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LONG Radiance Review - 11/27

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7 Night Western Caribbean - Radiance of the Seas

 

Background: I am a 23 year old graduate student, and I was traveling with my girlfriend (same age). We had cruised previously on Majesty of the Seas, and my girlfriend has also cruised on Sovereign of the Seas. We booked this trip originally in March of 2005 for a fantastic price for a Cat. N interior stateroom (more on the stateroom later).

Flights: Flew US Airways out of BWI to Miami with one connection in Charlotte (same itinerary for return trip). The flights were free as we were voluntarily bumped after our Majesty cruise last year. The flights were on time (or early) and no luggage was lost or damaged. A+

Hotels: Due to the limits of the free flight vouchers, we had 2 pre-cruise hotel nights and 1 post-cruise hotel night. I booked the Holiday Inn Miami International Airport for under $40 a night via Hotwire for the pre-cruise stay. We had stayed here previously and did not hesitate to return. We found the hotel in even better shape than last time – rooms are being renovated, and they have a brand new shuttle bus. We had to wait only ~10 minutes after getting our luggage for the airport shuttle. There isn’t much to do in the part of town that the hotel is located, but we knew that going into it. We just needed the time to rest and relax by the pool prior to the cruise. The nearby Burger King and Bennigan’s were great for food, and only a short walk away. The free shuttle to the cruise terminal was also a decent trip, but a little late due to luggage issues. The hotel’s restaurant was closed due to Wilma damage, but that was no problem for us. For post-cruise, I got the Holiday Inn South Beach resort for ~$40 for the night. This hotel is in great shape, right on the beach, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the pool and whirlpool were nice. The worst part about the stay here was it’s location – a $27 cab ride to the hotel from the port, and a $32 cab ride to the airport! Miami’s cab fares were already high, but they have gone up! B+

Embarkation: Literally, less than 15 minutes from entering the cruise terminal to boarding the ship. The combination of having a SetSail Pass and being a Crown and Anchor member put us right to the front of one line. Royal Caribbean made it look easy compared to the mess we passed by in our shuttle down at Carnival’s end of the dock (the line was out the terminal door). After boarding, we went to the Windjammer where lunch was waiting. A+

Stateroom: In a word – VALUE! Due to a paperwork error by our TA, our TA was forced to upgrade us, free of charge, to a Cat. H Oceanview. We were excited, as we had only ever stayed in interiors before. However, at the pier, we were upgraded AGAIN by Royal Caribbean, and now had a Cat. E1 balcony stateroom. Needless to say, any time you pay for a bottom-barrel interior and get a balcony, that is a great way to start off the cruise. The room was well furnished, the balcony was a good size for the two of us, the bathroom much more modern than on Majesty, and there was tons of storage space. My only complaint was that the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable (but I still slept ok). A++++++++++++++++

Public Areas: This ship is gorgeous! My favorite areas were the Solarium, the Colony Club, and the Seaview Café. The Windjammer, Centrum, Aurora Theatre, Main Pool, Cascades Dining Room, Casino Royale, Schooner Bar, Viking Crown Lounge, and ShipShape Center were also in flawless condition. During our cruise, one would often see the janitorial staff cleaning the bathrooms, banisters, or vacuuming the carpet to keep the ship in spotless condition. We even saw sections of carpet being replaced (the “old” carpet didn’t look too old to me) and had our already-clean balcony “maintained” while we were in port. A+

Food: The food was very good throughout the entire cruise. The food in the Windjammer was comparable to what we experienced on Majesty, though the Omelet station at breakfast was in top form. Room service was also prompt and the meal was warm upon arrival (as it should be). A favorite spot for a midnight snack for me was the Seaview Café. The sandwiches were awesome (especially the Reuben), as were the desserts (especially the brownie and the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake). The pizza in the Solarium was about average, but better than what we had on Majesty. The food in the dining room was great, and the portions were perfect. Throughout the week, the food ranged from Thai chicken breast (my favorite throughout the cruise), to salmon, Maryland crab cakes (also very good), shrimp, lobster, beef filets, jerked chicken, and lamb shank. Everything seemed cooked to perfection. The desserts were also outstanding, from Key Lime pie to chocolate cake and, of course, tiramisu! A-

