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Royal Caribbean International: Radiance of the Seas

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Jan 12, 2012

Sydney - NZ ports - Sydney

A great ship, wonderful attentive crew BUT... see below. Highlight for us was seeing the Comet Lovejoy from our balcony. We experienced lovely weather and smooth seas most of the trip. Food was excellent in all areas with plenty of choices but why anyone would want to pay extra for specialty restaurants is beyond me. Stateroom met our expectations and was clean and comfortable. We could not hear the Captains messages from the bridge

and the commentary about ports we visited was not always broadcast over the TV so if we were in our cabin we could not hear it. The commentary about Auckland and points of interest there was given as we were sailing out of the harbour! Could have been more onboa rd activities such as lectures and/or demonstrations eg; interest groups. We were not kept informed about events and the outcome such as our sighting of a comet, the man overboard drama and I found that Guest Services were not very helpful when approached re problem children or asked about the light we saw in the sky for 3 nights. Internet charges were very high at 65 cents a minute. We only did one excursion on the train from Dunedin. The trip was great but terribly overpriced at just on $200 pp when we could have bought the train ticket ourselves for $84! Don't pay for excursions but go ashore and ask the locals where to go, jump on a local bus and do your own thing. Research before you go on the cruise and find out what you would like to see and how to get there. Sometimes a taxi can be cheaper than paying for shore excursions. Our trip was marred by gangs of children running riot in the lifts, stairs, casino, bars, restaurants and in the adults only pool. I ousted 2 young boys from the casino, they were playing chasings round the poker machines and nearly knocked over an elderly disabled lady. The crew seemed unable or unwilling to pull the children into line. We booked this trip for a relaxing holiday and especially because of the advertised adults only pool so it was disappointing. Royal Caribbean quotes codes of conduct and age restrictions however they do not uphold same. Take my advice - NEVER book in school holidays.

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Dec 8, 2011

Australia

Shore excursions were extremely poor and therefore expensive. Dunedin was the worst shore excursion I have ever done. Dont use the ships trips unless you are desperate... After our bad experience we just did or own trips once off the ship ..they were very good and less than half the cost of the ships trips. A bit hit and miss in the dinning room but very good in the windjammer. Very good as we were given a family room. Tai chia

a fantastic activity. Stay away from all excursions too expensive and of a very poor quality. Quite a few passengers were caught up in the qantas issue and the ship waited an extra day in Fremantle which I thought was very good customer service... Even though we had to miss a port of call so as to catch up.

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Oct 23, 2011

Hawaii to Sydney

What a great cruise except for on very minor item for me. I love my coffee and was very very dissapointed that Radiance had absolutely no variation in in their coffee. Each and every dining room had exactly the same coffee. The amazing thing was the there was a wonderful variation in tea bags. What a pity I didn't drink tea.

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Jul 11, 2011

Alaska

We enjoyed just about everything about the cruise and the land tour. The ship was in pretty good shape and you could tell that much of it was new or refurbished. The food in the dining room was very good. The food in the Windjammer could have been better at times. There is a cafe in the solarium that offered breakfast and lunch which was pretty good. The hot dog shop outside of the Windjammer was nice except that the service was slow at times.

We used room service often for coffee and breakfast and they were sometimes quite slow. The staff sometimes didn't understand english very well either. The stateroom was very nice except that our bathroom smelled like a sewer when we first entered it. We called and complained immediately and they reported that they could not find anything wrong. There was some kind of debris hanging from underneath the toilet rim that looked disgusting and was a possible source of the odor. We called again to complain and it got taken care of. A stateroom supervisor called and personally visited our stateroom to make sure we were satisfied. We boarded the ship around 12:30 PM and we still did not have our luggage at 7:30 PM. We watched a man from the staff drag 1 piece of luggage at a time down our hallway. It didn't matter what size it was, and he would only take one. Myself and my brother in law eventually went to the opposite end of the hall and retrieved our own luggage. I think this was supposed to be handled by the stateroom attendant, I am not sure. If that was the case, he was no where to be found. Our nieces used the Adventure Ocean often and they really enjoyed it. I found that there was always something to do even if we just sat on our balcony and viewed the scenery. We missed not having the Royal Promenade from the Freedom Class ships. We stayed at the Bear Lodge in Fairbanks and the room was nice and the food in the restaurant was great. We did the Salmon Bake in Fairbanks which had lots of potential, but it was disapointing. They used a glaze or sauce on the Salmon which we did not enjoy. They also had prime rib and it was very fatty. We did a show in a little theatre which was adjacent to the Salmon bake. The show was very corny and somewhat lame for our tastes. I will say that much of the crowd was elderly and they seemed to enjoy it. I got the feeling shortly after the show started that they cater to an older audience. We did a whale watching excursion with a salmon lunch which was great in Juneau. If you like King Crab don't miss Tracy's Crab Shack in Juneau near the ship's dock. They have the best crab and crab chowder. We did a riverboat tour in Fairbanks which was also very nice. We did a gold panning excursion near Fairbanks which was pretty good except that the talked way to much about the panning process. We didn't plan anything for Icy Strait (Hoohnah) and I wish we did. A man in a neighboring stateroom did whale watching there and said it was very good. We did the lumberjack show in Ketchikan and a native american village tour which were both pretty good. The indian village had a gift shop where they sold totems made on site. We did another salmon bake in Skagway which was pretty good at an area called Liarsville which is a recreated klondike gold rush camp. The camp was interesting but the little show and gold panning was a waste of time. We enjoyed shopping on Broadway in Skagway. Our overall experience was outstanding! Kristina from Royal Celebrity Tours was outstanding during our land tour. The bus driver Rose was also very nice and quite knowlegable. The rail club car was very clean and modern. The food on board the train was good. We did a 120 mile round trip by bus in Denali National Park. The bus driver/tour guide was Jayson and he was excellent. The drivers should work together and not fly past each other to avoid splashing mud all over the windows. The windows got so dirty that you could not see out of them and I just went to sleep. The park is beautiful but I really thought we would see more wildlife. This is certainly nobodys fault. We did not get back to the hotel until 9:30 PM and I know that I was exhausted but hungry. The cost of food in the hotel restaurant was quite expensive. I settled for soup and went to bed. The next morning we got a breakfast sandwich from a small cafe' at the hotel because of the expense. We stayed at the Talkeetna Lodge overnight and they had no AC. They said that they didn't feel it was needed. Even though it doesn't get hot there, they could use the air. The food at the one restaurant was good and reasonably priced. We ate breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse and the food was pretty good and very large portions.

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Mar 23, 2011

tampa to cozumal

This was our first cruise and we were AMAZED. The Radiance was nothing short of spectacular. I guess I must be missing somthing reading all the negative reviews of ship is stunning. My family and I can't stop talking about the cruise one of the greatrst vaca's ever. My son Jacob 11 was so busy he was exhausted. From basketball,dodgeball,volleyball thepools the arcade he had a blast! Oh how could I forget his favorite part of the ship the Windjammer

buffet. The selection of food was tremendus and delicious. The Cascades dining room was elegant and the food and service was second to none. The shows on the ship were plentiful and something for anyone.The fitness center was better than my gym, of course the view of the Gulf from my teadmill every morning was, well you gurssed it , AMAZING. Our stateroom was nice and our room attendant Allen was excellent. The crew on the ship were all wonderful, friendly,and helpful. Some of the favorite phrases of the crew were yes, how can i help you , and have a nice day. Cozumal was nice spent the day at paradise beach highly recommend that.. Thank you Royal Carribean for the vacation of vacation's we will be back, as a matter of fact the day after we got home we booked for next year see ya then!!!!!!!!!

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By CJ_CR

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Feb 25, 2011

mexico

The staff was Wonderful! Went out of their way to please us! Great staff!!!! Food was awful!!!! Do not eat at the buffet at all. Dinners in main dining room were pretty bad too. The only meal that was good was breakfast in the main dining room. The ship is very worn looking. Needs an update!!! Food was Awful!!!! Fine, but small!!! Great! Staff was the best!!!

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Feb 24, 2011

mexican reviera

I went on the 11 day mexican cruise. The main things to do on this cruise is tan by the pool, go in the hot tub, and work out. Other than that, there is not much to do at all. The food was good. There was always something open, and if not, you could order room service. The food was pretty good quality, and there was a lot to choose from. The staterooms are very nice for a cruise ship. They are not big, but staterooms are never big

on a cruise. They were cleaned every day, thus they were always clean and nice inside. As I said, there is not much to do on the ship other than tan, go swimming, or workout. There is also a casino. They always had tons of activities but they were for older people. This is an excellent ship to go on if you are a senior, or if you are just trying to relax and do nothing for a week. I would not recommend this ship to families. Although they have programs for kids of all ages up to 17 years old, they were absolutely horrible. At least the one for teens aged 14 to 17 was. The one for 11 to 13 was also horrible, but I heard it was slightly better. The excursions are nice, I definetly recommend trying some of them! It is way better to go on an excursion than to stay on the ship. I had fun on my trip. If you are a teen, I recommend that you go to the teen club the very first day so that you can meet people. That is truly the easiest and quickest way to make some friends. After the first day, you will probably end up hanging out with the people you met and you will most likely never return to the teen club. Also, when I was on the ship, there was a 1am curfew for anyone under the age of 18. This is one of the big downsides to this ship. They are very strict on kids, and they also have certain pools and jacuzzi's where kids are not allowed. Thus, this is not a family friendly cruise, I would definetly recommend it to seniors and to people who just want to relax and do nothing for a week.

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Feb 11, 2011

mexico

Sailed 2/5/11-2/10/11...This ship is perfect for senior citizens!! It is a beautiful ship, but lacking in exciting entertainment. Lots of broadway type shows. Not a whole lot of activities during the day. The cabins did( smell of sewage). The selection of food was very boring as well. Lots of other complaints from fellow cruisers about how boring the cruise actually was. Most of the activities were geared toward the older people on the ship. They

waited til the last night of the cruise to have a comedian on, who was really very funny, but he was on at 10:45 and only did a 45 minute skit. The service on the ship is great! Everything is spread out too far! The so called Italian restaurant that you have to pay extra for is not worth the money, they had no dishes with any kind of tomato sauce what so ever!! If your wanting to relive the Titanic and over 65, then this is the cruise for you!!!!...The ships (entainer director ONLY CATERS TO THOSE WHO ARE OLDER AND LIKE TO BE IN BED BY 8-9 P.M. THIS WAS VERY DISAPOINTING FOR ME MY HUSBAND WHO HAVE BEEN ON MANY CRUISES ...AND THE AVERAGE TIME WE SPEND IN ARE RM. NIGHTLY IS 5-6 HRS. A DAY ,TO SLEEP OR CHANGE ..WE NOW KNOW TO READ ABOUT ROYAL CAR.DIF. SHIPS REVIEWS B-4 MAKING RESERVATIONS .WE AND OTHER GUEST TALKED ABOUT THE SHIP WELL ON BOARD ,FOUND OUT ALOT OF BAD KARMA AND HISTORY SAILS WELL ON BOARD ,MEANING YOU CAN ACTUALLY FEEL BAD VIBES FROM ITS PAST... SAME AND BORING..ONLY OK NICE AND ROOMY, BUT BATHROOM SMELLED LIKE SEWAGE boring boring boring!!!!!!! COZUMEL-DO THE THREE REEF SNORKEL OR PLAYA MIA BEACH BREAK THAT WAS VERY NICE!!!!! COSTA MAYA-WE WALKED TO A LITTLE BEACH ON OUR OWN AND LOCAL PEOPLE ARE VERY FRIENDLY NICE TO GET AWAY FROM THE COLD WEATHER, BUT WAS VERY DIAPPOINTED IN THE LACK OF ENTERTAINMENT AND THE WHOLE MORAL OF THE SHIP WAS FOR 65 AND OLDER, NOT ENOUGH MIX IN THE ENTERTAINMENT

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By mary_CR

  • New

Jan 18, 2011

mexico

This was our 5th cruise and it was disappointing. We stayed overnight at Hampton Inn by the airport in Tampa for $99 including a shuttle to the pier and up to 14 nights of parking. Beautiful place. To our horror, we learned our ship had been stricken by the norovirus and had to be completely sanitized which would delay boarding and departure. We had parked our car at the hotel, so some how we were suppose to kill 5 hours. The staff did as good as

job as they could under the circumstances trying to keep people orderly, etc., but the $50 compensation the cruise line provided was grossly insufficient. We did not get to board until 8pm, and had to sit outside in the cold. Yes, it became cold and windy. I felt especially concerned for the many elderly and children as we all were dressed for warm weather. Once on board we were not allowed into our rooms for another hour or 2, and once there, we did not have a TV controller to turn the TV off. It was being sanitized along with other things from the room, so we had to leave the TV on all night and the next day!. Our cruise director was sick for the first 2 days of the cruise, however, the activities director stepped in and was quite funny. The activities were plentiful and the usual, but the entertainment was not as good as any other ship/line we've been on. In fact, many people actually left during some of the shows. The food was good, but not great. It was difficult ordering at the sit down dinner, as we were not given menus or allowed to touch the menu which our Indian waiter read from (d/t the virus). Most of us could not understand him as he had a heavy accent. The crew were spectacular as usual, and seemed frustrated at not being able to shake our hands, etc. Since 25 more people came down with the virus on our cruise, we were booted off the ship 2 hours earlier than originally planned. I really felt we came up short handed.

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Oct 31, 2010

Alaska Cruisetour

We had a family of 18 that went and had a great time. Even though we were spread throughout the ship for our cabins, we kept running into each other all the time. The lounges were comfortable with great entertainment. Getting on and off the ship always ran smoothly. We were a northbound cruise from Vancouver to Seward. I was surprised to learn the ports have some serious jewelry shopping opportunities. I did not come prepared, maybe next

time. We had packed clothes for formal night so we could have family portrait done with no sitting fees, just the picture itself. well worth it. The trip to Hubbard Glacier was breathtaking. Our captain came within 600 ft of the glacier and then turned side to side so all could see. We started at the front bow with the rest of the ship it seemed, and then realized...hey we have a balcony! From our balcony we could have unobstructed views while the captain turned, along with hot coffee and heat! From here our family split up, some returning home, some on a 3 night land tour and we had the 7 night land tour. We went from Seward, to Anchorage by motor coach. Then to Talkeetna one day (home of Mt McKinley) by train....awesome food on board!! next day to Denali by train again for two nights, then by coach to Fairbanks. A wonderful look at different areas of Alaska. Our food was fabulous. We used room service for those days that we had an early excursion so we could have breakfast while getting ready. We used the buffet for lunch and the dining room for dinner. Our wait staff was fantastic. The stateroom was much larger than we expected. We had a superior balcony with a third person bunk. There was a heavy privacy curtain between the queen bed and the bunk area so we could share with my Mother easily. The bathroom was a little tight but that was to be expected. The closet space was fine. We did take along a power strip to charge phones, cameras etc. and that was helpful for three adults. We ordered extra blankets and often sat on the balcony while cruising in Alaska....it was only about 60 degrees. Well...for us it was slightly disappointing. We had selected the ship because of so many on board activities for our sons (ages 18 & 20 ) . The weather was not always cooperative for outdoor activities, but even when it was, the RC staff failed to show up. The daily report would indicate a basketball event, or rock climbing, or a soccer event, our guys would go and no one from the staff would be there. We did not complain about this but did about an excursion, see below. The Lumberjack show in Ketchikan was just good family fun. The whale watching in Icy Straight Point was awesome. We picked this port because it had reviews with the highest percent of actually seeing whales, although low for seeing Orcas. We did not see any Orca. But given highest possibility of whales overall, we were glad we chose it as we say plenty. The fishing adventure in Icy Straight Point was a total bust. My son and husband went (at almost $500). The boat captain was a replacement (he told them so), the rods were not ready, he did NOT even have a fish finder! For 3 hours they sat talking to the captain, my son never once touching a pole. Immediately upon their return I filed a petition for a refund with the excursion desk as we still had 3 more days of sailing and we would try again. No success...denied. The most disappointing aspect of this was this trip was for my son who picked fishing as a high point of his trip....didn't matter. I petitioned upon our return with several depts with RC corp office (seems there is a real problem figuring out who really handles these issues) without success. i was finally told that since others had not complained, my complaint was not valid. I found that to be incredibly rude as I was certainly not lying, and I can't address why no one else complained. This took about 2 full months after the end of the cruise. No refund. $500 is way too much to pay for poor quality...don't do it. Overall I would still try another RC cruise, I will just plan my excursions on my own whenever I can arrange it.

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By Deb_CR

  • New

Sep 2, 2010

Alaska

It was a great way to see Alaska. The food was good nothing over the top very good. We ate in the dining room as well as the Windjammer which is the buffet style dining for both Breakfast and Lunch. It was very nice weather so we enjoyed eating Breakfast and Lunch outside and therefore the buffet worked out best for this. The food was not the reason we went therefore it was secondary to the the sights and the Alaska does have wonderful sights that

you must be ready to take in. You have to be ready to do some walking and must consider the excursions. We had not been on a cruise before therefore we were concerned about spending the additional money on the excursions. We waited to book them until we were on the ship and found that none of the ones that we wanted were not available. It was good to be able to discuss which ones others were going on before we decided to spend the additional money. Many of the towns you visit have so many shops of very touristy shops that going on the excursions gets you out of the "shopping trap". If the weather is good then I suggest going on the plane flights, if the weather is socked in then I would not spend the money. There is a great deal of things to do on the ship, and exercise is good to off set all the eating that is available. I would say it was a great experience and Royal Caribbean did a great job on the tour portion of the trip. That had everything figured out once you got off the ship, the bus, the hotels, the train and the tours are very well executed and I would suggest them to anyone interested in seeing all of Alaska. The only place the suffered was on the ship and getting ready to exit to pick up the tour portion...they really fell apart on the scheduling but that was only place where they seemed to have a problem. Food was good and good sized at dinner. A nice assortment of items offered. We did not try the specialty places so I can only say what the traditional seating was like. They really go out of their way to take care of you. We did not pay for the balcony as it was our first cruise. If we were to do it again I would pay the additional amount for the ability to open the window and sit out on the balcony. The bathroom is only area where it feels really tight and you feel the movement of the ship. The entertainment was enjoyable and worth taking advantage of. I did not go to any of the classes offered but they did not seem very well attended. The gym was great and very rarely crowded. I would say if the weather is good go for the float plane trip thru Misty Fjords as it was quite beautiful. I am not sure how great it would be if it was rainy or cloudy. If you go on the cruisetour and you can take the flight by Denali and it is clear it is a must as it is spetacular but again we were very lucky with the weather. We also took a bus out to Mendenhall Glacier but I would suggest not taking the tour as you could not go thru downtown as they said they could take the bus and you could not hear anything on the tour. But you need to get out to see Mendenhall Glacier. The train in Skagway is interesting but I do not know if it is worth riding all the way over the Canadian border. We opted to take the train ride that takes you out and back and it was enjoyable and not quite as long. Again if you go on the Cruise Tour we did take a trip out to the Husky Homestead and if you love dogs that is enjoyable, but not something you would HAVE to do. But holding the puppies sure was fun. I think being lucky with weather really makes a difference in your trip but being able to see Alaska is worth being in a bit of rain. I think Royal Carribean does a very good job of with the cruise tour as they have their own buses and train cars and they seem to have it down with their schedules. The hotels you stay at are quite nice and we were very lucky with our tour guide as he helped us out with what to see and where to eat. It is a great trip and something to be seen and worth the time it takes to get up there, but it makes a difference when you are mobile and can get around easily. There is not a tremendous amount of walking but it would be hard if you could not climb stairs and such.

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Aug 18, 2010

Alaska

The captain had a good sense of humor;the ship had many activities;the food was quite good;I somehow lost 4 pounds on the trip even though I ate well. I would suggest to anyone considering a cruise to Alaska to inquire using Radiance. The ship isn't oversized but certainly not too small at all. You will be extremely pleased at the demeanor of the staff and realize it is not phony;they honestly want to please us. The food was not fantastic but very

good. The stateroom was big enough for what a cruise should be. Very well planned. It was preplanned before boarding. It would fill 2 pages. I don't think anyone wants to hear about daily events.

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May 31, 2010

Alaska

This is our second time with RCCL, first time on Radiance. The cruise was fabulous! The service was attentive by all of the staff. We found the entertainment to be some of the best we seen on a cruise ship. Not Las Vegas, but darn close in quality. The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers were very talented and totally enjoyable, as were the other entertainers who came on board. This ship, however, needs some repairs, updating, cleaning.

It is looking somehat old; the tile floor outside the Windjammer Cafe always looked dirty; carpet in some areas of the ship was buckled and did not appear very clean. The food was o-k , somewhat disappointing from our previous cruise experiences. The stateroom with balcony was comfortable, adequate size, but the bathroom was quite small. The shower was approximately 30" square with a 1-1/2" lip at the bottom - could be challenging for anyone with disabilities or limitations. While very nicely presented, the quality of the meals was just o-k, with the exception of the next to last evening on which shrimp, lobster and fresh Alaskan Salmon were the main entree selections and were quite good. It was interesting that, for an "Ultimate Alaskan Cruise", Atlantic (farmed) Salmon was offered every evening except the one previously mentioned. The desserts, too, were mostly ordinary in taste, though beautifully designed. We dined one evening in the Chops Restaurant, RCCL's on board steak and chop house, for a cost of $20pp. The service was first class and attentive. We both ordered the bone-in ribeye steak which was cooked to order and served with a choice of 6 sauces. which we chose not to use. The steak was little chewy, but had a good flavor. The dessert was Ultimate Chocolate Experience ("compliments of the chef" for our anniversary) and was v-e-r-y chocolatey and declicious! The stateroom was a nice size, but the decor seemed very tired. ( Although this ship was just redone in 2006, it could use it again.) The stateroom attendant was excellent - the room was made up each day and turned down each evening. (I read in a previous cruisers review that RCCL used to pur a chocolate on the pillow, but no longer - probabaly a cost-saving measure). The sheets were not changed during our 13-day cruise. We had the option of fresh towels daily if we chose by simply leaving the towles on the floor. Either way, there was always a fresh set available in the bathroom in addition to the ones in use. The bathroom was workable but small. The shower was about 30" square with only a 1-1/2 lip around the bottom to retain the water. It could be difficult for anyone with a disability or physical limitations. We were pleased with the onboard activities - what was available fit our lifestyle and acitivity level just fine. A younger audience might be satisfied with it as being "too quiet". There were dance classes, night club parties, music and dance challenges, trivia challenges, art auctions (thankfully, this was de-emphasized), lectures about the Alaskan ports, photography seminars, teen activities as well as some for small children. Cruisers can be as active or quiet as they choose. We felt that the entertainment in the theatre was far superior to what we saw on our past cruises. The productions were first rate and the performers were Las Vegas quality. The Cruise Director did a good job of bringing in good talent for this cruise in addition to all the other activities available on the ship. Don't miss the White Pass Railway in Skagway or the Mendenall Glacier in Juneau. We chose not to buy any of the excursions on board, but did find numerous options available onshore - all were less expensive than those offered on board. Our favorite port was Sitka. It has maintained its original flavor without falling victim to the jewelry trade that has invaded all the other ports. It was disappointing to see the streets in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway lined with international jewelry dealers. We were told by a shopkeeper in Ketchikan that the jewelers follow the cruiseships from the Caribbean to Alaska. There was probably a 100 or more jewelers in each port plus the ones onboard. Our first trip to Alaska was in 2001 aboard Regent Seven Seas Mariner - an altogether luxurious liner and cruise, but also exceptionally expensive. This cruise was more relaxed and more fun. There were activities that seemed to be geared to the mostly senior audience, but still plenty for the younger sets as well. The captain did an admirable job of navigating the ice-laden waters in the Hubbard Glacier waterway to get us relatively close. The patience in navigating the ice was rewarded with some major calving sightings - one as we were getting ready to leave that seem like nearly half of the face of the glacier. The resulting wave gave the ship a pretty steep momentary tilt. It was awesome!

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May 31, 2010

Alaska

This is our second time with RCCL, first time on Radiance. The cruise was fabulous! The service was attentive by all of the staff. We found the entertainment to be some of the best we seen on a cruise ship. Not Las Vegas, but darn close in quality. The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers were very talented and totally enjoyable, as were the other entertainers who came on board. This ship, however, needs some repairs, updating, cleaning.

It is looking somehat old; the tile floor outside the Windjammer Cafe always looked dirty; carpet in some areas of the ship was buckled and did not appear very clean. The food was o-k , somewhat disappointing from our previous cruise experiences. The stateroom with balcony was comfortable, adequate size, but the bathroom was quite small. The shower was approximately 30" square with a 1-1/2" lip at the bottom - could be challenging for anyone with disabilities or limitations. While very nicely presented, the quality of the meals was just o-k, with the exception of the next to last evening on which shrimp, lobster and fresh Alaskan Salmon were the main entree selections and were quite good. It was interesting that, for an "Ultimate Alaskan Cruise", Atlantic (farmed) Salmon was offered every evening except the one previously mentioned. The desserts, too, were mostly ordinary in taste, though beautifully designed. We dined one evening in the Chops Restaurant, RCCL's on board steak and chop house, for a cost of $20pp. The service was first class and attentive. We both ordered the bone-in ribeye steak which was cooked to order and served with a choice of 6 sauces. which we chose not to use. The steak was little chewy, but had a good flavor. The dessert was Ultimate Chocolate Experience ("compliments of the chef" for our anniversary) and was v-e-r-y chocolatey and declicious! The stateroom was a nice size, but the decor seemed very tired. ( Although this ship was just redone in 2006, it could use it again.) The stateroom attendant was excellent - the room was made up each day and turned down each evening. (I read in a previous cruisers review that RCCL used to pur a chocolate on the pillow, but no longer - probabaly a cost-saving measure). The sheets were not changed during our 13-day cruise. We had the option of fresh towels daily if we chose by simply leaving the towles on the floor. Either way, there was always a fresh set available in the bathroom in addition to the ones in use. The bathroom was workable but small. The shower was about 30" square with only a 1-1/2 lip around the bottom to retain the water. It could be difficult for anyone with a disability or physical limitations. We were pleased with the onboard activities - what was available fit our lifestyle and acitivity level just fine. A younger audience might be satisfied with it as being "too quiet". There were dance classes, night club parties, music and dance challenges, trivia challenges, art auctions (thankfully, this was de-emphasized), lectures about the Alaskan ports, photography seminars, teen activities as well as some for small children. Cruisers can be as active or quiet as they choose. We felt that the entertainment in the theatre was far superior to what we saw on our past cruises. The productions were first rate and the performers were Las Vegas quality. The Cruise Director did a good job of bringing in good talent for this cruise in addition to all the other activities available on the ship. Don't miss the White Pass Railway in Skagway or the Mendenall Glacier in Juneau. We chose not to buy any of the excursions on board, but did find numerous options available onshore - all were less expensive than those offered on board. Our favorite port was Sitka. It has maintained its original flavor without falling victim to the jewelry trade that has invaded all the other ports. It was disappointing to see the streets in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway lined with international jewelry dealers. We were told by a shopkeeper in Ketchikan that the jewelers follow the cruiseships from the Caribbean to Alaska. There was probably a 100 or more jewelers in each port plus the ones onboard. Our first trip to Alaska was in 2001 aboard Regent Seven Seas Mariner - an altogether luxurious liner and cruise, but also exceptionally expensive. This cruise was more relaxed and more fun. There were activities that seemed to be geared to the mostly senior audience, but still plenty for the younger sets as well. The captain did an admirable job of navigating the ice-laden waters in the Hubbard Glacier waterway to get us relatively close. The patience in navigating the ice was rewarded with some major calving sightings - one as we were getting ready to leave that seem like nearly half of the face of the glacier. The resulting wave gave the ship a pretty steep momentary tilt. It was awesome!

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May 27, 2010

Alaska

Our 3rd cruise, 2nd to Alaska and 2nd on RCL. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. There were plenty of activities on board to stay active and involved when you wanted to do so. The nightly entertainment in the Theatre was the best that we've seen on a ship. The food, however, left much to be desired as it was mostly bland and unimaginative. The facilities of the ship are in need of updating, cleaning and/or replacement. The tile foyer

leading to the Windjammer Cafe was filthy throughout the entire 13-day cruise. The carpet on each deck was worn, dirty or buckled. The staff was very friendly, helpful and efficient - absolutely no complaints about them at all. Each and everyone worked hard at giving exemplary service. The captain announced during the cruise that Radiance had just been awarded it Green Certification during our cruise and that it was the first ship on the oceans with such a ranking. I've been unable to find anything that verifies that information. Perhaps I misunderstood, but my husband also had the same impression. That being said, the captain was adamant about the green measures that they take and asked each passenger to pledge not to throw anything off the ship into the water and he promised that they would not dispose of anything into the water either - that they recycle everything and deposit solid wastes at specific ports. Most desappointing! The offerings each evening made one hopeful that it would be bettwe than the last one, but was not. There was only one evening that soared straight to a rating of "10"...the next to last evening when fresh shrimp and lobster tails were on the menu along with fresh Alaskan Salmon. It is interesting to note that while this was "The Ultimate 13-day Alaskan Cruise", each night the menu offered "Atlantic Salmon"....you know, the farmed stuff that has the coloring added. Most of the time the fish was very boring in taste, though nicely presented. One evening I ordered the Cod and couldn't get past the 2nd bite as it was "spongy" and tasteless. The Windjammer Cafe (Buffet service) offers a bounty of food for breakfast and lunch, but if you avoid the buffet eggs, the rest of it is not bad. Eggs cooked to rder are available as well as carved ham each morning and carved beef roast at noon. Had dinner there only one evening as we were too tired to dress for the dining room. Dinnner was "o-k", should have gone to the dining room instead. By the way, dressing for dinner is not required, but is our personal style. Most evenings, my husband wore pressed jeans, button-down shirt and a leather jacket. Other folks were in warm-up suits or even "country club casual" for the non-formal nights. So, no need to worry about being dressed up for dinner. The balcony stateroom was mostly adequate. The bathroom was only slightly larger and that of a travel trailer - really! The shower was about 30" square. It would present problems for large or disabled folks let alone a a lady wishing to shave her legs! While the room was clean and our steward was amazing, it needed a makeover and some freshening. It was a little smaller than the others we have had. T There were lots of activities available for those who wanted to participate, from the very young to the older generation. The Cruise Director made his name known at every activity as it was always announced "Brought to you by your Cruise Director, XX". Haven't seen that done before and it sounded like a political advertisement. The theatrical productions were very good and we looked forward to them every evening. During the day we availed ourselves of various activites during Sea Days as much as we cared to. The available excursions at every port were numerous, but since this was our second trip to Alaska, we decided to go it on our own and picked up some nice trips on shore...for less than what was available from the ship. Not surprising at all, but it helps to know that one is able to do things ashore on ones own. Our first cruise there was on Regent Seven Seas (an exceptional experience that set the bar for everything else....but very pricey!) and we found that an excursion in every port is exhausting and one can miss the true flavor of the locale. Our favorite port was Sitka. It has not yet been invaded by the international jewelry trade that we saw in every other Alaskan port. It was a shame to see streets lined with jewelers as if they were something "indigenous" to the area. We asked one shopkeeper in Juneau about them and she indicated that the jewelers follow the cruise lines - "when the cruises are in the Caribbean, the jewlers open shop there; when they are in Alaska, the jewelers move everything to Alaska." In spite of some "minuses" on this trip, we will probably cruise with RCCL again. The Radiance certainly seemed a higher class of ship than the Vision, on which we sailed to Mexico. The captain did a magnificent job of getting as close to the Hubbard Glacier as he could. I believe we were the first ship in there this season and he took it very slowly through all the glacial debris. We were handsomely rewarded with 2 huge calvings, one that appeared to be at least half of the face of the glacier! The resulting wave caused the ship to rock heartily. I would question, however, the environmental advisability of using the ship's horn to affect the glacial calving as the two times the horn was sounded, a calving occurred.

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May 27, 2010

Alaska

Our 3rd cruise, 2nd to Alaska and 2nd on RCCL. Overall, we throughoughly enjoyed the cruise. There were plenty of activities on board to stay active and involved when you wanted to do so. The nightly entertainment in the Theatre was the best that we've seen on a ship. The food, however, left much to be desired as it was mostly bland and unimaginative. The facilities of the ship are in need of updating, cleaning and/or replacement. The tile foyer

leading to the Windjammer Cafe was filthy throughout the entire 13-day cruise. The carpet on each deck was worn, dirty or buckled. The staff was very friendly, helpful and efficient - absolutely no complaints about them at all. Each and everyone worked hard at giving exemplary service. The captain announced during the cruise that Radiance had just been awarded it Green Certification during our cruise and that it was the first ship on the oceans with such a ranking. I've been unable to find anything that verifies that information. Perhaps I misunderstood, but my husband also had the same impression. That being said, the captain was adamant about the green measures that they take and asked each passenger to pledge not to throw anything off the ship into the water and he promised that they would not dispose of anything into the water either - that they recycle everything and deposit solid wastes at specific ports. Most desappointing! The offerings each evening made one hopeful that it would be better than the last one, but was not. There was only one evening that soared straight to a rating of "10"...the next to last evening when fresh shrimp and lobster tails were on the menu along with fresh Alaskan Salmon. It is interesting to note that while this was "The Ultimate 13-day Alaskan Cruise", each night the menu offered "Atlantic Salmon"....you know, the farmed stuff that has the coloring added. Most of the time the fish was very boring in taste, though nicely presented. One evening I ordered the Cod and couldn't get past the 2nd bite as it was "spongy" and tasteless. The Windjammer Cafe (Buffet service) offers a bounty of food for breakfast and lunch, but if you avoid the buffet eggs, the rest of it is not bad. Eggs cooked to rder are available as well as carved ham each morning and carved beef roast at noon. Had dinner there only one evening as we were too tired to dress for the dining room. Dinnner was "o-k", should have gone to the dining room instead. By the way, dressing for dinner is not required, but is our personal style. Most evenings, my husband wore pressed jeans, button-down shirt and a leather jacket. Other folks were in warm-up suits or even "country club casual" for the non-formal nights. So, no need to worry about being dressed up for dinner. The balcony stateroom was mostly adequate. The bathroom was only slightly larger and that of a travel trailer - really! The shower was about 30" square. It would present problems for large or disabled folks let alone a a lady wishing to shave her legs! While the room was clean and our steward was amazing, it needed a makeover and some freshening. It was a little smaller than the others we have had. T There were lots of activities available for those who wanted to participate, from the very young to the older generation. The Cruise Director made his name known at every activity as it was always announced "Brought to you by your Cruise Director, XX". Haven't seen that done before and it sounded like a political advertisement. The theatrical productions were very good and we looked forward to them every evening. During the day we availed ourselves of various activites during Sea Days as much as we cared to. The available excursions at every port were numerous, but since this was our second trip to Alaska, we decided to go it on our own and picked up some nice trips on shore...for less than what was available from the ship. Not surprising at all, but it helps to know that one is able to do things ashore on ones own. Our first cruise there was on Regent Seven Seas (an exceptional experience that set the bar for everything else....but very pricey!) and we found that an excursion in every port is exhausting and one can miss the true flavor of the locale. Our favorite port was Sitka. It has not yet been invaded by the international jewelry trade that we saw in every other Alaskan port. It was a shame to see streets lined with jewelers as if they were something "indigenous" to the area. We asked one shopkeeper in Juneau about them and she indicated that the jewelers follow the cruise lines - "when the cruises are in the Caribbean, the jewlers open shop there; when they are in Alaska, the jewelers move everything to Alaska." In spite of some "minuses" on this trip, we will probably cruise with RCCL again. The Radiance certainly seemed a higher class of ship than the Vision, on which we sailed to Mexico. The captain did a magnificent job of getting as close to the Hubbard Glacier as he could. I believe we were the first ship in there this season and he took it very slowly through all the glacial debris. We were handsomely rewarded with 2 huge calvings, one that appeared to be at least half of the face of the glacier! The resulting wave caused the ship to rock heartily. I would question, however, the environmental advisability of using the ship's horn to affect the glacial calving as the two times the horn was sounded, a calving occurred.

