My husband Jim and I have just returned from our three night on the Radiance of the Seas. We booked this cruise at the last minute, and were thrilled to be getting away for a fun long weekend. This is our 9th cruise, so we have some idea of what makes a cruise enjoyable for us. Everyone has different criteria, I have found. It is hard not to compare cruise ships and lines while you are on the ship, but we try to keep it to ourselves if we are not happy with something, so we don't ruin the experience for others. We are not really too picky. I see that there are already a few reviews that describe the ship in great detail. So, I will not go room to room, describing everything.
The ship is gorgeous! The decor is very tasteful. The rooms that I thought were particularly beautiful, are... The Grand Atrium, Colony Club, Solarium Pool, Schooner Bar, Cascades Dining Room, the public rest rooms, yes, I said the public rest rooms! :)
We are lucky to live only about an hour's drive North of Seattle. So we were able to get to the port around 10:30 in the morning. The cruise parking is in the Art Institute parking garage, directly across the street from the port. There is a sky bridge connecting the two. When we pulled into the garage a man told us to pull over if we were going on the ship and they took our bags right there! This was great! So much easier than dragging them to the port. We were going to drop them off before we parked, but there were too many taxis and buses taking the disembarking passengers home.
When we got into the port, we were able to go right to a desk and check in. Royal Caribbean had a surprise for us. We were UPGRADED to a balcony!!!!!! We booked and Oceanview and they gave us a cat. E1 cabin. We were able to board the ship by 11:30. The cabin was very nice. A lot of thought was put into the design and we benefited from it. I loved the curtain you can draw to separate the room in half. When room service came in the morning, I just hid behind the curtain :) The only thing bad was the small shower. The tile accents above the sink were a nice touch. Nice big closet and lots of drawer space. I really liked the shelves in the closet. Since we booked so late, we were not able to get late seating. They had a time and place to meet with the Matre D to change your seating. There was a small room right next to the Cascades restaurant where we lined up. They happily changed us to late seating. We got a very nice large table in the center on the main level (4).
After exploring every nook and cranny of the ship and taking pictures of EVERYTHING ( I took 8 rolls of film and video taped two hours worth of tape!) we relaxed in a lounge chair by the main pool. It was sunny and warm. After a nice long swim, we had Strawberry Margaritas and dreamed we were in the Caribbean! One of my complaints on this cruise was the lack of a pool band. Last year we did this same itinerary on the Vision of the Seas, and they had a pool band. When we set sail, the Seattle Fireboat gave us a water show! What a nice surprise. Way to go Seattle!
We had a nice dinner, casual, and met our new table mates. They are all nice, interesting folks that added to our whole cruise experience. The food was all excellent. The steaks were tender and served hot. I cannot say enough times how PERFECT our service was on the whole cruise. The waiters, bus people in the Windjammer, guest relations, the crew, our cabin attendant. The ship was kept spotless.
I have heard that on earlier cruises there was a problem. Not any more. The Captain was great. He was more like a cruise director. He sang to us at the Captains Cocktail Party, and told jokes. We had a good view of the bridge from our balcony and he was up there a lot.
We were informed my the Captain Friday night, that the ship would pass under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver at approximately 6:15 in the morning. So, that is when we woke up to get photos. I am glad we did. The bay was beautiful. The water was like glass. In Vancouver, we got off the ship just long enough to walk around Gas Town for a bit, to look for suitcase presents for our two boys. I found a very nice Chinese tea pot set at a shop, for my early Mother's Day preset. We spent the rest of the day swimming and eating and napping. Very relaxing. Formal night... A lot of ladies in long ball gowns, some tuxes but not many. Some people were completely underdressed. I think many of the passengers opted for the informal Windjammer. There were NO LOBSTER TAILS and NO GALA MIDNIGHT BUFFET! Again, we had them on our Vision of the Seas cruise. I am getting the feeling that Royal Caribbean is cutting corners :( It bothered me, because a lot of folks were on their first cruise. It would have been nice if RCCL gave them a taste of the WHOLE experience.The Filet Mignon was heavenly. I think it was the most tender of any I have ever had.
Victoria was great. I really love this town. So much to see and do. We took the bus from Ogden Point, where we docked, to town. It dropped us off right next to the Empress Hotel. There is a $5. each rountrip, charge for the bus. Right behind the Empress on the corner is a bus station, where you can purchase tickets to the Butchart Gardens. They bus you there in a very nice comfortable tour bus. The drive is about 25 minutes. The Gardens were spectacular. The Tulips are in bloom right now. There is a lot of hiking around and stairs. But there are easier paths for people in wheel chairs. After the tour we were dropped back into town. We walked over to the Sticky Wicket pub. Very nice. If you go by there, walk in and look around.We had a cup of seafood chowder and a beer.
The last night was resort casual. I lost $50.00 at the casino :( The casino is really quite small for the size of the ship. It was hard to find a vacant slot machine. Then went to a good comedy show in the theater before dinner.
Now for the BAD... If I was a fairy that could wave a magic wand and change a few things on the cruise, this is what I would do. There was only one main pool. The very tiny children's pool on the back of the ship was not much larger than a hot tub, so only the preschoolers went in there. The one pool ouside was always full of kids jumping into the pool splashing each other, running around and around the shallow sides of the pool splashing salt water in our faces. It made for a very unpleasant swim. I was kicked and splashed and one large boy almost jumped right on my head. I finally gave up and went to the Solarium Pool. It is shallow and not meant for lap swimming. There are no children under 16 allowed in there. NOT. There were children in there as well. Two girls were having a splashing fight and I got it right in the face. There is an adorable little cafe on the back of he ship right above outside eating area. The Seaview Cafe. It served fish and chips, pizza and hamburgers. It would be a great place to go during the day for lunch. But the only hours it was open, were from 11pm to 4 am! Who needs fish and chips at 3 am? I was disappointed that there was no pool band, lobster tails or Grand Midnight Buffet . They needed a children's pool next to the main pool. Every other ship we have been on have had two pools next to each other. One for the children and one for the adults. This is why we have decided to take the Infinity to the Southern Caribbean in Feb, 2002 instead of the Radiance that also has S. Caribbean cruises at the same time. Not enough pool area. There are 2100 passengers. In the Caribbean a LOT of passengers will be wanting to swim and sunbath by the pool. I can't imagine how crowded it would be!
We are booked for the Sept. 21,2001 cruise for this same ship and itinerary. We booked this a few months ago. We are definitely going to go again. Great service, great ship.