Entertainment: Throughout our cruise, the main dinner shows consisted of 2 production shows, 4 comedy shows, and The Coasters. The production shows were very well received. The comedy shows ranged from average to excellent. I cannot comment on the Coasters as we missed this show. I was slightly (and so very slightly) disappointed that the comedy shows were not a bit more adult. It was announced that there were very few children on this cruise, and some more adult entertainment would have been nice at these shows. Our shows all ran at about PG. One show on our previous Majesty cruise pushed the envelope to between PG-13 and R. But, our shows were still funny and enjoyable. Our cruise director, Marc Walker, was very energetic and we saw him several times throughout the ship when he was not on duty (we never saw our CD on Majesty except at the dinner shows). The other scheduled entertainment (Trivia challenges, Love and Marriage gameshow, and The Quest) were fantastic, and you simply cannot miss either Love and Marriage or The Quest. Trivia was also great, as our team came in first for one of the challenges. My girlfriend and I also participated in the Scavenger Hunt on the last day, and came in second timewise (but we were the only team to get all of the answers right). We each got a silver Royal Caribbean medal for our effort, which is now displayed proudly in my living room. B+

Fitness: We participated in several of the “ShipShape” activities during the cruise, including a couple of the free aerobics classes. If you attend these aerobics classes, there is no way you will NOT lose weight on the cruise. The fitness instructor ran me through the ringer with his step aerobics class. The fitness center also had plenty of equipment. The rock climbing wall was a good time – my first time rock climbing and I made it to the top. Also had Baggo, mini-golf, ping pong, basketball, dodgeball, and a jogging track. My only complaint here is that a lot of non-runners crowd the jogging track (either talking or some people even move their lounge chairs to the middle of the track). We finished the week with $19 ShipShape ($6 thanks to BigDave – thank you Dave!) – enough to get a ShipShape gym bag and a lanyard. A

Service: Excellent from top to bottom. The Captain (Rune Loekling) was funny and personable – saw him a couple times throughout the ship. Our room steward, Vic from Costa Rica, was spotted often and left great towel animals. He would also open the door for me when my hands were full of food from the Windjammer. Our waiter, Alexander from India, was the best. He definitely earned the extra tip I left him. Once, my girlfriend asked him for his recommendation between two desserts. He simply replied “I will take care of it” and returned shortly with both! Very funny, and his service was impeccable. On this cruise, I took particular notice that everybody (even janitors cleaning the stairways) would say “Good morning”, and every single request always received the reply “It is my pleasure” – Even at Guest Relations! A+++

Ports: Labadee; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel. Labadee was beautiful, but do NOT even waste your time with snorkeling. The nearby waters are overfished and I did not see any fish at all. In Ocho Rios, we did horseback riding through Royal Caribbean. The experience was fantastic, and highly recommended. I was a little disappointed with how dirty Jamaica was though (not the cruiseline’s fault). Grand Cayman was BUSY – 7 megaships in port that day (including 3 from Royal Caribbean alone). Downtown George Town was really busy. Our Stingray City and Island tour from Nativeway left over a half and hour late due to 5 people being no-shows. I understand these people are running a business, but we were extremely rushed at the end of our tour and had less than 10 minutes at both Hell and the Tortuga Rum Cake factory. We would have liked to have seen more of these. Stingray City was great though, as were our guides. Cozumel is still recovering from Wilma, but we did not see much of Cozumel. We took Royal Caribbean’s Tulum Mayan Ruins excursion. The waters were very rough (despite the great weather) and the ferry trip to the mainland was like a 30 minutes roller coaster. About 1/3 of the people on the ferry (including my girlfriend) became seasick. Although we knew about the long travel just to get to Tulum, the ruins were a bit of a disappointment. They were not nearly as large as we had thought they would be, and we could not walk through them, only around them. Also, access to the beach by the ruins was closed for some unknown reason. Our lunch was nice, but our bus driver threw out some items we were saving for later (no explanation as to why was given). Also, some of the “Mayan dancers” near the entrance to the ruins were hounding for donations/tips before they started their act. I tried to explain we were just passing through, and was cursed at in Spanish (which I speak) for being a cheap American (and some other not nice things). I told the man, in his native tongue, that he should watch his language in front of bilingual tourists. Will not be doing this excursion again. Overall, B-, with horseback riding and Stingray City being the highlights.

