CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Radiance of the Seas Alaska July 30, 2005

Rather than write a detailed review of the cruise I will just discuss some tips and observations about the ship, cruise line and ports. By way of note this was my 4th Alaska cruise in the last 7 years and my second Alaska cruise on the Radiance. Total cruises are now 30.

Embarkation was very quick and smooth. We embarked at Ballantyne Pier. It's about a 15 minute bus ride from downtown. Not nearly as nice as Canada Place. In the last year or so the cruise lines have started letting passengers on the ships very early and often before the staterooms are ready. This is far more comfortable for the passengers and eliminates long waits in the terminal. This was true of the Radiance. I arrived at the pier around 11:45AM from the Sutton Place Hotel using RCL transfers. I usually do not take cruise line transfers, but they were included with my airline tickets. Security checked passenger ID's and carry on bags. There was a Platinum/Diamond member check-in line which I used and numerous lines for non members. Lines were short and it took no m ore than 15 minutes to get on board. They directed everyone to have lunch at the Windjammer until around 1:00PM when cabins were ready.

We have learned from experience to always check our dinner table location immediately. I am glad we did. It was in a dark corner, no windows nearby, right by the busy entrance. The Maitre D' was very accommodating (better than most I have seen) and using a computer offered us 4 or 5 choices of better tables. He even gave us the other passenger's names and ages. We selected a large table on the upper floor right next to the windows.

The food at dinner was quite good. Each night they offered at least 5 entrees. One was roast beef or steak, chicken, fish, a vegetarian dish, pasta, and lamb or veal. Always available was a steak, chicken, Caesar salad, and a few other items. Bread and desserts were very good. A casual dinner was served each night in the Windjammer. They had a sushi bar as well several nights. There is a $12 corkage fee to bring your own wine to dinner. I will post a few menu's oat my photo gallery.

We had dinner one night at the Portofino Restaurant. The food was very good especially the desserts. It is well worth the $20 per person charge. The Cruise Compass says that tips are included, but I always tip an extra $5 or $10 cash based on service. The Cruise Compass comes out every day and lists the day's activities. I will post some samples in my photo gallery.

For some reason the formal nights were the 2nd and 5th night. Most 7 day cruises have formal nights on the 2nd night and 6th night. Lobster tails were not served the second formal night but the 6th night. As for the dress code, I took my tuxedo as usual but was in the minority. Alaskan cruises for some reason seem less dressy. Maybe 25% of the men wore tuxedos, 50% suits, 20% sports coats, and the rest ??? There were two formal nights, one "smart casual", one "casual/50's & 60's", one "casual/Klondike Country attire", and 2 casual. Shorts are permitted at breakfast and lunch only in the dining room. I actually saw two men on a formal night in Blue Jean shorts with suspenders, white tee shirts and hats. Nobody stopped them from eating. Lunch in the dining room was different from my last cruise on the Radiance. They have the same menu every day except for one new special entree and dessert.

I really like the layout of the Windjammer on this ship. Rather than several long buffet tables where long lines occur, the Radiance has many large "stations" where you can go to select different items. The breakfast buffet was pretty good. They had typical breakfast fare and an omelet station for fresh made egg dishes. Lunch in the buffet was not as good and had typical buffet food. They had a nice salad bar, carving station, dessert area and soft serve ice cream. Pizza was good but the hamburgers are not made to order. I never tried it for dinner.

Latitudes is their premium coffee shop. They use Seattle's Best coffee here and you get a free pastry with any drink. They claim to use Seattles Best "in the dining rooms", but coffee in the Windjammer definitely not made from freshly ground beans. It is not very good.

The ship itself was very clean. Some carpets and chairs were a bit worn, but generally the ship was in excellent condition. Everywhere you looked crew members were cleaning, sweeping and polishing. We never ran across anyone who wasn't friendly and helpful. Waiters, cabin stewards, store employees, and the cruise staff were first rate. Our waiter, Shareef, was one of the best ever!!

Entertainment was pretty good too. The two production shows were very good. The entertainment consisted of comedians, a singer, comedy Juggler (Mario and Jenny), who we have seen before and a magician.

