Disclaimer - We would like to pass on our impressions and thoughts of our cruise experience to anyone planning for or getting ready to participate in a similar Itinerary. Everyone knows that reviews are subjective. One person’s gold is another’s trash. That said please remember this is our personal impressions and yours, of course, will vary. We ignore postings that are made in response to our reviews that merely seek to flame. We will review subsequent posts in order to provide answers to questions asked. We appreciate this understanding. Please ignore any spelling or grammar errors – we want to get this posted swiftly before we lose focus on our experiences. Thank you.
Travel and Embarkation - We are a semi-retired American couple (both 66 years of age) living as expats in an Asian country. This was our seventh cruise (3 on Princess and 3 on Norwegian, and now 1 on Royal Caribbean). We made all our own arrangement for this trip including direct reservations with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, air travel, and hotel, (we did a RCCL transfer from the ship to the airport in Honolulu).
We flew in one day ahead of the 10 September sail date so we could enjoy some time in Vancouver without the stress of trying to make a flight on cruise day. This was a good decision in retrospect as our experience in the Vancouver airport was one for the record book. We were queued up three times in multi-hundred person lines before we got to immigration. The airport appeared to be completely overwhelmed with passengers. It literally took three and a half hours from exiting the airplane to getting to the point of retrieving our baggage. We took the light rail line from the airport to the Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver. The train was very easy to negotiate, quick, and inexpensive. Our pre-cruise stay was as the Exchange Hotel located a couple of blocks away from the cruise port at Canada Place. The weather was typical Northwest – cloudy with a couple of periods of heavy rain. Vancouver is really a beautiful city.
On boarding day we took the short 5 minute walk from the hotel at just after 10:30. We were in a Grand Suite for this cruise so dropping off our bags we walked directly to security and then to the express check-in without waiting in a single line.
The Ship – It is small as ships go these days. The Radiance was launched in 2001 but had come out of renovation in May 2016. The ship looked to be in generally good condition. There are numerous areas around the ship that could do with a little paint and rust removal but overall the ship is well maintained, clean, and free of obvious neglect. Our Grand Suite was Port Forward on the 10th deck and we generally walked the stairs and rarely took an elevator so crowded elevators were not a concern. We did notice that often there were many waiting to ride.
We did not use the casino but we did walk through the area a couple times and noticed a very heavy tobacco odor permeating the area. We decided that after the first day when walking from the front to the rear of the ship we would simply walked up or down a flight of stairs, crossed over or under the casino and walk back up or down the stairs on the other side. The odor, while evident, is not in our opinion, something to get upset about after all it is a casino.
There is a rock climbing wall, 9 hole golf putting course, and basketball court. The weather was agreeable most days. There are two swimming pools on deck 11 (one adult only and one open). Both are small and busy on the Hawaii itinerary.
Our Cabin – We had a Grand Suite with balcony on Deck # 10 Port Side Forward. Our cabin steward was very intuitive and was always available but never intrusive. He was very friendly and always helpful. Towels were replaced almost as soon as used and the room serviced regularly. The room was kept very clean.
The grand suite has a large sitting area with full sofa and two easy chairs and a coffee table. We had a king sized bed located in a separate area of the suite. The bathroom was very large and had a big bath tub with shower. As suite guests we were provided upgraded amenities (soap, shampoo, rinse, body wash, etc.). The bathroom was spotless. Storage area was more than adequate. Even with three large suitcases we did not even filled up one closet with two to spare.
We had a large flat screen television. Channel selection was non-existent but useful for checking your shipboard accounts and reservations. Ship announcements were not broadcasted into the rooms so you had to listen from the outside if you wanted to hear the public announcements.
We had an unlimited Voom Surf and Stream Wi-Fi package. While billed as the “fastest at sea” that was not our experience. It was the slowest and most prone to disconnection of any service we have every had on any ship.
There was a water pot and coffee maker with free coffee provided in our cabin but we did not use them as the coffee available at many locations around the ship provided plenty of very satisfactory coffee.