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May 13, 2010

Mex Riveria

Over the years I have been on apx 14 cruises and this was my 3rd with RCL. I always considered RCL to be an upper class type cruise but since the merging of cruise lines I believe that RCL should now be considered in the budget class. The Radiance of the Seas is stil a very nice ship with good service but the nice things you saw over the years from RCL like a piece of candy on your pillow at night or the high quality of food has disappeared. This

is my first cruise out of 14 that I was totally disappointed in the quality of food. The fish or steaks were always overcooked and dried out and generally lacked seasoning. They may be hiring cooks from the senior centers to please their existing clientele. The clientele appears to be on the older side of seniors as evidence with the number of wheelchairs, scooter,walkers, etc. which caused many delays with elevators and congestion in the halls. I talked with several others on the ship who have cruised with RCL over the years and all stated that the quality of food has dropped from great to poor. The cost cutting measures of hiking a glass of house wine to over $10 is a riduculous way to make up profits. Quality was poor, Quantity was good. Example: Several of us try having the lobster tail at the captain's dinner. All of us ordered a second because the first serving was like a piece of rubber. The replacements proved the same. Our 16 year son is not a picky eater but became one with the food on the cruise. This was his fourth cruise but his first one with RCL. My son wants to go back to Carnival. We had an outside cabin with a balcony and was advertised with NO obstruction. However the whole cruise the ship maintenance equipment was parked outside our balcony that is used for cleaning windows and painting. I have asked our travel agency after providing pictures for a partial refund to an obstructed view rate but RCL has not returned their phone calls. I aksed our cabin attendant and he told us the ladder riser is always parked outside this room. Standard small tube TV. We had several issues with trying to view our charges but for some reason the TV would freeze and had to be turned off for about 5 minutes. The pull out sofa bed was very thin with sheets that did not fit properly. The master bed is high enough to store large bagage items beneath. Bathroom had a nice cabinet behind the side mirror. As usual with most cruise bathrooms there is a venilation issues. For some reason the steam could take 30 minutes or more to clear from our bathroom. No room internet connection. No on board laundry. Laundry quoted price to have a t-Shirt wash is $2.75, underwear $1.25, sweatshirt $3.50, etc. So a small family could easily have a $25 laundry bill a day. I suggest to take the extra clothes and luggage since their is no weight limit or number of bags. Our luggage was delivered about 9:00PM the first night. The onboard auction for art appears to be a ripoff. See other online articles regarding the overpricing and fake originals. The shopping experience lecture is a canned presentation. Our expert shopper read from a scripted document while a presentation which was out of synch was presented in the background. They sell you a book with all of the free items that add up many hundreds of dollars for just $25. Our first shore excurision we tried and all of the 5 shops were out of the free items from the books. I asked for my $25 back and return of the book since it was useless but I was told it is against management policy. So this should give you some ideas about the customer service aboard the ship. The normal midnigt buffets which we at least visited once for pictures are a thing of the past. The internet connections cost 55 cents a minute and generally with speeds of a 2400 baud modem. Example: My work synch of email takes about 1 or 2 minutes in the morning from the house but generally took about 45 to 55 minutes. A maximum of 6 hot spots available. My suggestion is to go into town and do your work at lunch in the restaurants using their free wi-fi. Do not turn on your mobile phone till you are docked. You can encounter a $4.50 minute charge over any normal mobile phone roaming charges for usage. We wanted to do several ATV excursions but we could not purchase because the minimum age was 21 even though in the past you could rent them in Mexico. So we just followed the group and did our own ATV rides from the same company for 1/2 the price but could not go with the large group from the ship. However this was not so bad since we had our own group of the three of us and made more progress and did things the group was not able to do. Overall for our Mex Riv cruise the shopping was the best in Ixtapa. Prices for comparable items seemed to be about 25 to 50% cheaper than other ports. When doing the excursions they always seem to drop you off at their selected stores which were very expensive. So shop around the area before returning to one of the selected stores for pickup. We had a great time at our stops in Mexico and would encourage the Mex Riveria as a place to cruise.

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By Herb_CR

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Apr 1, 2010

Mexico

I just got off the Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas cruising the Mexican Riviera. As one of the highest level cruisers, it is unfortunate that I have to say this ship is tired and dirty and the luxury services that has helped Royal Caribbean maintain a 3- 4 star rating have been cut back at a cost to cruisers. While on the ship, it was routine to be confronted often during the day with broken, missing or poorly maintained structures. One

easy example was that the glass panels at the aft Windjammer dining area were highly cracked and crazed, making it impossible to sit down and view the water through them as many of us have come to enjoy. Their pool and pool area chaise lunges were always dirty and never had a pad on them. Couple that with almost a Gestapo attitude toward passenger use of towels (no one was passing them out, they were stained, dirty and holey, and passengers were faced with a $20 per towel charge if someone happened to pass by and remove your towel so you could not turn it back in. There was no champagne on boarding, no nightly chocolates, and clearly a much higher crew-to-cruiser ratio than in the past. The food was nothing to write home about and the specialty food areas of the past where cruisers could ask for pasta and other items to their taste and preferred method of preparation were non-existent! That is, mass production was the only choice. A simple pasta prepared in olive oil with your personal selection of spices was not available anywhere at any time!!! Frankly, if this is the current mode of operation on all the Royal Caribbean ships, they should have their rating decreased substantially. This is not a Cadillac, not even a Chevy, but may be becoming an Edsel or a Kia (sorry Kia!). That said, I have to note that the staff was friendly and as accommodating as they could given their reduced numbers. In particular the Diamond staff did their level best and it was certainly enough, to keep their frequent cruisers happy. If you have a choice, avoid this boat if possible until someone verifies they have addressed such issues. If these problems are Royal Caribbean wide and includes Celebrity, please post this so I don't waste my time and money on others when I clearly have so many choices for my leisure dollars. Desserts do not measure up to, say, Princess ships. No true specialty chef stations on this boat anymore. Food pretty institutional!!! Fine Fair No need to visit Manzanillo! Heavy, heavy pollution!!!!! easy example was that the glass panels at the aft Windjammer dining area were highly cracked and crazed, making it impossible to sit down and view the water through them as many of us have come to enjoy. Their pool and pool area chaise lunges were always dirty and never had a pad on them. Couple that with almost a Gestapo attitude toward passenger use of towels (no one was passing them out, they were stained, dirty and holey, and passengers were faced with a $20 per towel charge if someone happened to pass by and remove your towel so you could not turn it back in. There was no champagne on boarding, no nightly chocolates, and clearly a much higher crew-to-cruiser ratio than in the past. The food was nothing to write home about and the specialty food areas of the past where cruisers could ask for pasta and other items to their taste and preferred method of preparation were non-existent! That is, mass production was the only choice. A simple pasta prepared in olive oil with your personal selection of spices was not available anywhere at any time!!! Frankly, if this is the current mode of operation on all the Royal Caribbean ships, they should have their rating decreased substantially. This is not a Cadillac, not even a Chevy, but may be becoming an Edsel or a Kia (sorry Kia!). That said, I have to note that the staff was friendly and as accommodating as they could given their reduced numbers. In particular the Diamond staff did their level best and it was certainly enough, to keep their frequent cruisers happy. If you have a choice, avoid this boat if possible until someone verifies they have addressed such issues. If these problems are Royal Caribbean wide and includes Celebrity, please post this so I don't waste my time and money on others when I clearly have so many choices for my leisure dollars.

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Oct 14, 2009

Mexico

I loved this ship. I have never cruised on a Radiance class ship, but have been on 14 other cruises with RCI. This size suits me. Although the ads for the new Oasis look amazing, that ship may be too big for me, or other Seniors like my mom. I thought the food was great. Although we chose My Time dining, we found a waiter we liked, and re-booked with him 3 nights. So it was very like conventional dining. We ate in Chops one night and it

was fantastic. My stateroom seemed a whole lot smaller, but I usually cruise on my own; sharing always makes it seem smaller. I was never one to participate in on-board activities on my own, but cruising with my mom has given me a whole new appreciation for on-board activities. We planned our own excursions, and for different reasons both were canceled. Luckily, both tour operators were reputable. One we had pre-paid, and our money was refunded. The other, the tour operator was kind enough to explain the road was impassable and made the tour 90% transportation. We mutually agreed to cancel. The crew was awesome and very friendly. The ship itself is amazing, all the glass, and open areas. My cousin and I had a balcony on the bump out. Our mothers had a handicapped balcony which was huge. Cabo San Lucas was a bust, rained off and on all day, had to cancel our Sailboat Cruise but I made contact with them, we mutually agreed, and they issued a full refund by email the same day. We had lunch by the new Marina area, next to Senor Frog's. Great service, nice lunch. Back to the ship early to enjoy the Solarium. Note: pool towels available poolside, no checkout system, but no chair hog police, many abused this, and I was looking forward to see some of the towel chairs to be vacated, but no luck. Too soon it was the end of the cruise, we had dinner at Chops the last night and it was spectacular !

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By Ann_CR

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Sep 23, 2009

Alaska

This was our first cruise. We had done some homework and did find interesting information concerning do's and don't of cruising. There were 4 of us and we didn't want to spend alot of money so we planned walking trips around Junenu, Sagway and Ketchikan. This was great because we saw things that probably would have been missed on a guided tour. In and out of shops and talking to locals. We did google each town and got information before leaving.

Bullwinkles pizza in Junenu as a great place to eat. It is a little ways out of the tourist turf but well worth it. If you are walking around Ketchikan go to Creek street, it a quaint little sideline. We did do 3 excursions. Mendenhall glacier was great, the White Pass/Yukon railroad was awesome and had a great time at the Lumberjack show. All of these didn't cost a lot and were great fun. Hubbard Glacier was fabulous. The Radiance food was great. The dinner meals were wonderful. We are not great fish eaters and our wait staff would make adjustments when asked. We loved our waiters. Breakfast and lunch in the Windjamer cafe was pleasant, everyone ate their fill. The ship docks close in each port and we would leave in the morning return for lunch then off again to enjoy the day. The only time it seemed crowded was at dinner when the dining room was full. A hint to those cruising Alaska when you live on the east side of the US. Don't choose the 8:30 dining time. Dinners usually took 2 hours and by 10:30 ship time (there is a 4 hour time difference at home it was 2:30 in morning) all we wanted to do is go to bed (big dinners make you sleepy). We never did adjust to the time difference. We were up early for breakfast, though. Decide if your shore excursions are going to keep you away from the early dinner time. If you have a choice, plan to eat early, you will enjoy the evening much more. You can always eat in the Windjammer cafe. We shared our dining room table with a group from California and each evening we would tell our adventures of the day. What a great time laughing over our escapades. After a large dinner the midnight buffet was not enjoyed. Oh well we will plan better on the next cruise. Our stateroom was an inside room on the 4th floor. Our travel agent said that we would not be spending a lot of time in there and she was right. There was so much to see and do that the stateroom was only used to clean up, sleep and occasionally relaxing. The ships TV channels would let us know what was going on out side and the cruise director channel let us know what the highlights of the day were. There was a daily cruise compass paper that gave us the information about what was going on onboard and highlighted town interests. Our steward was great. We travel with our adult children and he kept us informed where each other went off to. Their were not early risers so Thomas was great in letting them know when we were out and about. We could not have had a better room steward than Thomas, he made our first cruise so comfortable. Our children did much more than we did and said they had a great time. They got to know the bartenders and went to a lot of the activities in the evening before dinner. We caught a couple of shows that were very entertaining. There was usually something going on all around the ship while we were cruising. On Friday we did find a quiet spot at the very back of the ship where we could enjoy the scenery of the Inside Passage, have a drink and reflect on the cruise. What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Know that if you are looking for something to do you will never be at a loss. The only down side to the ship was all the advertising of everything you could purchase on board and the constant picture taking with people dressed as eagles, lumberjacks; every port had a new costume. There were way too many picture opportunities. Hubbard Glacier was an awesome sight! We were up on deck the whole time. Mendenhall Glacier was great to but not as exciting as Hubbard. The train ride was awesome. Our table mates went on the zip lines and really got hooked. I am not sure I would enjoy getting thrown off a mountain but maybe that is something you would enjoy. We saw whales at Icy Straits. There was a group of kayakers and the whales were going right for them. I bet they had a story to tell that day. I heard many people wondering why the ship stopped at icy straits, it was mid-week and a good day to walk around, enjoy the scenery and just kick back. Overall we had a great time, we had planned for over a year to take this trip. I thought maybe we had set our expectations to high but I was not disappointed at any time. The ship is beautiful and the service is top rate. Everyone on the ship went out of his or her way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. We did get sea sick on Saturday and the medical facility was closed but the person at the reception desk was there to help. Take some Seasick gum it really does work. Overall our trip was fabulous. Before we went to Alaska I thought that would be my one and only ship trip but now I am ready to go again. We are planning a cruise to the Bahamas in the Spring. I would even like to go back to Alaska again.

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Sep 2, 2009

Seward to VanCouver

After a bumpy start where we had no hot water for roughly 4 hours, things started to improve and my wife and I had a great time. I want to site Almir in Guest Relations for his help and special hospitality. Our cabin attendent, Gil, was super, and his little towel creations were a delight. The food was tasty, had eye appeal, and the service was excellent. We thought the room was a little small but soon found we had plenty of room and with

the balcony we were very happy. We didn't really do any gambling because the place was filled with smokers. We used the Hot tub in the Spa and the pool. We did attend the dances and my wife performed on stage the last night. There was plenty to do for most any interest and the nightly stage shows were fun. Forget the "Mendehall Glacier and Salmon Bake", not worth it by any means. Go see the Mendehall by the city bus and find a good place to eat on your own. The cost is $79 each for a 3 mile bus ride and a $10 meal, we felt ripped off.

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Aug 16, 2009

Alaska- Vancouver to Sewerd

Our experience on beautiful Radiance of the Seas was AMAZING! The staff was so friendly and informative, and Alaska scenery is just unimaginable! The shows were excellent- broadway style, the food was great, especially from Choppes Grille and Portofino's, and the staff was just so friendly and accomodating in every way. I recommend this cruise to anyone with children- the ship has a great childrens program. Embarktion and disembarktion were fairly

easy. I recommend the Denail post cruise tour. It is really, really beautiful, and something you can NEVER see anywhere else. The food was amazing! The waiters, headwaiters, and assistant waiters were all so generous and attentive. I would definitley recommend Choppes and Portofino. The food and service in both of those places was just what you would expect from a five star restaurant- better even! The desserts and great and the food is just outstanding. The staterooms are small. They are big enough considering you are only in them to sleep, but imagine half the size of a decent hotel room. There is a queen sized bed, a television, a closet with a lot of space, a few mirrors, a very small bathroom, and a vanity with a chair. I recommend getting a room with a balcony. We saw so much just sitting on that balcony. We saw dolphins as the ship was leaving Vancouver, we saw whales many, many times. We saw the beautiful, blue, giant icebergs floating by as we neared Hubbard Glacier, and there were baby seals sitting on icebergs, as well as a family of seals living in the harbor in Skagway. The onboard activities were great! They had things for all kinds of people, and activities going on all the time. Ziplining in Juneau and Hoonah (icy strait) is a must! Crab fishing in Ketchikan is also fantastic. You see eagles fly down and grab fish out of the water. I also recommend the Glacier and Gardens tour in Juneau. It is really, really beautiful! We flew to Vancouver and stayed there for three nights. We are from Massachusetts, so it was a very long flight. We were going to stay at Best Western Sands by the Seas, but the rooms had a mildewy odor to them, and it was just overall and awful hotel, so we switched to the Vancouver Surrey Sheraton for the other two nights. It was a forty minute drive, but the quality and the service were well worth it. I recommend the Vancouver aquarium. On the ship, we ate in the dining room for breakfast, the Winjammer or Seaview Cafe for lunch, and the dining room, or a specialty restaurant for dinner. It was excellent, and I would definitley sail with RCI again!

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By Mike_CR

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Jun 14, 2009

Vancouver to Seaward

Great Cruise! Great Staff! Be sure and get a balcony for the Alaska cruise. My wife and I really enjoyed this ship, staff and cruise. I recommend it to everybody. Personal attention was paid by a very friendly staff. It was a very comfortable ship with all you could ask for. The entertainment was as good as you could expect during a cruise. The rooms were excellent, clean, new, comfortable and great balcony! There were plenty of

on board activities, you will not get bored! We had a great time on this trip.

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May 24, 2009

Alaska

Radiance needa a dining room overhaul, but the crew was fantastic. The room was always clean and the dining room staff was on top of things. Entertainment was ok with the comedians being the best. Excursions were great but wonder why the ship stops in icy strait point - not much going on there. The food in the Windjammer was not hot and had teh same things day in and day out. Dining room had two chickens, two pastas and two mediterranean choices

along with a few beef and pork choices.The food was a step down from previous cruises. Fruit was not ripe even at the end of the cruise. Dessert was great, even the sugar-free adn low fat versions! The room was always clean, but the bathroom is small, especially the shower. Since you are not really in teh room much, the size is ok. We were in balcony room 7166 and the view was a bit obscurred by a ladder rack and a moveable work platform. You had to look out over this, but the balcony was larger than others. If you have been on more than two cruises, activites get old. There is not really a lot going on, but there are a lot of exercising activities. Bingo, a couple of days, but not a whole lot a diversity. If you have kids - our grandkids (five and seven-years-old)loved the ocean adventure. The leaders kept the kids active and had a lot planned. Our grandkids would have slept there, they loved it so much. Icy Strait Point was the biggest waste of time. Don't go into town as there is two stores and nothing really to see. Whale Watching/Mendenhall Glacier Tour in Juneau was great. Binoculars were provided for all on the tour. We saw humpback and orca whales. In Kechikan, definitely go on the Alaska King Crab Boat excursion. The crew takes you out into the bay and shows you how king crabs, Opedlia (Snow) crabs are caught and takes you to the bald eagles. Don't worry about getting sea sick as you are not in rough waters. They also supplied snacks and jackets, as the wind did pick up. Well worth the money! Overall we had a great time with great weather (temps were in the high 60's to low 70's) with no rain at all. The crew made the trip fun but the disembarkment needs work. We were suppose to be the first off the ship as we had a 10:58 am plane, but got called in the 5th group at 8:45 am. Will definitely cruise again on Royal Caribbean, but hope they stop with the cutbacks!

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Mar 30, 2009

South America

Royal Caribbean cruise Radiance of the seas was a pleasure to sail on. I did the 16 night trip from Sao Paulo to Santiago Chile and had a great time. The food was ok, but everything else was perfect. The food has gone down hill. We had surf and turf one night and the surf was small...it looked like they took a 6oz tail and spilt it into 4...it was truly embrrassing. Rooms were clean, large and very nice. Had pleanty to do...never a dull

minute if you choose to do it all. All the excrusrions were good, a tad expensive but most were well worth it. An adventure to remeber. The Captain even took the ship to a glaicer and it was not planned.

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Mar 19, 2008

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: We stayed in Miami Beach for two days before the cruise, so on Sunday morning we took a shuttle (FloridaLimo) to Port Everglades, USD19 per person. The shuttle picked us up at 10:45, we had one more stop in a Miami downtown hotel, and from there took off to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at the port at 11:30. There was a long line to get on the ship, we had done online check-in through the RCI website, but everyone else had too,

so I am not sure if it helped. We waited about 45 minutes in line (at least there were chairs), but after we got to the actual check-in counter it was about 5 minutes and we were on the ship. About the luggage, one of our suitcases was delivered around 5PM, the other I went to get on my own since at 8PM still hadn't been delivered, I found it right away by the guest relations area, the tag had fallen off. The The ship is BEAUTIFUL. I had seen a lot of pictures online and still was breathtaking, everything looks clean, nicely decorated, everywhere you look there is either a nice painting, or art, or a nice corner with sofas.. it feels comfy and pampering. It also has a lot of glass windows, which means beautiful views and lots of light. The main dining room, Cascades, is a beautiful two floor (4th and 5th), with an actual cascade by the staircase connecting the two floors. The atrium goes from the 4th floor to the 12th, very impressive, with beautiful glass elevators which look out either to the atrium or to the ocean! Speaking of elevators, sometimes they were hard to catch, it took a bit of time for them to arrive, but because our stateroom was in the front of the ship we would take the front elevators which were usually empty. The Aurora theatre is also two floors (5th and 6th), in the front of the ship, very nice. We at the front of the 4th floor never heard a thing. The pool area is very nice, with the pool bar, the pool (a bit too small, and you could definitely feel it on the one sea day we had) and two Jacuzzis. We only had trouble getting chairs on one day at sea, people just left a towel and a book and would go for ages. Close to it is the Windjammer Café, and to the other side the Solarium, which is decorated like a forest/safari, with a pool (small too) and a Jacuzzi. Next to the Solarium is the Spa. On the 12th floor there is the gym, with (numbers are estimate) about 10 treadmills, 6 elliptical trainers, 3 stationary bikes, free weights and weight machines, and in the middle (where they do the classes) there are mats, and steps. There is also a climbing wall, mini golf, a few bars, two specialty restaurants, a small basketball court for kids, running track, discotheque, video arcade, casino… We almost didn't feel the ship move, you would forget you are sailing, only on the 4th night when leaving Grand Cayman there were strong currents or winds and the ship rocked quite a bit! It was a little uncomfortable but nothing major. I think the average age of the ship must have been around 45-50… there were quite a few young couples like us (we are both 29), there was a majority I think of people around 50, and some older people too. There weren't many kids (at least I hardly saw them) which was great for us at this point. The Stateroom: We originally booked an inside cabin on the 9th floor, but were upgraded to a large ocean view on the 4th floor, towards the front of the ship, 4518. We loved both the location and the stateroom. The 4th floor is where the Centrum, guest relations, and dining room are, so we always felt right in the middle of things. On the other hand, because we were in the front (had kind of a long walk to get there, but that's OK) there was almost no noise, which was great. We would only hear when people were talking loudly in the corridor, but it didn't happen much. The room is a connecting room, but we never heard noise from there. The stateroom was beautiful, we were expecting a really small room so we were pleasantly surprised, the size was OK, I think 170 sq. ft, we were able to move without feeling restricted at all. There is a big bed (new bedding) which was really comfortable, two little side tables by it, a two person sofa with a small round table in front of it, and on the other side a desk with the TV on the side, a mini fridge, and a safe. There is enough storage room, the closet has a side for hanging and a side with about 5 shelves, and there are little cabinets on the sides of the desk and above the TV, and 6 drawers on the sides of the desk. The bathroom is small but we were comfortable enough, well lighted, with a nice mirror. The only thing we didn't like was the shower pressure, way too weak. The Food: Windjammer Café: We loved the look and casual atmosphere of the Windjammer, and especially liked seating outside. We had breakfast there every day, and lunch every day except for the Sea Day, when the main dining room was open. We really enjoyed breakfast there, there were all kinds of breads, cereal, muffins, donuts, two omelet stations, fruit, pancakes, waffles, bacon, hash browns, sausages, cheeses, processed meats, etc. Lunch was buffet style, not as good as breakfast to me, you could find good things but other were just OK. They had pizza, burgers, hot dogs, a good salad station, sandwiches, meats, rice, potatoes, pasta. They had two dessert stations, which were sometimes not so good, sometimes really good. They had cakes, pies, cookies, fruit, etc, and two soft serve frozen yogurt machine. I especially liked a chocolate pie (I think one of the best ever, surprisingly). From 3-5 PM they had snacks which were a shorter version of lunch (usually less of the hot foods like the meats/rice/pasta, and I think they didn't have the pizza either but you could get it by the solarium and maybe the Seaview Café). Main Dining Room: For dinner we were seated in a table for four (second dining), with a couple from Texas who were on their honeymoon. They were very nice and we enjoyed our time with them, although I think for our next cruise I would prefer either a larger table where there are more people to interact with, or just the two of us. There where two formal nights, the first on night 2, the second on night 5. Dinner at the dining room was very good, the menu was relatively short (but changes daily), about 4 appetizers, a salad, 5-6 main entrees, 4 deserts, plus the standard entrees (which are the same every day). But you always had what to choose from, I never had one of the standard entrees since I was always tempted with the specials, and you know you won't have them any other day. Some of the best things I had (do not miss!): Appetizers: The Escargot and the Spinach Dip were the best. Entrees: The Shrimp ravioli was delicious, the Fisherman's Plate (lobster and shrimp) and the NY Steak were very enjoyable too. Desserts: Apple Pie a la mode, Strawberry Cheesecake, there is a dessert called "Dessert Sampler" with three items of which the chocolate fudge cake is great and the other two are just OK. Also the Key Lime Pie is the best, and the Brownie Madness is very rich and yummy. Midnight Buffets: We had two buffets, one was the Cari-Mex buffet, the other was the Gala buffet. In both the quality of the food was just not good enough, even the desserts, which I usually love, I didn't like and didn't eat more than 1 or 2 bites. Room Service: We only had it once (3rd night) since we fell asleep and woke up at 9PM, too late for dinner at the main dining room or Windjammer. They offer the standard entrees from the dining room I think. The food was not good, it just had no taste, even the chocolate cake was bad, nothing like the dinning room, or even the Windjammer, I was disappointed. The Service: All through the ship the service was great, people are friendly, always helpful. Our stateroom attendant was Mike from Jamaica, he came by at least twice a day, always did a great job. In the evening besides tidying up he would leave us the Compass for the next day, chocolate on our pillows, and an animal made of towels. The first day we asked for extra pillows and for him to remove the drinks from the fridge so we could put other things if we wanted. Our waiter was Vic from Peru and his assistant John from India. Vic was so friendly, very professional but treated us almost like friends. John was quiet, and did a great job, I never had my water glass less than 3/4 full. The staff was very nice at the Windjammer café, bringing us drinks, cleaning around, filling up trays, and picking up plates, although sometimes they were slow at picking up the plates. Sometimes we would go for a snack in the afternoon when the café was almost empty, and all the tables by the window would be empty but have dirty plates on it. That's my only complaint. The Ports: In general, getting on and off the ship was a breeze, we docked at Key West, Cozumel (they were expecting to tender but finally we docked) and at Montego Bay. We had to tender at Grand Cayman, but we weren't in a rush and got lucky because when we went to get off the ship at around 11:00 (they started tendering at 10:00) there was a long line that hadn't moved in a while (people were getting very anxious) but all of a sudden started moving, so within 3 minutes we were on the tender. Key West: We arrived there at 7:00 and walked around the port, it is very nice there, saw the ship in full from the outside for the 1st time, we were amazed. Then we walked on Whitehead Street, saw the Court House (my boyfriend is a lawyer so he was interested), Hemingway's home, and the Southernmost point. We came back also by foot on Duval street, which had lots of shops and bars, we sat at "The Bull" bar which had an Elvis impersonator singing and dancing, and a "buy one get one free" offer on Margaritas. We boarded the ship around 1:00, departure was at 2:00, and we went up to the HeliPad and saw dolphins swimming by the sides of the ship, it was great! We never got to see them again at any other port though. Cozumel: We did the "Catamaran Sail, Snorkel & Beach Break", which was just OK. We sailed in a catamaran for a bit while he explained how to use the snorkel equipment etc, and then took us to the reef where we would snorkel for 45 minutes, which was actually really close to the ship. The snorkeling was fun to me because it was my first time but even though there were many fish, we didn't see anything too special. After that they took us in the catamaran to a beach about 15 minutes away, the ride was fun, but the beach was nothing special and there was nothing to do there. We had to stay there for one hour. Some people who bought the same package with lunch ate there, the food (burgers I think) didn't look so good and the place looked dirty. One nice perk to this excursion was that there was free drinks, soda, beer and margaritas, so some people did have a very good time, and on the ride back from the beach to the port there was some dancing on the Catamaran. Bottom line for us: USD58 pp seems too much for 45' of snorkeling in a not so special reef, and margaritas made of mainly juice and ice. We got to the port about an hour before we had to embark, so we took a cab downtown (USD6 each way) and looked around a bit, it was nice, just a few blocks. Grand Cayman: It was really hot there. We tendered right next to their commercial area, so we walked around a bit and took a shuttle to 7 Mile Beach (USD5 I think), which was beautiful, the most amazing water I have ever seen, and very cooling too. We stayed there for 2-3 hours and took the shuttle back, hang around downtown, shops, Margaritaville, etc, and went back to the ship at 3PM, didn't have to wait for the tender either since it was still early, no line. Montego Bay: Wow, crazy place. I didn't like it too much, my boyfriend did though. We went to downtown (shuttle, the ships docks far) and took a cab (license tourist guide) for a one hour tour, at USD30. He took us to the hill where you see the city from above, and drove us around the town. The driver was a young guy and seemed really nice actually, we asked him a lot of questions about Jamaica. Still, it was kind of scary to me in the beginning. We got off the cab at Doctors Cave beach (private, USD5 fee p.p) and stayed there for about 2 hours, the water was really nice, but the beach was relatively small for the amount of people who were in there. Then we walked around the shops on the Hip Strip and back to the ship after that. In general the ports were really nice, I personally didn't like the whole shopping influence you get on the ship, I would prefer a more "discover new places" approach, but I guess that's not what brings revenue. In any case, we did our thing, and only bought little souvenirs and some shirts. Entertainment on Board: There were a lot of activities going around at all times, by the pool, in the bars, etc. I really liked the bartender demonstration on the last day, the karaoke was fun (Colony Club), and some bands were really good, especially the jazz (I think by the RoS orchestra) who played in the Hollywood Odyssey, and also the band Hott Sands that plays by the pool in the afternoons was really good. Other activities: bingo, dancing, dancing classes, movies, the list goes on forever. The shows at the Aurora Theatre were OK in general, nothing really stood out. We say the "City of Dreams" production, the dancers and singers were good, but in general it wasn't so good. The "Piano Man" was more enjoyable, still, could be better, especially considering that the dancers and singers have talent. We went to the "Love & Marriage" game, which we thought was nice for an afternoon by the pool, not an evening entertainment. And we also saw the last Farewell show which was a bit better. The CD was Gavin, we both didn't like him, he has no charisma and is just not funny. I hope we have better luck with the CD next time. Debarkation: It was pretty easy, we took our two suitcases out the night before (by 11:00), and kept a carry on to put out clothes from the night before, pajamas, and necessities. We left the stateroom at 8:00 and went to the Windjammer for our last breakfast there. We had purple tags which were called closer to the end, so we waited until around 10:00, which was OK, it was nice to sit there for the last time, chat with some of the waiters, and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.

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Mar 19, 2008

Bahamas

This is a review of our spring break cruise on the brand new Radiance of the Seas. There were 3 of us including my wife and our 15-year-old son. Before embarking on it’s maiden season of Alaskan and Southern Caribbean cruises, RCI was offering several short ‘reduced rate’ cruises to nowhere on the Radiance from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale starting March 24th. Our particular cruise was the 3 night embarking March 26, and was the first cruise

scheduled for paying customers. The actual maiden voyage of the Radiance was set for April 7th, a 14 day trip through the Panama Canal as the ship heads to Alaska for the summer. The Radiance is a brand new class of ship for Royal Caribbean. At around 90,000 tons it is supposed to bring together some of the best aspects of both the Vision and Voyager class vessels while still being able to navigate the Panama Canal, spending half her time in Alaska and the other half in the southern Caribbean. Before going any farther I need to answer the question of why take such a short cruise, especially since we had to travel a long distance just to get to Miami. In fact, our only previous cruise was a short cruise aboard the Disney Magic 2 years ago and I swore then I would never take a short cruise again because it was over too soon (though that experience did hook us on cruising). However, there were several compelling reasons we decided to go on this cruise. First of all was the price. I received an e-mail in early January from a large Internet cruise agency advertising special prices on this ship in March and April. Even for a short cruise I thought they were misprints. I called, verified the price, and booked on the spot. I was also able to secure really reasonable airfare to Florida. I have found you can get good rates most any time of the year, even during peak periods, if you just look for them. The Internet is an invaluable tool in this regard. Second was the itinerary. This cruise was originally to be sailing only, with no ports of call. So, unlike most short cruises that sail only at night and are docked at Nassau and maybe a private island during the day, we would get to spend the whole time on the ship and take advantage of all she has to offer. Just what we wanted as it turned out the itinerary was changed, a fact I will discuss later. Third was the chance to be among the first passengers on a brand new ship. I know many people avoid initial cruises on a ship because of the anticipated problems that occur. No doubt it takes awhile to get everything to work correctly, and for the crew to get their act together. However, this is why it was a reduced rate cruise in the first place. We decided up front to accept the fact that there would be problems, and just go with the flow and enjoy ourselves. Fourth (but first in level of importance) was to spend some quality time with our youngest son, who at 15 is not far from joining his brother and sister in the real world. Lastly, my e-mail friends Tom and Mary Milano, who have taken over 20 cruises the past 4 years with various cruise lines and write wonderful reviews of both their cruise experiences and their views on life convinced me that Royal Caribbean gives the most bang for the buck for average folks like us, and here was an economical chance to prove them right. They were! We arrived at the cruise terminal in Miami at about 1:00 on Monday, March 26, unloaded our bags, and then I took our rental car around the corner to the Avis location. It was about 1:15 when we actually entered the terminal. Unfortunately, we had not beaten the rush as I had hoped (traffic on I-95 was terrible) and had to wait in a rather long line. The line moved quickly, however, and we stepped on board about 40 minutes later. My first impression as we walked on board was that the ship was an engineering and artistic marvel. It was stunning. My son was almost speechless, as he had never seen anything like it, and believe me that does not happen often. I will attempt to describe the ship from the bottom up, and then reflect upon other aspects such as the itinerary, food, service, cabins, etc. You enter the ship on the 5th or promenade deck where the lifeboat drills are held. After winding through an attractive shopping area you came to the heart of the ship, the Centrum that was truly beautiful. It extended from the 4th deck all the way to the top with overhanging balconies on each level. On either side of the Centrum was a glass wall that extended up to the 10th deck, flooding the area with daylight. Unlike previous RCI ships the bank of elevators in the Centrum were on the port side instead of centered and the exterior elevators went up alongside the glass wall so you could look out over the ocean as you rode. Same was true for the interior elevators that looked out over the Centrum as you rode them. There was another bank of elevators in the bow, centrally located, but none in the stern, only stairs, which made for some long walks for people with rooms in the back. The Centrum lobby, lobby bar and guest relations desk were on the 4th deck. There was adequate seating in the lobby and an open area for dancing or congregating. There was also a large seating area alongside the glass wall overlooking the Centrum on the 5th deck. Live music was played in the Centrum lobby much of the time. The dining room, Cascades, was located from mid ship back on both the 4th and 5th decks, with a beautiful staircase connecting both levels, and two lines of majestic columns running the length of the room. It was truly elegant. There were also floor to ceiling windows from the front to the back both levels. Access to the dining room from the Centrum area was available on either level so that you could walk to your table without having to use the staircase. The Aurora Theater was also multi level and located up front on the 5th and 6th decks. It was truly state-of-the-art with a beautiful multi-colored curtain on the stage. The design of the theater was what I would call modernistic. Seats were stadium theater type with large cup holders. A bar was in the back of the auditorium. As I mentioned earlier, the shopping area was on the 5th deck and included a coffee shop and bookstore called Books, Books, and Coffee, which is supposed to a scaled down version of a Borders Bookstore or equivalent. It was only open a few hours on our cruise as they were still putting it together and I never got to visit it. Working back from the Aurora Theater on the 6th deck was a movie theater and a large (and active) casino. After crossing the Centrum area you entered a nightclub / entertainment area that included the nautically appointed Schooner Bar (including the appropriate nautical smells as you entered), and an area called the Colony Club which featured a billiard room, a card playing room, another lounge, and a stage area for other entertainers. The billiard tables are unique in that they will always be level, no matter how rough the sea may be. The Schooner Bar featured a piano player/songtress that had a large following each night. Also located in this area were the alternative restaurants, Portofino’s and Chops Grill, which featured hefty $20.00 per person cover charges. I looked in both and they were elegantly appointed but not enough to entice me to spend extra money to eat there. Decks 7 through 10 were all cabins. All the exterior cabins on these decks had balconies, with the expensive suites being on the 10th deck. The less expensive cabins were all on decks 2 through 4, with the outside cabins featuring large portholes. If you want a less expensive cabin on this ship (certainly the best values) you better book it early because they are not that many of them. Deck 11 had the Shipshape spa area, a stunning solarium pool area decorated in an African motif fronted by several elephant statues, the main pool area, and the Windjammer Café. The latter was large and airy with windows all around. I thought it was an extremely attractive area for casual dining. The various serving stations were adequately spaced so that you were not always bumping into others, and there was enough seating both inside and out to meet the demands of the breakfast and lunch rush times. My son camped out here. Many people commented that the Solarium was the most impressive and beautiful part of the ship. The 12th deck had the children’s program areas, including a children’s pool with a long slide, an outdoor sports court, a golf simulator, and the Shipshape fitness area. . There was also the Seaside Café, a small eatery at the stern that served late night snacks from 11:00 on. I actually thought the food here was the best served on the ship. My son also camped out here. The main sunning areas were around the main pool on deck 11 and overlooking the pool and down either side on deck 12. The main pool area was nice, but not overly large. There is not enough room on these 2 decks to accommodate everyone that would want a deck chair on days when the ship is at sea thus the necessity to stake out a deck chair early. Finally, the 13th deck featured the rock climbing wall and carpet golf area, both at the stern, and RCI’s traditional Viking Crown area that was divided into a pulsating disco and a much more laid back lounge. Now that you have a feel for the layout of the ship let me give my impressions about the ship and this particular cruise. There were problems of course, lots of them. You heard apologies from the crew all day long. Many cabins had no ice buckets or glasses. Quite a few people did not get their luggage the first night until after 9:00. Second seating dinner the first night was delayed for 45 minutes and overall service in the dining room was very inconsistent. Room service was extremely slow. Lots of things like that, but one should expect that in a shakedown cruise, which is what this was. A far as I know most of the problems were of the annoying variety, not really critical. On the cruise immediately following ours, however, there was reported to be serious water damage caused by faulty seals on doors and windows when the ship encountered a strong storm with high winds. Now for a few detailed observations: The Itinerary: It turned out not to be a cruise to nowhere. Instead, we went to Nassau the first full day. There were some complaints from passengers but the cruise line has the right to change the itinerary for whatever reason and we understood that going in. My son really enjoyed sailing into Nassau’s harbor, turning around, and docking next to other ships. We dwarfed them. While I probably would not have booked the cruise if I had known up front that we were going to Nassau, it was no problem. In fact I got some beautiful video of the ship from the dock area. The weather was great all 3 days we were on the ship and we were able to experience everything on her we wanted to. The full day at sea was particularly nice. The Service: Very spotty but this was a very green, inexperienced crew. I was told that 50% or more had never been on a ship. It is going to take some time to indoctrinate them into the RCI way of doing things. The dining room staff in particular had a lot of problems, with some of the assistant waiters not having a clue as to what to do. This caused a lot of tension between the waiters and assistants. On all three nights there were mistakes on our orders and it was clear that the waiters could not be counted on yet for making dining suggestions. Our cabin attendant did the best she could, considering she had to come up with makeshift ice buckets, glasses, etc. Room service was late both mornings with our breakfast, but to their credit on the second day they called and apologized for the delay and inquired if we still wanted them to bring the food. We appreciated that. I want to point out, however, that the crew tried hard under difficult circumstances and that is what was important to us. They were to a person friendly and willing to help, and always had a pleasant greeting. I know some people probably under tipped the cabin attendants and wait staff but we thought they did an admiral job under the conditions and gave them the recommended amounts. I am sure RCI will quickly mould them into a superb crew. The Food: I sometimes have a problem with people who go on a cruise and suddenly become food critics when I know they mostly eat out at places like Chili’s and Applebee’s. That certainly describes us. And let’s be honest, people have different likes and dislikes when it comes to food, so that any comments about it are subjective at best. However, in this case I would be charitable if I said the food was anything better than average. The main problem was inconsistency. For example, dinners in the dining room were very inconsistent in their quality and presentation and that included all aspects from appetizers to desserts. For lunches the Windjammer always had a nice variety of hot and cold items and desserts and what I had was tasty and nicely presented. Breakfast from room service, despite being late, was above average, plentiful and filling, but the breakfast served to us in the main dining room on the morning of debarkation was rushed and hurried and the hot items (eggs, etc.) were barely lukewarm. On the other hand, the sandwiches, snacks, and desserts served late nights in the Seaview Grill were really good. However, we did not have to prepare the food or clean up the mess, so we had no real complaints. It was certainly as good or better than what you receive in the above-mentioned chains. The food is mass-produced, not gourmet, and I am amazed they do as good a job as they do. I am confident this area will show marked improvement over the next few weeks and months. The Cabins: We had a balcony cabin on the 8th deck. It may be ages before we have one again. The balcony was surprisingly large with a small table and 2 nice size chairs. While not the largest cabins afloat, they were extremely well designed. There was more than adequate room to store things, and the furniture and fixtures were of a very high quality. The circular shower curtain in the bathroom ingeniously doubled the effective size of the shower. We had a triple and the third bed came out of the ceiling and was above and perpendicular to the main bed. This is fine if you have children with you but an elderly person would have a hard time climbing into this bed. You would have to go to a quad to get a couch that also makes into a bed. As I mentioned earlier, the best values on this ship are the less expensive cabins on the lower decks but there are not that many of them. I would not have booked a balcony cabin if it had not been for the special pricing we received, but we certainly enjoyed and took advantage of it. The Entertainment: I thought the entertainment was good to excellent. The RCI ensemble cast of singers and dancers put on two high energy shows featuring pop and rock music. A couple of the dancers were really good and the singers could all sing in key and we could understand every word. The sound system was excellent. The real highlight was the second night when a ventriloquist, Ronn Lucas, was the featured act. He was tremendous and had the entire audience in stitches. I did not check out all the other entertainment but the trio that played evenings in the Centrum lobby was good and the piano player/songstress in the Schooner Bar attracted a very large following. Final thoughts on the ship: It is a beautiful, beautiful ship and is yet another advancement in ship design and function, of which RCI seems to be in the forefront. The new vibrationless propulsion system is so good that you hardly know you are on a ship, especially if you are cruising at less than maximum speed. On the cruise immediately following ours the ship encountered 80 mph winds and torrential rains and people were more concerned about the water damage than the rough ride. I think RCI did a very smart thing by having the Radiance go on several short shakedown cruises before launching into it’s regular schedule. It is easier for one to put up with the annoying problems encountered on a new ship on a short cruise rather than on a longer one. When they get their act together, which I am sure will be soon; this is going to be a very popular ship, which will garner consistently high reviews. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and my son had the absolute time of his life. As we were pulling away in our rental car there was a tinge of sadness, like one has when saying goodbye to an old friend. That best describes our trip. Considering what we paid for this cruise it was more than worth it, problems and all. We would definitely sail RCI again if the opportunity presents itself. Any comments or questions are welcome. My e-mail address is wolfstl@juno.com .

