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Radiance of the Seas Cruise Review
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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

Radiance of the Seas

July 13 - 20, 2002


by Brandylee


As I'm typing this, the room is rocking. I have yet to get rid of my sea legs!


Our cruise to Alaska was wonderful.


Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at around 10:45 am. RCI staff took our luggage as soon as we got out of the taxi and we proceeded to go through the security inspection and RCI 'check in' with no lineups at all. We were then directed to seats in the waiting area until noon when we could go through Customs and board. The waiting area was nice and they offered coffee, tea, pastries and sandwiches (they start you eating early!). We were among the first to arrive and noticed lines starting to form within half an hour. By noon it was very crowded. With just a bit of a mix up over who was to board first, (they forgot to give some of us our embarkation number), we were on the ship shortly after noon.


We were on the Radiance last year for a four night Pacific Coastal cruise and I would say the biggest difference this time was that the staff was much friendlier and more at ease. They seemed knowledgeable and happy in their work. Service, while not bad at all the first time, was very good this time (except in the dining room).


Our weather for the trip was quite good. Mostly overcast with sun here and there and not much rain at all. 


Juneau (arrived at noon Monday) was a 'tender' port for the Radiance and people were taken back and forth to the pier by smaller boats all day long. We had been to Alaska about 6 years ago and our plan was to stay on the ship when everyone else was on excursions. It seemed we had the ship to ourselves and for hours we saw no one except staff. We played pool, golf, shuffleboard on deck, etc. with no one around. It was great!


Scagway (arrived at 6:30 am Tuesday) weather started out OK, just overcast, but by the time people were returning to the ship got really windy and started to pour. We could see the people lining up to get back on the ship (most without umbrellas) and even though they had to stand in the lineup for about 20 minutes, everyone seemed to be in good spirits and laughing about it. We were docked in a place where we could watch the helicopters take off and land for the excursions and that was fun to watch.


Hubbard Glacier on Wednesday was magnificent!!! We lucked out with a beautiful crisp day that was slightly overcast with occasional sunny periods and no wind. There was a barbecue on deck, along with 'spirited' drinks and hot chocolate. The glacier was clear and beautiful. We saw about 6 calvings (is that how you spell it?) and the ship set a record for this year getting within half a mile of the glacier. It felt as though you could reach out and touch it. It was worth the whole trip.


In Ketchikan (arrived at 1:00 pm Thursday) we had sun for a good part of the day and even though we weren't going to get off the ship, it looked so pretty we had to. That evening we had dinner in Portofino's (we booked a table for two by the window as soon as we boarded) overlooking the town. The food and service was excellent and others we spoke to who had eaten there enjoyed it as well. It was worth the $20.00 each. 


Our last day Friday was overcast for most of the day, but cleared the closer we got to Vancouver.


Food/Service: The food on the trip was very, very good. We eat out at nice restaurants a fair bit, and when I read reviews about people being disappointed with the food on the Radiance I don't understand it. The Windjammer and dining room food was very good, and Portofino's was great. Our only disappointments were with the service in the dining room. Overall the service was not great. We were served quite late and there were times we had to ask a couple of times for things they had forgotten. The food was on a par with the Windjammer on two nights and slightly superior to that on the other (we ate there three times). It wasn't the food we were disappointed in really, it was the lack of service and also with the pressure we felt by our waiter to return. We didn't go to the dining room the first night and our Waiter asked us where we had eaten, and made sure to say, 'I'll see you tomorrow' a couple of times during dinner, and again at the end. We went back two days later and were asked where we ate dinner the night before and then at the end, "We'll see you tomorrow for lunch." We went back the last night and he looked just plain disappointed in us for not having been there for two nights. I'm sure they are under a lot of pressure themselves, but we didn't appreciate being treated that way.


The other time we felt pressure was when I asked about the alcoholic drink cards the first day on the ship at a poolside bar. The bartender sighed, shook his head a bit and said "OK." I asked him what the card was good for and shaking his head again he said "just domestic beer and house wine." We said we'd think about it. Then we saw it advertised in the Compass - 12 drinks for $39.00 plus 15% tip (came to $44.00) and that it would save up to $17.00. So at another bar I asked if it was good for frozen drinks and he said yes. Not once did I get a smaller drink than anyone else around me, as others have experienced. I thought it was a great deal, and when we ordered two drinks at a time for myself and husband, we tipped an extra dollar. They were quite happy with that and we still saved money.


