not that horrible chlorine smell you find with most indoor pools. Nice padded lounges surrounding the pool, lush greenery, pretty elephant waterfall by the large pool. Came to solarium with our 12 yr old after midnight one evening to use the hot tubs. No one seemed to be around and it was really nice to have it to ourselves. There is a cafe inside that has pizza and burgers in afternoon, we somehow missed that all week. Peaceful music, cricket chirping makes for an enjoyable place to hang out.
Spa: also deck 11 forward..think the ship shape center is here too. I did attend the bright eyes seminar to see what they offered (expensive!!!!) for eye treatment... think the $190 price tag for 3 small containers was more than anyone there was interested in paying. Guess I would rather save that $$ towards my next cruise.
Pool area: Average size pool deck 11 with small dance area in front of it. Not too many pool side lounges so there was the usual chair hog problems especially on sea days. Only 2 whirlpools near here, we did get in for a soak pre dinner on Tues after our time in San Juan.
Shows: Entertainment for the week was a broadway singer Donna ??,,great voice was the headliner for our 1st night..think we needed something else to get the sleepy crowd going. 2 dance shows, rocking in paradise and welcome to our world. Decent vocalists, good dancers. Good effort and energy. Didn't care for the first night video introduction preshow by Didi showing you all the ways you can spend $$$$ on the ship all week. Not too funny. Had great show by acapella group Toxic Audio. Talented group of 5 making their vocals and 'instrumentals' all by voice. Group formed from theme parks in Orlando. Probably my favorite entertainment for the week. 3 comedians rounded out the shows for the week. All decent and funny enough, burt Leigh, older las vegas entertainer. Steven Scott young multitalented comedian with vocal improvisations enjoyed him too. Last night had a juggler comedian fairly good as well. Didn't have any late night adults only comedy which we have enjoyed in past.
Music: House party was the main party band on the ship. We danced to them during the captain's party and thought they did a pretty good job. There was a trio in the centrum just ok. Talented violinist would also play there in the evenings. Liked David on the piano late night schooner bar. Royal Caribbean orchestra played different dance music most nights in the colony club. My dad and his friend wished there were more opportunities for ballroom type dancing. They did have 2 sets of big band music one night..and dancing sometimes in the centrum...small dance floor there tho. Had many line dancing classes during the week.
Parties: We attended 4 parties during the week. The first was the unofficial cruise critic sailaway party. Had a large group maybe 40+ in Colony club on Sunday afternoon -- Razl had made us pirate name tags for our group the 'kite pirates' and Rick was passing out pirate badges. It was nice to meet up with the posters from the board from the months prior to our sailing. Official cruise critic party was held Monday morning 11AM. Had invitation sent to cabin to remind you of the event. Coffee, juice, pastries available. Had nice document pouches with cruise critic to hang around neck as giveaways. Raffled off 3 prizes..sorry didn't win. Next party was captain's party held also in Colony club first formal night Monday. Had usual wait staff going by with champagne. You could order drinks from them if you wanted other beverages. (we did) trays of appetizers etc. Captain from Canada did a nice welcome speech. We appreciated his humor and his ease speaking English. Last party was the crown and anchor repeaters' party held prior to dinner on Thanksgiving 2nd formal night Thursday. Glad they separated the 2 dinner seatings into 2 parties as it was very crowded. More free drinks, several tables with hot appetizers. Music and speech by captain. Only gave out one prize to the person with the most cruises on RCL. (35 I believe!!)
Weather: we were blessed with some great weather all week up til Sat when we arrived in Nassau. Some mild sea swells. Noticed the speed of the ship mostly on first night..had a sound similar to a jet engine humming in the background in cabin. Probably due to fast rushing of water on side of ship. Our cabin was located just a deck above water level so it probably had more impact for us. Sun was out and we only saw a few rain drops Wed evening during the deck party Caribbean night. Saturday in Nassau there was a brisk wind, cooler temps and clouds all afternoon there. Did see a peek of sun right before sunset. No one in our group had any problems with seasickness,,,seemed the Radiance did fairly well with motion..sometimes I was surprised to see out the window that we had left port it was that quiet and motionless.