Disembarkation: We were off the ship and had our luggage by 10:30 AM. Customs was a breeze. Seemed to be taking a while longer than the crew had expected though. B+

Overall, the cruise was fantastic and earned an A+ overall. Royal Caribbean has continued to earn my business, and the crew and service were exceptional. When adjusted for Value, however, this cruise earned marks that were off the charts and into another galaxy (stateroom upgrades are GREAT!).

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7 Night Western Caribbean - Radiance of the Seas

 

Background: I am a 23 year old graduate student, and I was traveling with my girlfriend (same age). We had cruised previously on Majesty of the Seas, and my girlfriend has also cruised on Sovereign of the Seas. We booked this trip originally in March of 2005 for a fantastic price for a Cat. N interior stateroom (more on the stateroom later).

 

Flights: Flew US Airways out of BWI to Miami with one connection in Charlotte (same itinerary for return trip). The flights were free as we were voluntarily bumped after our Majesty cruise last year. The flights were on time (or early) and no luggage was lost or damaged. A+

 

Hotels: Due to the limits of the free flight vouchers, we had 2 pre-cruise hotel nights and 1 post-cruise hotel night. I booked the Holiday Inn Miami International Airport for under $40 a night via Hotwire for the pre-cruise stay. We had stayed here previously and did not hesitate to return. We found the hotel in even better shape than last time – rooms are being renovated, and they have a brand new shuttle bus. We had to wait only ~10 minutes after getting our luggage for the airport shuttle. There isn’t much to do in the part of town that the hotel is located, but we knew that going into it. We just needed the time to rest and relax by the pool prior to the cruise. The nearby Burger King and Bennigan’s were great for food, and only a short walk away. The free shuttle to the cruise terminal was also a decent trip, but a little late due to luggage issues. The hotel’s restaurant was closed due to Wilma damage, but that was no problem for us. For post-cruise, I got the Holiday Inn South Beach resort for ~$40 for the night. This hotel is in great shape, right on the beach, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the pool and whirlpool were nice. The worst part about the stay here was it’s location – a $27 cab ride to the hotel from the port, and a $32 cab ride to the airport! Miami’s cab fares were already high, but they have gone up! B+

 

Embarkation: Literally, less than 15 minutes from entering the cruise terminal to boarding the ship. The combination of having a SetSail Pass and being a Crown and Anchor member put us right to the front of one line. Royal Caribbean made it look easy compared to the mess we passed by in our shuttle down at Carnival’s end of the dock (the line was out the terminal door). After boarding, we went to the Windjammer where lunch was waiting. A+

 

Stateroom: In a word – VALUE! Due to a paperwork error by our TA, our TA was forced to upgrade us, free of charge, to a Cat. H Oceanview. We were excited, as we had only ever stayed in interiors before. However, at the pier, we were upgraded AGAIN by Royal Caribbean, and now had a Cat. E1 balcony stateroom. Needless to say, any time you pay for a bottom-barrel interior and get a balcony, that is a great way to start off the cruise. The room was well furnished, the balcony was a good size for the two of us, the bathroom much more modern than on Majesty, and there was tons of storage space. My only complaint was that the bed wasn’t particularly comfortable (but I still slept ok). A++++++++++++++++

 

Public Areas: This ship is gorgeous! My favorite areas were the Solarium, the Colony Club, and the Seaview Café. The Windjammer, Centrum, Aurora Theatre, Main Pool, Cascades Dining Room, Casino Royale, Schooner Bar, Viking Crown Lounge, and ShipShape Center were also in flawless condition. During our cruise, one would often see the janitorial staff cleaning the bathrooms, banisters, or vacuuming the carpet to keep the ship in spotless condition. We even saw sections of carpet being replaced (the “old” carpet didn’t look too old to me) and had our already-clean balcony “maintained” while we were in port. A+

 

Food: The food was very good throughout the entire cruise. The food in the Windjammer was comparable to what we experienced on Majesty, though the Omelet station at breakfast was in top form. Room service was also prompt and the meal was warm upon arrival (as it should be). A favorite spot for a midnight snack for me was the Seaview Café. The sandwiches were awesome (especially the Reuben), as were the desserts (especially the brownie and the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake). The pizza in the Solarium was about average, but better than what we had on Majesty. The food in the dining room was great, and the portions were perfect. Throughout the week, the food ranged from Thai chicken breast (my favorite throughout the cruise), to salmon, Maryland crab cakes (also very good), shrimp, lobster, beef filets, jerked chicken, and lamb shank. Everything seemed cooked to perfection. The desserts were also outstanding, from Key Lime pie to chocolate cake and, of course, tiramisu! A-