The Ship:


The Cabin:  We were in 7032, an E3 Cabin that was forward on the ship. We had a standard E cabin but our balcony was a fair bit bigger than the one we had before in 7598. A lounge chair would have fit on it easily with the other two chairs, but we never did get our request. Before we boarded we weren't sure if we would like the cabin because it was forward, but after a couple of days we ended up thinking that we would actually request one of these cabins again. Because the balcony was big we spent a fair bit of time on it. The only thing some people might not like about being forward is that all the food (restaurants) is at the other end (aft) of the ship.


A lot of thought went into the planning of the cabins. We had three large suitcases and two smaller 'carry on' bags PACKED with stuff. My husband didn't think there was any way we would get everything put away, but after emptying all our bags and putting them under the bed there was still room for more. I could have brought more STUFF! There are a couple of areas of storage that people said they hadn't realized they had until their last day. On either side of the mirrored desk/make-up area, there are tall mirrored cupboards that open and have shelves, and also in the bathroom there is a mirrored cabinet that opens with good storage space in there.


Each cabin has individual thermostats that worked great. The balcony doors stay open on their own and we left ours open for the first night and part of the second. Two things we were advised to bring that we didn't use were an extension cord, and a bungee cord. There are two outlets at the desk/make-up table and in the bathroom on the ceiling there was another outlet for a razor, so an extension cord wasn't needed, and we just tucked the light curtain behind the heavy curtain to keep it open, so we didn't need the bungee cord. The bathroom was small but adequate. As others have said, watch the bottom of the curtain and make sure it is inside the rim or you will have a flood like I did! 


We didn't watch the interactive TV much, except for watching the live shots of the bow of the ship and the map to tell us where we were. There was also a video shown on the construction of the Voyager of the Seas that was unreal! It was shown in three parts - Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They sold the videos in one of the stores on the ship, and now I wish I had bought them. They were so interesting.




Daytime wear: Pants, jeans, capris, shorts, T's, etc. (anything and everything)


Dining Room - Formal Night: Men wore suits of all colors, but mostly black. Did not see many tuxes. Women wore cocktail dresses, or long dresses. Lots of black, and lots of sparkle.


Dining Room - Casual days: Saw everything except maybe shorts. Some people were pretty casual and others were more dressed up.


Bars: Staff was friendly at all the bars. Our favorites were the Colony Club, Singapore Slings, and the Schooner bar at any time during the day or night. We brought a small cribbage board with us and during the day we would find a great window seat in one of the bars and play crib and watch the views.


Solarium Pool: Incredible area... and so peaceful. During the day there were bird and animal sounds and at night it changed to cricket and nighttime sounds! Parts of the ship reminded me of Disneyland. The Solarium was open from 6:30 to midnight. Children were allowed in this area for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. We didn't find it as crowded as we had heard it might be, and on the Juneau day when we stayed on the ship we were the only ones there. There is a bar and also a snack area that serves pizza, wraps, etc.


Great out of the way places to sit:


Windjammer - The Windjammer is aft of the ship and the restaurant it split into different areas.


Besides the main areas of the Windjammer there is an area that is located to the left and back (starboard side) of the Windjammer. It's hard to explain because the Windjammer is aft, but the area I'm talking about is forward (more towards the centre of the ship) within the restaurant. You have to go through glass doors that automatically open and close, and for the first couple of days people thought this area wasn't open and it was empty. 


Anyway, just inside the glass doors there are two tall wicker chairs that are really private and have an incredible view in an area where the ship juts out. We found this after about 3 days and sat there every time we could.  It's a little hidden and we found that people weren't sitting there often.  I would say it was the best spot to sit in the Windjammer.


Solarium - Another area that was great to sit in was in the Solarium. When you get off the forward elevators and go into the Solarium, directly to your left or right (depending on which door you go in) is an area that juts out from the ship. At first we didn't notice how good the views were from there, but when we were going into the glacier we figured out it was one of the few good views looking forward on the ship. We would drag chairs over and just sit and watch everything. As it starts to get dark the solarium sounds change and the lights in the pool and other areas go on. Just a really nice place to sit, especially at dusk.


