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Just Back From Radiance 4/4-4/11

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My family of 4 just returned from a great Western Caribbean Radiance cruise. We received lots of great advice here before we left. I'd like to share some random thoughts and invite any specific questions.

* Embarkation. We arrived at 11:45 am on Sunday morning and were on the ship having lunch by 12:15 am. No trouble at all. We saved some significant airline ticket money by flying to Miami and spending the night before, then taking rental car to Port Everglades. In the future, I would bite the bullet and fly on into the port city at additional cost. The transfer and car rental drop off hassles were an irritation and time waster.

*Cabin. We had E1 Balcony no. 8014. Our boys were across the hall inside in 8015. No complaints at all. Balcony worked fine even though we spent less time there than we expected. (Salt water does splash up to Deck 8) Beds, storage, bathrooms, were all very good. I brought an iPod full of music and small speakers which were very enjoyable perched on top of the TV. The TV's music channels weren't too amazing. The $7 shoe organizer pouches hung nicely on the bathroom door and were very handy. Nice tip, cruise critics!

* Romance Package. My wife and I are not champagne fans. I called the RCI amenities number and found I could pick and choose my own package. The white velour bathrobes were a huge hit and well worth $50 each. Great souveniers. The $45 floral arrangement was wonderful and lasted all week. We brought home the pretty vase, but perching the flowers on the makeup table/desk all week took up a bit too much space. The chocolate strawberries were a hit. The wine was only so so.

* Liquor. I bought a couple of bottles of vodka and rum at the ship's gift shop and paid the fees to use these in the cabin all week. I was hoping to keep my bar bill down. Didn't work very well. I tried to favor drinks in the cabin and use an insulated cup, but there are 21 lounges on board. It's just too convenient and too superior to get exactly what you want when you're near a friendly bartender. BTW, quite a few of the bartenders were none too competent in mixing cocktails. Still, for those who love boat drinks, the choices abound.

* Soda. My boys each got soda stickers. Well worth it. They made constant use of that feature and it really saved money. They also received nice insulated coke containers. They had no problems getting soft drinks from the bartenders at any lounge.

* Dining Room. I'll skip it next time. I really thought the food in the Windjammer was just as good and in some ways better (e.g., suishi). If you're traveling with kids, even well behaved kids, the dining room meals seem long. Better to use the Windjammer and on two nights celebrate with a romantic dinner in Chops and Portofinos during the trip. Waiters must hate me for this, but I'm done with the traditional main dining room option. Spend the tips in Portofinos instead. The dining room food was good, but only good, and the service certainly wasn't amazing. Also, we loved the Seaview Cafe. Nice tip, cruise critics.

* Entertainment. The shows were fine but only fine. I preferred to watch snippets on TV the next day. As a guest at our table put it, "Those kids don't have much talent, but they sure have lots of heart. They are trying their best." Poolside dancing, games, bingo, trivia contests, etc. were more fun than the big shows.

* Kids Program. My kids were the problem here, not the program. Our 12 year old was too old for Explorers but he wasn't ready to hang with the cliques of teens roving the ship. (600 kids on board last week.) This rubbed off on his 7 year old brother who likewise resisted going to the Adventure Club (the few times he did go, he loved it.)

* Ship. Just as beautiful as everyone says. Constant maintenance continues to make it look spectacular. I know the ship was very full, but it never felt crowded. Terrific design. Everything ran smoothly.

* Ports and Shore Excursions. We really liked Key West. The crazy boat excursion was cancelled due to mech problems but we got a credit and plenty of advance notice from RCI. Lots to do just walking around. Cozumel offered great diving and a fun beach. But the 35 ships docking at Coz each week are really changing that island and the reefs. Roatan was beautiful. I highly recommend the Tabyana Beach trip. Our Belize snorkel trip was disappointing and ticketing errors required a trip to the guest relations counter who referred me to Embarkations the next morning who very quickly fixed the problem. The excursion included nice rum punch but very average snorkeling and the facilities were not quite as advertised. Also, lots of mosquitos surrounded the ship while anchored at Belize.

* Disembarking. It wasn't slow enough. Some big crowds and lines overwhelmed the luggage pick up in the port. RCI should have kept folks on the ship longer. And, here is a new tip, the Colony Club card room is a great place to wait and play games no matter what your tag color might be.

* Misc. The weather was fabulous. The service was great. The spa and gym are terrific. The movies were fun (Return of the King, Hollywood Homicide, Secondhand Lions, etc.) It's terrible that so many folks still hog lounge chairs, especially in the Solarium. The Internet Cafe worked fairly well and was conveniently located near the best coffee on the ship, but I still feel bad that I ran up a $40 tab doing the most minimal e-mail checking at very slow speeds. The onboard shopping is fine and so were the two late night buffets. I brought a tux. I certainly didn't need to do so. Family cruising is increasingly casual.

Bottom Line: Beautiful ship. Very good cruise company. A terrific, relaxing and fun vacation.

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Was the show "Welcome to our World"? We have been on the Radiance for the last two years and always the same show. Just curious. What movies were they playing in the cinema?

Vision '00
Rhapsody '01
Radiance '01
NCL Star '02
Princess Star '02
Grandeur '02
Radiance '02
Statendam '03
Navigator 7/03
Radiance 5/04

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Welcome to our world was a show.
Gary Mule Deer and some jugglers also performed.

As for movies in the ship's theater, I recall:
Lord of the Rings - Return of the King
Hollywood Homicide
Tomb Raider 2
Secondhand Lions

But there were several others during the week.

The in-cabin movies included Charlies Angels/Full Throttle, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Wizard of Oz, Vertigo, many others.

There were also pay per view movies on the cabin TVs similar to hotel Selectravision, including (to my surprise) explicit adult films.

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