I am not a smoker but was very happy with the fairly rigid smoking policy. This is essentially a non-smoking ship. They allow smoking in open areas of most decks on the port side, in the casino, and the aft area of the Colony Club and Starquest lounge. That means no smoking in the halls, dining rooms, Centrum, shops, or the many bars or other public rooms. I assume they allow it in your stateroom since you can get an ashtray from the cabin attendant.

The swimming pools are salt water. The indoor and outdoor pools and spa are open 24 hours a day. The gym is open from 6:00AM to 11:00PM.

We booked this cruise about two weeks before it sailed and only 5 inside cabins were available. But one was a handicapped cabin which I took. They release them to the general public if they remain open about 60 days before the sailing. It was great. Essentially it's two cabins. About 330 s.f. with a huge bathroom and shower. There is a decent hairdryer on the desk, a small refrigerator, small TV, two U. S. style electric plugs, and Ethernet connections in the room. The beds were a typical hard mattress on a platform. Not like those wonderful pillow top mattresses on HAL. We did ask for a foam mattress pad that the cabin attendant put on. It helped a bit and eliminated any "crack' between the two twin beds that were set together. Handicapped rooms have a "push "button" system for opening the cabin doors. It's great from the outside, but the inside button is right below the lights for the bathroom. I had visions of accidentally hitting it one night in our dark inside cabin and opening the cabin door by mistake. I always take a small night light if I have an inside cabin so that helped.

Tips may be put on your credit card or given in cash to crew members. They had a form to sign if you wanted tips put on your credit card. Then the last night they give you envelopes and small receipts so the crew new you gave them a tip via credit card. I tipped a bit extra too by putting cash in with the receipts. They charge $9.75 a day if you charge the tips. This can be adjusted I believe or just use cash.

Diamond and Platinum Club members are treated to a wonderful brunch in the Portofino restaurant one morning. They also get a very nice booklet with discount coupons and a small gift. The coupons give you 2 for 1 savings on photos, free drinks, $4.00 free cash from the casino, etc.

They are always running specials in the shops and my wife won a beautiful necklace one day and a friend won an Amber Pendent at the "Guess the Fake Amber" drawing. The ring set in gold is the fake. The real ones are set in silver. They sell liquor in the shops and for an extra $9.50 you can take it to your room.

Having been to Alaska three other times we only took one ships tour. It was a Salmon bake, Mendenhall Glacier and hatchery tour in Juneau. We took this because friends we met on the ship were on it. But you can find far cheaper tours to most of the same places on shore. I saw very good deals from private vendors in Skagway and Juneau. Less so in Ketchikan, but they are available . This cruise included Hubbard Glacier. Previously I visited Glacier Bay. It was very overcast that day, but the glacier was especially blue and the Captain got the ship very close. One thing to watch about cruises to Hubbard Glacier. The ship leaves the protected waters of the Inside Passage and goes out into the Pacific Ocean. That afternoon we hit some every rough water and many passengers got sick and missed dinner. My wife, who uses a patch in rough water, was unprepared (as were most passengers) and for the first time got seasick. The crew said this is very rare, but just be cautious.

Debarkation was a bit different than on my other cruises out of Vancouver. I usually hate flying out of Vancouver airport since you are forced to stand in many long lines and drag your suitcases around. They now offer an expedited debarkation and onboard airline check-in for $20 per person. This includes the Vancouver airport passenger fee you usually pay at the airport. Basically they give you bar coded luggage tags the night before you leave. You put them on your suitcase and leave them outside your door as usual. You do not see your bags again until you get home. Then about 7:15AM in the Aurora Theater you get your boarding passes, luggage claim checks and a pass for the expedited customs and security checks. We boarded the bus at 8:20AM and headed to a special area outside the airport where immigration was cleared on the bus. Then off to a back gate where they had a special security check area and U.S. customs. We exited through a door right near our gate. Total time 90 minutes from the ship to our gate. And we never saw our luggage until we arrived home.

All in all it was a B+ cruise.

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