Theatre: I'm sure there's not a bad seat in the house. The balcony area on the second floor area could be a bit breezy and cool. The productions that we saw were really enjoyable. We didn't see any of the big song and dance ones, but the comedians and the jugglers were great. We also saw the passenger Newlywed game there.


Drink Packages:


Soda Packages: 18 years and under $20/Over 18 years $33 (15% gratuity is added)


Wine and Dine Package: Bottle of wine each evening in the dining room $109 (valued at $154)  It does not say that 15% gratuity is added, but I'm sure they must.


Royal Drink Package: 12 drinks of your choice - Call Brands (reg. price $4:50 ea) House Wines (regular price $4.50 ea), and Domestic Beer (regular price $2.75 - $3.00 ea)


Dining Dress Days:

Saturday: Casual

Sunday: Formal

Monday: Casual

Tuesday: Casual or Country Western

Wednesday: Formal

Thursday: Smart Casual and 50's/60's after dinner

Friday: Casual


Gym: Is a really nice facility that can be quite crowded in the mornings, and especially on sea days. It has benches, free weights, weight machines, treadmills, cross country machines, stair masters, stretch area and also yoga, spinning, abs, etc. classes. I think I even saw a tanning bed that looked like a snowmobile. If you can get a treadmill as you are coming into Juneau or Ketchikan, it is probably one of the best views on the ship.


Main Pool Area: Nice area that wasn't used all that much, but nice to walk through. A couple days the weather was warm enough for some to use the pool, and the hot tubs were used every day.


Seaview Café: Above the Windjammer. Not a big area, but has nice views and pretty good snacks. Only open certain hours.


Art Work: There are thousands of dollars worth of art of all kinds everywhere on the ship, and it was worth taking some time to look at it.


Shops: Didn't think there were that many shops but did end up buying a few things. Books, Books & Coffee was a great little place that sold (besides specialty coffees for a price) magazines, books, mugs, candy, etc. and they also had Internet terminals to use. There are also a few chairs and tables if you want to sit and 'people watch.' Some sales they had were on gold and silver chains (buy by the inch), Alaska sweatshirts, T-shirts and watches, and on a couple of days they also sold really nice travel mugs with 'spirited' coffee or hot chocolate at a pretty good price.


Photography Area: They post everyone's pictures up in this area and it was usually pretty crowded but interesting. We found the female photographer (who seemed to be everywhere) quite annoying. She didn't like it when you told her you didn't want your picture taken, and a lot of people didn't. 


Room Service: We ordered room service only in the mornings and everything was correct and delivered quickly. It doesn't look like there is much on the room service menu, but you can order pretty much what you want, and I know you can order off the dining room menu for dinner if you want to. We also noticed a fair number of people who would go to the Windjammer to get a plate full of cookies, deserts, sandwiches, etc. and then take it back to their room or another part of the ship to eat. Really liked that, and the fact that you could walk around anywhere you wanted with your drink.


Tipping: This was a hard one for us because the last time we were on the ship we didn't use the dining room at all but still tipped the waiters what was suggested for the seven days. We heard that everyone pools their tips and also that they work on other parts of the ship.


This time we tipped the suggested amounts for the days we ate in the dining room (plus a bit more), and then tipped some of the servers in the Windjammer that were particularly helpful to us during the trip. They were really thankful and they deserved it. We weren't the only ones tipping the Windjammer staff on the last day.


I felt better this time about how we tipped because I seriously doubt that the dining room waiters and assistant waiters pool their tips with any of the staff in the Windjammer, and I did not see any of the Windjammer staff in the dining room as was suggested in other posts, nor did I see our waiters from the dining room anywhere else on the ship. So, everyone who gave us good service was tipped. Seemed fair.


Disembarking on Saturday went smoothly. You had to be out of your cabin by 8:30 and they were encouraging people to have breakfast (in the Windjammer or dining room) and then wait in the Aurora Theatre (open from 7:45 to 10:30 am) until your color was called. They had entertainment in there. We just went to the Windjammer, got a nice table by the window and stayed there until our number was called. Not many people in there and it was very relaxing, warm and sunny.


Great vacation. Would live on the Radiance if I could.




PS - I ate WAAAAYYY too much!!!

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