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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

Radiance of the Seas
Preview ~ March 2001

by Tim Rubacky

I'm back from my Radiance of the Seas preview cruise and I must say that this ship not only met, but surpassed even my highest and wildest expectations. IMO, the ship is quite a radical departure from previous generation RCI ships. While there are indeed similarities to her elder Vision Class fleet mates and she carries on with some of the innovations of the Voyager Class, such as the rock climbing wall and golf course, she is much more sophisticated and is already forging a unique identity and reputation for herself and her soon to be launched sister, Brilliance.

Just as the Vision Class was such a marked improvement and departure from the Sovereign Class, the same can be said for the Radiance Class. What they've done is taken the best of the Vision and Voyager Classes and refined them a highly polished state, resulting in a ship that is truly a gem; a ship that radiates charm, sophistication, comfort and a touch of whimsy.
Gone are the over powering brass, glass and pastels. In their place are warm, dark woods, polished marble and rich, luxurious earth and jewel tones that, when mixed with the acres and acres of glass, create an atmosphere of warmth and comfort. The ship also offers a lot of choice with the main restaurant, a private dining room, five alternative dining venues, and more than abundant entertainment and relaxation options.
Radiance does indeed carry on with RCI's trademark Centrum with it's abundant glass and a mix of warm pastels and jewel tones, but it's one that is welcoming and stimulates the senses rather than over power or under whelms. This central area serves as an axis and is quite an effective "crossroads" as it is ringed with bars and lots of cozy, intimate seating areas that rise through the ten decks.
My favorite areas were the innovative Colony Club along with the whimsical and tranquil Solarium. The Colony Club is innovative in that RCI has eliminated the traditional secondary cabaret lounge and replaced it with a cluster of rooms that serves a variety of functions. It struck me as being very much like an English manor house not only with it's baronial style, but with it's functionality. Entering, you come upon the "Colony Club" proper which is set up with a small bar, two pool tables and a casual groupings of sofas and chairs; much like a "Great Room" one finds in today's home and great country homes. Off to port is a Card Room, with the Jakarta Club occupying the center of the complex. The Jakarta Club serves as a venue for Cabaret and dancing and is adjacent to Singapore Slings; a spacious and stunning bar area with windows over the stern; anchored by a central bar area and flanked by casual groupings of sofas and chairs. For those of you who were aboard the Oriana, Grand Princess, as well as the Century/Millennium Class; it is strikingly similar to Anderson's or Michael's Club, not to mention the Explorers Lounge aboard the Grand. Very traditional in decor, the room is paneled in rich wood laminates with wood/marble floorings and accenting throw rugs. The furniture is an eclectic blend of styles and fabrics which add to it's hominess. And the best part of this room is that it is so well designed; one may be in any part of the complex and not feel isolated but never feel as though they are caught up in the thick of the action. The Jakarta Club and Card Room may also be partitioned off (to an extent) to minimize disturbance or contain noise without isolating them from the rest of the areas.
The solarium is an absolute triumph and I'm sure will be a tremendous hit in Alaska and provide a welcome respite form the less than moderate clime of the Southern Caribbean. Done in an African theme, it's resplendent with lush greenery, exquisitely tiled pools, waterfalls and 15 foot high stone elephants. There's also a "lounging puma" on the port side of the pool and adding to the ambiance/atmosphere is a soundtrack of birds, monkeys and jungle sounds. It's just so relaxing but at the same time so whimsical and fun, one feels their spirits lifted and refreshed just by walking through it. Thankfully, it's off limits to the kiddies and has complete food and beverage service areas; one could in theory spend their entire cruise in this venue and never go hungry or thirsty.
Not coincidentally, the Solarium is immediately adjacent to the Ship-Shape Spa, one of the most impressive spas/fitness areas afloat. The spa is both extensive and expansive with every imaginable kind of treatment facility. Worthy of note are the colorfully tiled sauna areas with floor to ceiling glass windows and tiled chaise lounges/chairs instead of the usual benches; and the "Relaxation Chamber" facing over the bow. What is this you say? It's a room lined with inviting cushioned chaises with aromatherapy capabilities and a sound system. You simply go in to decompress and relax with a variety of tranquil and relaxation inducing sounds and scents. This ship will be THE belle of the ball in Alaska! Another nice feature are the three "verandahs" adjacent to the Windjammer. Partially enclosed but open air, they contain groupings of thickly cushioned rattan sofas and chairs lining the widows.  They're perfect for eating or just plain relaxing when one wants fresh air and views without being exposed to the sun or inclement weather.
But these areas are just the beginning. The Aurora theatre rises through three decks; technically state of the art and with perfect sightlines, not to mention comfy air-conditioned seats a la Oriana! The Cascades Dining Room is simply stunning; words don't do it justice; only experiencing it or viewing photos will convey the sense of style. Portofinos and Chops Grille are also extremely handsome and the menus look divine. The dining areas are rounded out by the Windjammer Cafe, the Seaview Cafe (offering lighter fare and round the clock snacks/nibbles) and Breakers. Breakers is adjacent to the main dining room but it's purpose had not yet been determined. It could possibly be another alternative dining room or an extremely large private dining room.
Staterooms and suites are extremely spacious and well designed, if lacking a wee bit in the storage area. Perfect for 7 night cruises, the storage could be a little tight for anything longer. The staterooms/suites also carry forward with a much more sophisticated look with darker, richer tones/fabrics and lots of dark wood paneling. They reminded me greatly of the staterooms aboard the RSSC Navigator/Mariner or the new Silversea ships in decor.
And no RCI ship would be complete without the Viking Crown Lounge. Like all the others, it doubles as a OB Lounge and Disco and serves it purpose perfectly. Adjacent to it is a smaller club which serves as a Comedy Club and venue for Karaoke.
As this was a "preview cruise", there were a few snafus and glitches as the crew was 60% brand new. Service problems were corrected quickly and the difference in service on Saturday and Sunday was like night and day. And RCI has thankfully improved their food service with new menus and lots of options. Where as food on the Voyager was universally miserable last year, the new menus were great; choices were innovative and plentiful, well prepared and artfully presented. Not haute cuisine or gourmet fare, but quite simply very, very good and plenty of it. And in lieu of long buffet lines, one simply wanders between well placed and well marked "action stations" which feature soups, salads, fruit, hot dishes, carving stations, sandwiches, desserts, and self serve ice cream during lunch and various breakfast foods during the morning. (Note: Dinner and lunch were very good, breakfast foods were still miserable) Whereas this was a brilliant move that seems to cut down on long lines, RCI quite brilliantly decided that you must now be SERVED your drinks. No more self service, but rather you wait in line! And dinner the first night ran very late but was entertaining when a crock of onion soup showered several RCI and Consortia executives. Thankfully, no one was hurt or burned!
Entertainment was very good and the one production show I attended was well done and entertaining. The entertainment staff is very YOUNG and VERY GOOD LOOKING! Thankfully, there was no production show Sunday night as the Oscars were being broadcast and that left the entertainers free to mingle and dance in the disco.  That night, we managed to close down the disco at 3:00, continued on to the crew bar until 4:30 and I watched our entrance into Miami from my balcony as a flock of porpoises frolicked along side us all the way down Government Cut into the turning basin.
If you've never been on deck to witness the entrance back into Miami during the pre-dawn hours, I highly recommend it. This was my first time but even though I didn't get to bed until 6:00 and had to get up at 8:00 for a full day of meetings, I'd do it all again. A simply glorious end to a great, but much too short two days. If you get a chance to sail the Radiance, by all means do. I think you'll love her... I know I did!

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