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Aug 10, 2007

Alaska

This was my 35 wedding anniversary cruise to Alaska for my wife and I. We did the land portion first for 7 days, and then the Southward bound 7 day cruise. I have gone on at least 5 other cruises in my life, several of them 21+ days, but that was 32 years ago. My wife had never gone a cruise so she had nothing to compare this experience to other than the level of service and food she was accustomed to when we traveled. My wife tells

me that I set my expectations to high; I judge the level of service by how we are treated at the Fairmont Hotels, or for that matter, one of the better hotels on the strip in Las Vegas like Bellagio or Caesar's. This was nothing like that, the accountants are running the hospitality aspects of the ship and it reflects poorly on the company. Here are two very small, annoying processes that have been put in place on board ship. Number one, you cannot run a tab. Every time you order a drink you must close out the tab. This is very annoying especially during dinner. Number two, when I ordered the mixed drinks they tasted quite a bit off and I struck up a conversation with the bartender. As it turned out, no matter what the drink called for only an ounce and a half of liquor could be placed in any one drink. Whatever you do don’t ask for an Irish Coffee since the only place that can server/mix both coffee and alcohol is the Starbuck like coffee stand on the 5 level, and your wait for the beverage will be substantial as the wait staff runs between resources obtaining and the ingredients and then doing the booking to charge you. As you can imagine, if the process has gotten down two the beverage level it has become pervasive in all aspects of ship life. The food at it’s best is mediocre and you always felt rushed. This also applies to the two other premium restaurants alternatives on board. We were fortunate in that on our stateroom level we had access to a concierge, so we worked all our fixes through him. He was a God-send since when you were forced to work with the rest of he crew they did not see to understand the concept of “accommodating” the guests requests. The front desk would typically say no to requests that were a little off the norm without offering you any other alternatives or possibilities even with the proper handshake. My wife enjoyed herself but I strongly feel that I did not receive fair value for my money.

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Mar 24, 2007

Western Caribbean

Our trip was amazing and very relaxing. We had beautiful weather 80 to 85 degrees and no rain! I guess they said it rained almost the whole week before us, you never know with the Caribbean. It was windy, but very humid. The Radiance ship was beautiful with lots of dark woods, water falls and more. The 2 level dinning rooms were so pretty with water falls by the staircase. It had a fun 9 hole miniature golf course. We loved the pool deck

area and a separate solarium pool that had a safari atmosphere. Kids pool area had a cute water slide… this ship was just so much fun! At 10am we took a shuttle to the ship and boarded the Radiance of The Seas Royal Caribbean for our 6 night Cruise to the Caribbean. We were on at 11:30am and toured the ship and took photos while the ship was empty and then at 1pm we were able to go find our room. We were on deck 7 room 7648… We had a gorgeous balcony room and it was the best experience. Each night we left the screen open and listened to the ocean and woke up looking at the beautiful ocean. We ate a few times on our balcony, but watching the sunset in private was very romantic. The room was absolutely stunning, it was a queen bed, no 2 bed joined together. It had a fridge, a nice size bathroom and we felt like we had so much room - it was great. So after hanging out in our room for a bit we got into our swim suites and headed to deck 11 to lay out and enjoy some daiquiris in the hot sun. Cruise compass said 81 degrees. We were up at the pool deck for a good 4 hours and enjoyed the set sail party at 5pm and watched us leave port and head into the Atlantic Ocean. We then went back to the room watched some more from the balcony and then showered and got ready for the welcome aboard show at 7:30pm. We loved our Cruise Director Kiron Buffery and we enjoyed the singers and dancers and Orchestra. We went to 2nd seating dinner at 8:30pm, which we had chosen. We personally liked the 2nd seating better we never once felt rushed to get to dinner. At some ports we didn’t even get back onto the ship until 7 so having 2nd seating we were able to stay out on the Island longer. Our cruise to the Bahamas we had 1st seating at 6, but we felt rushed at times. We loved our table, we sat at table 461. By the end of the cruise we all felt like such good friends. For dinner our first night Brian started with the chicken noodle soup and I had the Tuscan Basil Tomato soup. Main course Brian had the Slow Roasted Prim Rib with seasoned vegetables and a baked potato and I had the Orange chicken with seasoned vegetables with also a baked potato. Ending with us both having the apple alamode with vanilla ice cream for desert. After dinner we went to the Colony Club for the 11:00 to midnight Karaoke. We really enjoyed rocking out and dancing it was so fun. After Karaoke we went back to our room and sat on the balcony for awhile and enjoyed listening and watching the waves. Day 2 Key West, Florida arrived at 7am 80 degrees. We were up at Windjammer for breakfast at 7:30 and off the ship at 9pm. We loved Key West it was our favorite port of call. There weren’t too many other ships docked so it wasn’t too crowded. We enjoyed the shopping there the most as well. First we walked to the shops area and got some things for the kids and our selves and then enjoyed the scenes of ship wrecks, towers and more. We went to the Aquariums which were only $30.00 for the both of us and we saw all kinds of cool things. We enjoyed the feeding to the turtles and sharks and we pet stingrays. The tour guide came to each of us to touch the baby shark. It felt like sand paper. We loved it at the aquariums. We strolled down Duval Street and stopped at Hard Rock Cafe and got traditional shot glasses and shirts for the kids and our selves. We then made a stop at a huge tourist spot called Sloppy Jo’s Bar and Grill and enjoyed it there for a bit and got some souvenirs there as well. We walked a lot, but we never felt crowded or bord. We were back on the ship at 1:30pm and watched us sail away from Key West at 2pm. We went up to Sea View Café which replaces Johnny Rockets. We loved Sea View Cafe, liked it better then Johnny Rockets actually. I always had the chicken strips and Onion Rings or a Caesar salad or the chips and chili and Brian usually had the juicy hamburger and fry’s or onion rings. At Johnny Rockets you have to pay 3.95 per person and pay extra for shakes but at Sea View café it’s all free included and tons of deserts as well to choose from. It tasted yummy! Day 3 Cozumel, Mexico 85 degrees arrived at 11:00am. We didn’t get to Mexico until 11 today so it was nice to get up and eat in the main dinning room for breakfast today. We loved eating breakfast in the main dinning room last cruise we ate at Windjammer every morning and never tried the main dinning breakfast, ooh way better then Windjammer so this cruise we only had windjammer 2 times. Windjammer is good with lots of selection, but the main dinning room was a little fancier. We watched us arrive in Cozumel Mexico and went up to the very front of the ship; we parked side by side to Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of The Seas, which is their largest ship. It was a lot of fun to see the ship and compare a bit. At 11:00am we went down to deck 2 to get off the ship we went to some shops right at the port area. We found a cab and headed to Chankanaab Park. We checked into our excursion and they said we didn’t need to meet for another 2 hours so we enjoyed walking around the park and seeing the iguanas and we walked up and down the beach and laid out in the sun. We went to our Royal swim with Dolphins excursion which we booked through shore trips at 1pm. This was the best thing we’ve done yet! We had to watch a short video and then we got into the water with 2 dolphins we were in a group of 8 and we stood in a straight line and the dolphin came right up to us so we could pet him and her. They did some tricks then bowed and waived to us for “your welcome” One by one we then got to do the Tarsal drag whom we hold onto there fins and they pull us… a lot of fun. After that we one by one held the dolphins in the water going over our arms. We then one by one did the foot push. Which they come underneath you, grab your legs and push you up into the air. That was amazing. Then the dolphin came up to us one by one and gave us a hug and a kiss. That was so sweet. This was so fun and something I’d always wanted to do along with Brian. We had a blast. After our excursion we took a cab over to Hard Rock Café got our traditional souvenirs and shared a plate of nachos. After Hard Rock we headed back to the ship and were on the ship at 5:30pm We had a perfect view of the Freedom of The Seas ship from our balcony and were having conversations with people on their balconies. We got to waive good bye and watch them leave port right before we left which was cool watching. We left port at 6pm and said good bye to Cozumel, Mexico. . Day 4 Grand Cayman 86 degrees arrived 11:00am. We again ate breakfast in the main dinning room. We tendered in Grand Cayman and so we had to get a tender ticket and couldn’t get off the ship until they called our name. As we waited we went to deck 13 and played miniature golf. We went to the solarium and relaxed in the pool for a bit and Brian had a hot dog. Then at 12:30 they called our # so we went to deck 2 to get off the ship. We shopped right by port for a bit then went and found the post office and sent a post card out. We then went to Hard Rock Café, we are Hard Rock fans, visit them everywhere! After Hard Rock we got a cab and went to 7 Mile Beach. We laid out got some daiquiri’s and rented a jet ski! The Jet Ski cost 80.00 for 30mins, but the guy was laid back we had it out for like a hour and a half he didn’t charge us extra. That was beautiful jet skiing in the turquoise blue clear waters along 7 mile beach. We had a blast doing that. Swam in the beach I found some sea shells for the kids and then we walked all they down 7 mile beach back to the port. That walk was gorgeous and I got some really pretty pictures, but it took us an hour and a half. The exercise was very nice. We took the tender back to the ship at 6:30. \ Day 5 Montego Bay, Jamaica 85 degrees arrived at 8:00am. We ate breakfast up in the Windjammer this morning. We got off the ship at 8:45am and went to the meeting area for our excursion. We did the cater man sail and snorkel excursion and it lasted 4 hours. It started at taking us to a private beach where we relaxed at the beach for 40mins then we sat sail on a hug sail boat. They took us way out where the water was really deep and went over really crazy high waives. We were falling all over the place and laughing and getting soaking wet. We then stopped at a clear turquoise area and snorkeled for awhile and poor Brian got stung by a jelly fish. It hurt him pretty good and his arm had red sting marks all around. We got back on the sail and sailed over to the tourist spot Margarita Ville. It was a lot of fun there it had a big slide that landed in the ocean. We stayed there for about 40mins then sailed again to over by the cruise ship and I got some good shots of our ship Radiance. After our excursion we bought the kids some Jamaican shirts we went back to our ship at 3pm and went to Sea View Café for a late lunch to hold us until dinner. We had formal portraits and then went to the show which was called “Piano Man” a tribute to the music of Elton John, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and Barry Manilow. T Day 6 “At Sea”, 78 degrees. We slept in until 8am I called and ordered room service and hopped in the shower and in 20mins it was delivered. We enjoyed eating breakfast on our balcony this morning. After breakfast we went up to the pool deck had daiquiris. At 11:00 I went and worked out in the gym until 12:30 and then I met Brian down on deck 5 in the Dinning room for lunch. The main dinning room was closed for lunch each day that we were at a port, they offer main dinning room for lunch on “Sea Days”. After lunch we headed up to deck 13 and Brian climbed the rock wall up to the top while I watched enjoying the sun. We then went over to the pool deck for the sexy leg’s competition which was a lot of fun. After that we went to the photo shop and bought our formal portraits and some of our port of call pictures and the DVD. Then we went to the gift shop one last time and bought the kids a stuff animal version on the towels they make into animals. After we got done doing that we went to deck 5 and 6 in the Aurora Theater at 4:00 and for 35.00 per person we played bingo for an hour. Day 7 Departure… we had the tag color of green 2 and had a lot of time so we got ready and out of our cabin at 8:15am then we went to The Dinning room for breakfast one last time. It was a really good breakfast and filled us up. We hang out in there for awhile then went up to the pool deck and enjoyed being in the sun until they called our departure tag color. We were off the ship at 10:30am found a shuttle to the airport checked out bags in and in the airplane by 1:30pm. We had a wonderful trip, everything was so much fun and I loved my time with my husband. We look forward to our next get away and will choose Royal Caribbean again. I will defiantly sail on Radiance again in the future. Happy cruising!

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By Ken_CR

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Jan 6, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

My wife has always wanted to go on a cruise, so I decided to take her on one for our 25th anniversary. I really didn’t have any expectations at all before we went. I had just gotten back from Iraq in October and was just looking to spend some time with my wife on our special day. Arrival We flew into Ft. Lauderdale a day early so we could relax and not have to rush from the airport to the port. The RC staff at the airport was friendly

and helpful. It was a good thing we flew in the day before, because people were waiting up to two hours to get to the port from the airport. The hotel was very nice; the breakfast buffet was the best thing about it. It was also really close to the port, we could see the ships in the port from the balcony of the hotel. There were plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance too, which was also very nice. Check-In The shuttle picked us up from the hotel and got us to the port very quickly. The port was a mad house though, people were every where. Since this was our 1st cruise we were really clueless as to what needed to be done, especially when it came to our bags. When we got off the bus there were RC porters all over the place asking for tips, but not giving any direction as to what to do. We finally left our bags there at the drop off area and got in line to check in. Apparently the computers went off line, so check-in was delayed for about an hour. We were staying in a suite (1036) and were told by our travel agent that we would be directed to go ahead of the line to be checked in. But since everyone was delayed because of the computers, they did everyone first come - first served. Even with the delay, the line moved quickly. We got checked in and made our way to the ship. On Board As soon as we walked on board we were impressed with the ship, it was beautiful. We had just a little problem finding our cabin. We had watched too many episodes of Love Boat and were expecting some one to direct us to our cabin, but we got it figured out ok. We walked into our cabin and were floored by how nice it was. A huge bed, a small living room area, plenty of closet space, and a nice bar area were all part of the suite. We always heard about the small bathrooms but ours was plenty big and even had dual sinks, and plenty of room in shower. We also had a large private balcony. Our room attendant came in and introduced himself and showed us stuff about the room. He was great the entire cruise. Food It was all excellent. I had read reviews of how crowded the Windjammer was, but we didn’t see that at all. We ate breakfast and lunch there whenever we were on the ship for those meals and never had to wait except to get omelets made. There was such a big selection of food there, from hamburger/hotdogs, to pasta, to ham and roast beef, they had it all and it was hot and good. It was hard to choose what to eat, but I did my best. Cascades, the main dining area, was very elegant. Our entire wait staff did an excellent job. They were very accommodating and friendly. Again, I had read how sometimes you get seated with people you don’t really care for. Well, we were at a table for eight and all were very nice and pleasant. We even had a NFL football player at our table and he and his wife were really nice. We ate during the first seating and never felt rushed to leave for the second seating which was nice. But we always made sure we left in time so they could clean and set up The food itself was excellent too. I tried things I’ve never had before and was not disappointed in the least. We were even able to get seconds. We wanted to try the Chops Steakhouse once, but waited too long to make the reservations so they were booked.. Shows/Entertainment We only missed one show - the “Welcome Aboard” show. We enjoyed every show. We felt they had a nice variety of musicals and comedy, and they were all family-friendly. The floor shows in the main atrium we enjoyed listening to on most evenings. We also participated in the daily trivia contest, and saw the ice carving demonstration, the belly flop competition, the hairy chest competition. Towards the end of the cruise, they played a “PG-13 game”, something like a scavenger hunt that got interesting to watch. Excursions We did something at just about every port. There was only one small glitch having to do with the time change. We had to wait an extra hour to go on one of our chosen excursions, but other than that, we had a wonderful time. Our two favorites were parasailing and swimming with the dolphins. My wife got to shop until I dropped and I was able to get her a very nice anniversary ring at Diamonds International. Leaving All good things must come to an end. I guess besides getting hounded by the porters for tips, just finding a spot to sit while waiting for them to announce your color for departure, were the 2 worst moments of the cruise. Nothing was open, so you couldn’t get a drink or snack, so you just sat and waited. It was kind of a let down after such a great week. Summary This was the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had, and thanks to my wife, I fell in love with cruising. We can’t wait to go again. We want to try a different ship just to experience something different, but the Radiance of the Seas is a beautiful ship with a staff that we found very friendly.

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Dec 17, 2006

Western Caribbean

Port of Embarkation: Ft. Lauderdale. Embarkation could not have gone better. We were dropped off at the pier and walked on the ship in less than 30 minutes. It was well organized by all of the RCI staff. We immediately headed to our room and were greeted by a bon voyage gift from some dear friends of ours. We then headed to check out our dining table in the Cascades dining room. We had a great spot next to the grand staircase, but quietly

tucked away to where there was hardly any foot traffic by our table. We were in the first seating which I will prefer on every cruise from now on. After that we headed to the Windjammer for lunch and enjoyed seeing all of the happy faces of those getting as excited as we were to be shortly heading out to sea. The buffet was ready and abundant. We then took a quick tour around the ship and headed back to our room. Our luggage arrived well before the sail away party which gave us time to unpack and change into something comfortable for being on the top deck to watch us leave Ft. Lauderdale. Our room was 9092 which is the first room on deck 9 right off of the elevators. It was a balcony stateroom and the balcony was extra large due to our location to the curvature of the elevators (see a deck plan to understand what I mean). We could have had a small party on our balcony. The room itself was quite comfortable and had an abundance of storage. We were pleasantly surprised. The muster drill was next and went on schedule and didn’t take long to complete and we were all then headed upstairs to watch us sail away on our way to Key West. Second Day: Key West. The weather could not have been better. Low 80’s and plenty of sun. We docked and my wife and I were walking the streets of Key West by 8:30AM after we filled ourselves in the Windjammer once again. We didn’t plan any excursions in Key West so we walked and took some pictures and did a small amount of shopping before we headed back to the ship to enjoy the quiet of the pools and Solarium. Here is a tip, try to get back early to the ship when you do not have any excursions planned and enjoy the abundance of pool chairs and open seating in all of the eating venues. I also decided to take advantage of the open spots in the Spa’s schedule onboard. The Radiance’s spa is wonderful and well decorated to create quiet a relaxing spa experience onboard. The only negative was that the massage therapist left the shades up and the lights on high during the massage which didn’t create the most tranquil of therapy rooms. The thermal suite in the day spa is a must. Lots of steam and aromatherapy rooms to sit and relax in before or after your treatment. My wife and I then headed up on deck to watch us sail away from Key West and to listed to the live music which was great each and every time. We then headed back to our stateroom to get ready for our first formal night. Sergie from Russia and Karen from the Philippines were our wait staff in the Cascades. They were great and very attentive to what we liked. One of our table mates had a rare food allergy and they worked very hard to make sure she always had an alternative to try from the menu that was safe for her health condition. They went above and beyond. The food in the Cascades was great and had a great selection and differing selection each and every night. Only one night was the food not necessarily the absolute best and that was just because the over cooked my steak somewhat, but overall it was a great dining experience. We then headed to the Aurora Theatre. Here is one area that we were really pleasantly surprised. I had read a lot of reviews where folks were really critical of the ships performers and headliners. We enjoyed and each and every show that the ship produced in the Aurora. It ranged from Comedy to music and dance to acrobatics to magic and they all were good performances. Take advantage of these shows when onboard is all I can say. Day 3: Cozumel. Here is where things got interesting and at times quite humorous. The hurricane that went through Cozumel has left the pier area with only one place for ships to dock. There at least 7 other ships in port when we were there so we had to anchor and tender in. The Cozumel tenders were, how should I say, going at their own leisurely pace which through most of the excursions off by an hour or more. It was not well organized and I am not blaming RCI for that. However…that was just the beginning of the interesting journey on this day. My wife and I had paid for the Passion Island excursion. We were supposed to have at least 5 hours on the island. Well…the tendering through us off by an hour so were now down to 4 hours max. Then our guide (Alex) on shore told us that RCI had sent him an additional 15 people who decided to take the same excursion at the last minute on the ship. Alex had made plans for 42 people and arranged a bus accordingly. He did not have any transportation planned for an additional 15 which meant that he had to somehow scrounge up some other forms of transportation for them and we al couldn’t leave until that was done. It was hot and Alex was getting nervous and we were getting tired of waiting around for our bus and the additional taxis to show. Finally our bus got there and the taxis came and we all got in ready to go to Passion Island when one of our shipmates noticed Alex was about to leave his backpack with all of our information sitting out on the streets in Cozumel. Alex yelled at the driver and he stopped and allowed Alex to go back and grab it and it seemed we were finally on our way. If all were to go well from there on out, we would have about 3 hours on the island. But as we were finally pulling out, we heard a crunch and someone yelled, “Hey we just pulled out and hit another taxi cab.” After a little yelling and the police hearing both sides, we were now finally on our way. By this time, we are thinking, “Let’s just go back and get back on the ship and call it a day.” But we ambled our way to the ferry boat which carried us over to the island. If you take this excursion in the future, do not get scared by the nasty color of the water in the lagoon that you cross going over to the island. A nasty brown color is the best way to describe it and we were all assured that the Caribbean blue waters would be waiting for us on the other side of the island once we got there. Alex was right. The water was blue and clear and the sand was soft and white and there were hammocks in between palm trees and plenty of lounge chairs that you could take down to the water’s edge and live out your own Corona commercial. The food on the all-inclusive buffet was good and plenty of food and drink for everyone and the service was great once we got there. We spent all of about 2 ½ hours on the island and I do blame RCI for part of that since they changed the total number of people at the last minute if that is indeed what happened. Alex our guide did a good job of getting us all to laugh so we could relax and enjoy ourselves once we got there. I would probably recommend waiting to do this excursion for when more of the pier is repaired so more ships can dock. It did give us quite a story to tell our family and friends however. I had another spa appointment scheduled onboard and we were extremely late getting back to the pier and we were on one of the last tenders which made me almost an hour late for the appointment. They were very accommodating and allowed me to get right in so I am giving the spa an A+ for their service. Day 4: Grand Cayman. It was another beautiful sunny day. We woke up and hit our favorite spot for breakfast, the Windjammer, and went and got a tender ticket outside the Colony Club and waited for our number to get called. The tenders this day were RCI tenders and things went much more smoothly. We did not have any excursions planned so we went into town, shopped a little and headed to the beach. We got a tip from one of the gift store employees that, if you want a private and quiet beach, you should grab a cab and go to Governors Beach. The only catch is that it did not have any restroom facilities. But here is a little tip; The Westin Hotel is right next door and if you don’t look too obvious you can go right in and use theirs. The water there was absolutely gorgeous and the sand was soft and it really was a quiet spot just to relax and take in some sun before we headed back to the pier. We got on board early enough to hit the workout facilities and pools. Once again, if you get back a little early, you will plenty of pool chairs to choose from. We ate dinner again in the Cascades and everything was great. They had my wife’s favorite drink, a diet coke with a lime, waiting for her every time we sat down. All of the staff was very friendly and smiled a lot. Day 4: Montego Bay. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise out our balcony and we had a great view of the bay. We ordered room service for breakfast and it was in our room promptly at 7:00AM which was when we ordered it to be so. We ate it on our balcony as we got excited about the day’s plans. We were docked which made things quite easy. We never heard any announcement on this day explaining any procedures for disembarking which we wondered why after we got off of the ship. The location of our dock was a good ¼ miles from the actual ship terminal that all must exit through in order to get into town. We walked off of the ship and were met by 20 bus/taxis with eager men waiting to cart you to where you want to go. This would have been fine except we had planned our own excursion and had a driver scheduled to pick us up and the pier. We assumed that we would get off the ship at the pier where all drivers and transportation would be found. Luckily we got a guy who charged a dollar to drive us the short distance to the main terminal were we walked in and found our actual scheduled driver Perry! He was a hoot and educated us on Jamaica on the way to our day at this private resort/spa. You can tell by now that my wife and I love spas. This was our anniversary day and it was something special. We got back on board around 2:30PM and headed in to get some rest before our last formal night. We had made reservations at one of Radiance’s alternative dining spots, Portofinos. It was awesome. The service was spectacular and the food was great. It was quiet and well worth the additional $20.00 charge per person. I was not feeling up to the midnight buffet this night, but my wife went and took lots of pictures of this grand event. I was thrilled to learn that the Radiance still puts on these great events and, in fact, did 2 of them during our 6 night cruise. One was meant to be outside by the main pool, but they had to move it into the Windjammer due to high winds that night. Day 6: A day at sea. The crew on the Radiance was great. They always had a lot of fun events going on to keep you busy if you wanted to be busy. I even found their announcements less intrusive than some have commented in the past about. I attended the cake decorating contest between our Captain and the Hotel Manager, Roger. It was quite entertaining and hilarious at times. Then there was the ice carving demo outside in deck 11 and then the infamous belly flop contest. The day was great and we had awesome weather for our last day at sea. Our last dinner in the Cascades was topped off with the kitchen and wait staff doing a farewell production for all of us to see and hear. It was quite a treat. Then we headed to the last show in which the captain and most of the crew participated in another farewell production wishing all Happy Holidays and happy travels. It was all done quite well. Day 7: Ft. Lauderdale. We arrived right on time and pulled quietly into port. Our bags had all been picked up the night before and we got up and headed to the Windjammer for one last breakfast and took some last minute pictures. We were off the ship and on our transfer bus by 9:30AM. It went quiet smooth as well. Overall…we loved the ship and the crew and we will definitely sail on the Radiance of the Seas again and on any other Royal Caribbean ship. I recommend it without any hesitation.

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Sep 15, 2006

Vancouver to Los Angeles

We departed for Vancouver from London Heathrow on 12, September 2006 and stayed at the brilliant Coast Plaza and Suites hotel in the west end area of Vancouver. The hotel was in a great location next to the English beaches and amidst shops and restaurants. Our 2 bedroom suite was on the 31st floor and had gorgeous views of the water, city and Stanley Park. It had 2 balconies and it was hard to keep away from the balconies and the windows

due to the excellent sights around us. We spent 4 nights at this hotel. The day we arrived we walked along the English beach and tried to get familiar with our surroundings. On the second day we took a big bus tour around the city and explored some brilliant sites of Vancouver like Stanley Park, Gastown, Chinatown, Granville island, Robson Street, etc. We could hop on and hop off along the way which gave us independence to see the sights that we liked. On the third day, we took a tour to Whistler and took the sea to sky highway which had amazing views all the way. The resort was very modern and we spent about 4hrs there. Unfortunately it was drizzling most morning but the sky cleared up in the afternoon which gave us good views of the mountain peaks. On the way back, we stopped at Shannon falls and did a nature walk in a forest which was very interesting. On our final full day in Vancouver, we went to do some shopping on Robson street in the morning and in the afternoon we took an excursion to see the capilano suspension bridge and Grouse mountain- both excellent sites and worth seeing. Hence all in all, we had a great time in this beautiful city of Vancouver which is rated one of the top 3 cities in the world and I do agree with that. Well, finally the day we were waiting for came. It was a beautiful sunny morning and it was time to leave our hotel and head for the cruise terminal which was apparently only 10mins ride away. However it took us nearly half an hour to reach the terminal due to heavy traffic as there were 4 ships leaving on the same day- Princess Diamond, HAL’s Zuiderdam, one of the celebrity ships and our beautiful Radiance of the seas. Once we got into the terminal, there was chaos. Everyone was trying to find where to go. We had to queue to drop our bags, then queue to go through security and then queue to check-in. Hence by the time we got into the ship it was nearly an hour. One of the worst embarkations that I’ve faced from all the cruises I’ve been on. Hence we were glad to enter the ship which was extremely beautiful. The atrium area looked dazzling and I couldn’t wait to get to the top and look down to get beautiful views from above. Luckily, our cabins were ready. So we headed straight to the 9th floor whereby our balcony cabins were ready to be occupied. The rooms were large, similar to the layout in Princess Diamond however slightly larger. The balcony was quite big but the bathroom was quite small (once again similar to Diamond) but much smaller than the one HAL’s Zuiderdam. Anyway, we were very pleased with the room and once we dropped of our hand luggage, we headed to the 11th floor for lunch at Windjammers café. There was an extensive range of foods and it was hard to choose what to eat. Since there was an outbreak of a virus a few weeks back, all the food was being served and we weren’t allowed to touch anything. As most of the staff were occupied serving, there were very few staff clearing the tables and hence that made the café crowded not only on that day but also on a few more days to come. Thankfully the strict ban was lifted off 3 days later and the service got better. Once we had our lunch, we went to explore the ship. There were 2 pools on the 11th floor, one was open with 2 spas and the other (solarium) was covered and had one spa. This is the one that I really liked as it was set in tropical like warm surroundings. There was a basket ball court, rock climbing wall, kids pool and slide, sea view café, mini golf etc on the floors above. Once we finished exploring the open areas of the ship, we went downstairs to see the various bars and public areas down below. Although the ship was 5 years old, everything looked new and grand. The dining room was very elegant and we had a table right in the centre of the room which pleased me. Couldn’t wait to find out who our table partners were going to be that evening. Anyway, once we finished exploring the ship we back to our cabin by which time the luggage had arrived. Thus we unpacked immediately and tucked the cases under the bed. By this time, it was time for lifeguard drill which was compulsory to attend. It didn’t take long to finish and we headed back to the cabin to get ready for the 6pm dinner in the beautiful cascades dining room. Our table partners were a family from Vancouver who were very nice and we had a great time dining with them for the next 7 nights. Our waitress was very good and served us very well. The food was good too and had plenty of choice including vegetarian varieties. The maitre de came to us and asked us if we’d like Indian food to which we agreed for one or two nights during the cruise. I thought that was a very friendly gesture. All the entertainment on the ship was excellent- the grand Broadway style shows were good and so was a musical comedy hour from an artist from Las Vegas and a juggler who was very talented. We didn’t go to the theatre on 2 nights when we had longer excursions ashore. One night we went to the cinema to watch a movie. The cinema was not too big but was adequate and had a good sound system. The 1st day set us in the mood for the next 7 days. Our ports of call started with Nanaimo a small city on Vancouver island. Unfortunately it rained most of the day and hence we stayed mostly onboard that day but that gave us a chance to do various activities on the ship like attend an arts class, play bingo and go for a swim and relax in the spa. Thankfully this was the last of the rain we had seen. Next day, we entered Victoria, a beautiful British city which seemed to have a lot of history behind it. We did an excursion to Butchart Gardens, the world’s best gardens according to me. After the excursion we went round the town and photographed the parliament building and the legendary empress hotel. Next day we entered United States and the port of Astoria in Oregon. Since we entered USA, we had to queue up to see the customs officials which took around 45mins. Astoria is another beautiful city situated along the mighty Colorado river. We went around the town and to the column on a hill which gave us fabulous views of the city. An enjoyable day on the whole. The next day we were at sea and since it was very warm and sunny most people sunbathed on the decks. I was busy doing different activities on the ship until the afternoon when the captain (very amusing captain with a good sense of humor) announced that there was an emergency on board and a sick patient had to be taken to hospital on land. Thus a chopper was going to come and pick up the patient from the ship, a rare sight. We all waited and saw the unfolding of this unique event. The helicopter didn’t actually land on the heliport but threw a net and the patient was lifted onto the chopper. After the drama, we resumed doing our usual activities. The following day we docked in San Francisco, a beautiful city set on the hills. We took an excursion to Alcatraz and Sausalito and spent the rest of the afternoon in the city going up and down in cable cars. A truly enjoyable day and wished we could have spent at least 2 days there instead of stopping at Nanaimo. After another day at sea we landed in Los Angeles. Disembarkation was a breeze and since we had booked an excursion to see LA, we were out of the ship first. After seeing the LA highlights like Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Sunset strip and Farmers market, we were dropped off to the airport on time. On the whole, I loved the whole trip and the variety of ports of call made it all the more special. Radiance is a beautiful ship and the jovial captain’s leadership of a brilliant team makes it a very relaxed environment. I would go back on RCI, may be not on Radiance again as I like exploring new ships. However I do recommend everybody to go on the Radiance especially when its sailing along interesting ports of call.