Ports of Call: San Juan we had visited on the Victory 2 yrs prior at night. This time (2-8PM)we planned to get a taxi and tour El Morro. Off the ship at 2PM we were surrounded by tour vans that wanted business. Most offered a 2-3 hr tour for $20pp... we ended up with a probably 30 seat van driven by Javier. His price was $10pp. Took us past the port up to the hotel area. We walked by a seawall on the beach there. Not that exciting for a beach, I am sure there are others outside of the city with more beach and less buildings surrounding them. Passed by San Cristobal the smaller fort. We got off of the tour at El Morro. Watched 2 of the kite pirates launch their parafoil kites on the nice lawn area nearby the fort. Weather looked threatening rain and boys didn't want to climb around the fort so we headed back to town. At the road we came upon the free trolley bus and decided to use that to get us back to ship. Saw a glimpse of the cobblestone streets and shops there. Next time will plan our day better.
St. Martin: This was our first time at this port. Since we had boys 12 & 15 we decided the 'education' they might get at Orient beach wasn't needed. We had read about going to Mullet Bay beach for a nice family beach day. Off the ship there is a very organized taxi association that will help you get to where you want to go. Most cruisers were going to Dawn or Orient beach. We waited with another couple and finally were matched with a driver who agreed to take us there for $6pp. He also loaded the van with passengers going downtown for $3 pp. When we dropped off the passengers for downtown..the driver started saying we wouldn't be happy with Mullet bay, we would be happier at Dawn. He claimed there was no facilities at Mullet and we couldn't get a taxi back. This scared the couple that was with us so they jumped off downtown to get a taxi to dawn. We still decided to give Mullet a try based on the internet recommendations we had from locals on the island. Took about a 1/2 hr to reach Mullet bay located just past the airport. Paid driver our $24 for the 4 of us. Walked to beautiful cresent bay type beach. Just perfect. Had several snack bars there and vendors with chairs/umbrellas for day. Paid $10 for 2 chairs and an umbrella. Soft sand, clear water, that not believable blue ocean color. Boys dashed in and stayed in most of the morning. Beach maybe had 40 people on it but was not crowded. Did see a couple women topless in the waves that my eagle eyed son's giggled about a bit. Brought along a blow up raft to use in the waves..just took it out to the calmer water. Waves would come in series of large waves, then a long time between with mild ones. Had a nice time there from about 11AM til 3PM. Gave our raft away to a family that was staying on island for the week. We had planned to walk back to Maho beach to catch a taxi or bus back to the port. Once we exited the beach there was a woman in a van there who said she was there to pick us up..we weren't sure we were her passengers but she said that Boris had sent her to bring us back to port. Glad to have the easy transport we took her up on the offer and had a long ride back after a traffic snarl downtown. Stopped by the little booths near the ship docks but didn't see much worth buying. Great beach day and enjoyed our little trip across St Martin.
St Thomas--Thanksgiving day. Our group split up for the day. Husband and older son are certified divers so we had booked ahead of time a dive trip with Chris Sawyer divers on St Thomas ($85pp for a 2 tank dive with equipment) They left port about 8:30am for their 9:30am dive. Had to taxi to Renaissance resort. ($8pp taxi fare, dive shop refunds $10pp to help pay taxi fare) The rest of us had booked online with Royal Caribbean $48pp to go to St. John trunk bay. Excursion left from pier after a walk past the Carnival Paradise. 2 level ferry boat with nice seating downstairs in padded booths, upstairs plastic benches with shade over part of the seating. Takes about 45 min to travel to St John...bit of rough seas going over. Load into surrey trucks with benches in back to ride to trunk bay. We have truck cool runnings. Have about 20 or so in our truck. Takes about 20 min to go to park. Driver stops for 2 overlooks and talks about St John. I had last visited this island pre kids on a land cruise in 1981 and had dreamed of the beach at trunk bay for years! Arrive at park around 11 am have 1 1/2 hrs to return to truck. Head out in group get orientation for park and snorkel equip. efficient operation but it did eat up about 20 min of our limited time. Head to beach. Not a calm day, a cold front had arrived the day before and the water was choppy. Beach has shrunken from the wide sandy space I remember from 1981..but still has a nice crescent view with islands in distance. We don the snorkel stuff and swim out to the orange buoy. Head up along the rocks, bit cloudy due to the rough surf, see lots of colorful fish, one barracuda, a lot of miniature sergeant majors. Hang out at the different buoys for a rest. Head back to beach and enjoy a bit of the wave action in the warm water before it was all too soon time to pack it all up and head back. Crowded shower area for changing clothes.. back on truck we get an unwanted shower when the driver stops at a gully with water in it and the jeep coming the other way gives us a drenching. (there goes your tip buddy) On the trip back head upstairs to get a bit more sun and wish I could afford the island next to St John that has a sign saying it is for sale!!! Back to ship about 1PM..shower and wait for the divers to return. They had a great dive (had been almost a year since their last one) thought the dive operator Chris Sawyer was first class and enjoyed another adventure under the seas. Had quick lunch in windjammer and then my husband Paul and I went off ship. Walked to the tramway and went up for a good view of the harbor and islands there. (pricey for $15pp..supposedly there are coupons for 2 for 1 admission..I tried to talk them into a Thanksgiving day discount without any luck) Takes about 7 min to ride to top in gently swaying tramcar. Nice walk to gazebo we buy a watercolor print from the artist there of the port during sunset. Head down to the shopping/bar area and have a local beer. Chat with some passengers from the Celebrity Millennium and trade cruise stories. Nice view of port and relaxing spot to sit and gaze at the beauty there. Worth it even at the $15pp price. Back on ship , ready for dinner and watch us quickly sail away from port from our table.