 

Entertainment: Throughout our cruise, the main dinner shows consisted of 2 production shows, 4 comedy shows, and The Coasters. The production shows were very well received. The comedy shows ranged from average to excellent. I cannot comment on the Coasters as we missed this show. I was slightly (and so very slightly) disappointed that the comedy shows were not a bit more adult. It was announced that there were very few children on this cruise, and some more adult entertainment would have been nice at these shows. Our shows all ran at about PG. One show on our previous Majesty cruise pushed the envelope to between PG-13 and R. But, our shows were still funny and enjoyable. Our cruise director, Marc Walker, was very energetic and we saw him several times throughout the ship when he was not on duty (we never saw our CD on Majesty except at the dinner shows). The other scheduled entertainment (Trivia challenges, Love and Marriage gameshow, and The Quest) were fantastic, and you simply cannot miss either Love and Marriage or The Quest. Trivia was also great, as our team came in first for one of the challenges. My girlfriend and I also participated in the Scavenger Hunt on the last day, and came in second timewise (but we were the only team to get all of the answers right). We each got a silver Royal Caribbean medal for our effort, which is now displayed proudly in my living room. B+

 

Fitness: We participated in several of the “ShipShape” activities during the cruise, including a couple of the free aerobics classes. If you attend these aerobics classes, there is no way you will NOT lose weight on the cruise. The fitness instructor ran me through the ringer with his step aerobics class. The fitness center also had plenty of equipment. The rock climbing wall was a good time – my first time rock climbing and I made it to the top. Also had Baggo, mini-golf, ping pong, basketball, dodgeball, and a jogging track. My only complaint here is that a lot of non-runners crowd the jogging track (either talking or some people even move their lounge chairs to the middle of the track). We finished the week with $19 ShipShape ($6 thanks to BigDave – thank you Dave!) – enough to get a ShipShape gym bag and a lanyard. A

 

Service: Excellent from top to bottom. The Captain (Rune Loekling) was funny and personable – saw him a couple times throughout the ship. Our room steward, Vic from Costa Rica, was spotted often and left great towel animals. He would also open the door for me when my hands were full of food from the Windjammer. Our waiter, Alexander from India, was the best. He definitely earned the extra tip I left him. Once, my girlfriend asked him for his recommendation between two desserts. He simply replied “I will take care of it” and returned shortly with both! Very funny, and his service was impeccable. On this cruise, I took particular notice that everybody (even janitors cleaning the stairways) would say “Good morning”, and every single request always received the reply “It is my pleasure” – Even at Guest Relations! A+++

 

Ports: Labadee; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Cozumel. Labadee was beautiful, but do NOT even waste your time with snorkeling. The nearby waters are overfished and I did not see any fish at all. In Ocho Rios, we did horseback riding through Royal Caribbean. The experience was fantastic, and highly recommended. I was a little disappointed with how dirty Jamaica was though (not the cruiseline’s fault). Grand Cayman was BUSY – 7 megaships in port that day (including 3 from Royal Caribbean alone). Downtown George Town was really busy. Our Stingray City and Island tour from Nativeway left over a half and hour late due to 5 people being no-shows. I understand these people are running a business, but we were extremely rushed at the end of our tour and had less than 10 minutes at both Hell and the Tortuga Rum Cake factory. We would have liked to have seen more of these. Stingray City was great though, as were our guides. Cozumel is still recovering from Wilma, but we did not see much of Cozumel. We took Royal Caribbean’s Tulum Mayan Ruins excursion. The waters were very rough (despite the great weather) and the ferry trip to the mainland was like a 30 minutes roller coaster. About 1/3 of the people on the ferry (including my girlfriend) became seasick. Although we knew about the long travel just to get to Tulum, the ruins were a bit of a disappointment. They were not nearly as large as we had thought they would be, and we could not walk through them, only around them. Also, access to the beach by the ruins was closed for some unknown reason. Our lunch was nice, but our bus driver threw out some items we were saving for later (no explanation as to why was given). Also, some of the “Mayan dancers” near the entrance to the ruins were hounding for donations/tips before they started their act. I tried to explain we were just passing through, and was cursed at in Spanish (which I speak) for being a cheap American (and some other not nice things). I told the man, in his native tongue, that he should watch his language in front of bilingual tourists. Will not be doing this excursion again. Overall, B-, with horseback riding and Stingray City being the highlights.