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Sep 14, 2006

Western Caribbean

We looked at this cruise as more an ocean voyage or a passage. The ship provided elegant transportation to deliver us to Patrick’s 50th high school reunion at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA.. Radiance was repositioning from Vancouver to LA to end the Alaska cruising season and begin the Hawaii cruising out of LA. We looked forward to stops in Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island and Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the

Columbia River, with a long day (7AM to 2AM the next morning) in San Francisco, and finishing in LA.) CRUISE VALUE We were pleased to find this cruise a very few weeks before the sailing date and at a greatly reduced price. We have never cruised in a balcony cabin for such a low price. We are seeing more true cruise value now than ever before in happy hour specials, etc. We are always comparing cruise line amenities and value. Things change from cruising season to cruising season and from ship to ship. We went on 5 Princess cruises in a row -- a Princess binge -- and came back to Celebrity Concierge Class in May ’06. Now we are cruising with RCCL for the first time since 1999. BOARDING We had been instructed by our RCCL Cruise Documents to board the ship at Ballantyne Pier (which is a couple of kilometers farther East than Canada Place). We live in North Vancouver across the harbor, and when we woke up we looked out our windows and saw the Summit berthed at Ballantyne Pier and no sign of Radiance! We scanned Canada Place with our binoculars and there was Radiance berthed in front of Zuiderdam. RCCL didn’t notify us of the change. When we were checking in, we heard stories of passengers taking cabs from the airport to Ballantyne and then being sent to Canada Place. That cost them a bit of extra money. Not to mention consternation. We boarded the Radiance at Canada Place around 2PM. Crowded, but everything moving well. RCCL reps were there, making sure we got to the right boarding line -- there were a total of 3 ships at Canada Place that day. We passed on the welcome aboard photograph session. They were shooting people in front of a dufus backdrop, even though here we were at the truly scenic Canada Place cruise terminal with many great backgrounds, including the striking “Radiance” dockside! We didn’t sail at 5PM as scheduled but left at 8PM because of the confusion resulting from the misdirection of many of the passengers. We prefer the 5PM sail away from Vancouver, because leaving the harbor in twilight as the twinkling lights are coming up in the city is a scenic wonder. CRUISE COMPASS This is the daily planner/newspaper on the Radiance. It is excellent. It’s well laid out, and there is a perforated section you can remove, fold up and carry in your back pocket. Gives you lists of daily activities, shows, etc. CABIN AND BATHROOM A balcony cabin almost all the way aft on deck 9. Way, way aft, with no aft stairwell. We prefer the ships with the aft stairwell and small aft deck areas like the Island and Coral Princesses. Lots of storage in a small space on the Radiance. Clever design. The TV was across from the couch, and the shelf pulled out and could be tilted toward the bed. No DVD player, though. Considering that an all-regions DVD player costs about $50.00 retail it’s certainly due. It’s a reasonably priced amenity that should be available on every cabin of every ship (except that then people would stay in their cabins more??). A curtain divided the sitting area from the sleeping area, and sliding doors opened to the balcony. The bathroom was small, with a tight shower. BALCONY Nice. Oversize mesh lounge chairs. Radiance wins the balcony comparison. It’s so pleasant to enjoy a glass of wine and some delicacy as the scenery glides by. On this cruise the scenery included whales, seals, flocks of seabirds and passing ship traffic. TV We want more TV. I’m sitting here writing this on the second Sunday of the ’06 NFL season while we are docked in Nanaimo BC on Vancouver Island. Football is being broadcast here on 2 local channels. The TV signal is free to all, and it can be plucked out of the air with a TV antenna; the ship says they can only access a satellite feed. They have cable TV connections on the docks at small boat harbors, why not at the cruise dock? I understand that with less TV the ship can increase its revenue stream via shopping and gambling, but here in port the shipboard shopping and gambling can’t by law be opened for business. ANNOUNCEMENTS We have decided to rename Radiance of the Seas. Henceforth she will be called “Announcements of the Seas”. K -Mart level announcements into the cabins of napping passengers in the late afternoon. Particularly obnoxious to those dining at the 2nd seating at 8:30PM. Announcements are necessary for lifeboat drills and the Captain’s daily report at noon, but tender ticket announcements just after 7:00 AM are not too cruisey. We wish they would do the tender notices on the ship’s TV system. When we boarded the ship, we checked out the beautiful 6 deck high Centrum. There was a constant raffle announcement going on, led by the cruise staff and the art sales guy. The volume was cranked up to what seemed like all the way as they prattled and boomed on. They finished finally at 4PM and we sat down for a glass of wine when the announcements erupted again. This time it was Captain Rune Lokling rattling the walls. The Centrum is an acoustic challenge, and the Captain exacerbated the situation by speaking loudly, almost yelling into the microphone. He sounds like a warm caring person. No sarcasm intended. At the end of his long (a couple of endless minutes) speech, he sincerely told us to have a “hurdy gurdy evening”. He needs to dial down the volume of his announcing. The decibel level he used is illegal in many places. I would suggest he record one of his announcements and then go to the Centrum and listen to it played back. The cruise director, Pierce Ivan, is much better on the mic, but he and his staff also make too many announcements for a cruise. CODE RED FOR OPP That sounds ominous and it is. There was a serious outbreak of Norwalk Virus 2 weeks ago on this ship; the acronym OPP stands for outbreak prevention protocol. Consider the following: The dining room is closed for lunch today while we are in Nanaimo, and we head to the buffet. We cannot touch the food or the utensils. Everything must be handed to us according to the protocol to control the outbreak. One isn’t even allowed to pick up a container of yogurt from a buffet station. Slows it all down to a crawl and adds to the already heavy burden of the tired buffet workers. Had we been informed about this code red we might have considered passing on this cruise even with the monetary penalty. We’re trying to consider the bright side. They will treat us for free in the infirmary if we come down with this type of illness. Uh, thanks but no thanks! CASCADES DINING ROOM We are very pleased with our wait team. Waiter Vanda is from Hungary and Juan, her assistant, from Peru. They are very helpful. Sunday will be our first formal night and there will be no lobster on the menu. We’re told there will be only one night when lobster will be served (the last formal night) and that it will be mixed with other shellfish. Boo Hoo! There are those pesky fuel cost economies again. We like the dining room, and the food is uniformly good. There is always an alternative menu of a broiled steak or chicken, a simple marinara pasta, etc., on the dinner menu should you not like the daily selections. Celebrity still has better food all around, but comparing just their main dining rooms, RCCL is very close. Assistant Head Waiter Francisco has also been very helpful in suggesting menu items. SECOND SEATING DINING Remember when dining was at 530PM or 545PM for the first seating and 8PM for the second seating? It would be good to return to that schedule. Then it would be easier to wait for 2nd seating dinner. That extra half hour makes a big difference to the body. WINDJAMMER BUFFET, SEA VIEW AND SOLARIUM CAFES These venues were disappointing, to put it mildly. We are always turned off when there are no trays at a buffet. Princess is also guilty of this. You have to pocket your utensils and balance your beverage on the edge of the large platter you are given to gather your buffet fare. No thank you. We’d prefer plates, not platters, and trays. The level of flavor and cooking is low (think Excalibur or Circus Circus in Las Vegas) in this buffet. Celebrity is far superior in this area, plus they provide trays. The Sea View Cafe is located on Deck 12 and serves deli sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, onion rings etc. Its normally greasy fare is even greasier here and not very appetizing. Celebrity again wins this comparison. The Solarium Cafe is located in the spa area next to the indoor pool area. The menu is desert oriented mostly. Deepak the crepe-maker is talented and turns out an excellent crepe. There are a couple of wraps on the menu, but Celebrity with their heart smart Aqua Spa cafe wins this comparison. Princess has an afternoon high tea daily, Celebrity some of the time and Radiance none of the time. The buffet closes in the late afternoon, so there is little to eat other than at the Sea view and the Solarium cafes and the limited room service menu during non meal hours. The crepes are to die for and the wraps are OK but a sit-down tea service would have been nice. SODA PACKAGE The coke card on this cruise was $48.30 including tax for the 7-day cruise. If you are not drinking at least 3 sodas a day it is not worth it. ENTERTAINMENT The usual production shows, comedians, singers etc. Very pedestrian. Talent in the production shows on this ship was at the level of the artistes Woody Allen’s character, a theatrical agent, represented in his movie “Broadway Danny Rose”. The house band named the Radiance of the Sea Orchestra was great. One night the band members took leave of the usual Broadway tunes and standards and saluted the Blue Note Jazz record label in a superb show of Jazz talent. It was the entertainment highlight of the cruise for us. There were pleasant cocktail piano and dancing venues pre and post dinner. We tended to gravitate to those instead of the production shows. We must admit we are spoiled by the fact we spent our working lives in the entertainment industry, and we expect more from rehearsed, expensive production shows. ANNOUNCEMENTS REVISITED We’ve been hit hard again with announcements. In addition to the noon report, the Captain came on at 5PM right in the middle of our second seating diner’s nap with a happy announcement right into the cabin. We thought in-cabin announcements were limited to regularly scheduled Captain’s reports and emergencies. Capt. Rune wanted to share with us the fact that (we are quoting him) “no one who boarded yesterday has come down with the G.I. virus or the vomiting yet” so keep on washing your hands and even though it’s a grey, dank day, the weather is good “if you have sunshine in your heart.” You can’t make this stuff up! It’s bad enough being stuck with 2nd seating dining at 8:30PM and then to have it compounded by these extra loud albeit sincere announcements right in your bedroom during your naptime. There are many more announcements from the endless free-champagne-driven art sale and bingo, bingo and more bingo, piping these announcements into the cabin where we try to nap. THE QUIET PLACE Well, this sounded good to us -- to sit in the beautiful disco lounge (Star quest) by day and soak in the silence. Only trouble was, the place had driving music pumped through it, and there was nobody around with whom to discuss some sort of arrangement which would result in actual quiet. However, later, during the first seating dinner, when most cruisers were standing in line to meet the Captain and perhaps have a photo taken with him, we tried the Star Quest again. It was lovely and quiet! There was a bartender there who was enjoying his standby time by practicing his juggling -- he had promised his Mum he’d show her something new from his travels (but no tattoos or piercing!). He was very genuine and friendly, and we were soon happily sipping our favorite beverages in the nonsmoking side of the lounge. All of the newer ships now have automated music set to the theme of a particular venue or area. You can’t just quietly relax in a nightclub or bar in the off hours and not be pounded by music. Some of the music we like, but we are seeking a quiet more cruisey feeling during the daylight hours. PLATINUM AND DIAMOND LEVEL SPECIAL BREAKFAST Not special! Served in the Colony Club area, which is not a food venue, and brought in and set down for us to pick at. We found out that the Code Red protocol was lifted this morning while talking to a Crew member at this event. Considering the number of announcements on Radiance, one thing they should have announced was this lifting of the protocol. Greasy scrambled eggs. Not fluffy as those kind of eggs should be and are on Celebrity. After the scrambled egg tray the next offering was hot dogs wrapped in bacon in silver serving salvers. No, I am not kidding. Let the trumpets blare! The bacon wrapped hot dog, for the Platinum and Diamond cruisers! No sign of Eggs Benedict. It was a crappy half-hearted presentation served in the wrong kind of room for anything more than cocktail appetizer service. We left, to join the big line at the Cascades dining room entrance and have our eggs over easy (read that ‘to order’ -- no chance of the bulk cooking of scrambled eggs). Breakfast at the Cascades dining room was always tasty. The only minor glitch was the watery Hollandaise sauce on the Eggs Benedict. Celebrity is the only cruise line at this level to offer a decent Eggs Benedict. COFFEE The coffee served on board the Radiance is the best we’ve had in quite some time on a cruise ship. Celebrity and Princess cannot compare. The beans are imported from Colombia by RCCL, and blended with a Seattle’s Best bean -- they call the blend ‘Carib-bean’. Cute, huh? Better than Celebrity or Princess. They have a designer coffee bar called Latitudes where all the coffee drinks have Starbucks-like charges. They don’t even have the free non designer coffee available. You can get that only at the dining/buffet venues or by ordering room service. ROOM SERVICE A attentive, small menu. You can order an expanded menu during lunch or dinner hours in the dining room. They work hard. A couple of dollars’ tip is well appreciated. GYM We like to use the stationary bikes, but the room is flooded with extremely loud music at all times even if you are up in the early hours of the morning. The gym staff controls the sound there, and they seem to prefer the pounding, hard-driving music at all times, not just during the classes they offer. We are used to gyms where people exercise wearing I-Pods, radios etc. They have their own sounds with them. A knowledgeable hotel staffer told us that the gym/spa is a concession and RCCL doesn’t have control of the music. Not very cruisey. CRUISE DIRECTOR TEAM There was a titled sub chief this time called the activities director, by the name of Kevin, who preferred yelling into the microphone. Kevin handled many of the chores usually handled by the cruise director, who only introduced the production shows and MC’d the audience participation shows e.g. “The Not so Newlywed Game”, etc. Cruise Director Pierce Ivan was more like an Executive Cruise Director, only appearing at the more “special” venues. There was always some cruise staffed activity going on for those who need to be doing group activity all of the time. LIBRARY Very small and in the open. It is lot in a quiet, closed room. Poor selection of books and no variety to speak of. Little non-fiction. SERVICE Great attitude. The dining staff, room service troops and bartenders were very helpful. The waiters in the Cascade dining room during the day are excellent. The hotel staff is a different story. They are a bit officious. The officer status they are accorded on the ship seems to put them on a higher plane than us in their own minds. SHAKING HANDS, ETC. It’s a hand sanitizer world now. We were in the beautiful glass elevators with 2 other couples when they started talking about hand sanitizer. They each had one and we surprised them by also carrying it. The buffet venues had it on this cruise also. Considering the red alert the Radiance was on why do the Captain, and the dining room and cruise staff still want to shake our hands? Go figure. They are now providing hand sanitizer in the buffet area on most ships, and some ships wisely provide it to those reboarding the ship at the various ports. TIPPING The service troops work hard and have a great attitude on Radiance. In addition to the normally expected tips we like to carry a whole bunch of US dollar bills. When good service is provided we tip. When we order a soft drink on the coke card we always give the server a buck. Room service waiters get 2 bucks from us. It never fails that if you tip room service on a regular basis that your order gets to you very quickly once room service is aware of this. It’s a big ship and they have a lot of area to cover PERSONAL CELL PHONE USER BEWARE Just because the ship is near enough to shore to try to obtain a cell phone signal, don’t! Make sure the ship is docked at a pier or anchored at a place where tendering is taking place before you use your personal cell phone. We were shocked to receive a cell phone bill the month after a coastal/Alaska cruise on Celebrity Summit for three dollars per minute which added up to about $600.00. We did a bunch of research and discovered that the cruise line, in conjunction with a company called Wireless Maritime Services had added a huge surcharge to our bills without us finding out until 30 days later. The cruise lines are attempting to mine a new profit center. The press releases on WMS pushes them piggybacking on our cell service as an amenity. Those of us who have high minute flat rate phone contracts good all over the US and Canada get hosed under this so called amenity. Be wary, the charges are highest of retail. The indication on the bill said the calls originated on Celebrity; just that one word. We complained to our cell phone provider, who claimed they knew nothing about this charge; they were merely passing on the surcharge that had been billed to them by Celebrity. It took many calls to the customer satisfaction line of the cruise line and our cell carrier. We ended up eating most of the charges absent a token credit from our personal cell provider and a credit from Celebrity toward a future cruise. A cruise ship is a hotel with a propeller, and hotels routinely warn you about phone charges in the hotel, which causes people to use their cells instead. There was no notice given to us by Celebrity. The window on the cell that is active when you call did not indicate Celebrity, just Cingular or whatever. The damage is done. Be warned! I asked the hotel desk if RCCL was doing that surcharge on this cruise and they said they weren’t sure. So I was careful to only call in port. Later in the week the notice they were doing it appeared on the ship’s TV channel. Later, I found a press release on the ‘net trumpeting the fact that RCCL had signed a contract to place cellular signal repeaters on their fleet “as a further service to their customers”. A $3.00 per minute service. We’ve been using our cell phones for years on cruises and whenever we got a signal we made a call. NANAIMO Nice port with good shopping and a nearby Costco. Since we live in BC and it was raining we passed on the tender trip to Nanaimo. VICTORIA High Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in beautiful Victoria. Wonderful tea room with grand views across sweeping gardens over looking the BC capitol buildings and a tinkling piano player. The price is nosebleed high though. Tea for two with a glass of wine is about $125.00 Canadian including tax and tip. ASTORIA Our first visit. Located at the mouth of the Columbia River. Good shopping. Reasonably priced shuttles from the ship. Great bookstores, cloth stores etc. Harriett found good prices at the local Joann’s Fabrics and Crafts. We also had a nice Mexican food lunch at Plaza Jalisco on 8th Ave., easy walking distance from a shuttle stop. We had luncheon specials and beverages for about $23.00 plus tips. We want to go back to Astoria again. Big city pricing has not arrived yet in this lovely place. We had a great time in Astoria – nice, friendly people. SAN FRANCISCO One of our favorite cities in the world. Food, shopping, sweeping vistas and cable cars. An easy city to tour using public transportation. Buy the all day pass good on Cable cars and buses etc. Take the Hyde St. cable car from the Powell St. turntable near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf for a spectacular view/tour of the city. The other cable car departing from the Powell St. terminus is the Bay and Mason car, on which the views and vistas are not nearly as good as the Hyde St. line even though they end up just a few blocks apart. We took a cab to “Greens,” a gourmet vegetarian restaurant located on the water at Fort Mason in the Marina neighborhood. Greens is famous worldwide in vegetarian circles. We met our son, who lives in Oakland, and his girlfriend there and had a delicious, very expensive lunch that took forever to be served with a generous helping of attitude from the wait staff. They made a mistake with our orders and were loathe and then very slow to correct it. Cabs are everywhere, and the ship is docked just a very few blocks from all of the choice downtown shopping, making the cab fares reasonable. We had a tasty dinner at the Hunan Restaurant on Sansome North of Broadway behind KPIX TV. Tell the cabbie you want to go to ‘old Hunan’; if you just tell them ‘Hunan’ they will take you to their touristy sister restaurant in Chinatown. Great and reasonable meal at old Hunan. Yummy! SUMMING UP It was a swell way to travel from Vancouver to LA! We felt really elegant having given ourselves such a lovely voyage to a great 50th class reunion. We would hope that the cruise lines schedule more of these coastal cruises during the warm weather months and not just during repositioning. They would certainly save on fuel charges, because they are only going 1200 miles in 7 days. Seemingly, a win-win situation cost wise for the Cruise Lines. We would also like a Seattle stop instead of Nanaimo and 2 days docked in San Francisco. We would also like a stop in Santa Barbara, CA. THE FUTURE We are going to cruise again with Holland America, on the Oosterdam out of San Diego on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2007. Our last cruise with HAL was on the Zaandam at the end of the Alaska season in 2002. It was a dirty ship with a tired crew, and we have had HAL in our penalty box since then. We want to give HAL another shot, and we fell in love with the look of the Oosterdam last summer in Alaska when we were berthed next to them in a couple of ports. We booked a suite to get a bit more room and we look forward to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and visiting the Mexican Riviera on the Oosterdam. patrickandharriette@mac.com

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May 6, 2006

Hawaii

Review by Marita & Uwe Oppermann (oppis) – email: marita.o@freenet.de http://www.oppermann-wuppertal.de (for more details and pictures) Our flight and arrival to the embarkation port: Saturday, on Lufthansa German Airlines and United Airlines from Düsseldorf via London- Heathrow and San Francisco International to San Diego, total travel time including the stops was 19 hours absolutely unacceptable. The flights with United and the service

were not bad, although we had poorly located seats close to the galley so we were often disturbed when trying to sleep. We strongly advise, not to travel via Heathrow Airport. The walking- and driving distances between the gates from one terminal to another, plus the security checks take up to 90 minutes and are absolutely not justified. Immigration to the USA in San Francisco was without any problems. We had to pick- up our luggage and check it again to the San Diego flight at another desk in a very small distance. Once again, no problems. The pre-cruise overnight- stay was in the Best Western Bayside Inn in Downtown San Diego, located in walking distance to the bayside, with a complimentary shuttle-service from the airport to the hotel, which was very comfortable as it was on the next day from the hotel to the embarkation pier. The Shuttle arrived at the airport 5 minutes after our telephone call, and so we made a reservation for the next day from hotel to pier. The Hotel itself was for one night absolutely sufficient. We spent the evening and the next morning walking around to see the Seaport Village and the former aircraft carrier Midway (now a museum), and walked along the Bayside. Sunday, 11.10am arrival at the pier, check- in within 5 minutes. We were asked to stay inside the terminal, until our number on the Seaboard Pass was called, #1. Sufficient seats were available, including drinks and cookies. We could start boarding at noon as we were the first group. The hallways to the cabins were blocked and boards told, that we were allowed to move into our cabins at 1pm. No problem for us, we took our first lunch in the Windjammer and had the feeling – we are at home again -. The Management and the Crew: Captain Rune Lokling from Norway, captain and entertainer, like we never saw a captain before, working since 1999 for RCL and now for 1 year master of the Radiance. His announcements at noon were always awaited and highly appreciated by the passengers, always joking and with a good sense of humor. And his "Captains Corner", held twice during the cruise for one hour in the theater was really worth seeing and hearing. Hotel director Roger Jackson from Trinidad, working for RCL since 1991, is the person next to the Captain, who is responsible for the relaxed atmosphere on the ship and he was really helpful to me for organizing several things, like a special lunch in the Portofino Restaurant (which is normally closed at noon) for our CruiseCritic group with about 50 people. Cruise Director Kieron Buffery from England, living in California, just came to RCL and he is with his special English humor, a good stand-up comedian and an excellent singer. Executive Chef Alfred Hauser from Austria is responsible for the good meals onboard and is assisted by his Sous Chef Troy from Australia. The International Hostess Armelle from France and the receptionist Ursula from Austria were helpful, like we've never seen on any other ships. Both of them came to our table, introduced themselves to us and our German tablemates and offered their help for any eventuality. Armelle made daily announcements on our voice-mail, about suggestions for the following day, time-changes and much more. She was also responsible for the German information about the Hawaiian islands and the German Cruise Compass. Last but not least were our waiters Marlon and Nazareth and the headwaiter and Ass. Maitre D´from Slovakia, Marek, also being very helpful and very obliging. Cabin: Superior inside cabin, deck 9, stateroom # 9015, in good condition and furnished in sober colors. The bed was a little too hard, but after asking the cabin attendant we received a different mattress. Couch for 2 persons with a small side table, a cabinet, a writing desk with chair, more space in drawers, a TV- set, a big safe, two closets with enough space for two weeks. The suitcases fit well under the beds. There were both 110 and 220 Volt main outlets, important to reload the cellular phone and the batteries for the camera. The bathroom was okay, but the shower was rather small. Annoyingly, the shower curtain often stuck to us. Our cabin was always clean, towels were changed constantly and the stateroom attendant Audrien was always helpful, and we appreciated his service. Other cabins: We made a tour of the cabins with our CC-group and visited several cabin types, starting in our inside, to some different balcony cabins up to a Junior Suite and even a Grand Suite. Many group members were astonished to learn that the inside cabin size was not much smaller than the balcony cabins. Only the types D1 and the Junior Suites were bigger and had more spacious balconies. There was enough space for two chairs, a small table and 1 or 2 deckchairs. passengers: 2.156 passengers from 29 nations. USA: 1.709, Great Britain: 127, Canada: 178, Germany: 59 and the rest from many different countries around the world, like from Australia, India, Mexico, Slovakia, Uruguay and more. Additional cover charge cost for specialty restaurants - Dinner in Portofino was $ 15, Dinner in Chops Grille was $ 20, gratuities included. Menu-examples Portofino (see link on our website: www.oppermann-wuppertal.de) We considered all the dishes on the menu absolutely recommendable, the extra cost of $ 15 is well worth it. Before starting with the appetizers, different sorts of bread were served. After the main course just before the dessert, another sweet appetite teaser was served: Chocolate- cookies with chocolate covered strawberries, unbelievable. Drinks - some price examples – Aperitif $ 5, Martinis $ 7,50 - $ 8, Cocktails $ 4,75 - $ 5, Beer $ 3 for a Bud, Miller, Coors, $ 3,75 for a Heineken, Amstel, Corona. Draft Beer 16 oz $ 3, 20 oz $ 3,75 plus the usual 15 % Service charge. More price-examples on our website. Soda package: $ 6 per day plus 15 % Service charge per person. Included is only soda from the streamer, not a can or bottle. Dinner Jacket and Tuxedo Rental: $85 for the whole cruise, shoes $12. Recommended gratuities: per day and per person totally $10.50, that means cabin attendant – $ 3.50, waiter – $3.50, Asst. waiter – $2.50, Head Waiter – $1. For outstanding service we gave some additional tips directly, especially for our stateroom attendant and his service. Decks on the Radiance of the Seas: passenger decks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 Deck 2: medical facility and Ship's exit and re-entrance while in port. Deck 4: Atrium, with front desk and shore excursions desk, tastefully decorated and furnished, in the center with marble, carpeting and wood, small podium with a piano, medium- sized dance floor, surrounded by a seating area for about 20 persons, a small bar (unfortunately not as tasteful as the Champagne Bar on the Splendour of the Seas), some couches and armchairs in elegant colors; the condition of the furniture is good. In the atrium are 2 glass elevators facing the inside from deck 2 up to deck 12 and 4 glass elevators facing the Sea outside from deck 2 up to deck 13. In the Atrium are the two entrances to the Cascades Main Dining Room, with tables for 2 up to 12 Persons. Deck 5: Additional entrances to the Cascades Dining Room. Opposite is the Internet-Cafe with 6 Terminals and 1 printer. Some more additional seating around the lobby, Latitudes- Coffee bar, entrance to the perfume shop, a shopping arcade to some more stores with different commodities, like logo-wear, shirts, cigarettes, alcohol. In the center is an open area for special sales. Further ahead we find the shops for jewelry, fashion jewelry, sunglasses, bags and evening wear. A passage leads to the photo-gallery, along the desk from the Discover Shopping Guide, an Art-gallery with different exhibits for the art-auctions, and plenty of beautiful sculptures (not for the auctions), like many others throughout the whole ship. Conference- Center: two entrances, two different rooms, very sober furnished. Aurora Theater over two floors, the stage for the main evening shows, but also for lectures about Hawaii and for the so called "Captains Corner", a question and answer hour with the Master and 3 officers. Good visibility from almost every seat in the theater, but due to us, the sound was often too loud. Deck 6: On the left side is the entrance to the Schooner Bar - serves also as the passage to Colony Club, to Portofino and Chops Grille (both seat about 90 guests), with several armchairs and couches in leather. Attentive bar service, a bar piano player, different music styles. Unfortunately the bar was not well visited. Being there in the evening we were wondering where all the passengers were. But we have to admit, that we have hardly been out longer than 11pm. Entering the Colony Club we find two Pool- Billiard Tables, which were very popular. The Furniture is English Colonial style, some consider it cozy, others rather somber. Colony Club is used for Captain's reception, Bingo, dance-events and - classes and more. At the end there is a bar with big panorama windows and a wonderful view over the stern. Casino - entrance on the right hand side of the atrium in direction towards the theater. Like all casinos loud and full of cigarette smoke as smoking is not prohibited there. On the left hand side is the entrance to the sports bar with spectacular plasma screens as well as the entrance to the cinema with 60 seats equipped with a large screen and good sound system. I am sorry to say, that we never found the time to watch a movie. Back in the atrium is the Champagne bar, in a less good location than on the Splendour of the Seas (on deck 4). During the day frequented by many reading passengers. Deck 7: At the Atrium is a second small Internet Café with 6 Terminals and a printer, the so- called Business Center, much more quiet than the other Internet Cafe at the the shops-entrance. Deck 8: Desk of the International Hostess Armelle, a very nice and helpful person. She was present at least twice a day for the foreign passengers. Deck 9: Atrium with open library and no big choice of books. Most of them were out. Deck 10: Concierge Club, only for Diamond members of RCCL's Loyality program and suite passengers. Only accessible with a special card, nicely furnished, always fresh, good coffee and drinks served before dinnertime. In the atrium is another comfortable and quiet seating area. Deck 11: entrance to the Windjammer Cafe and to the Art Gallery showing a display of paintings and other artwork on the left side. Exit to the Pool deck equipped with one pool and lift for handicapped persons, 2 jacuzzi's, one also with a lift, Pool bar with bar chairs, and of course plenty of deckchairs, some were in a rather untidy condition. Passage to the glass- domed Solarium. There's a big pool, one jacuzzi plus 2 showers, the usual artificial plants and some natural plants in addition. Wooden deckchairs with comfortable upholstery, several tables with 4 chairs each. Really pleasant temperatures inside, so most of the time were many people there, because the outside temperatures were not perfect for everybody. Passage to the Spa with the usual high prices, for example: Ionothermy $145, Facial with lifting, 50 minutes – $ 109, Seaweed massage, 90 minutes – $ 176, Hot Stone Aroma Massage, 75 minutes – $ 175. On port days there was a discount for some massages of $ 20, still expensive. On the other side of the ship is the hair- and nail- studio. Windjammer-Cafe: At in the back of the ship, seating for 780 Passengers (inside and outside) panoramic windows both to port- and starboard side. Wooden tables and chairs with blue upholstery. Buffets at different stations in a market- restaurant- style, almost all of them on both sides of the restaurant. Outside behind the Windjammer are couches armchairs and table combinations for alfresco dining, but not in a good and clean condition. At the stern about 120 seats, totally covered with a sunroof. We have never eaten outside, temperatures under the sunroof were too cold and to us it was to windy. breakfast: at port days it started at 6.15 am, on sea days at 7am. Several sorts of bread, rolls, croissants, danish's, Donuts, appetizing wonderful raisin bread with cranberries, margarine, salted butter, a choice of marmalade and jams. Warm dishes like sausages, some fish and cheese. Toast station with white and brown toast, English Muffins and much more. 2 Stations for coffee, water, milk, several sorts of tea, stations for juices like orange- and for fruits, prepared and ready to eat. Egg Harbor for omlette with a choice of mushrooms, ham, onions and more, fried eggs, biscuits, sauces. New:a Ketchup-station, no more ketchup and mustard in small separate portions but now in a dispenser. Lunch: from noon to 3pm, fresh pre- prepared salads, condiments to create your own salad, 4-6 dressings, cheese, sausage, ham, several sorts of bread. Hot buffets with daily changing meals like fish, sausage, corn, carrots, mashed potatoes, Chicken Tandoori, Beef Curry, Spanish Rice. Hamburger and Hot Dog Station with also daily changing extra meals like stuffed paprika peppers and rice. Sandwich station with tasty sandwiches like tuna, turkey, vegetarian and more. Hot Pasta buffet with two sorts of pasta, a choice of sauces and up to 9 sorts of Pizza. Beverages: lemonade, fruit punch, ice water, classic iced tea (unsweetened). A Dessert-station offering different cakes, fruits, custards, jellies and additional soft-ice. Coffee and Tea- time): starting at 3.30pm, cakes and cookies, sandwiches, some warm dishes and again Hot Dogs and Hamburger. Dinner: we only had dinner in the Windjammer once, after a long tour on the island of Oahu, when we returned to the ship too late for dinner in the Main Dining-Room. Great choice of cold appetizers and hot meals, salads, cheese, sushi. A special station where steaks and salmon were grilled a la minute. And absolutely recommendable is the Mongolian BBQ, where you choose the ingredients. The cook will prepare it for you on the show- grill, delicious. Every evening a warm dessert, we had vanilla ice with hot pears and hot chocolate sauce. For people loving to dine casually, a good alternative to the Dining-Room. Deck 12: Jogging track and Fitness Center: A full range of fitness equipments, like treadmills, cross trainers and more, well used like on all of our cruises before, starting early in the morning. In the backwards direction is Adventure Ocean, the playing and pool area for children, the golf-simulator and the Seaview-Cafe eatery (diner- style), open noon to evening. In the middle of deck 12, in the atrium, is the Crown & Anchor Lounge for booking future cruises, which we visited for the first time and booked a cruise to get the onboard-credit of $ 200. Deck 13: The Starquest Lounge, a discotheque and bar with panoramic view, and Hollywood Odyssey, during the day used for special events and in the evening as a bar for cigar smokers. In the front Atrium with 3 lifts, from deck 2 to deck 12, outside is the rock-climbing-wall, which was not used as often as on the other ships and the miniature-golf-course, which was used much more. Our sea days: on the way to Hawaii and backwards we had 4 days at sea each time, absolutely relaxing to us. The weather was not so warm as many people expected. Only a small group of people enjoyed the sun in the few hours when she came out. Outside activities were very limited. But we took the weather like it was, not in bathing suits, but normally dressed, discovering the ship and spending a lot of time with our friends and some new friends from our Cruise-Critic-group. Hawaii: Big Island, Hilo: We arrived at 6.30am during really terrible weather, cloudy, no sun at all and it was about to rain. We had already booked a tour with Green Tours from home by email, $69 per person, beginning at 8.30am until 3.45pm. The rain accompanied us almost the whole day, sometimes the sun appeared, and the next moment it was raining cats and dogs. We saw the Rainbow Falls, the Volcano National Park with several scenic stops, a lava tube, the Macademia Nut Factory serving wonderful macademia ice cream. We missed Akaka Falls because we were running out of time. In the evening we had a very special experience. We saw the glowing lava flowing into the ocean in the dark, under a full moon. Captain Locking turned the ship around several times, so everybody on each side could enjoy these spectacular moments. Big Island, Kailua Kona: warm at last, almost hot, the opposite to Hilo. It is a tender port and time was scantly, so we had not booked a tour. We discovered Kona on our own and went again on our own paths from 7 years ago, when we visited Hawaii for the first time to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We showed our friends the hotel, where we stayed and what we like on this part of the island. Kauai: we booked a tour, just perfectly planned for German tourists, at home by email. The operator was Kauai Paradise Tours, Max Deyerl, Email:kauaiaufdeutsch@msn.com Max was born in Germany and we knew him since our trip in 1999. He introduced us and 3 other German couples, 2 of them were friends of us, in more than 8 hours the sights of this so- called Garden Island. He explained everything with a deep passion for the island and he drove his 15-person van excellent. Street conditions were terrible, because of heavy rainfalls during the last weeks. We saw sights which you cannot visit on a normal tour by coach. Highlights were of course Waimea Canyon with plenty of scenic stops, breathtaking panoramic views and the southern coast with its beaches, sea turtles and beautiful hotel resorts. The weather here was also very mixed, sometimes warm, a few minutes later we needed our raincoats. Oahu: once again we arrived during a rain shower, but the day became better and better. Like for Kauai I´ve already pre- booked a German guided tour online from Germany, also in a small van again with a person we met before in 1999. Waltraud Lindenblatt, Wally´s Tours, wallystours@yahoo.com, this tour could not be any better. Waltraud guided us with love and knowledge over the island where she is living now for many years and she showed us the highlights in about 8 ½ hours, starting in Honolulu, then Waikiki, Diamond Head, along the east coast with many exclusive villas for the very well- off. We visited Hanauma Beach Park, Chinamans' Hat and Sunset Beach, watching the surfers, and then further on to Waimea Beach Park. Then we drove right through the middle of the island, visiting the Dole Plantation, to enjoy the delicious pineapple ice cream, and then back to the Honolulu area via Pearl City, so we could see the Arizona Memorial and the Missouri from outside Pearl Harbor. We continued our tour through Downtown Honolulu and China Town, stopped at the Iolani Palace and finished at the Ala Moana Shopping Mall for a short walk. We took a taxi for $11 back to the pier where a wonderful day was coming to an end. Lahaina, Maui: our last port on the islands, without a booked tour. Here we took a taxi to Whalers Village and Kaanapali Beaches once again together with our friends, visited the Whalers museum and strolled around. Other friends went for a swim, but they were facing strong winds which was an unpleasant combination with all the powdering sand. We returned back to Lahaina on a taxi ride for 12 $ and made some last stops in Lahaina´s shops to buy some souvenirs (okay, an expensive souvenir for me). Our impression about Hawaii: because it was our second visit since 1999, and this time only a ramble for one day per island, our memories of the time we traveled each of the four islands for several days came alive. Our opinion about the islands has changed. If people asked in 1999, which island to choose if you could only visit one, our answer would have been Kauai or Maui. Now, our answer would be to definitely pick Oahu. This island has everything for a longer vacation, unbelievable landscapes, coastlines and beaches to dream about, but also cities like Honolulu and Waikiki, so there's something for everyone and every taste. Of course we would recommend to visit all of the islands, each one is different, the landscapes, the climate, the beaches and hotels. Weather and Climate: The days at sea were cool in the beginning. For walking and jogging early in the morning a sweatshirt was necessary- early means 5.30am or 6:00am to me. Some people have been wearing gloves and caps. During the day it usually became warmer, but it remained still windy, spray came up even to deck 12, temperatures were in the 60's. Sunbathing was only possible at wind-sheltered areas on deck. 2 days before we arrived to Hawaii and 2 days after we left were warmer days at sea, but there have been also some upcoming rain showers here and then. Because the ship went at about 23-24 knots and due to some higher waves, we felt pretty more movements than usual. But for the first time on a cruise, it did not bother me. CruiseCritic-group: a special chapter for a special group, the so-called Pineapple- Express, with roundabout 50 persons, who have met in a roll-call on an American cruise board for more than half a year- even for some of them more than a year. We have met almost daily on the board, talked about different things, tried to manage some slight problems together as a community, and planned activities. We had an easel on deck 8 close to the elevators with our daily activities and pictures from the last day. We organized several activities like a dinner on the evening before our cruise, first meeting at the pool bar before sail away, the Meet&Mingle organized by RCCL, joined by the cruise director and hotel director to come along and say hello to ourselves. Once we had lunch together in the Portofino, exclusively opened for our group, a mini golf tournament men against women, a tour of the cabins to visit all cabin types, starting with an inside, several types of balcony cabins up to a Junior Suite and even a Grand Suite. We had so much fun and it was really interesting. We had a gift-exchange with typical gifts from the state we came from, a come together party in the Schooner Bar, a breakfast with more than 30 people in the dining room at the end of the cruise and a special galley tour. It was exciting to see, how people from USA, Canada, Scotland and Germany, met for the first time and had such a good time together. I am really sorry to say that we will likely not see most of them again, but who knows what life will bring? Eating in the Dining-Room: In the evening we were booked at a table for 4 persons close to the windows in a small separate room on deck 4, not in the main dining room. We had dinner in the main seating, that began at 6pm. Second seating was at 8.30pm, too late for us. We and our friends liked our table, it was somehow far away from the hectic. The quality of the food was good, the choice was always sufficient (take a look at examples of the menu cards on our website:www.oppermann-wuppertal.de). Both our waiters, from the Phillipines and the headwaiter from Slovakia have been really friendly and served well. Extra desires were always considered well and, when once asked, served the next evening without reminding them (like a special dressing for the salad). There were only a few new dishes on the menu, which we did not know from other cruises on RCCL ships, but we enjoyed all of them, some of those dishes were fusion cuisine, cross culture like dishes. Lunch: here is a new innovation by RCCL, which we really liked: It is called Brasserie 30 and is served only on days at sea in the dining-room. This concept will be introduced on all RCCL ships and we can really recommend it. The idea is, that if you order 2 courses, you will be finished with lunch within 30 minutes. Having more than 2 courses, it will of course take longer. You will be seated at separate, special prepared tables with excellent service. You receive a special menu with daily changing dishes for the soup, appetizer, main course and dessert. They begin serving delicious freshly baked bread with butter and pesto. In addition there is a pasta station, where your pasta will be freshly prepared the way you like it. Many meals are prepared a la minute, you will taste the difference when you order the steak sandwich. The waiters are much more relaxed and friendly serving lunch, than we experienced it on other ships, where the service in the dining-room for lunch was totally different, which means worse, to the excellent service in the evening. A great improvement. Dining in Portofino: First of all, it was not so easy as we expected to make a reservation for Uwe´s birthday. Three days before I asked for a reservation, but the whole restaurant was booked out. They offered us to dine at 9pm, but that was too late for us and our friends. Only because of a cancellation and my good contact to the nice restaurant manager Sahin, we finally got the table for Uwe´s birthday. And it was absolutely worth it. We could choose a table at the window, with a total different atmosphere than in the dining room. Because of large windows and a roof outside the light was very special. Outstanding service the whole evening, at the beginning we got delicious bread and pesto and we had for example the carpaccio as appetizer, a clam chowder soup, a small pasta, a grilled beef tenderloin on creamy mash potatoes with delicious vegetables as main course, Uwe had the Atlantic Halibut with a crab and shrimp risotto. Before serving the dessert, they brought us cookies and strawberries, covered with chocolate. The dessert was made in heaven, Tiramisu, served in a chocolate bowl and Uwe had flourless chocolate cake (50.000 calories, at least). What a dinner and well worth the extra $15 (service charge is included) but for this excellent service you'll add some more gratuity. One thing: you need about 2 ½ hours for this, like they call it, dining experience. Departure: It started early in the morning at 6.15am in the theater, first to get the passports back and then to Immigration, who came onboard for the foreigners; fast and easy. We spent the time until disembarkation for Platinum and Diamond-Members in the Cascade Dining Room, and waited almost for 1 ½ hours until our tag-color was called to leave the ship to the terminal. Our Luggage was complete but then the disaster began. Outside the terminal were long lines for the busses to the airport. Nobody knew which bus was for which terminal/airline. So many people, not enough busses, time was running by and our flight departure came closer and closer. Finally we could grab a seat in a bus and when arriving at the airport, the passengers had to take the luggage out of the bus by themselves, no good service. The Check-in at United Airlines counter went fast, but then the next disaster began. We had to wait in a very long line for our security check before we could reach the gates. It took us almost one hour so we thought our flight had departed without us. But we were lucky, the aircraft itself was delayed and so we caught our flight to Washington D.C. No free food on this 5 hour flight, we had to buy a salad or sandwich for $5, beverages were free. The next delay awaited us when we arrived in Washington D.C. where we had to run, to reach the flight to London. They were about to close the doors to the gate, when we arrived. What a hurry with these long distances from gate to gate. A long flight to London, but without any problems but after arrival another 90 minutes from one gate to the other for the flight to Dusseldorf because of a change of terminals at London- Heathrow. We'll never fly via Heathrow again, that's really horrible. (Note of the assistant translator: Next time, take British Airways, dear Marita. Their terminal exchange is much better organized and smoother) RCCL has made a mistake in their organization of disembarkation and departure. They did not ask the passengers, when their flights were leaving, like they did on other ships where they gave them the tags in accordance of the departure time. We were told, that people with a 1 pm flight were in the same group like people with a 8 pm flight. They only caught the plane, by leaving the ship earlier than called. RCCL must definitely re- organize the whole process. Our Conclusion: About the ship we would say, it is generally in good shape. But some details attracted our attention. Although it is only 5 years old you will see many slight faults which need to be repaired. Many chairs in the dining room and the Windjammer Cafe almost broke apart. Some tables wobbled so that you had trouble with keeping your hot coffee when somebody leaned on the table. Some upholsteries were very battered and some carpeted floors were frayed. Things that could be fixed in a short time, but nobody seemed to be concerned about remedial measures. Faulty chairs were placed in another section of the restaurant, tables were cleaned but nobody felt responsible for their weak shape. Don't they have a repair department with some handymen on board? Many deckchairs were in a bad condition too. It was not the quality, but they were simply not clean. We sat down twice with our normal clothes which became dirty from the deckchairs. Never use them without using a towel. Many of them were full of paint licks and not cleaned properly for a long time. About the meals something became obvious to us. This was our 4th cruise with Royal Caribbean, the food was of a good quality, but only a few times very good, but never (left beside Portofino) in an excellent quality. On all of our cruises the meals were almost the same and tasted the same. Maybe Americans love that, but we would opt for alternations in meals and in taste. We have heard that RCCL does not allow to change the recipes or even the decoration of the plates. For a cruise line, which is proud to have so many repeaters, shouldn't they offer a better variety? We would appreciate that very much. About the Crew I would say, this was the most relaxed crew we have ever had and that has certainly to do with the Captain, the hotel director and their management. We loved the atmosphere, although some other passengers did not like the casualty. We found so much kindness and support, we never had before and we sincerely thank all of the crew who made this cruise so special for us. We were very glad to hear, that the management offered some special events for the crew, like an evening with a pool party in the Solarium and a dinner in the Windjammer. We've heard from several crew members, that they enjoyed it very much and it was good for the working spirit. All this together creates the special atmosphere on the Radiance. Recommendation: A ship, which we can recommend for every itinerary. For us personally, the Radiance Class of ships belong to the most beautiful ships on earth. We like the size, it's not too big. That there have been so many people on board, was only an occasional problem when getting back from the pier to the ship, but had nothing to do with RCCL's organization. It was a problem with the port authorities and their security staff, who did sometimes too much for security. In combination with some small renovations in the public areas, the Radiance could shine again in her former glamour.