Nassau: Another split day...this one caused disappointment for my husband and son booked on the Blackbeards Cay beach break. We had booked it online ahead of time to make sure we got the excursion and also because they did not want to shop or have to hassle with the vendors on Nassau. Their excursion left pier at 1PM..ship arrived at noon. After walking from the pier to the excursion boat , they (about 25 passengers too many ) found out that the boat going to Blackbeards Cay was overbooked... the tour operator then walked them over to the yellowbird boat. After they loaded the excursion for yellowbird, they crammed some of the stranded passengers from the Blackbeards boat onboard. My son got onboard, my husband did not. They ended up both getting bumped from the yellowbird, then they had to wait for the operator to paw thru all of the excursion tickets and give back tickets to all of the over booked passengers. The operator then wrote on the tickets to please refund. It wasn't a beautiful beach day but since they had no plans to do otherwise in Nassau, it was a disappointment. They arrived back on ship at 2:30PM...Paul went to the guest relations with the ticket to get the refund and he was told it would be taken care of that evening..this turned into a long hassle with the guest relations people who told us different information about how the accounting dept. then the explorations department would refund our shipboard acct. it took until 6AM the day of disembarkation to have it finally resolved and I will be following up with RCL over this experience. The airlines give special compensation to overbooked passengers and I feel that a refund of the excursion ticket is not adequate compensation..they lost their time in port, were unable to do anything else and we had to spend a lot of our last night on ship dealing with getting a refund. This was the only boo boo of the week for Royal Caribbean, they have been running this excursion since we were on the Sovereign in 2001 if not before then..they should know how many passengers should be booked,,and if they overbook, the passengers who made reservations online should have priority over the ones booked on the ship. Regardless, we didn't let it ruin the cruise but feel it should have been handled with at least an apology somewhere along the line. I saw a clipboard at the pier when we checked in for our excursion for the dolphin encounter and it listed the number of booked passengers for each excursion. Someone screwed up here and it was a rotten way to spend their last day on the ship. Royal Caribbean you let us down!!!!! I had booked myself and my younger son to go on the dolphin encounter ($92pp) ..this one went without a hitch thankfully...boat left on time , traveled to the little island blue lagoon where we were divided into groups of about 16 or so for our encounter. We had the dolphin Shawn swim with us that day. We had a chance to get a picture with the dolphin kissing us, danced with them, hugged the dolphin, had the dolphin swim by and splash us and rubbed the back and belly. You stand on a raised platform about 2 feet deep or so with your group...and the dolphin comes around to visit each person. I was impressed with the trainer who seemed to have total control over the dolphin. It was a fun experience. My daughter was doing the dolphin swim. This had to be booked independently , we first tried to book it thru dolphin encounters but they said the time slot 1:30 we needed was booked. Ended up booking thru shore trips..a bit more expensive ($157pp) The swim excursion only leaves from the Paradise Island ferry docks so I was lucky enough that 2 fellow cruise critics were kind enough to escort Aimee to the swim. They had a great time and I thank Mike and Chelle for their attention..and great video of the swim. Both excursions finished about the same time..we did the quick change and then couldn't resist the photos of our dolphin swims/encounter. (bring $$ or credit card... they will GET you too) Back on the boat we arrived at pier 4:45PM..managed to power shop for last minute souvenirs at the closest shop and made it back to the Radiance before last aboard at 5:30PM.
