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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Royal Caribbean International

MV Radiance of the Seas

Your Rating:Four Stars
Reviewed by:: Norman & Gabrielle Ridley
# previous cruises: 1
Date of Trip: April 29, 2002
Itinerary: Hawaii

We travelled from the UK directly to Honolulu, all in all a 24 hr journey which, combined with the 10 hr time difference, took some getting over. We chose to do it in one day as we wanted to see something of Waikiki Beach which we thought was beautiful and certainly a place worthy of a few days longer. Other passengers overnighted in LA before the cruise but seemed no better for it and had no time to see this beautiful island.

The 11 night cruise is basically a cruise around the islands of Hawaii arriving early morning and departing around 6pm each evening, except for Maui where there is an overnight stay. Two of the ports are tendered but adequately covered by the Radiance's little boats. The second part of the cruise is a sea cruise from Hilo on the Big Island up to Vancouver providing an opportunity to rest and relax after the earlier hectic excursions.

This was our first cruise and we took some time to chat with more experienced cruisers who all told us they found the ship stunningly attractive, although one or two mentioned Royal Caribbean were charging extra for things which had been inclusive only a few months earlier on the Radiance's Panama sailing. Some people had also sailed on the Millennium earlier in the year which we understand is based upon the same hull structure. The consensus was that the Radiance won out in the appearance and amenities stakes.

The ship was almost full, with over 1900 people on board yet it never seemed busy, even on the cruise up to Vancouver when most of the outside areas were out of use.

Hawaii was spectacular. Genuinely friendly people in a comparatively unspoiled part of the world. The weather there was excellent, even Hilo which has a reputation for rain was kind to us. Unfortunately, on leaving the islands we encountered some strong winds (40-45 mph) and choppy seas which made enjoying the outside facilities difficult. The Radiance handled the weather well and is well stabilised. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it in a less well equipped ship.

Unfortunately whilst the winds dropped, the weather turned cold and the earlier part of the sailing to Vancouver (which I think we all anticipated to be warm and sunny) was spoilt for many sun lovers who had hoped to sunbathe outdoors. We had reports of snow in Vancouver before our arrival but we enjoyed two days of glorious warm sunshine for our stop over there. Pity the Pacific had not been a little kinder on the way up.

Public Areas
The Centrum is the focal point of the ship with bars and musicians and photographers making themselves useful. It is a great place to people watch and to sit and relax in the evening. Plenty of alcoves and corners to sit in and chat away all the way up to the 10th deck, although once you were away from the bottom two decks you would have to go down to find your own drinks and, as has been mentioned in an earlier review, the five lifts were always busy with quite long waits. In fact, these lifts were busy even when there was hardly anyone on the ship and impossible during the evening dinner periods or when disembarking for trips.

Deck 12 had a walking/jogging circuit laid out around the forward area by the gym (6 and a bit circuits to the mile) which was well used as well as providing a full outdoor deck all the way around the ship. This deck looked down onto the outside pool area on deck 11 where much of the warm weather outdoor entertainment was also on offer. Aft of the ship, the deck wound its way around the basketball court, deck games area and childrens pool and play areas. There was also a Seaview cafe which served fish n chips, burgers and other similar fare. A pleasant diversion from the offerings in the Windjammer and increasingly popular as the cruise progressed.

Deck 11 starts forward on the inside, with the heated and covered solarium pool area. This glass roofed area is capable of being opened to the elements although this I presume is left for the warmer Caribbean climate. Aft of the solarium pool, the deck opens out into the open air pool area. The exterior of the deck area is glazed which keeps wind and cooler weather out and concentrates the effects of the sun. There is also an open air dance floor and stage, which sadly on our cruise were not used as much as had been planned.

The rear of the deck leads into the Windjammer buffet area and beyond that a nice section of semi covered deck furnished with comfy upholstered armchairs and chairs (smoking area on port side, non smoking starboard) and directly astern, an outdoor eating area which connects up to the Seaview Cafe or allows food to be brought out from the Windjammer. Again, another sunny and pleasant area to while away a casual meal time. Self service Coffee, tea, lemonade and other soft drinks were always available here.

The Colony Club on deck 6 provided a piano bar, complete with pianist/singer who was always willing to share his microphone with those who enjoyed impromptu laid back kareoke. Beyond this were self levelling billiard tables which meant the balls never moved, but when the ship was experiencing motion, the player and their cue moved disconcertingly around them. Maybe they should put an ordinary table on a self levelling floor extending a couple of paces out from the table so player, cue, table and balls all moved together in harmony. Or maybe that would take away half the fun!

Beyond the billiards was a larger area which featured a bar, card tables and a reasonable sized dance floor and stage. On this cruise, neither this dance floor nor the disco on the very top deck seemed to get much use late into the evening, although, we tended to retire to bed around midnight and who knows, maybe they came to life after we were tucked up in bed.

The Aurora Theatre, on two levels, seemed to offer state of the art production facilities and good mainly unobstructed views.

Overall, plenty of space to call your own and never a crowded ship (except in the lifts!)

Food and Service
We elected to have second sitting in the evening which was 8.30 pm as we felt 6.30pm was too early. Particularly when you may have only been getting back onboard an hour earlier. We ate in the Cascades dining room every evening, bar two, when we had eaten earlier in the day and retired to bed early. The food was very well presented, delivered extremely efficiently and was always tasty and enjoyable. No small task when you consider the numbers of people being fed in each sitting. I have had worse food at functions held at top hotels when they have tried to serve far fewer numbers. The waiter, from the Caribbean, and his assistant, an Australian in her second month on the ship were always friendly and very attentive. We would have tried Portofino's or Chops but to be honest, the food in Cascades was good and the company around the table excellent and we looked forward to getting together each evening.