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Mar 5, 2006

Western Caribbean

I went on this cruise for relaxation. Room 7550 was not what I expected of this cruise line. The furniture was worn and tatty, I complained and they came and varnished the desk and drawers and then asked me not to touch anything for 4 hours. I could not sleep in the room that night so I slept with the balcony door wide open. I also had to have the room spring cleaned. Food on the ship was too greasy with undercooked sausages in the

Windjammer' The food variety was the same every morning. The dining room staff at table 403 were great and so was my room attendant. He had nothing to do with the ship's furnishings. The ship looked old and worn. I have cruised with RCCL at least 5 times. That was my last time. The Adventure of the Seas was by far my best time with RCCL. Serenade and Radiance were the same in style, entertainment.

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Dec 11, 2005

Western Caribbean

We flew down to Miami one day prior to the cruise on Air Canada. We always fly at least one day or more before just in the event of flight delays or cancellations due to weather. We really enjoy getting a chance to decompress and enjoy the port city prior to the cruise. If there is any advice I could give someone it would be to spend time pre and post cruise. As it was, our flight originally scheduled for 7:30am changed to 10:30 and then

waited on the tarmac until 11:30. You can see how schedules can go from comfortable to slight uneasiness to panic very quickly. Most people on board this packed flight were going on cruises that left that evening and ‘yes’ they were stressed. Not the way we like to begin vacation. Last year we met a great tour operator through a porter at the airport in Miami. So we pre-booked him again this year. He was waiting for us in the terminal when we arrived. The forecast had been for showers and thunderstorms. The inclement weather stayed away and it was a lovely afternoon and evening. We checked into the Miami Courtyard Marriott got settled and then went to Bayside Marketplace for dinner and some shopping. If you plan to go to Bayside Marketplace you can go to their website and get a voucher for a coupon book, nothing great, but a few savings. You can also print out coupons from the Bath & Body Works website to use at their stores and there is one at Bayside. SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2005 DEP MIAMI 4PM We had breakfast at a nice little bakery called the Don Pan on the corner across from the hotel. The smoothies were excellent. We checked out just before noon and waited for Edgar, our driver, to pick us up. Remember the hotels in Miami are very busy on Saturdays and Sundays with people getting ready to board their ships so call the porters and check out earlier than usual. Hotel Information: Courtyard Miami Downtown 200 SE Second Avenue Miami, Florida 33131 USA Phone: 1-305-374-3000 Fax: 1-305-374-4061 Great rooms on the 7th floor and up. Once at the pier we left our bags in the hands of a friendly porter, we made sure he was well paid and we were off to board the ship. Checking in was fairly painless. One tip for Canadian residents, make sure you check the box that disallows RCI to convert your shipboard account to Cdn funds. They do this ‘for your convenience’ and at a horrible exchange rate. Thanks but no thanks. The 2 or 3% you pay to your credit card company will be lower. Another tip to those who choose to not be very observant, make sure before you leave the check in counter you ensure you have the correct seapass card. My mother and aunt got someone else’s cards and it was not noticed until already onboard. Guest services rectified the matter but save yourself the pain and very unnecessary trouble. We always try to get down to the dining room to asses our table location and meet the maitre d’. After our tasks were complete we went to the windjammer for a buffet lunch. I really like the buffet setup and offerings on the Radiance. However, I am not a fan of buffets so this would be the only time I ate at the windjammer this sailing. I do remember eating there many times on a prior cruise on the Radiance. We had two balcony rooms on the 9th deck aft and starboard. This was the first time in a lot of cruises that we did not have a room on the port side. My mom and aunt stayed across the hall in an interior room. This is a great ship to go in an inside room as they are quite large and comfortable. However, our balcony room and my brother’s balcony rooms were so nice – she made a pledge to not go in an inside room if we were getting balconies. On sail away we started out on the good side of the ‘port of Miami’ the side that is not facing the port and pier but the houses and south beach. The ship will then turn around in order to sail out and then we were facing downtown Miami and the port for most of the sail away. Other ships in port that day were Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory, NCL Jewel, Explorer of the Seas. That night we met our waiter Chako and Oleksandr. They were fantastic and probably one of the best wait staff teams we had. The glasses were always full, they always made recommendations and they always finished our thoughts by bringing extra of the good entrée and desserts. You know, ‘just in case…’ Tonight almost everyone at the table enjoyed the prime rib, I had the ravioli and I enjoyed it very much. MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2005 AT SEA FORECAST 83F We woke up to the coffee being delivered to our room and we would enjoy it with some Bailey’s (after all we are on vacation!). This has become a cruise tradition. We all met for breakfast in dining room around 8:30am. I think the dining room closed around 9am. We spent the morning relaxing, swimming or exploring the ship. Later on in the afternoon we went to the Sea View café for lunch around 1:30 –2pm. This seemed to be a good time for the Sea View as there were a lot of empty tables and no one in line. I really like the Sea View but it is often crowded. Afterwards my nephew went a few times on the water slide and then he discovered the rock climbing wall. When I was onboard in 2003, the rock wall cost $10 to climb. Now they offer it for free. This was the start of my nephew climbing it numerous times. Tonight was formal night and the production show was ‘Piano Man’. Both were fun and a success. Unfortunately, this was the only night we got to the show because we are on late seating and the shows mostly were pre-dinner after that. So I can’t comment on any of the others. I can comment on the show lounge being one of my favorite, as you can always get a fairly good seat, even right up to the curtain up. If you showed up 10 to 20 min early you had your pick of seats. The last time I sailed on the Radiance, we usually sat in the second level one deck up on deck six. The seats were large and comfortable and there is enough room for others to walk in front of you while you are seated. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2005 LABADEE, HISPANOLA 8am – 4pm FORECAST 88F We anchored off the coast of Labadee early and it was a fantastic day to spend at the beach. We took our time and had breakfast in the dining room. I read some varied complaints about Labadee on the Cruise Critic boards and they concerned me slightly. Then when I saw the peninsula I was delighted. RCI has a great brochure and map of Labadee, if you don’t get one in your room than make sure you get it from Guest Services. They offer many activities such as parasailing, kayaking, jet skiing and a thriller power boat ride to name a few. Then they also have a water park for tykes and other aqua park activities for older kids to adults. The day we had was hot (around 90F) humid and sunny! A perfect day to enjoy the beach. When you land at the tender area, to your right is the Columbus Beach area and this has the Jet Skis, kayaks, thriller power boat, water slides and Aqua park. Unless you are going to be apart of these activities or just exploring, I would not bother with this area. So, from the tender drop off if you turn towards the left you will see the first beach and extreme far left into the distance a second beach, barefoot beach and then one more after that, hideaway beach. These were smaller and quite nice if they are not too busy you can enjoy these areas. We continued on and found the beach on the other side. This was a big bay and was not too crowded, so we enjoyed the day there not too far in front of the first aid station. The bathrooms were just behind and the food stations where you could get the BBQ were on either side. On this big bay you could see some small waves breaking and some markers in the water. This was a very good snorkeling site. The snorkeling was a lot better than I expected and just on the other side of the markers there was some great coral formations and tropical fish. Don’t get too expectant to see tons of fish, there are not many. There is worthwhile stuff to see, mostly critters and corals, look hard. One unfortunate thing I wish the ship educated people better regarding the reefs. I think they should make an announcement in the cruise compass to tell people when they are wading into the ocean that whatever they think are rocks are actually corals and many living animals. Touching them or stepping on them can easily kill them. You would not believe the number of people we saw walking up on top of the coral, ‘Yes’ right on top of the coral in their water shoes. After the snorkeling, we headed for the BBQ and enjoyed some burgers and salads. Our breakfast waiter told us he recommends the fruit punch and it was quite good. It would be even better with some vodka or rum. They offered the regular variety of fruits and salads and some great brownies for dessert. The rest of our afternoon was spent on the mats we rented for $10. They were very comfortable and great for starting our base tan. Do not worry about there not being enough beach chairs or mats. There is a lot of all these things available. Labadee was everything my cruise agent said it was and more. The only problem was we had to be back on board for 3:30 and the ship sailed at four. The sail away was breath taking and the moon was now almost full. Our starboard side balcony was facing Haiti during the day and the port side saw more of Labadee. During the sail away, our side was the best for seeing all of Labadee. Bring money to buy stuff at the market Otherwise everything else uses cruise card Bring our own floats to use – to rent them is $10 Went to large bay beach, not that busy at all Snorkeling was better than expected lots of nice corals saw some great tropical fish and sea anemones More than enough lounge chairs Big buffet The fruit punch was excellent. NO OTHER SHIPS IN PORT If you are staying at the beach right until the end of the day, my advice would be to wait and go on the last tender. We lined up in a huge line for one of the tenders going before the last tender and they of course, were packed and the last tender was sparse. Tonight’s dinner attire was casual/Caribbean. The entertainer in the show lounge was a female singer/comedian. WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2005 OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA 9am – 5pm FORECAST 90F Reading some previous posts on Cruise critic I could see that hiring one of the many private guides was the way to go. The ship’s excursions do not give good value for the half day and we always try to avoid them. I got in touch with some of the guides a few months prior. We decided to go with Peat Taylor and his son, O’Neil. Email: oneiltay@cwjamaica.com The main tour consists of a visit to Dunn’s River Falls, the fern gully up on the mountainside, some shopping if desired. We stopped at a small school with a few 5 year old students, they were so welcoming and very sweet. We saw a typical Jamaican neighborhood and enjoyed Peat and Oneil’s commentary and singing. It was well worth the price and they met us right as soon as you got off the pier. Dunn’s River Falls is very touristy but we really enjoyed it. I would stay clear of the market there as they are brutally pushy and really made my nephew uneasy. My advice is to stay polite and walk right past – do not make eye contact. We enjoyed lunch at a very beautiful restaurant called ‘The Ruins’. The food was great and the setting gorgeous. The Jerk (BBQ) pit really packed some heat. We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere and it was not that busy. The morning tour (including the falls) is all included. Lunch is optional and you can be dropped of at the ship as it is very close by. In the afternoon, you could go either river tubing on the white river or horseback riding. We were supposed to go river tubing but the time got a little too close for us to do the activity and go shopping afterwards and make it back to the ship. We just settled on being dropped off at the shopping area near the pier. The cost is US35.00 per adult & US25 .00 per child inclusive of admission to Dunn’s River falls and transportation cost to the other locations, no charge for children under 2 years old. We paid at the end of the tour. When I was originally booking the tour I enquired about a private tour. I believe what happens is Peat takes the larger bus and Oneil will take private guests in the van or if they are very busy you may get a contracted out driver. I would recommend you stick to the larger bus. This way you can get lucky and benefit from having both Peat and Oneil and meet other guests from the ship. As it turned out for our tour there was only one other couple besides our family on the tour. If you are buying Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee (JaBluM), the price we were told to pay per pound was between $13 & $20. In most stores you will find it for more than $20. Bargain down and try to do your best. The best price we could get, even though we were buying 8 pounds, was $17usd per pound. The TajMahal is a main shopping mall near the cruise ship pier. The best store we were told was the one right in the middle of the parking lot. We found the coffee to be cheaper in another store. The name of this store was Reggae Jam and it was shop#7. I’m not saying this is the cheapest but it was the cheapest we could get at the time. I had heard horror stories about Jamaica and was a little nervous about our stop here. The last time I visited there was back in the eighties and I really enjoyed it but places change. I heard Dunn’s River Falls was a horrible tourist trap and the locals harassed you terribly. I am happy to say we were all pleasantly surprised. Jamaica was one of my favorite memories of this trip and I think it was all due to the fact we went on a private tour and got out and into the countryside. I would really recommend others do the same. The other ships in port today were the NCL Jewel, NCL Dawn and Westerdam We had the best berth in this port and the Westerdam was berthed at the James Bond Pier. Sounds better but it is older and further out of the town. The two NCL ships tendered in to our pier. In this port our starboard side room faced the port and it was a very beautiful port to look at. The moon tonight was now full. The dinner attire for tonight was written as country/casual. Not ‘country club’ casual, it was more country western. The show lounge featured a comedian ‘Chad Chesmark’. After dinner they had the ‘love and marriage’ show featuring married passengers. We always find this to a highlight and these couples did not disappoint. Something to note about the shore excursions, since you can book them on the TV, you can book them right up and including the night before or even the day of the tours. So if you feel you are too late – you can try to get on one. I thought this was good for people who aren’t sure what they want to do until the last minute and on most cruises you find you are out of luck. Our friend decided at the last minute to join my brother and his family on their shore ex in Cayman and she booked it on the TV with no problem before she retired for the night. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2005 GRAND CAYMAN 8AM – 5PM FORECAST 85F We woke up to a beautiful day in Grand Cayman. My sister and I booked a certified scuba dive through the ship. My brother and his family were going on a tour of Hell, the turtle farm and then to the beach. The dive tour was with Red Sail Sports. This was a first rate dive op and I would use them again. However, we did not have a first rate experience. There is always the debate, should you dive with the ship or book a dive operator privately. Well today would be an argument to book a dive on our own. One of the reasons we booked with the ship was because you have to tender in Cayman and by the time you get to shore most of the dive trips have already gone out or you could do a shore dive. We had not gone on a dive since last year we were put in the less experienced group, even though we are advanced divers. I would not mind so much but we had a dive guide who only lived in Cayman for two weeks, so unfortunately, she did not know the dive sites as well as they usually do. This particular site is on the famous Cayman wall and we were supposed to go through three swim through and then dive along the wall. What happened was we got through one swim through and another diver was already low on his air and we had to go back to the boat. Usually what happens in this situation is we swing around so the diver knows where the boat is and they do their safety stop and go back to the boat. The rest of the group would continue on. In this case the dive guide stayed there and after a very short period of time she wanted us to go back to the boat and we still had 2000 psi. There was a mutiny right there in the depths and we shared our displeasure with the captain once we were back on board. We were then moved into the other group for the second dive. I am still mad as that could be the last time I get the opportunity to see the Cayman wall. After that the second dive was quite excellent. After the morning of diving we tendered back to the ship to drop off our gear and then headed straight back into Georgetown. There were way too many ships in that day. The main areas of Georgetown were packed. The traffic was horrible. If you were on a private shore excursion make sure the tour is in the morning and give yourself plenty of time to get to the pier through all the bad traffic. The only thing we needed to buy here was Tortuga rum and Tortuga rum cake. Make sure you buy the rum early because they have to deliver it to the ship, you cannot take the liquor you buy. I was very close to missing the cut off time and we saw many people disappointed. Most of the stores you need can be found right on the two main streets, Harbour Drive & Cardinal Avenue. Other ships in port that day were, Star Princess, Rhapsody of the Seas, NCL Jewel, NCL Dawn, Westerdam, Carnival Conquest, Jewel of the Seas, Carnival Valor and a Pullmantur ship not sure of the name. Tonight was formal night and the night they served lobster. The show was after dinner for the late seating show. However, I was just too exhausted after the full day enjoying GC. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2005 COZUMEL 10AM – 7PM FORECAST 88F Today we woke up to very dark skies. It was so overcast, there was absolutely no chance of clearing up. We were thinking the ship might cancel the port stop. Once we arrived in Coz and were at anchor, the devastation became very apparent. It was really horrible to see what weather is capable of. We were anchored out front of the International Pier area. At first view, all we could see were skeletons of buildings and rubble. You could actually see right through high rise hotels. I would have never imagined the damaged could be so bad. If I could give my honest opinion about this, I believe it is too soon for the ships to stop here. I do realize they need the tourist dollars to re-build, however, the day we were there, there was the Coral Princess, Carnival Valor, Carnival Conquest, the Radiance – and I even think I saw the Rhapsody of the Seas as well. This is close to or more than 10,000+ people and the infrastructure just is not there yet. On a positive note the people were exceptionally warm and happy and ready to please. I am not sure if there are any planes coming in yet as there did not appear to be many hotels in operation. Our ship prepared as the huge ferries are used as the tenders. Once the tenders began service, it was very fast to get ashore. The International pier itself was completely devastated and you could see where they rebuilt just enough to allow the ferries to have a proper docking area and just beyond this it was fenced off. The rest of the pier was reduced to just some footings and twisted rebar. We had pre-booked a scuba dive with Eagle Ray Divers. We used this dive operation last year and we really like them. When we got off the tender, there were a lot of shore excursion operators offering tours. We had to get to the ‘La Caletta’ marina just up the road. We got there very quickly by taxi.and met our hosts for the day. The taxi fare was $6 flat rate plus tip. There was another couple going snorkeling on our boat and there was supposed to be another family going diving also booked. They were ‘no shows’. This was very lucky for us, as we now had the dive master all to ourselves. The great thing about scuba diving is it does not matter if it is a rainy day because you get wet anyway and you are underwater so the weather did not ruin our day as much as it was a factor for my brother and his family who were going to the beach. I do not want to dwell on the hurricane damage, but I will mention a few more things to try and help people choose their shore excursions. I think to get out and do some water sports is a good idea as our dive was still excellent and the snorkeling still appeared good as well. Since there did not appear to be a lot of land tourists staying there, there is not the amount of divers and snorkelers there usually is. These operators need the business. I do not think this would be a great beach port for the next little while. The water goes right up to the shore line beaches are washed away. Chakanaab (sp?) no longer exists. Paradise Beach is operational but just does not look ready. We saw some people that went on the Tulum and Xelha excursion and they really enjoyed it. The shops and shopping available is picking up and they are putting out their best efforts. There is still a lot to buy. The restaurants were destroyed at the International Pier. There might be a lot more shopping and restaurants downtown but I cannot comment for sure, as we did not get down there. I can comment on the diving, it is still fantastic! Do not hesitate to go. You can certainly see where unfortunately reefs have been covered over in sand and some unfortunate destruction. However, the water was still the most gorgeous blue and the animals were plentiful. The crew on our dive boat was even telling us the hurricane actually opened up more caves and swim throughs, so you might be pleasantly surprised. We went to Santa Rosa Caves and the second dive was at a reef we went to last year ‘las palmas’. It was still the most fabulous topography and walls and IMHO the critters are the best in the area. The day before, in Grand Cayman we had great dive conditions and 100+ visibility and I still preferred Cozumel. We saw a great nurse shark under a ledge and many huge queen angelfish (the best I have ever seen) and those Cozumel ‘splendid’ toadfish are just the best! All in all we had a great day in Coz even though the weather was cold and miserable (probably got to about 76F). The warm people and their remarkable surviving spirit was so warm and certainly was a lesson for all of us. If you want to contact Chellie at EAGLE RAY DIVERS www.EagleRayDivers.com chellie@eagleraydivers.com 011-52-987-872-5735 phone FAX-52- 987-872-7295 The last evening was casual/50s & 60s attire. Honestly, I didn’t notice anyone dressed up for any of these themes. Maybe by telling you all ahead of time you will be better prepared than we were on our sailing. The show again was a pre-dinner show, this was the production show ‘Welcome to our World’ and I have seen it before and remembered it was well done and would recommend it. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2005 AT SEA Today was our last day of the cruise and the plan was full out sun bathing. It was one of those days where there was not one cloud to be seen across the sky. Just a great day to be alive! We started out by having breakfast in the dining room. We found great lounge chairs in a prime spot providing possible all day sun on the deck above the pool deck and right outside the solarium. Now I will comment on the ship itself. When you board the ship on one of the main decks (deck 4) you see the bank of glass elevators and the main floor of the centrum. Very impressive. Take the time to explore all the public areas, I found the ship well thought out and elegant. I noticed lots of attention paid to detail in both the décor, architectural details and cleanliness. I liked the choice of chairs they had in the outside eating areas as they were not just the regular white plastic patio furniture, they were slightly heavier gauge and thus a little more comfortable. The loungers weren’t the regular white plastic loungers that have cushions on top. Although these are the usual type to be found on Princess for example, and are technically more comfortable, unfortunately, we find the cushions are piled for storage and are often wet and get very smelly and musty so we preferred the ones on the Radiance. The décor was nice rich colors mostly earth tones and blues, they were neither flashy nor boring. Our stateroom was decorated in rust and navy. I really liked their choices. The Staterooms: the rooms on this ship are my favorite of any ship I have been on in seventeen cruises. The regular rooms are a great size and very well laid out. They have tons of nooks and crannies to store things. They had lots of closet space and they provided lots of (real) coat hangers. There was a large desk area and a large mirror with extensions on the side. These extensions opened up to provide more shelves and storage space. Beside the bathroom door was a full-length mirror. The lighting was also excellent there were sconces that provided soft light beside the beds and the couch that provided good reading light but there were also smaller spot lights under each of these sconces. Excellent! The bathroom also had lots of space to keep your toiletries. A terrific three way mirror which one side opened up to provide a medicine cabinet and another mirror on the backside of this door. This was fantastic when the bathroom mirrors were foggy from the shower. The shower was a good side for cruise ship standards and there was great water pressure. On days like Labadee where you just knew practically every room had the shower going with everyone washing off the salt and sand from a day at the beach and never did the supply of hot water run out. The balcony was very nice to have especially the glass ones like on the Radiance, they are my favorite as you can sit and watch the world go by. I’m not going to get too far into the food. I can never understand how people can complain about food on cruise ships. I always leave the table full, there is more than enough variety. I don’t have to cook anything and most of all I do not have to clean up. What could possibly be so wrong in this department that I hear complaints. What can I say, the food is fab and you will not be disappointed. The Service/Staff was simply fantastic. The crew on this ship really seemed to be happy and it shows. We spoke to some crew from the kitchen on the tender ride from Grand Cayman, and they told us that the Radiance is considered the best ship in the fleet to work on. They also told us they all get free time everyday to go ashore or whatever, and this is a big thing for moral. It is very noticeable when the crew is truly happy. Our waiter and assistant waiter were only second to a waiter we were privileged to have on the Celebrity Constellation. We enjoy traditional seating and like the wait team to get to know our preferences and spoil us in every way. Chako from India and Olekzandr from Czech Republic truly spoiled us. Chacko always gave us recommendations and Olekzandr new our every need – even before we did. Our head waiter Mustafa, was always there when had special requests. He did a lot of ‘little’ extras for us and we really appreciated him. SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2005 DISEMBARK RADIANCE OF THE SEAS Disembarkation is always going to be the worst part of the trip just because your cruise is now over. The line up to get off the ship was a little longer due to the fact we had to pass customs at this point. I much preferred this to getting up at 6am to present ourselves to customs any day. All in all though, this disembarkation went very smooth. Our driver Edgar from Florida Trans Tours picked us up at the pier. Before we knew we were back at the Courtyard Marriott. This time we were lucky enough to get beautiful rooms on the 14th floor (top floor). Great view of city and ships leaving port. The hotel was not busy at all. We did some more shopping in downtown Miami. MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2005 At noon our driver form Florida Trans Tours picked us up to take us to the airport. We were sad to leave beautiful Miami, but were left with some great memories of a fabulous pre-Christmas cruise.

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Apr 30, 2005

West Coast Repositioning

My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and former health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 16th cruise. Our prior sailings have been on Carnival’s Elation to the Mexican Riviera; on the now defunct Commodore Line’s Enchanted Isle to the Caribbean for 11 days; a 7 day cruise, also in the Caribbean on Celebrity’s Galaxy; followed