Midnight buffets: We attended 4 different midnight buffets during the week. 1st night buffet was held in the windjammer..mostly similar offerings from dinner/lunch menu. Had entrees, salads, desserts, breads ect. Didn't' see much different than usual. On 1st formal night they had a chocolate buffet. I only had one thing I wanted to eat. Chocolate covered strawberries. Unfortunately the first ones in line took platefuls of the strawberries and stripped the buffet clean. On Wednesday night they had a Caribbean buffet on deck poolside. It was a mix of salads, desserts and fruit. Not very large. We sampled a couple things before heading to bed. 2nd formal night on Friday had the grand buffet. Opens at 11:30 for photos. We decided we didn't' want to return to eat..had nice bowls of peeled shrimp, some pretty strange looking pate's and other delicacies. Also had desserts and some layers on a display of chocolate covered strawberries.
Children's Programs: we had our boys go the first night of the cruise to meet some of the other kids up in the teen orbit up on deck 12. They didn't seem to hit it off with the group there and except for going to the xmen movie one late night when it was reserved for teens they did their own thing all week. We did see large groups of teens hanging out on the ship. The compass stated a 1AM curfew for children under 17 not with parents. That was pretty much after our bedtime so I don't know if it was enforced or not. The younger kids dressed up at pirates and came to our show one evening to give a mini performance. Lots of children aboard especially babies on this cruise, We have sailed on Thanksgiving 2x before but this voyage seemed to have the most babies. Except for the ones at dinner we didn't have any problems with any of the kids young or old on the ship.
Drinks: we are not big drinkers and the prices of drinks on Radiance were higher than most other lines we have sailed. We found it strange that the price for a simple rum and coke could be different by several dollars on the ship depending on what lounge you were in. I know some are specialty brand liquors but we never requested anything special. To save money you can purchase a bottle in the gift shop for a surcharge and make your own. There are also many drink specials and 2 for 1 beers several evenings on the ship. Bucket of beer buy 5 get one free was usually available every day. Also don't forget to go to the captain's party and crown & anchor party and get the drinks you want from the waiter there.
Kite Pirates: our cruise critic group was pretty active on the meet and mingle board. Had about 35 pages of postings, over 50 signed up online for the party. They claimed the name 'kite pirates' as we had hoped to be able to fly the kites on the aft of the ship. Think about a dozen or so members had bought special parafoil kites to fly. Plan was for Friday afternoon 2PM to give it a trial flight. Unfortunately the wind was not cooperative, not enough of it and the kites kept heading back aboard instead of climbing in the breeze. Oh well, valiant try guys ..better luck next voyage!!
Tipping: Mid week you will have a form inside the daily compass which you can fill out to have automatic tipping added to your shipboard account. This was the painless way to do it. You will get on Sat night a set of envelopes and preprinted vouchers to put inside for each of the staff members. Price was $68pp for the week, no alternative amount allowed. Cash tipping is also an option for those who haven't spent it all in the casino!!!
Eastern Caribbean clock: The captain had us turn our clocks ahead an hour when we went to bed on Monday night. This put us on Atlantic time which is the same as in San Juan, St Thomas and also St Martin. We got the hour back on Friday night before going into Nassau..(wish I could have gotten a hundred or so more!!) I prefer to have ship time and island time the same so I don't have to worry about getting back onboard at the wrong time.
Disembarkation: Getting off of the ship is always a bummer..even more so in this port. We had one of the last colors to be called off Radiance since we had a flight out of FLL at 6:50PM. Our tag color (green) was announced at around 9:45. Short wait thru immigration..and then into the horrible mess of the terminal. It is half the size of the one in Miami and not able to handle the number of bags and people comfortably. It was chaos..our bags were found quickly but we had to wait about 45 min inching our way to the customs agent. Our non-porter line moved at a snails pace..the agent stopped all people thru for about 10 min. If you can get to a porter and need to be on your flight..go for it..it will be worth it in less aggravation and wasted time. Somehow the porters have a steady stream going in the middle of the terminal while the people dragging their own bags are stuck inching along to the doorway.