Dining - We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet on deck 10. Breakfast was the standard fare with omelets made to order and a wide variety of breakfast foods to choose. In our opinion the buffet was well designed with adequate seating. The staff was very fast at removing plates and silverware and cleaning tables as people left. If you meet Jade in the buffet say hello to a wonderfully upbeat and kind young man. Since we were suite guests we never had a difficult time finding a seat because there was a reserved dining room just off the buffet. We found the food in the buffet to be generally good but somewhat repetitive. There is a self-serve soft ice cream machine in the buffet area.
We had dinner twice in the Main Dining Room. Both were excellent meals. Having reservations we were seated immediately. We did notice a slight lag in service but the menu items were always appropriately hot, warm, or cold. We also dined in our room twice with selections from the main dining room menu which was delivered hot and quickly from room service.
Extra Fee Dining - On our second sea day we ate Izumi’s sushi restaurant. The food was well presented and very tasty if not quite as fresh as we would have liked. On our fourth sea day we ate at the Samba Grill a South American Churrascaria concept venue. The food and service were excellent. Come hungry as portions are large and filling. On our sixth sea day we ate at the Italian themed Giovanni’s restaurant. Again the food was wonderful and the service attentive and friendly.
Entertainment - The one area for which we would like to see change is more entertainment in the theater. We enjoyed the one revue show we saw as very entertaining and well done but other evening entertainment presented appeared to be filling an otherwise empty evening.
Tours – We booked all our tours through Royal Caribbean. As most everyone knows this is a more expensive option but the benefits of ease of booking, guaranteed return to the ship, and tour operator vetting are hard for us to ignore. We did not want to take any risks getting back to the ship on time.
Maui Hawaii (Lahaina) – Hana & Haleakala Helicopter Exploration. We had a wonderful time during this just over one hour aerial tour of Mt. Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano. We were picked up at the port and escorted to the Blue Hawaii air terminal located at the Maui airport. Our pilot was personable, knowledgeable and gracious. The views are indescribable. While costly, this tour is well worth the money. Upon completion we were again picked up and returned to the cruise port in a comfortable van.
Kauai Nawiliwili – Grove Farm and Kilohana Plantation Railway. A short drive from the deep water port of Nawiliwili the Kilohana Plantation harkens back to Kauai's Golden Age of Sugar with a four-hour tour of the Grove Farm museum and a narrated railway ride around the former plantation plus free time at Koloa Rum Company and other artisan shops. Rich in history and slow in pace this tour is a relaxing stop on the Garden Island. Of all our tours during this cruise we found this to be our least favorite and not worth the cost and would not consider it worth repeating.
Hilo Hawaii (Big Island) – Zipline through Paradise and Waterfalls. A total of eight zipline runs follow the Honolii River high over thundering waterfalls and deep gorges. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and obsessed with our safely. We were given three rules to remember and were quizzed repeatedly concerning them. The three rules were 1) don’t adjust or handle your harness, 2) don’t put your hands on the cable, and 3) have fun. Some zipline runs were tranquil and easy and some were quite thrilling. We had a great time and would have liked to have gone back up and done it again if possible. The light rain throughout our tour did little to dampen our enthusiasm. Highly recommend this tour if physically able.
Kona Hawaii (Big Island) - Atlantis Submarine. We rode a large comfortable boat with around 70 other guests from the cruise terminal out into the ocean where the submarine was waiting. Boarding was done via gang plank from the boat to the submarine under the watchful eye of the crew who stood by to assist if needed. All went well. There were two entrances into the submarine (one on each end) so boarding went quickly and easily. The interior of the submarine has individual seats (two rows facing back to back) and each passenger has her/his own designated port hole through which to view. The nearly hour long dive visited two ship wrecks and numerous coral formations. While many fish were in the area none were large and the light filtering effects of being under up to 100 feet of water drained most of the colors leaving the viewer seeing mostly in gray shades. The submarine is well lit, clean, ventilated, and large enough to eliminate any possibility of Claustrophobia. This tour is very interesting and well worth the cost.
Overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend the Royal Caribbean and the Vancouver to Hawaii itinerary. The Radiance of the Seas is a great ship for a relaxing cruise. Younger cruisers with families may want to consider larger ships with more traditional entertainment venues (water parks, rope courses, flow riders, etc.).