by a marvelous cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires on Mercury, also a Celebrity vessel. We then did our Alaskan cruise on Sun Princess, followed by another 7 day Caribbean trip aboard Norwegian Sun and a trans-canal on Celebrity’s Infinity. We then sailed on Millennium for a Mediterranean cruise in May 2003, followed by a Baltic cruise tour on Regal Princess later that year. We then went to Hawaii for the first time on Infinity in November 2003 and did our first HAL on Veendam in the Caribbean the next spring. In March 2004 we took Galaxy from Baltimore to Rome, and returned to the Caribbean in October on Zaandam. A few months before this cruise we went back to the Mexican Riviera on Diamond Princess and in March had a very adventuresome trip down the Amazon on Oceania’s Insignia . All except the first two cruises have been reviewed on www.cruisereviews.com. WHY THIS CRUISE? We had never sailed on Royal Caribbean, nor along the West Coast. Radiance had spent the fall, winter and early spring in the Caribbean, and then sailed through the Panama Canal to San Diego. After we debarked in Vancouver it would start its summertime Alaska cruise program. The pricing on these repositioning cruises is usually quite reasonable and this trip was really a low budget excursion. PLANNING THE CRUISE This was one of our least taxing cruises for pre-planning. America West and Southwest Airlines both offer frequent, low cost flights between Phoenix and San Diego, and America West has non-stop flights from Vancouver. We therefore made our own airfare arrangements. Cruise lines have arrangements with major carriers and do not deal with regional airlines such as America West and Southwest. When we relied on Celebrity to provide our air transfers to start our Infinity cruise to Hawaii, they sent us to San Diego via Los Angeles! This was the first cruise in which I did not pack my tuxedo. Although the material supplied by RCCL suggested that on six night cruises there would be two formal nights, it turned out that there was only one, and fewer that 15% of the men wore tuxes. My dark blue blazer with dark flannel pants was perfectly suitable. We both managed to get all our belongings into one suitcase apiece plus two carry-ons for Edith and one for me. We were a little concerned about the possibility of cold and rain on the West Coast at this time of year, but we each did fine with a sweater and a light rain jacket. DEPARTURE This was as easy and comfortable an embarkation as we have ever experienced. The flight to San Diego is just a little over an hour. Dropping rapidly in to Lindbergh Field directly over the downtown high rises is always entertaining. Once past downtown we saw Radiance shining bright and white in the harbor; a marvelous prospect. We were on the ground quickly and took a ten-minute cab ride to the Harbor Pier for $9.00 with tip. We drove directly up to where they took our two bags, and walked into the pier side check-in. This was about 2:30 in the afternoon and they had been embarking passengers for a while. The documents said boarding would start at 2:00, but it obviously had begun before that. There were about 20 manned check-in stations, only half of which had customers, so we walked up to a vacant station and were processed through in a couple of minutes and in our cabin by 2:45. RADIANCE OF THE SEAS - THE SHIP Radiance is a large vessel of more than 90,000 tons. It is a Panamax ship, meaning that it is as large as a vessel can be to transit the Panama Canal. It first sailed in 2001, so it is fairly new. The design has some good points and some aspects that we considered to be less than helpful. The passenger flow is designed around a central atrium, called The Centrum, which stretches from Deck 4 up through Deck 11. This Centrum is located slight aft of mid ships. The main elevator bank is on the port side of the Centrum, with two glass faced elevators looking inwards to the atrium, and four looking out to sea. The main stairwell is directly aft of the Centrum. There are no other elevators or stairwells any further aft of the Centrum, only a three elevator bank with adjacent stairs forward. This had the effect of making elevator service slow at high demand times. It also resulted in being unable to go by elevator to the Seaview aft on Deck 13. Since the hours of this venue were limited, and it was quite cold and windy on deck at night, we were among the hordes who did not use this cafe despite its good reputation. Nor do I expect it will get much business at night on Radiance’s Alaskan cruises. Radiance lacks a high, forward looking lounge area. The Viking Crown Lounge, also known as Starquest, on Deck 13 is also midships and has a smashing view of the forward superstructure and radar antennae. The forward portions of both Deck 11 and 12 are taken up with the gym and spa, although both these decks have open air forward areas which provided a great spot to see the Golden Gate Bridge on the third day of the cruise. By way of partial compensation for the lack of a forward lounge, the public area of all the lower decks have many windows on either side, affording frequent visual connection with the sea. Aside from these criticisms, it is a well decorated, maintained and reasonably designed ship. There are about 28 inside and outside cabins on Deck 2. Deck 3 is a passenger deck with tender access. Deck 4 has cabins forward. The Centrum begins here, with a bar, a small dance floor and a bandstand. The Guest Relations Desk is starboard, with the excursion desk attached. One either side are entrances into the lower level of the main dining room, called Cascades. There are actually two small rooms before you enter the dining room proper, one called Breakers, where we were seated, and the other called Tides, which was used only for occasional meetings, but not dining. There are good windows on either side of the dining room, but since the galley is behind the dining room, there are no windows looking aft as on many ships such as Celebrity’s main fleet. Deck 4 also has an outside promenade which goes completely around the ship, although you have to go up one deck as you approach the prow. This stairwell leads to the helicopter landing deck, which is actually open to the public and affords a great “Titanic” view over the water forward. Deck 5 stars with the Aurora Theatre forward, and proceeds aft through the art gallery/photo shop area on the starboard side and a conference room portside. You next enter the shopping section with a reasonable selection of mid priced stores. Aft of this is the Centrum area, with the Latte-Tudes coffee bar starboard and the internet cafe to port. Behind Latte-Tudes is a nice seating lounge. Once past the Centrum you enter the Deck 5 access to Cascades Dining Room. There is a Grand Staircase from this deck to Deck 4 of the restaurant. Deck 6 starts with the upper level of the Aurora Theatre, and proceeds aft past the motion picture theater. This is a small room, but has the new “stadium” seating at a steep pitch so each seat has a clear view of the screen. You then pass through the fairly large casino. This location means that no one is required to go through the Casino to get anywhere, except the motion picture theater, since access to the main show theater is very convenient from Deck 5. We heard that there was one really high roller who lost a lot on this trip. We do not indulge in the joy of waving good-bye to our money. Aft of the Casino you are back at the Centrum and then you can only continue along the starboard side of the ship. You first pass through a long and narrow bar called The Schooner Bar. This largely has a nice sea view. Opening off this lounge are the two specialty restaurants, Chops Grill and Portofino’s. They both had port side window views and seemed very pleasant. Aft of this you entered the Colony Club, a lounge, entertainment and dance venue containing 5 distinct areas. First you pass the billiard room with self-leveling tables. We never had a sea rough enough to inspire a visit here to see if they work. Past this is an area labeled the Jakarta Lounge for no apparent reason, a dance floor with bandstand, another bar at the aft end of this deck with adjacent tables, and yet another small lounge area on the port side called the Calcutta Card Club. The Colony Club was used for Bingo among other things. Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 are passenger cabin decks. On each deck there is a small area forward of the open Centrum. Three of these seemed to be used only as small sitting areas, but Deck 9 housed the miniscule library. Deck 11 has a large spa forward. Aft of this is the Solarium, which is a glass roofed covered pool area with padded deck chairs and a jacuzzi. Then you go outside to the outdoor pool with its deck chairs; aluminum affairs with stretched nylon coverings. Aft of this you are back indoors in the Centrum leading to the Windjammer Cafe. This buffet has a variety of indoor and outdoor portions; some exposed to the air, some partially enclosed, with the main seating area entirely indoors of course. Deck 12 has the fitness center and exercise room forward. You then go outside and back to the Centrum portion, which of course is enclosed, and has a small room for Crown and Anchor members. It also has a small round window, which is at the top of the Centrum and enables one to look all the way down to Deck 4. Attached to this room aft is the Game Arcade, Art Studio and Adventure Ocean rooms for kids. You then go outside past the children’s pool with slide and arrive at a small building which houses the Seaview Cafe starboard, Golf Simulator aft and sports area portside. Deck 13 starts in the middle of the ship and has the Starquest Lounge. Leaving this lounge and proceeding aft outside you pass the famous Royal Caribbean Climbing Wall. I never saw anybody using it, but we understand that it was attempted by some. You then go aft by a bridge in the middle of the ship above the children’s pool, and reach the putting range, a nine hole course with some challenges in addition to the wind. All of the public areas were well very decorated and maintained, although I did see some carpet staining in the stairwells, a not infrequent result of people carrying food from the buffet to their cabins. The tables in the bar and lounge areas were a nice dark wood, with pleasant brass lighting. The Centrum was quite resplendent in white painted surfaces and shiny brass fixtures. The stairwells reminded me of Celebrity with their art deco brushed aluminum, light wood and glass. Some of the art work was quite striking, and we liked the outdoor statuary. The cabins were supplied with a ship’s art guide that was very detailed and informative. This is the first such guide we have seen and more cruise lines should provide something like this if they really are proud of their art. The tables and furnishings in the Windjammer Cafe were quite nice, and there was one area of this cafe, which had deep padded cane armchairs and love seats, which were extremely comfortable, but always in demand. The seats in the Aurora Theatre were good and offered adequate sightlines. The aluminum and nylon deck chairs provided everywhere except the solarium conveyed a bargain basement impression. The Solarium itself was one of the nicer places on board, with its sculptures, warm atmosphere and padded lounges. The open glass elevator cages provided views of either the ocean or the atrium, but the design of these makes them smaller than normal elevators, and as I noted, they were frequently crowded and slow. We tried to use the stairs as much as possible. In addition to the usual locations for art, the walls through the cabin halls did have some small art pieces; not as much as on Celebrity, but at least a minor break in otherwise drab areas. OUR STATEROOM Our cabin was No. 9604, a Class D1 Superior Ocean View with balcony. I am not sure what made it “Superior”, but it may have been slightly deeper than the normal ocean view balcony cabins. As you entered it had a small bathroom to the right and closet to the left. The closet had fairly adequate hanging space and shelf space. The door arrangement was a tad strange, with one main door to the closet proper and one to the shelf area with “reach around” access to part of the closet. The closet was actually part of a nice dark wood console, which continued into the cabin to form the desk area and another console area containing the TV, safe and more shelf space. Typically we had more than enough room for our accoutrements. The bathroom has a small shower with curtain; large enough for relatively slender people such as Edith and me, but certainly not generous. The shower contained a wall unit for shampoo/conditioner dispenser which was empty when we arrived, a fact not noticed until my first shower. Soap is provided, but no other toiletries, which seemed pretty chintzy. Opposite the desk was a small love seat with a fixed table. The seating/desk area had a curtain between it and the sleeping area, which was nice. The bed therefore was next to the doors leading out to the balcony; the first time we had experienced this arrangement. The bed itself was provided with a rather thin mattress, but as usual, we had little trouble sleeping most nights. There were two pictures on the painted walls. There were a couple of somewhat unique lamps by each side of the bed, with a normal bulb plus a focused spotlight inside the vertical shaft of the lamp. The balcony was quite shallow, probably about four feet in depth, with two side chairs and a small table. A teak rail topped a glass body affording a clear view outwards. The cool weather on this cruise was not conducive to outdoor lounging, even if there had been more room on the balcony. Its principal utility was to take advantage of an occasional view of land or an other ship, as well as the harbors we visited. The deck was some kind of composition and the partitions between the balconies as usual were open at the top and bottom. The carpeting was good, and the overall stateroom impression, except for the bathroom, was favorable. Two pool towels were provided in each room, with an exchange plan for the pool area. The towels provided in the bathroom were skimpy as to number and certainly not of high quality. DINING ON RADIANCE OF THE SEAS If one does not count the mid afternoon snack on boarding, this short cruise afforded the opportunity for 6 breakfasts and dinners and 5 lunches. We actually had 6 breakfasts, but only 5 dinners and 4 lunches due to our shore visits, so our impressions were based on somewhat limited experiences compared to other cruises. We ate dinner only in the Cascades Dining Room, not wanting to bother with the specialty restaurants on this short a trip. We had heard they were good, but the menus did not reach out and cause us to change our plans. They charge an extra $20.00 per person. All our breakfasts and lunches were in the Windjammer Cafe. The dinners were quite good; at least up to Princess and possibly HAL standards for preparation and flavor. The menus combined appetizers and soups, without making it clear that you could order both. The entree selection was reasonable without being very imaginative. Dessert is ordered off a separate menu; although we much prefer Celebrity’s method of bringing around a sample tray so you can see what you can have. Edith reported that the vegetarian menu was the best she had ever experienced in any restaurant on land or sea. Meat which was ordered with a choice of degree of “doneness”; came as requested. Reynaldo, our waiter from the Philippines and Mark, his assistant from Trinidad were quite good and very cheerful, especially Mark. The Windjammer Cafe is a very pleasant venue, with nice dark wood tables, comfortable arm chairs, a lot of space and a generally attractive atmosphere. The buffet stations are separate enough to allow easy access; and the only time there was any crowding was at breakfast on debarkation day in Vancouver. However, no trays are provided. Each station has a supply of large oval plastic “plates”, plus available small bowls and small plates. Silverware is wrapped in napkins at each station, nothing being provided at the tables beyond salt, pepper and sugar. Coffee stations are scattered about, some self serve, some in bar like arrangements with servers. The selection for breakfast was adequate, with the usual items available and an omelet station. I never saw a toasting set-up, and missed the excellent provision for toast and toasted bagels found on Insignia. Juice was either orange or apple, and pre-poured into glasses. Lunch was also rather uninspired as to selection, which did not seem to vary much. I have gotten into the habit of eating more substantial breakfasts and having only a small piece of fish and one vegetable for lunch (plus dessert of course!). The food comments apart, we greatly enjoyed dinner because of our table companions. We were assigned, at our choice, to early dining and at a large table. The table was set for 12, but only 10 of us showed up. There were Don and Ann from Escondido, CA; Dennis and Sandy from Dana Point, CA; Dave and Connie from Colorado Springs (on their first cruise) and Amy with her 3½ year old daughter Amalya, from San Diego. We were a merry band indeed, much enjoying each other’s company. We have usually been fortunate with our dinner companions, and this trip certainly retained or raised the standard. THE CRUISE - ENTERTAINMENT Perhaps the most memorable entertainer was - the Captain. I had heard from prior reviews of Radiance that Captain Kent Ringborn was the Singing Captain. This certainly was true. He not only sang at his reception; but also took a major role in the final show. And we were provided with a CD each of his songs, delivered to our cabin on the last night. This was a special trip for him as he was leaving the ship in Vancouver for retirement to Portugal. He has a pleasant bass-baritone, and I enjoyed his selection of songs, which were fairly traditional. Aside from this, the entertainment was standard cruise fare. The Cruise Director, Gordon Whatman also sang. There was one production number; a highly touted song and dance collection called “The Piano Man”. We saw a singer-impressionist- pianist named Bobby Arvon whose main claim to fame was that he sang the theme song to the old TV show “Happy Days”. and Craig Dahn, another singer . Our port visit to San Francisco was from 7:00 A.M. to midnight, so there was no show that night. All in all the level of entertainment was pleasantly unsophisticated, and not very memorable except for Captain Ringborn. In addition to the shows, there was a “classical” acoustic guitarist who played in the Centrum lounge, a string group performing one or twice a day in the Schooner Bar or Centrum Lounge, and a dance band that played at various spots. There also was a solo pianist who played mostly in the Schooner Bar. The level of entertainment appeared very minimal for a large ship with more than 2000 passengers. THE CRUISE - SHIP’S SERVICES The daily new sheet is called “Cruise Compass”. It has 4 pages, the last two of which have all the daily activities, dining hours, music and dancing hours etc. It is designed so that these pages can be separated from the first two pages and folded for easy carrying. However the print is small and the information limited. Some of the events receive an expanded treatment on Pages 1 and 2. Printed daily news reports from the real world were provided on Deck 4. The TV had a station which clearly showed the ship’s location, heading, speed and a variety of navigational and weather information. One’s account status can be brought up also; but there was no TV guide to the movies or satellite station shows available. We did not use the excursion desk, but Guest Relations personnel were very pleasant and helpful. When I made my first card purchase, at one of the shops, it did not go through. We had to go to Guest Relations where they re-entered my credit card and explained that some of the data collected at the pier side check-in had not been transmitted correctly to the ship’s computers. The Captain came on at noon each day with a regular report. Each cabin had a knob, which could lower the volume on all ship’s announcements except emergency messages. Aside from the lifeboat drill announcement, which we expected, there was one occasion after we retired to bed in San Francisco, and were woken up at 11:30 with the loudspeaker asking two or three passengers to check in. We found out later that at least one or two people never made it back on board that night. In the public areas there were the usual announcements about Bingo, Art Auctions, etc. We don’t mind the daily Captain’s report, but much prefer cruise lines like Celebrity and Oceania without advertising distractions. Radiance was unique among all ships we have sailed in that it did not provide signs in the stairwell or elevator areas directing people to the gangways or tender boarding locations on port days. These locations were not intuitive, and the announcements not always clear, and we wandered about on two decks trying to find the tender location in Astoria. THE CRUISE - PORTS Our three ports were not ones receiving great hordes of ship borne visitors, although San Francisco and Victoria are major tourist destinations. We arrived at the Golden Gate at 5:45 in the morning; just at first light. The outside decks were crowded as we enjoyed the unique experience of sailing beneath the magnificent bridge into the harbor. Fortunately we had a sunny day all day to enjoy the city which the writer O. Henry; in a more romantic time; called “Baghdad by the Bay”. Since no one can see the entire city in one day, and we both had visited it several times, we chose to rent a car and drive across the bridge north to Marin County. We first visited the John Muir Woods National Monument immediately west of Sausalito, and then drove north to Bodega Bay to have lunch in the restaurant on the pier made famous in the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. We returned to the city after stopping to see a friend in Larkspur, and drove back across the bridge about 6:00 P.M. We returned the car and took a taxi to the pier next to our ship’s docking point to have dinner with my nephew at a typical, eclectic San Francisco restaurant. The Muir Woods is a magnificent small park with a beautiful stand of redwood trees, which have never been logged. Fortunately we arrived fairly early and were able to see a fair sized portion of it without too many other people around. As we were leaving, several busloads of other tourists arrived which would make it rather crowded. Once again the value of renting a car rather than taking a ship’s tour was demonstrated. After a sea day our next stop was Astoria, Oregon. Before we embarked we were surprised to find out that another cruise ship was arriving the same day, HAL’s Oosterdam, doing a four day cruise from Vancouver. Not only that, but Oosterdam received the only pier side docking, despite its arrival at 10:00 A.M., and we were forced to tender to shore. We had rented a car from Enterprise, and they sent a van to meet another group and us. We drove eastward along the Oregon side of the Columbia River for about 50 miles and then crossed the river to head north into Washington State and Mount St. Helens. We proceeded up mountain roads, partially through clouds, and uncertain of what we would be able to see. We did come out of the clouds at about 3800 feet and at the first viewpoint had a good look at the mountain, although high clouds obscured the volcano’s crater. We went on to the Coldwater Lake Visitors Center, but Johnson Ridge, the closest point was closed due to “seismic activity” which has occurred over the past few months. We understand that the trails within five miles of the peak, closed for several months, have since been re-opened. The Coldwater visitor’s center has an excellent view of the valley down which the avalanche had rushed, followed by the lava flow.. The size of the area destroyed by the eruption was striking, and the whole area immensely impressive, even though we could not see the shattered peak due to high clouds. We returned via the Washington side of the river, crossing the lengthy bridge which crosses the mouth of the Columbia River. We had enough time to take a quick driving tour of Astoria which has a number of well preserved Victorian homes, many with delightful river or bay views. We sailed out past Oosterdam, and sounded our ship’s horn, which drew a reply from the HAL vessel, and a louder response from us, with a further challenge following from Oosterdam. Those of us on deck hearing this “battle of the ships’ horns” were greatly amused and delighted. Victoria, our final port city, is a delightful town. We docked outside the Inner Harbor, and could see the State of Washington and the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic range clearly standing out to the south across the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Shuttle buses took us to town for $5.00, a fare that was good for unlimited travel all day. We took an Inner Harbor boat tour on a tiny craft holding at the most twenty people, but carrying only four for our trip. It was a very informative and pleasant trip, lasting about 1¾ hours and costing $12.50 Canadian for the senior rate. We then went across the street to the British Columbia Royal Museum. While this is not a huge museum, its displays are extremely well arranged and provided detailed views of wildlife on the second floor and the Native People’s culture as well as early European settlers life style on the third floor. There was an IMAX theater, which we did not attend since we wished to return to Radiance for lunch. After returning via our shuttle bus and being entertained by our singing bus driver, we went back to town after lunch and wandered around the busy downtown shopping area before going to tea. No, we did not go to the famous Empress Hotel High Tea, but to a more modest establishment called the St. James Bay Tea Room. Even the small amount we ordered was substantial, and very inexpensive. Many of our fellow sailors chose to visit the famous Butchart Gardens, but since I had seen them twice, and Edith once, we skipped it this time. But they are worth seeing if you have not done so already. We have to say that we were quite pleased with our port excursions. The three stops were one of the main reasons why we chose this cruise and we were not disappointed with anything except the cloud cover over the top of Mt. St. Helens; but even that was a minor flaw. THE CREW For the most part, the crew was friendly, smiling and efficient. As usual, one tends to remember the exceptions. Our shower shampoo dispenser was empty on our embarkation, but a call the next day brought a prompt refilling. One night our cabin steward evidently misunderstood us when we said we were leaving for the show, and our cabin did not receive its turndown service or the Cruise Compass. To make up for this a bottle of Chardonnay was delivered to our room the next day with an apology. I don’t drink at all, and Edith does not like Chardonnay, but one of our table companions, who was proceeding on to the Alaska cruise at the completion of our trip, was pleased to have the benefit of a full bottle of wine for their cabin on their continuation cruise. On our last sea day afternoon I went to the Colony Club aft on Deck 6 for a Coke. Bingo was wrapping up, and one half of the aft section, which was served by its own bar, was reserved for a private group. But despite the fact that the relatively small Bingo crowd was not ordering much, and the private party was slow in arriving, it took well over ten minutes before a waiter came over to take my order, and I certainly have had more outgoing and friendly service. DEBARKATION For our purposes, this was remarkably smooth. We had a 2:30 flight from the Vancouver airport. When our debarkation ticket color was called; at about 9:00 which gave us time for a reasonably relaxed breakfast; we were directed from the gangplank to a bus. The bus was about ¾ full. One of the passengers had left his camera behind, and the debarkation team retrieved it for him in about ten minutes. We then pulled around to the other side of the pier (this was not the main cruise pier in Vancouver, but one about a mile south). There we waited for about 30 minutes while more people got on. They had hauled their luggage out of the pier and loaded in onto the bus in the same way we had done on all our former cruises. Our luggage however was taken directly from the ship to the airport, apparently by special truck. We then drove to the airport, a trip which takes about 40 minutes since Vancouver has no real freeway system. When we arrived we were directed to a carousel where our luggage was waiting, and we only had to take our bags a few yards to the airline check in. We then proceeded to take our bags and ourselves directly through US Customs and Immigration. This meant that when our non-stop flight landed in Phoenix, we were treated as a local, inside USA flight and landed at a regular gate to debark and picked up our luggage in the normal manner. This was as painless a procedure for debarkation in a foreign country as we have ever experienced. We think we owe this to the Vancouver BC government as well as Royal Caribbean. OVERALL EVALUATION OF RADIANCE OF THE SEAS AND ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE LINES Radiance is a good looking ship, and with its maximized window usage in public areas, provides a bright and cheerful atmosphere. However the limited elevators, and small passageways off the Centrum, through which everyone passes, made for crowding and slow transit through the ship at times. The furniture, furnishings and artwork were all of high quality, and all of the public rooms were pleasant. Our cabin was quite decent and serviceable, with our only complaint being the size of the shower, less than luxurious towels, and the lack of toilet articles. We should note that the shower was at least as large as that on Diamond Princess however. The food was not bad, about the level of Princess, a little below HAL, but no match for either Celebrity or Oceania. The main dining room service was quite good, and we never had the sense that our wait staff was too rushed. Our crew had only two tables with about 14 people on a normal seating. We did not expect much by way of entertainment, and what we got was okay for a short cruise where one stop, San Francisco, lasted well past the entertainment hour. The lifeboat muster drill was as easy as we have ever had. We did not have to leave our muster station, the Schooner Bar, to go outside and stand under our life boats, and the instructions were brief and to the point. Despite some criticisms, we enjoyed this cruise. I have realized in reading many cruise reviews that those of us who have sailed more than say 8 or 10 times tend to be more critical than new cruisers who are amazed at the entire adventure. We liked the itinerary and would suggest it to anyone who has not done it before. Royal Caribbean is not unduly expensive, and does not seem to be pushy about on board activities or services that involve extra charges, so you get pretty fair value for your money. If you are looking for a short cruise with novel and entertaining ports and a couple of well spaced sea days on which to relax, this is a good trip, and we are glad we made it. Bon Voyage!

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Mar 6, 2005

Western Caribbean

Thomas Wolfe once wrote "You Can't Go Home again" (1940), but this cruise proved him wrong. After only being back on board the Radiance of the Seas just five minutes, we encountered Captain Kent Ringborn; it was as if the last four years had never happened. We were home again. For two years he was RCI's manager for the Radiance building project in Papenburg, Germany and he personally oversaw the creation of the Radiance (2001).

She is the first ship of the Radiance Class which now includes the following: The Brilliance of the Seas (2002), The Serenade of the Seas (2003), and the Jewel of the Seas (2004) upon all of which we have sailed. When we met this singing Captain, his gentle, caring nature immediately impressed us; during this cruise we noted that those who sail with him never forget his kind friendliness or his beautiful baritone voice. On Monday he invited us to dine at his table on formal night, and later in the week with him at Chops Grille. This cruise felt like it was a family reunion. Unfortunately for us and RCI, he retires in May (2005). If there ever was a Captain who set an inviting tone on board, it is Captain Kent Ringborn! This cruise negated Wolfe's statement ----- we did go home again. EMBARKATION On Sunday the Port of Miami is easily accessible. No traffic and an excellent port crew made boarding fast and painless. A steward greeted us curbside, took our luggage and wheeled Vincent's chair through security to the Ambassador's Lounge where we picked up our boarding passes, signed our charge account and that was it; since all documents are checked weeks ahead. As Crown & Anchor members we enjoy priority boarding. In less than ten minutes, we were on board and in our stateroom. We have a specific routine for day one: first, we go to the buffet (a very nice one of roast beef, salads, pastas, pizzas, soups (potato leek) fruits and desserts, including RCI's famous cookies); second, we go to the Dining Room to meet the staff and check our seating for dinner. This day Maitre D' Metin Camurlu set us up with a table for two, near the entrance at the foot of the massive staircase. Perfect, from a perfect Maitre D'! Next, we go back to the stateroom and rest until the boat drill, in this case it was held at 4:30pm. We are now in cruise mode: well fed, oriented and shedding all shore side cares. THE SHIP The GTV (Gas Turbine Vessel) Radiance of the Seas is 90,090 tons, 962 ft. long, 105.6 ft. wide and carries 2,100 passengers (this cruise had 2,207 double occupancy.) and a crew of 900. She boasts of over three acres of exterior glass and elevators overlooking the sea and the centrum. Media and cruisers have deemed this class ship to be the epitome of beauty, size and style. It has maintained the overall profile of a huge private yacht, yet with all the accouterments of the largest ships afloat. The Radiance holds the award for the "Ship Team of the Year 2004" and the "Environmental Ship of the Year 2003," and the media have voted the Radiance Class the "Most Beautiful Ships at Sea." We reported in our 2001 review many details on this ship's decorations; thus, this review will center on general comments and special crew members. Immediately upon arrival, passengers are first impressed with the beauty of the nine deck centrum with its waterfalls, cymbidium orchids and semi-circular balconies located on each deck. Be sure to go to deck 12, where the Crown & Anchor Society Lounge has a window set in the center of the floor, from which the entire centrum is visible all the way down to Deck 4. This is an incredible view not to be missed. There are thirteen decks. Deck 2 has some interior (Cat. Q) and ocean view (Cat. I) staterooms. Deck 3 has mostly ocean view (Cat. H), some interior (Cat. N and O) with two wheelchair accessible staterooms. Deck 4 has ocean view staterooms (Cat. G) with two wheelchair accessible ones, and interior staterooms (Cat. N) with two more wheelchair accessible ones. Forward is the first level of the Aurora Theatre with its crystal embossed curtain and simple elegant seating and decor. Midship is the Lobby Bar, Guest Relations and Explorations Desks. There are six Centrum Elevators, four overlook the sea and two overlook the Centrum. We wish the buttons controlling these elevators were divided in two sections; since, it is difficult to reach the opposite end elevator when pushing a wheelchair. Usually the doors closed, just as we reached it: It was especially difficult for those of us with mobility problems. All the way aft is the first level of the Cascades Dining Room, a beautiful dark teak wood embellished room with a bandstand located in front of the waterfall and two curved staircases leading to the balcony. The aft wall is a two deck tall stunning mosaic of the Roman Goddess Aurora rising from the sea while watching a dolphin frolic before her in the ocean. There are figures sitting on clouds exhaling wind and the colors are wonderful: gold, blue, aqua, and copper. Deck 5 forward has the main floor seating of the theatre. Midship is the Conference Center, Art Gallery and the Photo Shop. The boutiques and shops are also located here (logo wear, perfumes, resort wear, etc.). Next is "Latte-Tudes" coffee shop and RCI On Line computers/internet. Aft is the balcony of the Cascades Dining Room. Deck 6 forward has the balcony of the Aurora Theatre; toward midship is the Cinema and Scoreboard Sports Bar with its many screens showing live venues from around the world. Then, midship is the Royale Casino for slots and gaming ---- very posh with beautiful peacocks and a lighted, colored glass ceiling. Also, near the Centrum is the Champagne Bar. Going aft is the Schooner Bar, which is the most nautically decorated area: cannons, cannon balls, and even creosote soaked ropes enhancing the ambiance through the sense of smell. Murals by H.E. Nissen (Norway) depict seascapes and Columbus setting foot on the New World. A lovely full length portrait of Jenny Lind the "Swedish Nightingale" is paired with a painting of the ship "The Nightingale" weathering a storm. Here are located the bar and two specialty restaurants, Chops Grille and Portofino (both with $20 cover charge per person.) Aft is the Bombay Billiards Club with two gyroscopic self leveling pool tables ---- which are fun to watch on a rough sea day. There was just one of those days this cruise. Next is the Jakarta Lounge with handy chess set ups overlooking the sea. Also located here are the Singapore Sling's Bar, the Calcutta Card Club and the Colony Club, all of which have the atmosphere of an English gentlemen's club with bookcase lined walls, elegant wood and plush seating. Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 are all staterooms, eight of which are wheel chair accessible with balcony, bringing the total of special needs cabins to 14. Always located near the Centrum elevators on each of these decks are additional passenger services: On Deck 7 are the business services; on Deck 8 is the Explorers' Court; on Deck 9 is the library and on Deck 10 is the Concierge Club which is available only to Crown & Anchor Diamond Members and Suite occupants. Here, Concierge Willie Salaya was very attentive and courteous. Thank you Willie! Decks 11, 12, and 13 are all passenger areas. On Deck 11 forward is the Ship Shape Spa with the Massage Center, separate Men's and Women's locker rooms, a Thermal Suite and the Hair Salon. Next is the Solarium, where Vincent can be found every morning in the whirlpool. Mary prefers the lap pool which is filled with sea water (the water was cool and hard to get into, but refreshing once in). The jungle atmosphere is nice and most cruisers take pictures of the life size elephant statues. Aft is the Windjammer Cafe with buffet dining and both indoor and outdoor seating. Deck 12 forward has the Ship Shape Fitness Center, midship is the Jogger's Track. There is an Optix Teen Center, Game Arcade, the Adventure Ocean Club and Beach, all for the younger cruisers. The children's program is free except for baby sitting after 10pm. We saw the children "Pirates" marching and singing in the theatre, lead by a crew member. They were scary, funny and loud and received a great ovation. Parents seated near us in the theatre told us that their children liked the youth programs so much that they rarely wanted to stay with the adults. Aft are the Golf and Sports area, Golf Simulators and the Sea View Cafe serving excellent snacks and lunch. Finally on Deck 13 there is the Viking Crown Lounge with a star shaped bar and beautiful windows overlooking the sea. There are also the Vortex Night Club and the Hollywood Odyssey, an intimate Show Club (check out the life size statue of Marilyn Monroe with billowing skirts from the famous scene in the "Seven Year Itch"). Outside, on this deck, is where the Rock Climbing wall and the Putting Green are located. The stair wells of the ship have bright colorful art work; near the Centrum are unique murals of glass inlays. The ship is gleaming under Chief Housekeeper Renita Kumari. CABIN Stateroom #7610 is wheelchair accessible with an automatic door opener. When entering on the right, there is a large bathroom with a 5'x5' shower, with safety rails, a bench and an emergency phone and call button. The sink has a mirrored medicine cabinet with shelves. Then, there is a queen size bed with two night stands and reading lamps. When entering on the left, there is a double armoire inside which the personal safe is inconveniently located. This was difficult to access, especially after clothes were hung in the closet. Next is a lighted, mirrored vanity/desk with six drawers (so narrow that 8"x11" paper cannot lie flat!). There is a TV and a cabinet above it. There is also a navy blue sofa, two chairs and a teeny tiny coffee table. The far wall is all windows, floor to ceiling, and a door which opens on to the trapezoidal shaped balcony, holding two chairs, and a large table, to which our steward added a chaise lounge. Our excellent steward Cassandra Dasilva was amazing. She anticipated all our needs and was efficient and friendly. Thanks Cassandra for everything. FOOD & SERVICE We have a new friend, Maitre D' Metin Camurlu, who oversees an excellent staff. We also visited with our old friend, Food & Beverage Manager Rinaldo Lima, whom we met on the Brilliance. We were wonderfully served by Waiter Kristian Dukic and his assistant Joel Loayon under the watchful eyes of Head Waiter Leonardo Spinelli. Executive Chef Rana Bir has an enormous task serving over 9,000 meals daily, but he is certainly up to it! The food is generally good with flashes of excellence. Dinner with Captain Kent Ringborn is always a treat and this time was no exception. On the menu was Shrimp Cocktail, Escargots Bourguignon, Lobster Bisque, Chilled Pear nectar (Mary thought this was delectable) and Caesar Salad. The entrees included the following: Teriyaki Glazed Fresh Alaskan Salmon, Duck a` L'Orange and grilled Beef Tenderloin. The Captain enjoyed his salmon; Vincent said his beef was excellent (and he is not easily pleased); Mary thought her duck was crispy and very tasty. What is there to say but, fine food, fine service and fine company, all contribute to a fine evening. We also dined at Chops with Captain Kent and the delightful Rolfes (109 cruises with RCI, when do they ever see home?). During this meal we got an up close and personal view of what a Master's life is really like. He received and made various calls to the Bridge concerning the weather in Grand Cayman, our next port of call. He ultimately decided to change course and head instead for Cozumel, Mexico; thereby, avoiding rough weather and giving the passengers an extra night in Mexico. RCI and the Captain stress safety first and we concur. Room Service took about 15 to 30 minutes; we ordered breakfast every morning in our stateroom: and the coffee and omelets were hot, the fruit and juices were fresh. The variety on the dining room menu was more than adequate; however, both Head Waiter Leonardo and Kristian offered to get us whatever we desired, even if the items were not on the menu. According to Rinaldo Lima the Midnight Buffet was the best he had ever seen, and that is saying something, since he has seen so many. Food and service on board deserve high marks. Vincent, a retired Professor of Environmental Health, had a very enjoyable meeting with Environmental Officer Mark Curtis (a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy). He gave us interesting information on the Advanced Wastewater Reduction System and other recycling programs on board. He and the Captain should be proud of the Radiance's high marks on environmental issues and its award winning status. We spent some time with the especially helpful Loyalty Ambassador Carol Williams talking about the Crown & Anchor Society and Diamond Plus membership perks such as the following: 1. Special tours of the Bridge, Galley and back stage. 2. Choice of Amenities (wine or flowers). 3. Discounts on early bookings. 4. Dinner with the Captain or other ship officers. 5. Schedules of key crew members. We feel strongly that RCI truly appreciates its returning passengers, and knows how to show them that they are valued through special cocktail parties and other perks. There is also on board credit for RCI shareholders and those who reserve a future cruise while on board. ENTERTAINMENT We had sailed with Cruise Director Gordon Whatman before and were happy to encounter him again. He is an extremely upbeat and active leader. He inspires his group and the passengers with his singing (he has had operatic training and it shows). Throughout the cruise there was bingo, trivia, scavenger hunts, pool parties, 50's dances, Casino tournaments, etc.... We also enjoyed some of the music played around the ship, especially that of the terrific Sandra Mandella trio in the Centrum. The RCI 's Singers & Dancers new show "Piano Man" was a hit. Mary enjoyed "Beetle Mania" especially "Yesterday" and "You May Think That I'm a Dreamer" by John Lennon and dreams of world wide peace. "Welcome to Our World" was warmly received; Bobby Arvon, the voice of "Happy Days," wowed the audience with his singing, impressions and piano playing. He put it all into his show and it was appreciated with a standing ovation. The nicest final touch was the "Farewell Show" featuring Captain Kent's warm baritone voice. It is tough to say "Good bye" after such a terrific week. But all good things must come to an end. Arriverderci a presto! Till we meet again soon. PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Miami, Florida Departure 5:00pm Day 2. At Sea Day 3. Labadee, Haiti Arrival 8:00am Departure 4:00pm Day 4. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Arrival 9:00am Departure 5:00pm Day 5. Georgetown, Grand Cayman canceled due to high winds and danger for tendering. Set sail for Cozumel. Arrival in Cozumel 8:00pm. Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Departure 8:00pm Day 7. At Sea Day 8. Miami, Florida Arrival 8:00am CONCLUSION This was our 50th cruise and our 25th on RCI ships. It appears that the more we cruise the more we enjoy it. We definitely are addicted to cruising and Vincent gets "withdrawal syndrome" if at anytime he has not booked two or more future cruises. He was showing symptoms while we were on this ship, since he had only one more cruise reservation, the transatlantic crossing on the Costa Mediterranean for this April. The problem was solved aboard by booking a cruise on the behemoth Freedom of the Seas, the next RCI cruise ship which will be launched in May 2006 and will take the title from the Queen Mary II of the largest cruise ship afloat. We hope that there will be many more cruises in between these two bookings, but we have not yet decided on which ones. It would be nice if it were possible to do around the world cruising on several different ships, each leg on a different ship; i.e., from the USA to South America, then on to the South Pacific, Australia, Japan, China, India, Africa, through Suez Canal to Europe, and back to USA, or a similar itinerary. We know that some cruise lines are doing such an itinerary on some smaller ships, but we would like to see it done in a sequence of legs on several ships to fully enjoy the cruises and land tours. Happy Sailing!  

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Feb 13, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Right away we noticed how small the inside cabin was, especially the shower. Very very small. A big person would have trouble turning around in the shower. The water smelled like raw tomatoes and on 2 different occasions we had brown water coming out of the bathroom faucet. This eventually did clear up only to come back again a second time. The toilet would not flush on 2 different occasions because the pipes were not big enough to handle

the flow. I found this out from maintenance. On both occasions when the water was brown, we asked to be moved - they refused to move us. We never quite felt clean using that bathroom. The sheets were stained and were not changed when we asked for new sheets. We were not impressed with food anywhere on the ship. It was very average at best. The assistant waiter in the main dining room was very helpful but the head waiter was a phony. It was obvious he was only interested in his tip - the service from him was average. We were very disappointed that the pool was not heated. The water was too cold and hardly anyone went in the water. We needed to cancel an excursion and literally went thru hell trying to do so. The staff (2 women) got very rude when we insisted on cancelling and finally agreed after much arguing. The shows were very average but I think the performers tried their best and were very energetic. Some had very good singing voices. My wife became very ill with bronchitis which ruined our trip. When she needed to go to the Medical facility on board, she was treated with medicine through an IV and a breathing treatment and we were charged $700. This amt was put on our Visa and we had to pay it. We have filed with our insurance company. One note: The Scottish doctor had booze on his breath and it was 9 am. Embarking was easy and disembarking went smoothly. For the relatively small waves, there was alot of rocking felt on the ship. We felt this wherever we went, not just in our cabin. It was an inside cabin on deck 8 forward. We were told by the crew that she ship had stabilizers but they didn't like to use them because they were afraid they would break. All in all, we will never cruise with RCL again. Our first cruise was with Norwegian and we loved it.

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Jan 2, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Oh yes, I promised to give you that internet-address. Here it is: http://psp.club.tip.nl

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Nov 7, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Having never been on a cruise before, we really didn't know what to expect. My wife and I flew to Miami on Saturday and stayed overnight. When we pulled into the port, the sheer size of the Radiance was stunning. Pictures do not do her justice. Upon boarding, we were speechless. Our eyes were overwhelmed by her stunning beauty. We were delayed from our 5pm departure due to propulsion repairs, so we took more time to explore the ship.

The first place we went was the 11th deck were the pools were. The outdoor pool was large, and to my surprise it was filled with salt water! I never would have guessed that. The Solarium pool was stunning, set in a jungle theme, including ambient jungle sounds! We finally departed at 8pm. It was very beautiful. Cars on the near by highway honking their horns, and we could see fireworks coming from South Beach. We could not stop at Cocoa Cay due to high sea swells, the tenders could not make it out. So we kept on sailing and did more exploring. Our island stops were nice, but I would not pay for another one again. We were never bored. The staff was so friendly and helpful, they made us feel like royalty. The food was FANTASTIC. Room service was prompt and yummy. It truly amazed me how so many things can be going on at once. The rooms were clean, cleaned twice a day and comfortable. The only time we were in our cabin was to sleep. Overall, I highly recommend this ship, no matter where she sails. The crew as friendly, always going out of their way to help. The food was great. The entertainment was fun - us Canucks won all the trivia games - and since we missed out first stop, the captain let us have a tour of the bridge. I hope he didn't get in trouble for that! As I can't compare this ship to any other ship or cruise line, I hope this review helps.  

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Aug 20, 2004

Alaska

This is the 5th cruise with RCL and we always have a good time. The best entertainment we have had on any of the ships was Santino and Blakjax, they played in the Colony Room and were absolutely the best we have ever heard. I'm surprised he's not a headliner. When this man sang, "A Time to Say Goodbye" you just couldn't believe the voice. Wonderful!! We will cruise on any ship he plays on. Rod and Phyllis Axt  

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May 21, 2004

Alaska

My wife and I decided that we would spend our Twentieth anniversary with a cruise. We live in the Vancouver area so we wondered if Alaska could offer any more that our own B.C. coastline. We decided to risk an Alaska cruise with Royal Caribbean on board the Radiance of the Seas, a ninety thousand tonne floating palace. We arrived at Ballentine

Pier at 1:30PM on Saturday May 22/04. By time we registered and cleared US customs it was about 3:30 PM before we actually set foot aboard the Radiance. What a beautiful ship. When boarding we step onto deck 4 which is the main floor to the Atrium. You look skyward, up eleven floors to see a mass of glass, brass and lights. It's like being inside a prizm. We got to our cabin and unpacked ou carry on luggage. Our main luggage had not yet arrived, so we went exploring. Up at deck eleven is the hot tubs, pool, and track that circumvents the entire ship. The band at poolside had already started playing and the bar was open so we engaged in a couple of tall cool beer. we then went back to our cabin and unloaded the rest of our luggage which had arrived. Sailing out of Vancouver on a sunny day was indeed a treat. Living here we know that we have more than our fair share of rain at times. Out into the gulfof Georgia we sailed and then headed north to Alaska. You could barely feel the ship move. Royal Caribbean offers absolutley great entertainment in the Aurora theater every night, a perfect combination of "in house" talent and also outside acts are brought on stage. Not once were we dissapointed. When we went to bed that night, we got a glimpse of what was to come on our 7 day journey. Every night the cabin crew would have our bed decorated differently, and every night was better that the previous. And of course, chocolates on the pillows. We spent the next day cruising and exploring the ship, and then relaxing. We would eat breakfast and dinner at the Cascades dining room. Only the dinner was at an assigned table, which we became like a little family by the end of the trip. We ate lunches at the Windjammer restaurant up on the eleventh deck. We arrived at Juneau on day three and was greeted by Alaskan rain...lots of it. Good thing that we hadn't booked the Mendedhall Glacier Helicopter trip because it was quite misty and I don't think we would have got our money's worth for scenic value. That trip is about $385.00 US per person. The tip is wait until you get there to book. We elected to go river rafting instead. We figured if we're going to get wet then get real wet, so we did. Took us to the Mendenhall Lake which is glacier fed. Water temperature is about 35 degrees F. The rain was about 45 degrees F. and so it actually felt warm. We had a great time with lots of thrills and laughs. After a dry change of clothes and some Juneau shopping, we were back on board for more laughs and food. Day four took us to Skagway and we experienced another of Alaska's weather surprises....WIND....Whoosh.. you might say we were blown away while we were in unprotected areas. Leave you umbrellas onboard unless you want to try a hand at being Mary Poppins. In town though, you could hardly feel the wind....weird. We took the narrow gauge railway to White Pass. Three Thousand feet in about ten miles. From grass to snow and ice. A great trip in original refurbished cars including a pot belly wood stove in each car for warmth. Day five we arrived at Hubbard glacier. We took on board a Native elder and his two grandchildren who explained the way of live for a people who live with the glacier. We were in a lot of fog at the time and we thought that we would not see the glacier at all but the elder talked of the fog lady in his village and said that when she takes off her hat the fog rolls in. She had told him that she would wear the hat that day. About twenty minutes later we broke out of the fog and the glacier laid ahead. I don't know if this is all planned by R.C. but it sure made a good story and a fun day. Day six we arrived at Ketchikan, which was my favorite town, built out of the mountainside on a huge pier or series of piers. There is good shopping here. Day seven brought us into the sunshine for a wonderful relaxing trip home. We were even treated to a pod of Orca whales as they swam past our ship. We left our floating palace the next morning at ten thirty pm. Kind of slow getting through customs again but what the heck. It was a great trip and the crew was wonderful. A special thanks to Ryan our waiter and Glenn our assistant waiter. You guys made a great trip even better. Oh...you have just got to hear the Captain sing in his deep base voice. Just two critical comments for R.C. Your pictures and bingo are far too expensive. If you sold the pictures for five dollars each instead of twenty you would sell them all and instead of charging thirty to fifty dollars to play bingo you could charge far less and have a lot more playing. Other than that it was a beautiful cruise in every way and we would go again with R.C. in a minute. We also recommend this trip to all who read this as we will to all our friends. Happy cruising and keep up the great work Royal Caribbean. Wayne and Leanne Odegard  

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May 21, 2004

Alaska

Vaun and Amy Kohler I won't bore you with all the details because other people that went on this cruise have told everything that I could tell you. I will say that the ship was beautiful and the crew treated us like gold. Jiwi our waiter was especially wonderful, I wish I could take him home with me. It was the best

cruise! I reccomend that if you can possibly take an Alaskan cruise then DO IT !!! I have cruised on other ship lines but this was hands down the best one I have ever traveled with. I will always use Royal Carribean from now on. They have sold me. They have the best entertainment and they do the cutest things like the Shipendales dancers. What I liked most was how involved the Captain was with his passengers. He is the nicest man and I would like him to adopt me ! Just Kidding. This was a first rate experience and Alaska is so pretty. I think you should just do it and find out for yourself.