Flight Home: We had a late flight with connection in Atlanta. Not a great way to go on a holiday weekend. We rented a car thru budget and had problems getting to the Quay shopping center office..would recommend getting rental thru airport agency of budget..(I had read differently pre-cruise about what office picked up at port..both do actually..but airport office has larger shuttle and is around port more often) Luckily the airport budget people put us and luggage in a van and took us to the Quay office to pick up the minivan we had reserved. We wound around Ft. Lauderdale til we managed to find the riverwalk meeting place where we had planned rendezvous with our friends from Miami. Nice lunch with them, kids went to movies. We arrived back at airport and checked in for flight an hour early. Our plane was delayed leaving Ft Lauderdale due to back ups on runway,,,then pilot had to do a holding pattern over Atlanta before landing. Our hour connection time had shrunk from the scheduled 1 hour to 15 min by the time we touched down. Had to go down one LONG concourse , down the escalator, on the tram to the next long concourse. Luckily our daughter Aimee went ahead (and didn't do the stupid tram detour to the baggage claim the rest of us did) we made our flight with 2 min to spare!! Luggage made it too. Finally home at 2AM.our dog Gypsy glad to see us home again. What a bummer being back north, cold and weary off to bed with no gentle rocking of the ocean to help us drift off. Reality is 10 loads of laundry, an empty refrigerator and work/school just hours away to tackle. I wanna turn the clock back a week and do it all again!!!
Overall pluses to Radiance: Beautiful ship with lots of glass to view outside..think this ship would be the top of the list for my 14 cruises in overall nice appearance.Great ship diagrams on every deck level near glass elevators to help guide you on the ship. Cabins comfortable and had adequate storage. Dining room staff excellent. Cabin attendant seemed to have a bit more cabins than usual to manage but did all that we needed him to do..gave us an assortment of towel animals too most evenings. Great embarkation. Staff very friendly, don't think we encountered any real grumpy ones aboard all week, one man in Windjammer talked to my husband about his job not being as 'advertised' he is on his first and last contract.. Staff responding 'my pleasure' when you would thank them for some little service.. Everything seemed clean and ship shape on all the decks we were on. No big pressure in lounges or on deck to buy drinks. Seaview café had good food , good service and good location to watch off the aft of the ship. Overall this would probably rank as my 2nd favorite cruise..just behind Hawaii on the Norwegian Star. (having left kids at home might have something to do with the fond memories of that trip) Weather was nice, food was good, service was great, all stayed healthy all week, we always found something to do.. the time just flew as usual. Our waiter Jimmy and assistant Franco gave us wonderful service in the dining room. Jimmy smiles all of the time and seems to really enjoy making your dinner as pleasant as possible. Having sailed in August on the Star Princess and experienced their version of 'impersonal choice' dining..it was a pleasant change. Hot tubs and pools open 24 hrs. nice to be able to soak late at night when we had the chance. They do post hours available for whirlpools since they take them down for cleaning for several hours each night. Nice atmosphere and padded lounges in Solarium. Boys enjoyed both miniature golf and also rock wall..nice amenities to have for active kids..and even older ones brave enough to master the wall.
Overall minus to Radiance: Elevators congested at times.had to be willing to share lots of personal space inside of them..they got more crowded as the week went on when passengers got less patient with waiting for an open car. Also location of cabin to elevator banks is critical if you don't mind walking a LOT. There is no staircase aft of ship..and the one in centrum area is very narrow and rather tacky looking with chrome handrails..think it detracts from décor of ship. Coffee in Windjammer universally horrible. I am not a big coffee drinker but it was all I could do to choke down a cup in the morning. Tried inside , outside , both sides of windjammer and still it all tasted burnt. Dining room had decent stuff.I don't know why it was so bad topside. The lounge used for parties, games etc. doesn't have good seating for the number of passengers. Colony club only had table side with good views for about 75 people..it was too bad to miss out on several activities cuz the crowd there made it too difficult to see the floor/activity. Small dance floor in Centrum not large enough for dancers who want to have a bit of space. Watch out for overbooked shore excursions.I don't' know how often that happens but I guess you have to be in the front of the crowd to make sure it doesn't happen to you. Disembarkation more painful than usual.
Epilogue: Unfortunately all good things must end..and this cruise just managed to melt away like they all do into a sea of memories and dreams that have come true. Overall we had a fantastic voyage. enjoyed the time to be together with family , with the kids, with just Paul and I alone..tried some new foods, made some new friends, visited a new island, had scuba divers to log another trip down under..the rest of the family had their long hoped for dolphin encounter/swim. Every voyage has some great times..especially those nice quiet moments looking over the railing and seeing part of this beautiful earth . I feel so lucky to have been able to have so many cruise adventures. addicted absolutely..have no desire to exchange this type of vacation experience for one on land..even with ports we have visited before I always find something new to experience..and each ship has something special to explore. Radiance has satisfied all that I hoped to experience on this trip and gave me many great memories. Hope all you future cruisers can have just as great a trip and find all the wonder that is there waiting for you. Bon Voyage!!