 

Disembarkation: We were off the ship and had our luggage by 10:30 AM. Customs was a breeze. Seemed to be taking a while longer than the crew had expected though. B+

 

Overall, the cruise was fantastic and earned an A+ overall. Royal Caribbean has continued to earn my business, and the crew and service were exceptional. When adjusted for Value, however, this cruise earned marks that were off the charts and into another galaxy (stateroom upgrades are GREAT!).

 

O.K.....you peaked my interest....what was the details for the interior to outside upgrade??? How about the pier upgrade?? free or you pay for it?

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O.K.....you peaked my interest....what was the details for the interior to outside upgrade??? How about the pier upgrade?? free or you pay for it?

 

I booked our cruise in person with our TA. She called Royal Caribbean and placed a courtesy hold on the room. The courtesy hold is valid for 7 days, by which time a deposit has to be placed or the room will autocancel. After she placed the courtesy hold, she told me I could think it over for up to a week. But, I had already made up my mind that we were going and gave her the deposit info then and there. Because I was leaving a deposit, I also signed a contract with the Travel Agency, saying I pay and they book. Well, my TA FORGOT to call Royal Caribbean back with the deposit information. About a month after booking, I noticed that I could no longer access our reservation through RC's website. I called our TA to ask why, which is when she discovered that she forgot to forward the deposit to RC. As a result, the travel agency had to rebook. But, by that time, no interiors were available. The cheapest available was a Cat. H Oceanview, thus the free upgrade. We could have been rebooked into an interior if they opened up later, which they did, but by the time interiors were available again it was cheaper for the TA to just keep us in the Cat. H.

 

The pier upgrade was totally unexpected. When we checked in, our luggage had our tags with our Cat. H room number on them and everything. However, after checking in, the customer sign-in person told us our room was 7038 - to which we said "Huh?" We checked out our room when we got onto the ship, and there was a balcony! Never paid a cent extra. I would assume that the ship wasn't a sellout, and because we are Crown and Anchor members and the space was available, they just decided to put us up a few notches (but this was just a guess). The other two couples at our dinner table also were upgraded at the pier free of charge.

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Thanks for your review, which only confirms why the Radiance is my favourite ship in the fleet. Her staff are outstanding and always seem to give everyone 100+% effort and service. Combined with the Radiance's beauty - and it is truly a wonderful vacation - even with some disappointing times ashore.

 

Congrats on your visit from the upgrade fairy - it doesn't happen very often.

 

Happy sails,

 

Sue

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grvdggr71 : Thank you for a VERY well-written cruise report. You certainly seem to have been well-treated! Congratulations on your good fortune, and best of luck post-grad school.

 

 

(BTW, is there anyone else who is TERMINALLY jealous of a young grad student who, at 23, has already cruised twice????? ;))

 

Carol

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Thanks for taking the time to post your review. Can you tell me which nights are formal, please? Also how is the tendering procedure? TIA

 

Great upgrade, good for you!

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Very nice review of my favorite ship. I especially liked your format.

 

Good luck in grad school.

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Thank you for all the kind responses so far. I too hope grad school goes well (I'm working on one of the many aspects of bird flu).

 

Roe2Ship - For us, the two formal nights were the 1st day at sea (Captain's Gala) and the day we were at Grand Cayman (Farewell Dinner). From what I could gather, the Farewell Dinner is not normally on that day, but it was changed (possibly due to the alteration in the Cozumel itinerary to 11am-8pm, tendered, because of Wilma).

 

The tendering process was relatively painless at all the ports. Labadee was the best for tendering, as we were the only ship and RC's tenders are huge at that port. The ride to Labadee was probably 10 minutes tops. Grand Cayman also wasn't too bad. These tenders were a combination of island tender operators and Radiance's own 4 tenders/lifeboats. Another ~10 minute ride from ship to shore. In Cozumel, larger island-based tenders were used. There were three ships in Cozumel that day, including us. The other two tendered to the ferry docks in the middle of town. We tendered to what was left of the International Pier.

 

Hope this helps. Any more ?'s, feel free to ask!

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