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May 21, 2004

Alaska Inside Passage

Embarkation and Debarkation: Being this was our first cruise and reading a’lot of the cruise reviews, we decided to go to Vancouver 1 day early to get a head start on things. This was a smart idea. Not knowing what to expect allowed us to watch and learn at the embarkation point for the first time. Our Cruise was leaving from Ballentine Pier.

When we got there all the people were very friendly. They were still exiting from the prior cruise so we got to see what we in for at the end of the cruise. I asked for information on checking in and the person did everything possible for us to feel relaxed being in a foreign location for us. She gave me exact times of where to be and what will happen. At 10:30 like she said, the gentlemen were there to check our big luggage that would be brought to our staterooms after we boarded. We then proceeded to the screening area to get checked in. This was to start at 11:00. At 11:05, the started to check us in. We were greeted with respect and warmth and all our documents were there; please make sure you fill everything out prior to coming to the ship it made it so much easier. We proceeded to the waiting room and were pointed to the staging area for the American side of the house. Different customs lines for foreigners than for Americans. They started to feed us right away with sandwiches, cookies and something to wash it down with. Right at 12 noon customs started to board us. With a group number of 1 we were the second one to board the ship. They met us at the door with smiles and hello’s. We were informed that all cabins would be ready at one o’clock so we sat at the Main bar and the bar tender helped us understand what was going to happen during our first day. Rooms were open right at 1 and we were very pleased with our stateroom. We had a window room and were very pleased with it. Our bags got there at about 2 o’clock which gave us more than enough time to unpack and roam the boat until it was time to leave which at that time a big party in the top deck came alive with entertainme nt and a beautiful push off and away we went. Just do not forget to watch the sunset. It came late like almost 10 o’clock, but it was beautiful. Debarkation was as smooth as embarkation. They gave us tags the night before we were to return and we put them on our bags. We were also given a staging area to wait for our group to be called. When we were called off we went and our bags were right there where they were supposed to be. Very nice and orderly. Cruising to Juneau: Cruising to Juneau was a great experience. All the crew was very helpful in answering any questions that might have come up. We wanted to see the sunrise and the Captain made sure that you knew what time it would be coming up. We thought we would see this one because the next day we would have to move the clocks back one more hour so the sun came up that day at 5:30 am and the next days it would come up around 4:30. We had a full day with lots of activities and being our First of two formal nights we had a lot to look forward to. Pictures, did you say you wanted pictures, we had 5 different picture setting that was made available to us and we took advantage of them all. It was great, they took there time on every shot and made us feel like it was all us about us. The dinners were in the cascade Dining room were first class. They had a wide variety of food to choose from. O’rdurves, chose as many as you want. The waiting staff was first class all the way. They were very pleasant and up beat. All the different nationalities on board made it even better. They were interested in you and how they could make your meal more enjoyable. The service I had was the kind of service you get when you go to a 5 star restaurant and pay big money for it. The service was quick, but slow enough so you could digest your food and enjoy the music and all the other folks at your table. Juneau: We did not plan any excursions during our visit to Juneau because we heard that the shopping was fantastic, and it was. You could have made arrangement for any excursion that you wanted to on board ship or even on land. That day when we got in we thought we were in luck. They were forecasting rain all day and when we docked it was dry. As they say in Alaska the weather could change at any time and it did. The announcement came that the off ramp was on deck 5 so we lined up and away we went, like I said the weather changed from dry to misting to a steady rain. We were glad we did not make any plans. The shops were all up and down 1 street and a lot of them had cover in front of there stores. We got ourselves 2 small umbrellas and just enjoyed the day of shopping. They had everything there. The first thing we did do was made a call home to check on the kids. Very easy, lots of pay phones. Just bring a calling card. After we shopped we boarded the ship earlier in the day. We took advantage of the almost empty ship and took a nice slow walk on board. We were amazed of the beauty of the ship with all the different restaurants that you could eat at. They were all very clean. They had many many lounges to pick from and great views of Juneau. Glass windows everywhere. It was great, never a bad view. We ate that night at the Cascades. The food again was great. No complaints. They had so many things to pick from and if you needed help to understand some of the items the staff was very well knowledge. Your staff for your table had all your names down. They even knew how much I like coffee and when I sat down they had a cup coming right over. Again, great service great food. Skagway: We arrived very early in Skagway. If you were not awake to see it you would have not even known that we dock. It was a great site to watch how the Captain maneuvered this gigantic ship in the small area. We were able to go ashore at 7:30 am. We did make arrangements for an excursion and we were glad we did. We went shopping again and saw the town which was very small, 1 block wide by 5 blocks long. It was a nice older style town. Wooded walkways and horse and buggy’s to ride. The town’s people were great and very friendly. Our White Pass Train ride did not begin until 12:50 so we had time to take our bags back on board and eat a quick lunch before we left on the train. I highly recommend to anyone this train ride. You will never forget it. The ride to the top of these mountains was excellent. They narrated the whole trip and the picture taking was endless. 72 pictures I took. I had the convenience to download all my pictures to my small laptop so I could take as many pictures as I needed to. The train ride took us to the Canadian/American boarder and then we turned around and came back down the hill. Do take a jacket; it is at least 30 degrees colder in the mountains. Hubbard Glaciers: I never realized how beautiful a piece of ice could be. It probably is an insult to the people living up here to call it a piece of ice. The glacier was just gorgeous. The captain got us in very close and just made the boat stay in one spot and turned in around 360 degrees so everyone could get a shot of all sides. We picked up natives of the land and they gave us a wonderful presentation of the history of the glaciers. They told us everything about the different kinds of people that lived here and the different tribes or associations that they belong to. They took there heritage very seriously and also the beauty of there land. It was a very nice presentation as we turned and saw as much of the glaciers as possible. At one time the Captain felt that the safety of the boat might be happening because the ice was getting to close so he had to pull back a little. That was really no problem because he already made one complete turn. He wanted to do it again but the ice started to come to close to the ship. Ketchikan: We cruised into Ketchikan gracefully as normal not even knowing that we docked. The weather looked like it was going to be on our side today. The average rainfall per year in Ketchikan is 16 Feet. So I guess we were lucky. We had partial sun and nice temperatures. The town was very beautiful. There were plenty of stores to shop at and the excursions were plenty as normal. We decided to see the lumber Jack show and it was well worth it. The seating was great and the entertainment was continuous. They put a lot of comedy into the show as well as great showmanship. They demonstrated all the different types of events that the guys would go through in competition. All of they were competitors on ESPN. After we got done there we took a walk around the town. The people were very nice as we found out in all the towns we visited. Entertainment: We saw a Las Vegas type show every night. The entertainment was fantastic. We saw Mark Preston, one of the three Letterman. What a show he put on. Just like sitting in Vegas. They had the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers perform on two separate days. They put on Broadway productions with different themes both nights. One night they had an illusionists for us that made you wonder how he did what he did. Another Group called the Billy Richard’s Coaters put on a great show. Then the last night was a Farewell show with the captain, comedy and the Radiance Family. To sum this 7 day cruise in a short sentence I guess I would have to say that even if I tried I could not find anything to complain about. They went out of there way to make sure you vacation was the best and most enjoyable all the time.

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May 7, 2004

Alaska - inside passage.

This was my first cruise. I decided on Alaska after speaking with my travel agent and then this ship happened to fit with my scheduled vacation. I was traveling alone, it was my first real vacation in five years and I wanted relaxation above all. I read the review of the couple from Sydney for this same trip and I can substantiate what they said regarding the disorganization at port on the day of departure. I arrived quite early and

was given priority boarding status and still found it somewhat irritating that there was no clear direction from the staff. And with a group of 700+ from the Amway contingent boarding this cruise, they really should have had more structure than usual. Once on the ship, I found myself relaxing at the bar (Atrium Bar) and immediately forgot about the stress outside while I waited for the suite to be ready. I reserved suite 1066, an Owner’s Suite. I had looked at pictures online over and over in advance of the cruise, but the pictures didn’t do it any justice at all. The room and balcony were so spacious and comfortable I wasn’t sure I’d ever leave. The floor to ceiling windows provided a spectacular view without having to go on the balcony. The bathroom was tastefully decorated, well equipped, and quite large. The Jacuzzi tub was a great touch, though it leaked the first time I used it. (The staff took care of the problem promptly.) The closets were spacious also. I’ll have to give the room less than a perfect score though because the queen size bed was formed by pushing two single beds together which left a very hard hump in the middle. I really couldn’t use the entire bed to sleep but had to sleep on one side or the other. My stateroom attendant, Kathryn, was attentive, professional, competent, and very nice. FOOD: I was assigned to the main seating for dinner which I attended 3 of the nights. The food was very good and the service excellent. It also didn’t hurt that I shared a table with a very interesting couple from Florida who went on cruises regularly, so I learned a little about cruises in general. I ordered room service twice, once breakfast and once lunch. It appeared to consist of leftovers and I was very disappointed. But the fare in all the other venues was very good. I had lunch one afternoon in Il portofino, for which there was an additional charge. I remember the food being spectacular, but it could also be that I had a wonderful window seat and that was the day the ship did some 360’s in front of the Hubbard Glacier. ENTERTAINMENT: First night there was a small opening show by the RCI entertainers and a comedian. It was quite interesting in that many passengers from the Taiwanese Amway group were in attendance, most of whom did not speak or understand English very well. So while I found the comedian to be entertaining, there wasn’t much energy in the room. Nevertheless, he did a spectacular job working with the crowd as best he could. I saw half of the next show (a pianist entertainer-Liberace protégé) then avoided the one’s thereafter. I was not very impressed with the lineup. FACILITIES: This is one awesome boat! So many places to eat, drink, relax, read, shop, listen to music, log onto the Internet, exercise, gamble, or just enjoy the view. All of it clean, tastefully decorated, and so spacious I never felt I was in a moving vehicle, or even indoors. The concierge club was comfortable but small. And the entire staff was awesome! ALASKA: Wow! And the weather was perfect virtually the entire time. I was a little disappointed to see that the towns we stopped in primarily consisted of jewelry stores and souvenir shops and there were not many places to eat. I tried to find an out-of-the-way pub at each shop and was only somewhat successful. I don’t shop and the only souvenir I brought home was a logo golf ball, so I found the towns in general to be a letdown. But with the perfect weather and the incredible natural beauty of the sea and landscape, it was easy to put that out of your mind. EXCURSIONS: I went on two, both in Skagway. The helicopter tour of the glaciers, including landing and walking on a glacier, was educational and fun. I just wish it could have lasted longer. The train ride up the mountain is a must-do. Once again, the weather was perfect. I cannot think of words to express the breathtaking sights, smells, and sounds of that adventure. MISCELLANEOUS: There was too much selling going on. The shows in the Aurora theater that were touted as being specials to teach passengers about the different ports of call turned out to be sales pitches for the souvenir shops and jewelry stores. They had art auctions and slot machine ‘contests’ and bingo. And they were constantly announcing all of these “events” over the loud speakers which got quite annoying. Except for the Hubbard Glacier, I didn’t hear any announcements about upcoming landmarks or points of interest. Yet they announced bingo and art auctions 2 hrs in advance, an hour in advance, a half-hour in advance, 15 minutes in advance, etc. Very annoying. SUMMARY: Good stuff: Exceptional ship, beautiful stateroom, breathtaking views, great food, OK variety of activities, super staff (especially stateroom attendant Kathryn). Not-so-good stuff: Room service food (the ‘service’ part was very good), the annoying/cheap selling of everything, hard hump in the middle of the bed, check-in disorganization. SCORES (1- 10 scale): Food – 8 (9 minus one for room service) Activities – 7 (too many sales pitches) Stateroom – 9 (10 minus one for the hump in the bed) Boarding – 5 (my priority status didn’t appear to be much of a priority) Onboard staff – 11 (10 plus one extra for stateroom attendant Kathryn) Alaska scenery – 1,547 Alaska towns – 6 (negative 10 for the tourist traps plus 16 for the wonderful locals in the pubs and the nice temporary residents running the excursions) Excursions – 10 (12 for the excursions minus 2 for the prices) Entertainment – 7 (5 for the quality plus 5 additional for the comedian’s handling of the non-English-speaking audience minus 3 for the non-staff judges’ low scores in my entry in the Karaoke competition. FINAL NOTES: Getting off the ship went very smoothly, though I was annoyed at their inability to confirm in advance in what order the groups would be called. Overall, I went to relax. Thanks to the scenery, weather, the staff, and the people in the pubs in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, it was better than I could have hoped. And I'm just kidding about the Karaoke competition.  

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May 7, 2004

7 Day Hubbard Glacier Cruise (Ex Vancouver)

For my wife Narelle and I This was a special 20th Wedding Anniversary present for each other, and our first cruise ever of which we were full of high expectations from the exceedingly good name Royal Caribbean International have in the competitive world of cruising, and making this trip from our home in "Sydney, Australia", to Vancouver added to the

excitement of being "Virgin Cruisers". We chose Royal Caribbean after carefully looking at all the other cruise lines options and weighing up all the pros and cons of each cruise ship and what each individual cruise as a whole, had to offer and of course price was a major contributing factor in deciding what cruise itinerary (in this case Alaska) had to offer and RCI seemed to be good value for our hard earn cruise dollar. We then read a stack of cruise reviews from RCI past cruisers and it was after reading many mixed reviews that we decided to take "Radiance Of The Seas" as our ship and booked with our very trusted travel agent in Sydney on the very 1st RCI cruise of Alaska for the 2004 season. Having decided on RCI as our cruise line we then decided on "Radiance Of The Seas" as our ship, after viewing at least 300 photos of the ship on the "Web shots" site of personal and published photo's by previous cruise people, and it gave us a fantastic and very detailed look inside and outside this amazing vessel of 90.000 tons. We arrived at Vancouver's (Galantine Pier cruise terminal) about Midday on the day of departure (Saturday May 8th 2004)things seemed to be in a bit of a turmoil outside the terminal as Port Vancouver cruise staff tried to supervise the luggage check in of probably 2000 passengers or so, and it was obvious to us that this being the first cruise of the season, smooth sailing and teething problems of checking in luggage was proving to be rather difficult, however we had our pre assigned Stateroom on deck 7 (7000) which was directly at the bow of the ship just above the Helipad. This particular cruise turned out to be also "Amway Taiwan's 2004 Alaska Cruise" and there were I believe about 850 Taiwan Amway guests on board, which seemed to be causing all sorts of major of problems with both luggage logistics and actual checking, and it rather resembled a circus as cruise staff tried to cope, so seeing that 1st hand caused me a bit of concern as it was very disorganized. The disorganization continued at check in and as my wife and I checked in to receive our cruise cards, we discovered that we had been re assigned to another cabin on deck 7 but it turned out to be a much better balcony stateroom (7032)so that was a plus, but as we proceeded up to the boarding area, and deck 7 holding area, nobody had any idea of where to wait or what lines to go to for immigration. We were moved 3 times into different lines by Port Vancouver staff for immigration checks and with hundreds and hundreds of passengers accumulating in supposedly "Deck Lines" and by this time it was fast approaching 2:00pm so we had been there checking in for 2 hours and not even reached immigration. After more line shifting and very disgruntle immigration staff, we finally boarded "Radiance" at about 2:30pm and as soon as we entered the Centrum everything we had just experienced flew out the window, the sheer majesty and size of this almighty vessel stunned us and we suddenly realized this was to be our home for the next 8 days, and with smiles from ear to ear and amazingly friendly RCI staff we were escorted up to deck 7 and to our stateroom cabin. We were welcomed by our stateroom cabin attendant (Xavier) from Pakistan, and what a delightful start, he went through all the things in our cabin, explained the daily activities on the Day 1 brochure and everything we needed to know to make our 1st day as relaxing as he could. There was a life vest drill scheduled door 4:15pm, as we were scheduled to depart Vancouver at 5, but this was delayed till well after 5:30pm as there were still apparently big hassles boarding everyone and a mechanical problem as well. We familiarized ourselves with the ship in general and get a reasonably good sense of direction, and we unwound with dinner in the "Windjammer Cafe" where the food was above all expectations very well prepared and in vast quantities of every conceivable fare, we were absolutely stunned at the level of quality from the "Windjammer Cafe" which we were constantly visiting for the next 8 days. "Radiance" finally set sail under cloudless skies at 9:10pm, 4 hours later that scheduled but nobody really cared too much, and the Captain kept in constant communication through the ships amazing speaker system as to our departure time. As we set sail out of Vancouver gliding our way out of Vancouver harbor, the non stop entertainment on various decks and in the "Arorua Theatre" heralded the start of "Party Time" and Narelle and I visited all the main entertainment areas of the ship sampling a bit of everything on offer, from an exquisite flamenco guitarist and Pianist of the Radiance Grand piano. to the disco of the Hollywood Bar on deck 13. Our first dinner appointment in the magnificent "Cascades" restaurant where we met a delightful couple from England of whom we shared company each evening at the 1st 6:00pm dinner sitting which we had been pre assigned each night. Again, the food was unbelievable as was our 2 waiters assigned to our table for the entire week, Wines were very expensive but you could order by the glass which were priced at about 5 to 6 dollars US a glass. Cascades had a different menu each night and we had 2 formal evenings one of which was a Lobster night, and the selection of cuisine in the Cascade was as varied as the rest of the cruise program but the attentive staff made the whole Radiance dining experience a masterpiece in co ordination. We went to bed at around 1:00am and awoke to the gentle washing of the ships side wake, traveling at 16knots through our first taste of the Alaskan Inside passage, towering mountains either side of us and nothing but the serenity if this amazing silent wilderness bathed in brisk morning sunlight. We discovered the Solarium pools very early on in the cruise as they were on the deck above us at the bow end of the ship, what an amazing experience, hot turbo tubs, and pools with amazing African decor and many an hour over the next week was spent just relaxing in the spa and pools of the Solarium. Breakfast awaited us in the "Windjammer" and once again, we were amazed at the selection of Breakfast delights, we had never experienced this in our lives and literally took our breath away. There seemed to be some confusion as to weather you paid for your beverages or not, as most food was included in the price of your Cruise Ticket, and the majority of the English speaking passengers weren't quite sure if coffee, juices etc, were included as in some of the cafe's on board Radiance you actually had to pay for these, but it turned out that all non alcoholic beverages in the "Windjammer Cafe" were complimentary at all meal times. I think RCI should make that a little clearer to their guests, a small and trivial point I suppose, but an important one too. On the evening prior to our first port of call, (Juneau) the Shopping Cruise guide spoke in the "Arorua Theatre" to all those who wanted to know a little more about what was to offer in all the ports we were visiting on this cruise, but it was really a huge sales pitch for various Diamond and Jewelry shops most of which was totally relevant to us, as we didn't come cruising to buy Diamonds, so we passed on all the advice and sales pitch by the very talkative shopping director. Trying to decide on what shore excursions to take was a very difficult task as there seemed to be dozens to choose from at each port of call and all fairly expensive, RCI had provided us prior to out cruise with a full list of the excursions but even up until the day of our arrival in Juneau we hadn't decided primarily due to the high cost factor. But our morning arrival in Juneau on day 3 saw us take the 5hour "Treck and Tram" tour which was fabulous, and it was the only port we Tendered ashore which worked like clockwork with no delays and no fuss or bother. We returned to the ship in plenty of time for our 7:30pm departure and the most amazing sunset I'd ever seen, sitting out on the back deck of the "Windjammer" sipping delightful coffee and pastries. There were 2 other major dining area's on Radiance, "Portofino's Italian Restaurant" and "The Chops Grill", however a $20:00 per head surcharge applies to both these dining venues, and so we opted for either the "Windjammer" or "Cascades" for dining. For late night snacks, "The Sea view Cafe" on deck 12 made for some delightful eating as it was open till Midnight or 12:30am with a fine selection of good food, although all drinks were charged for, but I frequented the Cafe many times very late while Narelle was content with a bedside coffee and watching the many movie mad documentary channels of cable TV from RCTV. Near to the entrance of the bay that leads out of Juneau to the ocean, we were enveloped in a dense Fog, which slowed us right down with a very airy feeling as the bridge sounded the ships horn every 2 minutes or so, which continued way into the late night. Next port was Skagway, Day 4 arriving at 6:00am under cloudless, fogless skies and the shore excursion I was most looking forward too, the "Yukon White River Railroad" train excursion an amazing and breathtaking rail trip in old rail cars right up into the Yukon Mountains, much of which are covered in snow and ice all year round. A chance also to take a break from Shipboard dining and taste the local cuisine, which we did for both lunch and dinner that day. (Grilled Alaskan Salmon)Wowwwwwwwwwww............... Souvenir shops were plentiful in Skagway as they were in all the ports of call, with something for everyone and for all budgets. Day 5 saw us cruising to the "Hubbard Glacier" and the weather was turning very cold as we headed north and one overcast, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would probably not see much of the Glacier at all due to overcast and fog. Suddenly like a screen, the fog lifted at about 11:00am and There before us was the awesome sight of Glacier Bay, brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies erupted above us and we were in for the most amazing spectacle of the cruise, the Hubbard Glacier in all It's glorious splendor, and the sea was like a millpond. As we sailed slowly toward the Glacier, the Captain was weaving in and out of broken ice and made a 360o turn and got within 2.5 miles of the glacier face, the closest he had ever taken a vessel of this size and he decided at the last moment to send out a runabout Power boat and get some fantastic photos of the Radiance amongst the ice, which were made for sale the next day. We spent nearly 2 hours at the Glacier and passengers and crew alike had never experienced Hubbard in these conditions. Awesome would be an understatement. The feasting and Entertainment continued aboard Radiance over the next 3 days, with spectacular stage shows by the RCI singers and dancers together with special guest artists, plus a Karaoke competition for all guests and a magnificent rendition of "Old Man River" by the ships captain on the last night of the cruise. with our last port of call being Ketchikan and a leisurely day taking in the sights and sounds of this very busy fishing town, (We opted for no shore excursions at this port). The captain hosted a formal cocktail evening on day 4 of the cruise and we all got to have our photo taken with the captain. A quick word about all the official photo's, there were professional photographers everywhere, all over the ship and ashore as well, and if you bought every single photo they took of you over the 8 days, they'd end up costing as much as the cruise itself, so be warned not to buy everything that you see, we bought a formal shot on the illuminated staircase of the ship's centrum and 3 others and received a beautiful photo album with our portrait shot plus the Radiance in the Hubbard Glacier. The photo shop and Duty Free shops are quite extensive, and I must say that the duty free alcohol is amazingly cheap, so do your duty free alcohol buying on board. We followed the inside passage back to Vancouver arriving at 5:30am on May 15th Disembarkation was at 9:45am and was very well organized by thru RCI staff. A far cry from the week previous. All the web sites, photos etc could not have prepared us for this amazing 8 day experience on Radiance Of The Seas. Will we go Royal Caribbean again ? YES, YES, YES. Absolutely, and here's my 10 out of 10. PORT VANCOUVER PASSENGER HANDLING: 4 ROYAL CARIBBEAN STAFF: 10 RADIANCE OF THE SEAS: 10 + CASCADES DINING: 10 + WINDJAMMER CAFE: 10 + STATEROOM CABIN STAFF: 10 + SEA VIEW CAFE: 10 + OVERALL CRUISE EXPERIENCE: BRILLIANT Well done Royal Caribbean,1st impressions will last us a lifetime. Warren & Narelle Barnett Sydney, Australia  

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Jan 25, 2004

Western Caribbean

We have experienced twenty-four cruises together, with four others taken separately. This was our third sailing with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) and happened to be the GGC2004 (Great Group Cruise) with many participants (approximately 100) from the RTC (Recreation. Travel. Cruises) newsgroup aboard. Janet and I had a wonderful time and would happily sail with

RCCL again. Some of the details and impressions from our cruise are as follows: Ship Particulars: The Radiance OTS was built at the Meyer Werft Yard in Papenburg, Germany, and entered service with RCCL in 2000. She is the first of the Radiance Class ships that all are powered by the lower emission Gas Turbines, hence the designation of GTV (Gas Turbine Vessel). The ship’s GRT is 90,090 tons; the length is 962 feet; the beam (width) is 106 feet; Draught (Depth below water line) is 28 feet; Cruising Speed is 24 knots; Passenger Capacity (double occupancy) is 2501; Crew Complement is 859. Travel to Ft. Lauderdale (Pre-Cruise): With the unpredictability of the weather in New Hampshire during January, we flew south two days early. We had elected to arrange our own air travel for greater flexibility (and lower fare). Our Delta (Song) flight was on time, full but not over booked, smooth and enjoyable; luggage retrieval was quick and uneventful. This was our first experience with Song, Delta’s supposed lower cost subsidiary. While the flight was fine, I did not see where the lower costs entered into the equation; the prices we paid were competitive to regular cost airlines. Whatever savings were probably on Delta’s side; snacks and/or lunch was available for sale (non-alcoholic beverages were still complimentary); playing cards are available for $2.00 a pack, and beach towels were sold for $15.00. We declined all the "for sale" items. Booking our hotel via the GGC group included transfers from airport to hotel, hotel to ship, and ship to airport. Check in at the Marriott Marina was speedy, with our room ready and waiting. Lunch was at a delightful spot on the Intercoastal Waterway and much of the afternoon was spent enjoying the warmth and sunshine. We had a quiet dinner locally on Friday night, and spent a good deal of Saturday traveling around Ft. Lauderdale via the Water Bus, after checking out the ships in the harbor preparing for their Saturday sailings. Saturday evening, we joined a number of the GGC group for a get-together and dinner at the Marriott. Embarkation: Sunday morning we walked to a local bagel shop to pick up ingredients for a leisurely breakfast which enjoyed on our hotel room balcony while watching the boat traffic and reading the paper, until time to leave for the ship. The bus arrived on time for our short shuttle ride to the ship terminal. After giving the driver a much deserved tip for all the luggage handling he had to do in the heat and humidity of South Florida, and leaving the bags with the stevedores, we entered the terminal and found the check-in process quite orderly and FAST!! Good job RCCL! The cruise lines now ask that passengers complete check-in information forms prior to the cruise, mostly for security reasons, but it also allows for a quicker check-in. The "Welcome Aboard" photo was handled professionally and with great dispatch, a harbinger of more good things to follow?. One last stop prior to boarding; one has to stand at a pre-determined spot and place your cruise card into a slot and be photographed for the ships security system. Each time we subsequently left and returned to the ship, we had to insert our cruise card and the security officer could compare the photo with the passenger, while the ship’s computer tracked the coming/going. Finally, on board! We were met in the lobby by a crew member who checked our cruise card and directed us to an elevator and told us, "Elevators to the right". Since we had previously cruised on the Serenade OTS, a sister ship to the Radiance OTS, we knew exactly where our cabin was located. We chose the stairs rather than deal with crowed elevators. We found our cabin easily enough, but missed the pampered feeling that one gets on Celebrity or Holland American while being escorted to your stateroom by a crew member. After disposing of our carryon bags, we set out to search out our cruise mates, reacquaint ourselves with the layout of the ship and get some lunch. Lunch was available in the Windjammer Cafe, on Deck 11. After lunch, we stopped back at our cabin prior to exploring the ship, checking the location of our Dining Room table, and locating our cruise mates. Most of our luggage had arrived, and we met Calvin, our cabin steward. Calvin introduced himself and showed us the location of our life jackets, explained the operation of the room safe, the temperature controls, the various knobs/dials in the bathroom, pointed out the refrigerator, and told us how to contact him if we wanted anything. He also reminded us of the time of the Lifeboat Drill, required by Coast Guard regulations, for all passengers. For the drill, we carried (as instructed) our life jackets to our Muster Station on Deck Five . As we were leaving our cabin, at the sound of the Emergency Signal, Calvin was coming to check our cabin to ensure that we were not still there. Once at the Muster Station, roll call was taken, despite the fact crew members were making a sweep of all staterooms, to make sure all were unoccupied, just as they would do in an actual emergency. We felt comfortable that this exercise was competently handled, even though the crew did not verify that all the passengers had properly donned their life jackets, after the crew demonstrated how to wear the life jackets. Stateroom: We were on Deck 3, (no confusing name to remember) cabin 3060 (Outside Double, port side, just forward of midship). The cabin measures about 170 sq. ft. Which was more than adequate at most times. The design of this class of ships has round windows in this category, and we find the "squarish" picture windows, which are usually larger, more appealing, but this is a minor point. Closet and/or drawer space was more than sufficient even for those of us that are "complete" packers. No, there is not space for the kitchen sink, but all your clothes should fit without difficulty. The bathroom is cruise ship friendly, but does allow for turning around without touching anything. Those of us that are super-sized appreciate this. The "no touch" situation does not apply to the friendly shower curtain; that situation has been resolved on later versions of the Radiance Class ships. There is a programmable safe in one of the cabinets and a "real" hair dryer is provided in each cabin; Janet liked this feature. Lighting can be controlled from the cabin doorway, or from bed, whether in twin or queen size configuration. Reading lights are adjustable and are non intrusive, nor likely to cause bumps to the head. Mechanically, everything worked as expected, after one small adjustment to the shower drain in the bathroom. Strangely, we had a similar problem when on the Serenade OTS. This was corrected within a very reasonable time after being reported to our Cabin Steward, just as it was on the Serenade OTS. The cabin was usually quiet, but at times noises were discernible from adjoining cabins, or the hallway, and these were not screaming situations, but rather loud talking. This was not the case on the Serenade OTS; perhaps a minor design flaw that has been corrected. It was not a major problem, but something we did notice. The two beds were made up in a queen size configuration, as requested, and were quite comfortable. There was one full length closet, one that had one fixed bar and two bars each providing enough length for shirts/blouses, or pants hung over the bar of a suit hanger (the top bar would be difficult to reach for someone less than about 5 feet 6 inches tall), which could be collapsed to provide full length usage of this space. The remaining closet had six fixed selves. There was ample room at the bottom of the closets even for all of Janet’s shoes; the desk/dressing table and the night stands contained additional drawer/shelf space for the remainder of our clothes (we do not travel light when we cruise), although the night stands are not very large. There was no difficulty placing the empty suitcases under the bed. Calvin was most pleasant and willing to please, and had that knack that the true professionals have of never being in the way, but usually available when needed, and always only a telephone call away. RCCL has a process whereby each passenger has a fresh beach/pool towel placed in their cabin each day. If you find your self out by the pool and have forgotten your towel, deck attendants are there to supply more, but you must sign for them and return them to the attendant, or risk being charged for the towels signed out. This is supposed to reduce the number of towels available for "lounge saving". Public Areas: This a fairly large ship, with a passenger capacity of 2501, even though we were informed that there were 2116 passengers sailing on our cruise, but we seldom saw any real congestion. There is some congestion in the area of the on-board shops when the tables are placed in the walkways for the sale promotions. In a sense of fairness, we need to note that we did not spend a lot of time taking notes in all the public areas. In most cases our opinions are based on casual observations while moving about the ship at different times of day/night, and conversations with other passengers. Medical facility (Deck 2): Fortunately, we did not have any reason to visit this area of the ship. Centrum/Atrium (Decks 4 to 12): This was a focal point of the ship that many passengers used as a meeting place. Many public areas are adjacent to portions of the Centrum. Royal Caribbean online (Centrum, Deck 5): RCCL made Internet connection easy, if not inexpensive. Besides this location where Royal Caribbean on line terminals were available, each stateroom also allowed for direct Internet connection, with varying pricing options. Guest Relations/Purser (Centrum, Deck 4): As is usual, this was a busy area; the representatives staffing this area seemed very pleasant, knowledgeable and accommodating. Explorations/Excursion Desk (Centrum, Deck 4): This area being so close to the Lobby bar and the entrance to the Dining Room, sometimes fostered congestion, and even at other times the noise level could be quite high. Lobby Bar (Centrum, Deck 4): This is a very busy venue. Besides the activity of the Guest relations Desk, there was often a musical group playing here. Because of the design of the ship, music from this bar area could be easily enjoyed on all levels of the Centrum. This was also the scene for the many Art Auctions. Whether or not the Auctions were enjoyed is very individual-dependent. Cascades Dining Room (aft, Decks 4 and 5): Very comfortable feeling dining room with soothing color scheme. Large windows provide many sea views. There are very few tables for two; if that is important to you make sure your travel agent emphasizes this request on your reservation. There are also many very large tables, seating ten to twelve passengers. You may wish to confirm your table seating with the Maitre d’ immediately upon boarding the ship, if table size is very important. The carpeting and draperies did an excellent job absorbing noise so that table conversations were easy, if the table was not too large. The dinner menus were limited in variety, however, each night providing at least a meat entree, a fish entree, a chicken entree. The main element of variety seemed to be a different sauce over the entree. There was also the "opt out" section on the menu; each night there was always available: a Caesar Salad; a ranch Steak; a fish dish (the fish varied, sometime the same as the entree). Everything that we had ordered was "OK", nothing was memorable either in taste or presentation. Someone compared it to a mid-ranged priced banquet offering; that seems to fit. For breakfast and lunch, the dining room offers "open seating"; as you arrive at the dining room, you are escorted to a table that has space. Once the table is full, the orders are taken. Only the lower portion of the dining room is used for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast menu was the same all week. Everything on the breakfast and lunch menus was also available in the Windjammer Cafe, usually with additional items available in the Windjammer. One exception may be Eggs Benedict not being offered in the Windjammer; we did not see them when we ate breakfast there. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer. Latte-tudes (Centrum, Deck 5): Coffee/espresso bar, also providing snacks. This is also where passengers could pick up copies of the New York Time fax (in various languages). Shops On Board (Midship, Deck 5): Normal selection of Logo wear, Resort wear, Perfume, Sundries, Liquor, Jewelry, and also a Tuxedo Rental shop. Prices seemed typical of shops aboard cruise ships. Art/Photo Galleries (Midship/Forward, Deck 5, starboard): Typical cruise ship photo gallery, with the added feature of interspersed pieces of art (both ship’s collection and auction items). There is also a shop selling 35 mm and digital cameras and related items as well as the normal film and disposable cameras. Aurora Theatre (Forward, Decks 4, 5 and 6): This venue is primarily a theater, not merely another multi-purpose room. All the seats are fixed in place facing the stage, with the floor sloped downward from the rear toward the stage. This provides good sight lines from all but a few areas (as far as we could tell). There is a very large stage, with fore and aft sections that can be raised above stage level, or lowered below stage level, allowing for greater artistic interpretations. Sound levels and special effects are well presented. Overall, this an excellent entertainment venue. Colony Club (Aft, Deck 6): Very beautiful and cozy area. RCCL considers this five venues in one. The namesake Colony Club is the largest area having a stage used by musicians, a dance floor, and seating. Beverages are supplied by the adjacent, but supposedly separate, Singapore Sling’s; opposite the stage there is the Jakarta Lounge. The Calcutta Card Club is, as the name implies, the card room; there are also a nice number of various board games available here, twenty-four hours a day, on the honor system. The Bombay Billiard Club, at the entrance to the Colony Club, on starboard side, is the location of the innovative self-leveling pool/billiard tables. These are attached to gyroscopes that detect ship movement and automatically compensate to keep the playing surface level; quite an interesting experience. These tables are reserved for passengers age 18 and older, except for some limited posted times for younger guests, accompanied by adults. Schooner Bar (Midship/Aft, Deck 6): This popular venue runs along the starboard side of the ship from the Centrum area to the Colony Club, with separate clusters of seating spaced along the way; it is also a non-smoking venue. On some afternoons and each evening, prior to each dinner seating, there was music provided by either a talented Classical Guitarist, or an engaging Piano Entertainer.; sometimes The Rosario Strings also entertained here. Late night entertainment in this venue was provided by David Curtis, an extremely talented showman, as well as musician. He played each evening from 2145 to 0100, and often longer, depending on audience participation, without a break. Despite the lounge’s size and popularity, the noise level never seemed to interfere with one’s ability to listen to the music, or carry on an easy conversation. The end of the bar Forward on the ship is where one will find the entrance to Chops Grille Steakhouse; at the end of the bar Aft on the ship , the entrance to Portofino (more about these later, under Dining). Champagne Bar (Centrum, Deck 6): Surprisingly, this area only seemed to be well populated during the pre-dinner periods, despite being open from 1700 to 0100 each day. Casino Royale (Midship/Forward, Deck 6): Active venue most times; as is usual, there were many more losers than winners. Basic cruise ship table games and large number of slot machines. At various times during the cruise there were Blackjack and Slots Tournaments held here. Hours of operation, on sea days, typically were 0900 (slots) 1300 (tables) until late, when in port, the casino is closed. Scoreboard Sports Bar (Midship/Forward, Deck 6): This smallish area never seemed to be very active, despite being situated next to the casino. Bar was open from 1700 to 2300, with the many TV monitors going 24/7. There was a larger size screen on each side of the lounge which was showing sports related films (like The Natural or Tin Cup) but for some reason, the sound was turned off. The smaller screens were showing various sporting events (mostly soccer/football and golf), but it was not readily discernible if they were current or filmed events. Cinema (Forward of the Scoreboard Sports Bar, Deck 6); Somewhat popular venue, despite itinerary and/or weather. This area is not very large and passengers may need to sit on the steps due to lack of available seats, if it was a particularly popular movie. The seating is of the popular, and functional, stadium variety. Alas, there is no popcorn to be had, a la Holland America Line. Explorers Court (Centrum, Deck 8): This is the area where the Loyalty Ambassador (Future Cruise Advisor) set up shop most days. The daily Compass always stated that she would be at the Crown and Anchor Lounge, on Deck 8, however, the Crown and Anchor Lounge is on Deck 12 Library (Centrum, Deck 9): This Library is small, and does not provide very much in the way of a reading area. Selection/variety of reading material is marginally adequate. Check-out and return is based on honor system, hence the hours of operation are 24/7. There are some posted hours where an attendant is on duty; we are not sure what additional services they might provide, We were never there when attendant was. Yacht Club (Centrum, Deck 10): It is not readily apparent what is the reason for this area. As its name implies, it has a nautical theme and is tastefully done, but to what end? Concierge Club (Centrum, Deck 10): This venue is reserved for passengers booked in Category C, and higher (Suites), and Crown and Anchor Members at the Diamond Level. Entrance is gained by using your especially coded SeaPass card. Besides the reserved area, offerings are complimentary coffee, juice, tea, soda (maybe) and some snacks. Since we were not booked into a suite, this is second-hand knowledge. Pool (Midship, Deck 11): The pool seemed small for the number of passengers, But crowding did not seem to be a problem. This should be life’s worst problem. Pools are open 24/7, except for usual late night cleanings, or emergency cleanings (we did not see any of the latter). Solarium (Midship/Forward, Deck 11): Pool area with retractable roof design; also has a whirlpool. The Solarium is supposedly adults only, with limited posted family times when children are allowed, if accompanied by an adult. This policy was not very well enforced; fortunately, there did not seem to be a large number of children on this cruise. Within the Solarium there is a bar and a pizza/snack area, and some tables and chairs. This theme area is complete with lush greenery and waterfalls. This appeals to a number of passengers, but Ray finds it too reminiscent of a "hot house". Our guess is that is one reason that cruise lines provide different options. One of his relishes of a sea voyage is the open air, even when the sky may be overcast. On this cruise, the roof of this pool area was closed the entire cruise, despite the wonderful weather. Ship Shape Spa (Forward, Deck 11): Typical Spa/Beauty Shop offerings, plus a number of offerings specifically for couples, i.e. Rasul (therapeutic mud) Treatment for two; Thermal suites for couples; Couples Massages. There are complimentary steam rooms and saunas for men and women. Periodic Health/Fitness seminars are offered, free of charge, with an invitation for personal consultations (not free). Golf Simulators (Aft, Deck 12): There are two simulators where you hit your golf shots at a projection screen and the result is determined by a computer. These seemed not to get a lot of use. Country Club (Aft Deck 12, port): This is the place to check out sports equipment (Ping-Pong balls/paddles, Shuffleboard poles/disks, volleyballs, basketballs soccer balls, rock climbing gear, etc.). This is also the location of the Shuffleboard court. Sports Court (Midship/Aft, Deck 12, port): This area is surrounded by netting to keep volleyballs, soccer balls, basketballs from going overboard. This area was used for various competitions/activities, as well as general passenger usage. Adventure Beach ( Midship/Aft, Deck 12, starboard): Here is where you will find separate pools for toddlers, small children, teens; it is also the location of the water-slide. Voyagers/Aquanauts (Midship/Aft, Deck 12): This is the center of pre-teen kid’s programs. Included here are: games; computers; area for arts and crafts; a stage for plays; books and an area for story telling. This is a large well laid out area designed for multiple uses, without interfering with the other activities. Game Arcade (Midship/Aft, Deck 12, starboard): Arcades seem well on their way to becoming the children’s version of casinos on cruise ships. This one is no exception; it always seemed to be well populated. It contained a large variety of driving/riding experiences, some shooting scenarios, etc. There was also an air hockey game. Optix (Midship/Aft, Deck 12, starboard); This is the teen club, complete with bar (non-alcoholic mocktails, juice, sodas, etc. There is also a DJ booth and dance floor, some computer terminals, a Foosball game and cards and some board games. Most of this is second hand information since this area was kept pretty much "Teens Only". There seemed to be quite a bit of traffic in and out of Optix, considering the small number of children on this cruise. Crown & Anchor Lounge (Centrum, Deck 12): One interesting feature of this lounge is in the center of the room, where there is a raised circular area (about bench height) that is actually a window looking directly down the center of the Centrum, all nine decks! Other than that, this area had some chairs and sofas and tables. There did not seem to be much use of this area. Ship Shape Fitness Center (Forward, Deck 12): This is a large well equipped gym, open from 0600 to 2300. This area was somewhat populated most of the time, the early morning hours seemed especially popular. There is a direct internal stairway from the gym to the area of the steam rooms and saunas in the Spa on deck 11. Jogging Track (Encircling Deck 12 exterior): If our collective memories are correct, five times around the jogging track equals one mile; check the plaque for exact information. The surface of impact-dampening material takes some of the strain out of jogging into some fairly strong winds, and the all weather surface also adds to the safety. Putting Green/Miniature Golf (Aft, Deck 13): Interesting little area (nine holes), with some moderate challenges. Open 24/7 and is pretty well protected from the wind. Check out mirror image sculptures of the figures reclining on benches. Rock Climbing Wall (Midship/Aft, Deck 13): This is not an area that we are particularly interested in, but many find it a draw. There are instruction periods (required before climbing) and limited times when climbing is available (only under staff supervision). Comments from passengers who have climbed to the top say that the view is magnificent. Viking Crown Lounge (Midship/Aft, Deck 13): The design of this large area actually allows for simultaneous, non-interfering usage of three different sections. Much of this room offers spectacular sea views from large floor to ceiling windows. One portion of this lounge is called Starquest and is also used as a late night dance club. Starquest is separated from the remainder of the lounge by a rotating bar area. Beyond the bar there is another dance floor and seating area. Hollywood Odyssey (Midship/Aft, Deck 13, port): This smaller lounge is decorated with motion picture memorabilia, very similar to its namesake on the Serenade OTS. It was also a one-night-only venue for some late jazz sets, by some members of the ship’s orchestra. This session was great; I wish they had scheduled more of these. Windjammer Cafe (Aft, Deck 11): The layout of the Windjammer is that food serving areas are grouped in various stations: hot buffet; cold buffet; deli; fruits/salads; beverages; breads/rolls; pizza; desserts; soup/sandwiches. Some items may show up at more than one station. This design keeps lines to a minimum, but may require multiple trips for a full variety. There are no trays available; food is placed on large oval platters (approximately 12x8 inches). The best plan of attack seemed to be to scout out an available table and leave something/someone to reserve it until the food is obtained. Obtaining the food first and then looking for a particular table can allow hot items to cool considerably during a search for a desired table. If you are willing to take any available table, or eat outdoors, seating should be almost immediate. Food in the Windjammer was uniformly fresh, well prepared and tasty. Variety was excellent, but still a buffet, rather than table service, which some passengers prefer. The Windjammer is also the location of the self-serve frozen yogurt/ soft-serve ice cream stations. These stations also had a variety of toppings and cookies available. Seaview Cafe (Aft, Deck 12, starboard): Another place to obtain "snacks" (RCCL’s appellation) is the Seaview cafe, located on Deck 12, starboard. The Seaview allows some very nice ocean views from both it’s interior tables and those out on deck. This cafe is usually open from Noon, or 1400, to 1830 and from 2100 to 0200, and offers more than what we would consider "snacks". Our snack/lunch one afternoon was: a Reuben Sandwich; French fries; Clam chowder; Chicken wings and nuggets; water; lemonade (Burp!!). Upon entering the cafe, one places their order at the counter and is given a numbered placard and then selects a table. When the food is ready, a server delivers it to your table, piping hot. Other items available were: Fish and chips; Cuban pork sandwich; Corn chips with salsa, guacamole, sour cream; Onion rings: Seafood salad; Grouper Caesar salad; Hamburger; Cheeseburger; Tuna melt sub; Vegetarian sandwich; Nathan’s hot dogs; Fruit and cottage cheese; Desserts. More than just snacks! Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view, this gem seems to be discovered rather quickly during the cruise, despite RCCL’s lack of advertising it, but I guess I just did advertise it. So, there are times when passengers may be told that there will be a twenty minute, or longer, wait for their order. We even overheard one group being told that no more orders would be taken for the next 15-20 minutes because the grill was so backed up. Probably a testimonial to the cafe’s food and ambiance. Shore Excursions: The ports visited on this cruise are ones we have visited in the past, and for the most part enjoy. They are also ports that many folks enjoy, or dislike, for different reasons, depending on personal preferences, We will not dwell on excursion options in this review, except to remind those unfamiliar with Grand Cayman, that in this port, all cruise ships must tender passengers to shore. Roatan is perhaps a less familiar port than most on this itinerary. We had been here previously and only left the ship to wander about the shops near the pier. This time we hired a taxi for a tour of the island and now have a better appreciation of this rough gem. A number of passengers who took the beach excursion, on both our visits, have expressed pleasure with this option; perhaps on our next visit. I do not think I would yet feel comfortable about taking a taxi to the beach and be confident that the taxi would be there for the return trip. Perhaps after the tourist industry has had more time to mature in this port, I will be more comfortable with that option. Entertainment: This is not an aspect of a cruise that will usually determine whether or not we have a great cruise experience. We attended a number of the headlined shows and they were fine, even though they were not anything special. Beyond the usual production (song and dance) shows, there were comedians, magician/illusionist, and of course the "Battle of the Sexes" show, and passenger Karaoke Idol Championship. The music in the various lounges/bars was pretty good. One night, some members from the ship’s orchestra got together for a Jazz session in one of the smaller public rooms (Hollywood Odyssey). Unfortunately, this was a one-time occurrence. Service: To us, this is a key facet of a cruise that can delineate the difference between a "mediocre" and a "great" cruising experience. Good service can help mitigate minor shortcomings in other areas, and tends to remain longer in one’s memory. Conversely, poor service can magnify those same minor shortcomings. Our cabin steward Calvin, from Jamaica, is one of those "phantoms" that even if you seldom see him, you know he is around. He seemed to anticipate all of our needs, and if we had a question he was right there to ask. The cabin was kept well ordered and clean. When we did see him, he was friendly and outgoing. Dining Room service was capably provided by our waiter Benedick, from the Philippines, and his assistant Jerry, also from the Philippines; the Head waiter was Hava, from Turkey. Benedick and Jerry worked very well together. By the second night, all personal preferences were noted and acted upon accordingly, and names were memorized, with each passenger addressed by name at each interaction. Ray’s water glass was kept filled, even through dessert, a quirk of his. Benedick would provide dinner suggestions/tips concerning the menu options each evening, and he was not offended if you chose something else, and if whatever you did choose was not to your liking, he would quickly arrange for a replacement. If you could not decide between two choices, one of each was not a problem. One difference we noted on this cruise was that bread/rolls are not in baskets on the table, but offered by your servers when first seated and then not seen again unless requested. This was not a problem for us, Janet doesn’t normally eat them and Ray eats too many if they are there. Perhaps this is a response to the viral outbreaks on many cruise ships? It would be our pleasure to be seated again at a table attended to by these two very capable individuals. In the Windjammer Cafe, service is obviously self directed, most beverage refills are offered at the tables, by crew moving through the Windjammer with carts. Drink service in the lounges was somewhat uneven and, overall, somewhat on the poor side, but passengers would be hard put to label service as "pushy" or "aggressive". Drinks were uniformly of good size and quality, and were comparably priced. Service in Chops Grille Steakhouse, on the one night we dined there, was good, but not outstanding, as one might expect, in a venue that carries an extra charge. Overall, Chops was a pleasant experience (the veal chop is excellent), but in our opinion, not a good value at the $40.00 per couple additional charge. Final Thoughts and Recap: As mentioned earlier, this was our third cruise with Royal Caribbean, and twenty-eighth overall, however, this is the only cruise where we had been serenaded by the Captain. Captain Kent Ringborn is a wonderful representative of the cruise line. Captain Kent amazed just about everyone at the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Reception with a very professional rendition of Welcome to Our World. Later in the week, at the Repeaters Party, he serenaded us with two additional songs. All during the cruise, he was seen about the ship and was very approachable. One evening, when we dining at Chops Grill Steakhouse, Captain Kent made his way through the restaurant and stopped at each table to chat with passengers. We were told by our normal Dining Room tablemates that he did the same thing in the main dining room that evening. This is one of the most beautiful ships we have ever sailed on. The Radiance of the Seas is not only beautiful, but also well laid out; color schemes are soothing and comfortable. The art displayed about the ship is eclectic and very interesting; many pieces with placards explaining that piece’s history. The staff are extremely friendly and usually very willing to be of assistance. Housekeeping was good, but did allow some room for improvement ("dust bunnies" on floor of elevators - once), but that was about it for criticism of housekeeping. One particular item that we enjoyed was the deck chairs on the wide Promenade Deck, a disappearing pleasure on many of the newer cruise ships. Unfortunately, the promenade does not completely circle the ship, at least not easily. This was our third cruise with Royal Caribbean. We are more than willing to sail with RCCL again, realizing that many aspects of their product are just OK and not outstanding. We feel that we received fair value for our dollars. There are always areas for improvement, on any cruise line and/or individual cruise. Thank you for taking the time to allow us to share our experience. We hope you found it informative and enjoyable. If you would like to discuss any aspect of this review with us, please e-mail us at: zeesinnh@aol.com