Cascades also offered an excellent breakfast and lunch service which we should have used more, but there is only so much food you can/should eat in a day!

Windjammer could be overcrowded at breakfast times and if you went for lunch shortly after noon. Breakfast fare included all the usual western foods with a strong american influence, although the Japanese onboard also appeared well catered for. There were regular features in the Windjammer supplemented by daily specials which meant you should never get bored on a two week cruise with the self service offerings.

The Sseaview cafe, as previously mentioned, offered alternative snacks and lunches to be eaten inside, or out on the aft deck.

There was also pizza available in the solarium and various snacks late in the evening. We did not take advantage of these, as second sitting dining left you too full to contemplate more food. Two exceptions were the Chocolate extravaganza midnight buffet and the Gala midnight buffet. We told ourselves we were just going to look at them and take a few pictures, but there were so many delights to sample we ended up over indulging at both.

Service all around the ship was friendly and efficient. The staff have plenty of time to stop and chat and never pass you by without a smile and a greeting. Room service was prompt and efficient on the couple of occasions we had breakfast in our room.

We had 1002 on deck 10, an E-1 stateroom. This was a balcony cabin on the port side. It featured a wardrobe area on the left as you entered and a small but well designed shower room on the right hand side. I had read some talk about the showers being small, but I consider myself to be on the large side and had no problem. Pretty typical of a British or European shower area.

There was space in the cabin for a dressing table with plenty of cupboard space for all those accumulated bits and pieces and a 2 seater sofa and small coffee table. This area could be curtained off and I presume the sofa would make up into a bed if required, although that 3rd person would have made for quite a tight fit, people wise.

As it was, the bed was made up as a king size ( 2 single beds made up as one) and was roomy and very comfortable. The balcony was a nice touch, especially in a morning when you could sit and watch the ship arrive at a port.

We had the opportunity to see a Grade A suite whilst we were onboard. This had a very attractive marbled bathroom with spa bath and separate glass shower area as well as a large dining area and roomy 3 seater sofa. Overall, this suite was roomy with plenty of space in both the bedroom and living area. The room was occupied by a family of 3 and in an evening the room attendant converted the sofa into a large bed and closed off the bedroom with the curtain. Size wise, this would still have left plenty of space to move around in.

The cabins were pretty quiet, although if you and your neighbours each left your patio doors open the sound would travel and you could easily have a conversation without moving outside.

Fixtures and fittings were generally good. Only downside was that there were no toiletries provided in this grade cabin. Come on RCI - even Best Western and Ramada's do better than this!

Some of the shows in the Aurora Theatre were pre-dinner (7.15pm) and some were post dinner (10.45) We missed some of the later ones earlier in the cruise because we had been up early and had a full day out on the islands and were just too tired to stay awake. We did better once we were at sea. Production standards were excellent. Entertainers seemed enthusiastic and capable and some of the guest stars were really good. Some people who had previous cruising experience thought the shows were short, with just one or maybe 2 acts per show. Personally, I was happy with the length as it left time to do other things. Perhaps matinee performances at sea would be an idea?

We took full advantage of RCI's excursions and found them to be only slightly more expensive than booking a trip direct but without the hassle of having to organise it yourself. We took a helicopter tour (Will Sqyres) around Laheina and it was worth every penny. 3 passengers in back and 2 in front, large windows and an excellent and witty commentary from a pilot who obviously enjoys what he does. In addition to touring the Weimea Canyon, you get to see the whole island and the sites of the numerous movies which have been shot there.

On Maui we had hoped to do a post dawn cycle ride down from the top of the mountain after seeing the sunrise. Unfortunately, the cycle ride offered by the ship was an 0745 start so we did not bother, electing to take a coach trip to the top instead. The guide was well informed and also had a good sense of humour, but seeing the cyclists setting off, it would have been fun do that, even given the late start.

Also took an Atlantis submarine trip on Maui. This was disappointing. Very little coral to be seen and very few decent sized fish. This is offered at several islands, so if you want to try this - pick another island.

Another good trip was the half day coach tour around the Volcano National Park on Hilo. Another excellent coach guide who really made it worthwhile. Over dinner we chatted with others who had taken the helicopter trip and they also spoke very highly about that. They had a good hour in the sky and got to see all the active parts and lava flows we could not.

Pools were good, shame about the weather for the outside entertainment, which would have been held poolside, much had to be moved indoors which meant it lost its focus to some extent.

Who Goes
Of the 1900 passengers around a quarter were British, with the majority being West Coast Americans and Canadians, some Germans and some Japanese. there were not many children on board, but those that were there were generally out of sight and hearing. All in all, our fellow passengers were about as good as you could wish for. Everyone was friendly and open and conversation came easily. As regards ages, we are in our late 30's/ early 40's and found quite a few in the same sort of age group. There were a few younger and quite a few who were much older but everyone mixed well and had a great time.

We were seated at a table for ten, but unfortunately two were unable to make the cruise due to a very last minute illness, the eight of us who did make it were all British and were excellent company. We really looked forward to getting together in the evening and chatting the evening away. Our only mistake was not to exchange e-mail addresses. I totally forgot until it was too late.

Overall, this was a really great introduction to cruising. the ship, the crew and our fellow passengers made it a memorable holiday and hopefully the first of many more cruises to come.

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