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Nov 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was my wife and my first cruise. After reading various reviews of various cruise lines and finding sailing dates and locations that suited us we decided to book Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. From the time we arrived at Fort Lauderdale with RCCL booking our flight schedule, we met the cruise line’s personnel who were extremely friendly and helpful. Arriving at the ship we were directed to our stateroom where we quickly

met our attendant, John. Everyone was so friendly that you immediately knew that this was going to be an enjoyable experience. We were not disappointed. The evening dining was a wonderful, relaxing time and we were pleased to have dining partners who were friendly. The waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter were people who were very friendly and waited upon you like you were royalty. The food itself was awesome with a menu that would meet anyone’s liking. There were other choices that people had if they did not wish a four or five course meal. They could go to two of the specialty restaurants (at a @ a $20 charge) or eat at the Windjammer Café buffet. We chose to be served every evening. We ate breakfast in the Dining room three of the days and ate at the Windjammer for the other breakfast’s and our lunches. The view at the Windjammer was awesome and we often sat outdoors while dining. We took relaxful walks looking in the shops in Key West for a couple hours and then went back to the ship where we spent time relaxing and sleeping as we needed the rest. In Cozumel we took the dolphin encounter through the Exploration tour. It was pricey but enjoyable as we got to interact with a dolphin. After that we spent time at the park and I tried snorkeling which I found fascinating. It is an incredible world beneath the waters! The park was beautifully manicured with trails to explore. In Costa Maya, we did not take any explorations. Instead we shopped at the tourist shops and took in the cultural flavor of the local people. Returning to the Radiance we ate lunch, then returned to the beach where we enjoyed the warm water while tackling one of the rockiest beaches we have seen. Aqua shoes are a must. The days at sea were no problem for us as there was more than enough to do without gambling. The entertainment was excellent most of the time: Kenny James, the Royal Caribbean dancers, a female vocalist, the Diamonds, and on the last night they had a juggler/unicyclist who was a riot. The only night that was so-so was the comedian who wasn’t all that funny. Grand Cayman was a place I personally enjoyed as we ferried into the dock. We finished our shopping, returned the ship where we quickly ate and then returned to shore to go on the glass bottom boat which is like snorkeling without getting wet. It was tremendous except that the air conditioning in the boat was very weak and my wife thought she was going to faint. Reaching land, we went to a nearby bar/restaurant and enjoyed a smoothie and a coke while enjoying a breezy view of the Radiance and other boats coming and going. The Radiance is an incredibly beautiful ship that was beyond my inexperienced dreams. It has set a high standard for any future trips we might take. I admit that entering the dining room with its incredible elegance, I thought of the Titanic. Thankfully it is not the Titanic. There is something for everyone on the Radiance and the crew work extremely hard to make your vacation a lasting positive memory.

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Nov 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

The Fomt Group As in the past, I’ll start my review with a quick summary and some tips to help you get more out of your week at sea. Then I’ll go into detail for those of you brave enough to continue reading my ramblings. *************IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT************* This review is just one man’s opinion with some input from his wife. I am reviewing MY experience on the Radiance of the Sea during one week. YMMV (Your

mileage may vary). I go into every cruise expecting it to be the cruise of a lifetime. I try not to get my expectations up too high, but sometimes this isn’t possible. The short version of MY cruise review is that we had a lot of fun, but some things didn’t meet MY expectations. Your expectations and your experience will undoubtedly be very different. Here is the “rest of the story.” ******************************************************* What I Liked About This Radiance Cruise – Cabin Cleanliness Price The Passenger Mix Dining Room Service Room Stewart Wine and Dine Program Lounges Games-Horse Race/Quest/Love & Marriage Rock Wall Putt Putt course Viking Crown Disco (Starquest) Security Pools What I Didn’t Like About This Radiance Cruise- Food in Dining Room Drink Prices Entertainment (Not all bad, some was good and some was awful) details to follow. Bar Service Embarkation Disembarkation Tender Operations Room Service Concierge Service Group Coordinator Group Perks Cruise in Review Video Summary- Rating on a scale of 1-10 – 7.5 Maybe our expectations, based on our one and only past RCI cruise, caused us to lower our rating on this ship. But I really feel that the Royal Caribbean experience has been watered down since 1995 to the point that I may not go on another Royal Caribbean ship again for a while. If I do, it will definitely NOT be in a suite. Some of the reason for my lower rating may have to do with the fact that this is the first time that we have gone with a large group. I felt that we didn’t have enough time to spend renewing old friendships because there were a lot of group dynamics. I also didn’t like sitting at a table for 12. It made for a noisy and chaotic time. Don’t think because we noticed some things that weren’t up to our expectations that we didn’t enjoy ourselves. We had a GREAT time. I’ll try to give you the good, the bad and the ugly within the perspective of a relatively experienced cruiser. But I’ll try to do it without a “jaundiced eye.” Some things happened on this cruise that fell short of expectations. So much happened on this cruise that was nothing short of MAGICAL. Read on if you dare! When deciding if I had a good experience on a cruise, I ask my wife and myself a few simple questions: Did I get my money's worth? This may come as a surprise to some who traveled with us, but my answer would have to be, “No.” I say this in spite of the fact that we had a reasonable price on a very nice aft balcony suite. It was a discount price but not necessarily a bargain. Cruise prices are at an all time low and great cabins at low prices are available on all the lines. In relation to a basic outside balcony cabin, I paid a sizeable premium. My wife and I LOVE a big aft balcony, and we were thrilled to get the cabin we did. Honestly, we were trying to duplicate the wonderful experience we had one year ago to the week in an aft Penthouse on the NCL Sun. We got most of the way, but not all the way there. Would I go on this ship again? Possibly, but not in a suite. I didn’t see the value in it. It seemed to me that about all you got with a B category suite was a bigger room. The “Concierge Lounge” was nice but it wasn’t worth an extra $1,000. The concierge was a negative. I’ll explain later. If I went again I would get an inside cabin on an upper deck or a minimum balcony --somewhere amidships or forward. More on the ship design later if you decide to read the rest of my ramblings. Did we enjoy ourselves? Tremendously. A wise man once said, “Quitcherbitchin, It’s a cruise for cryin’ out loud!” Oh, wait. That was me! There were some ALL TIME cruise highlights on this trip. Give diehard cruise nuts a big ship filled with great bars and lounges, beautiful pools, a rock climbing wall, putt putt course, 7 days of excellent weather, interesting ports, unlimited food, new and old friends, some outrageously fun games like Quest and Horseracing and sure enough……… Ship Happens!!!! Having had a wonderful time on the Grandeur in 1995 we had hopes of recapturing that same experience. To this day we still count that week as one of our top three cruises. The differences in Royal Caribbean’s product since then were striking. While this ship is and more diverse in it’s amenities, the overall cruise experience was less satisfying this time. I’ll give some reasons for this later in my review. Tips – A few quick tips for those of you who don’t want to read all the rest….. Ask for an upgrade at the pier. You may be surprised what you can get right there before you board. One couple in our group went from a standard balcony to the Ferdinand Magellan Owner’s Suite for and extra $400. Ask specifically for the “Pier Coordinator”. We were interested in upgrading to the Royal Suite but were disappointed when we were told that it was not available. The customer service rep told us that it must have already been booked. It wasn’t when we last checked - right up to the last minute. We found out later what RCI now does with the A and RS suites they can’t sell. Be specific when ordering a drink. As I mentioned in nearly every review, when you ask for a drink, specify the size and the type of glass you want. If you don’t specify, you might get a large expensive drink or a “souvenir glass” which costs considerably more that just a regular drink. Just because the bar staff is wandering the pool deck with the big tall colorful glasses, doesn’t mean that’s all they have to sell. You can always ask them to bring you a regular drink of the same kind and volume and for a lot less with out the fancy glass. If you want a souvenir, get one. But don’t assume you won’t get it the next time. If you don’t specify, you probably will! If you want a Martini, don’t let them serve it in anything but a Martini glass. They have them on the ship, but not many! Tell them to wash one. Also, ask the price of the shots they offer at dinner. They look so cute and festive, but they really aren’t cheap! SHOTS FIRED!!! was the cry after nearly every meal. Fun, but whoa did they add up! Look at “Costa Maya” as a “private island” day. If you don’t, you might be disappointed. We were the last time there, because we didn’t leave the “compound.” This is a “made for TV” port that in my opinion lacks dimension. It’s not real. It’s not Mexico. But then neither is Cancun. HA! This “secure” port area has pretty much the same merchandise you see in Cozumel. And it’s just as expensive if not more so! It has a pool with a swim up bar, a volleyball court and a sandy area to hang out in, but no where to swim in the Caribbean until you leave the “secure area.” Don’t be afraid of going to Mahahual. Consider donating some school supplies to the local school and visiting with the children. Some of our group will tell you it was the highlight of their trip. Rent an ATV, a golf cart or just get a cab. This little fishing village is more like real Mexico. You can see the influence the “cruisies” are having on the area (both good and bad), but the people there are generally friendly and the beach is about a 1000% nicer in Mahahual. Beer is cheap. The ruins are also worth seeing, but the trip can be long in a non –air conditioned bus. As they say in the RCI ads, “Get Out There!” Consider taking the early dinner seating. We personally have a lot of trouble eating that early, but as has been the case on past traditional cruises, it seemed like the activities were more geared to the early seating crowd. We felt like we were out of synch with the things to do on the ship. We missed shows, karaoke, and had trouble getting a seat in the lounges from time to time. If I did another RCI cruise, I would, for the first time, try early dinner. Make your dinner reservations for the alternative restaurants early if you’d like. Unlike NCL, where you can’t make reservations for the alternatives until the day before – unless you are a suite passenger – you can make reservations for the whole week on the first day if you wish. We aren’t specifically recommending the alternatives since we never got there (see next tip). Just giving you a heads up. Lobster night is Friday, not Thursday. At least on this itinerary. The second formal night on a 7 day cruise is traditionally “Lobster Night.” The first night, we asked our head waiter which night was Lobster night. He told us Thursday. So we made reservations at Chops for Friday, our anniversary. We find out Thursday when they aren’t serving lobster that the next day is lobster night. We cancelled Chops and never had another opportunity to try the alternatives since Saturday was the last night and we wanted to see everyone one last time. Some members of our group went to Chops Friday night. Our waiter actually went up and checked on them. Nice touch. On Saturday, the wait staff brought them a nice lobster tail to go with their prime rib. That was a nice touch, too. This was not offered to anyone else in our group. I think it made them feel pretty special. I’m not sure, but it might have made some of the others in the group feel a little less special. Room Service Breakfast. Don’t expect to get anything that isn’t right on the preprinted form. We have always gotten pretty much whatever we wrote on the menu like “Western Omelet,” or “Eggs Benedict” when cruising on NCL or others including Princess. On this cruise, we get a call from room service from a person with broken English explaining we can’t get that. After several patient attempts, it was too hard to communicate, so I gave up trying. Also, my wife thrives on half and half in her coffee. Every evening she wrote “Half and Half” on the menu and every morning we got the “whitener” coffee creamer. That stuff doesn’t come out of cows. And we know they have half and half on the ship. As long as we wanted to walk up to the Windjammer, which was directly above us, we could have all we wanted. Until they RAN OUT on the last day. Don’t get an aft cabin unless you REALLY like walking. My wife and I are both quite ambulatory. (In fact my wife even climbed an advance course on the rock wall). But the fact that this ship doesn’t have a staircase in the rear of the ship made for a lot of walking. It’s not the walking exercise that was the problem. It was the time wasted getting from one place to another. In order for us to get from our room to the Windjammer, which we could literally reach up and touch from our balcony, we had to walk all the way amidships, then back to the rear of the ship. We found a solution for this. The crew staircase. At the other side of the ship from our suite was a door marked “Crew Only.” These doors are VERY HEAVY. We pushed the door open and then pulled the next one open. Go up a relatively narrow and steep flight of stairs and out the door. You’re at the Windjammer. If you are not strong or not comfortable on the narrow stairway, you’ll do a lot of walking. I NEVER SAW A SINGLE CREW MEMBER ON THESE STAIRS even though we used them all the time! Only once did a crew member try to say anything and we were in the staircase with the door shut behind us before he could finish his sentence. We also used it to go down to the Colony Club which was on deck 7 below us. We popped out of the “Crew Only” door to the surprise of several people sitting in the lounge. They were so surprised they almost spilled their drinks! Cruise Critics, Cruise Addicts and other internet sites. Being social beings, we got to know some great new folks in addition to the veteran FOMT gang. Getting to know others before you go can greatly enhance your cruise experience. Honestly the CC meeting was a little flat. Partly because only about half of the people showed up, but also because there wasn’t the excitement of meeting and getting to know new friends there. We spent so much time chatting back and forth on CC, we felt like we already knew each other! Stay at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale and not the Amerisuites if you have a choice. Last time in FLL we stayed at the Embassy and it was great! I told everyone how wonderful it was and told everyone to try to get a room there. Trouble is, somehow in my cruise damaged brain, this became Amerisuites. Many of us booked there and it was OK, but the Embassy was a lot better. My bad! Get a Porter at Disembarkation- The line to get through Customs was about a half an hour long, sometimes longer. If you get a porter, you get to go through a short line. Is a half an hour or more of drudgery worth 5 bucks? JHOO BED JOOOR FAARGIN AHAAAS IDS NOOT!!! As my friend Captain Lars Svenson of the SS FOMT would say. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OK. Drum roll please………………….. And now ladies and gentlemen, the full “MrTractor” review of his trip on Radiance of the Seas…………. (Cue the snazzy show band music)……….. (MrTractor enters wearing his black tuxedo, this time with a pure white silk tie and cummerbund). Good evening fellow cruisers and thanks for listening! Tonight I’m inviting every one of you to embark upon a voyage on the Radiance of the Seas, the first in a new class of technologically and ecologically advanced ships. Join the other FOMT on a voyage where the weather is always perfect. Where there is no rain, only “liquid sunshine.” It’s a place where no one can be grumpy or whiny (for long). Sad faces become happy. And otherwise sane and normal people take off their pants in a public lounge. Come with me and my fellow adventurers to a place where……. Even waiting in line can be fun! So turn on some Mexican fiesta music, get yourself a large Margarita, some guacamole, salsa and chips, put your feet up and try to get through this incredibly long but hopefully informative review. As usual, I didn’t take any notes during the cruise, so some of the events may be a little jumbled. And forgive me if I forget or misspell a name or two. I am writing this as I decompress from a whopper of a vacation and struggling to use what brain cells I have left. Besides, while I’m on the ship, I’m too busy enjoying myself to write anything down! If I sound a little pissy, it’s just the post cruise blues. Please, no flames or nasty email. This is just one man’s opinion. Remember, your mileage may vary. (YMMV) As a little background, some of my friends had expressed an interest in going on another cruise with us. We always go in November because it’s our anniversary. John and Cynthia in particular were big SS Norway fans. Many others, including myself, had always wanted to sail the old gal, but just never got around to it. Some weren’t too thrilled about sailing a 40+ year old ship with a history of mechanical failures, but were willing to go along for the fun and camaraderie. The fares were more than reasonable, so Barb and I decided to really go all out this time. (We are known for going “all out” at times! HA). We wanted this to be an old fashioned SS France experience with a fun Caribbean flair. We reserved one of the original Owner’s Suites on the Viking deck. It measured around 1,300 square feet, had two bathrooms, dining room service for 8, a huge living room and came with lots of free booze. It even had a bidet! (How DO you get a drink out of that thing anyway?).We had elaborate plans for a black and white formal ball. This would be a classic cruise to remember. There were rumors, though still unconfirmed, that even Rick would don a tux for this one! But it was not to be. As some of you may remember, the SS Norway experienced a tragic explosion that killed 8 crew members and injured many more. She was later towed across the Atlantic to her current resting place in Bremerhaven, Germany. NCL announced that it would take many months to have her boiler replaced, but as of this writing, her fate is still uncertain. Literally months of planning were blown away with the boilers. We would have to cancel our long anticipated SS Norway cruise and come up with a “plan B.” To keep the group together, we would have to move fast. At least we had a few more months to work with than the folks that were booked right after the tragedy. Some of us had already made airline reservations, so it looked like we would have to use the same week and a South Florida port if we still wanted to try to put a group together. I came up with an idea of how to select a new cruise. We would find out all the ships that left either Saturday or Sunday from either Port Everglades or Miami for 7 days. We eliminated a few of them right away for various reasons. Then we used the chat boards for a game of …..FOMT SURVIVOR!!!!!!..... Each day we voted off one or two ships until we had the final winner. We took into account the ship, the cruise line, the itinerary, the prices and our own personal preferences. The Radiance of the Seas finally won out over the NCL Sun, the Voyager of the Seas and others. I’ll have to admit I was pretty disappointed after the Norway tragedy, but this quickly gave way to a new sense of excitement. We soon had a new set of activities the group would do that would take the place of the Black and White Ball, the Progressive Cocktail Party and the Presentation of a Norway Lithograph to the Captain. We would now be playing in a Putt Putt tournament (Thanks Deb for doing a GREAT job on a fun tournament), doing a “CruiseAid” project in Mahahual and having a Dance Contest and Margarita Festival at Carlos and Charlie’s. You have to be flexible to be a FOMT!!!!! Getting to Fort Lauderdale - We fly out of the Washington, DC area and prefer using National (possibly the most secure airport in the world) instead of Dulles. We booked well in advance. Travelocity got us round trip, non-stop air on USAir for $131.50 pp. (I’m boycotting Orbitz.com after our last hotel disaster). That seemed like a pretty good price! As is our custom, we fly in the night before and stay in a hotel within a short distance to the pier. This saves a lot of stress and gives us a chance to get in full “Cruise Mode.” As noted above, we thought we were staying at the Embassy Suites, but as a result of too many intense cruise experiences, I didn’t have enough brain cells left to remember it wasn’t the Amerisuites. Actually, it turned out OK, because the boat show was in town and the Embassy was about twice as expensive! I just can’t stand to spend more that $100 for a place to lay my head for a few hours. As long as the basic amenities are there and it’s secure and relatively quiet, it’s no big deal. We did get a free shuttle from the airport and to the port and a minimal breakfast buffet. I did miss that free happy hour and big delicious buffet breakfast at Embassy, but I wouldn’t pay $100 to get it! We all went out to a pre-cruise “FOMT Banquet” at the Bimini Boat Club and had our own private dining room. It was a good thing. What with all the swearing, the screaming, the food fights, Oprah stories, the partial nudity and the general drunken debauchery. And that was just the women! HAHAHAHhahahahaaaa!!!!!! Seriously, by this time our group had gone into……. FULL CRUISE MODE……… ….and would have been a major distraction for the other diners. After dinner, we walked along the pier and checked out some of the million dollar yachts parked out back and then paid the check. Barb picked one out. Undeterred by a short rain shower, we walked down 17th Street towards our hotel. We ducked into the Mexican restaurant next to the hotel for more libations and to meet some members of the FOMT clan that didn’t make it to dinner. Embarkation We decided we wanted to get to the pier early to see about an upgrade. Getting to the port was easy since the hotel offered a free shuttle. Jane and Tom, new friends from Chicago, went with us. The shuttle dropped us off in front of pier 28 and we pulled our bags toward the doors. The place seemed strangely empty even though it was about 10AM. Normally, you would see at least some of the departing passengers pulling bags and clamoring into cabs and buses. As we approached the doors we found out why. A big burly US Customs agent standing in a group of men beckoned us over and explained to us in very firm tones (more like a tongue lashing) that we weren’t supposed to be there, the ship was not even close to being “cleared,” that we wouldn’t be getting on the ship until at least 2 pm and that we needed to go somewhere and cower in a corner until he said it was OK to breath again. He seemed to take great pleasure in browbeating cruise ship passengers. I’m guessing he needed to TAKE a cruise instead of inspecting one. Kudos go out to the RCI customer service rep that came to our rescue. She quickly spotted that we were under the scrutiny of the “Customs Agent From Hell” and took us under her wing. She said she would have someone come out and take our bags, but that it might be quite a while until we could board the ship. The ship had just come in to Port Everglades for the very first time and customs was really running her “through the ringer.” After the porters took our bags, she was kind enough to direct us to a small waiting area. There were already a dozen or so people waiting there, but enough seats for the four of us. It was there that we would meet up with some more of the folks that had posted on the chat boards. It’s a funny feeling when someone comes up to you and they know who you are, but you don’t know who they are! That’s how we met new FOMTs Barbie and Ken. I’m sitting there, minding my own business. (Well maybe I was enjoying a coke from the vending machine laced with some of Barb’s dark rum from a mini bottle. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time). But hey, I wasn’t expecting a cute bubbly brunette to come bounding in next to me in the waiting area. I turned and there she was smiling at me- at close range! I almost dropped my contraband rum drink! That would have been a five point “FOMT Beverage Infraction!” And you don’t want that to start a cruise. It’s bad CRUISE MOJO. Startled for a moment but realizing this person must be a FOMT from the chat board, I said, “You must be, uhhh, uhhh.” I don’t remember who I guessed, but she finally blurted out, “BARBIE!” It was nice to finally meet the big fans of RCI and cruise nuts that I had conversed with so many times on the chat boards. I gave her a hug and introduced my self to her husband Ken. (Yes, Barbie has to come complete with a Ken. Some assembly required after 3 shooters). They were just exactly the kind of folks you want to have on your cruise. I hope we can cruise with them again some day soon! Anyway, a lot of the gang was starting to arrive and we all gathered there in the terminal waiting for the ship to be cleared, reminiscing about our months on the chat boards, laughing, drinking, and of course, starting the fun before we even got on the ship! Even waiting in line is fun when you have fun people around!! Finally, about 12:30 and a couple of rum and cokes later, the disembarking passengers filed off the ship and the port agent opened up the ship for boarding. As we entered the embarkation area, we saw a sign for Diamond Crown and Anchor and Suite passengers only. I thought, “Finally, the abuse and indignities are over!” NOT! We stood in this “Special Line” while other non suite passengers filed past us to a large holding area. We thought we would try to get a couple of our friends into the “Special” area to bask in the glow of its opulence. Instead, we just stood there while the scooter parade was escorted to the front of the line to go through security. Then several pushy senior citizens decided to make the line about four or five wide by just going to the front of the line and standing next to the people at the front. I bit my tongue. It was too early in the cruise to make waves. People like that never cease to amaze me. It just goes to show you, doesn’t it? Anyway, we finally get through security and up the escalator. I just knew that this was when things were going to start getting “Suite!” WRONG! We were led into- that’s right - another waiting area! But look! Now we had pitchers of water! Wow! I felt really special now! Oh, except that there were no cups. I pickup up one of the pitchers and drank the last few gulps. Sue me. That’s when the scooter and wheelchair parade starts. We sat and watched while what seemed like dozens of scooters and wheelchairs made their way onto the ship. I am sympathetic with anyone who is confined to a wheelchair. I think they deserve every measure of accessibility available. What sort of special privileges are they due because of it? I’m still a little conflicted about that. However at that moment, I once again bit my tongue and sat with the water dripping down my shirt and got to know Ken and Barbie and Sponge Bob and Sandy a little better. Oh what fun we were having. Whoo, Whoo!!! I still had not found a single soul who I could ask a question. I finally saw the same nice agent who had helped us outside. She was looking pretty frazzled, but I finally got a word in past the scooters that continued buzzing around her. She said she would take me to the Pier Coordinator to see about an upgrade. We went down the elevator, back out past security again and past the steerage passengers filling the large room downstairs. Many of them were already heading on to the ship. I stood in line only to have the agent tell me that the Royal Suite was not available. I was disappointed, but not tremendously. I was offered an A category owner’s suite for an additional $400. I wasn’t interested in the A. I turned on my heels and walked past the embarking steerage and back through security, up the stairs and back to the “Special” waiting room. Later on in the day, I would find out the real story of what happened to the Royal Suite. After another 15 minutes or so there still were no announcements, but just about everyone but us was in line. We got up and just went to the line. There were now no more wheel chairs or scooters, but RCI’s on shore staff hadn’t quite figured out that the ropes that divided the lines needed to change. We watched as our line moved forward, while the line next to us, where Barbie and Ken were standing, just crept along. The agents taking care of the wheel chair and scooter brigade were now calling our line over while the other line had to wait for a single agent. At least we were in the right line. I was thrilled when we got to the agent. FINALLY! We were getting on the ship! WRONG!!! “Oh, what’s that? YOU DON’T HAVE OUR CRUISE CARDS? “ “Uh, yes sir. Some of the cards haven’t been sent down yet.” “Sent down from where?” I asked. “The ship, sir. Would you mind standing right here at the front of the line for a few minutes?” I could feel about a hundred eyes bearing down on me, so I said, “Why don’t you take care of one of these other folks while we wait.” Brilliant, huh? I couldn’t take it any longer. I moved away from the counter and stood over in the open part of the room with other suite passengers who were detained or delayed for some reason. Barb dutifully stood there at the front of the counter. A few minutes passed and finally a woman comes out and starts asking a few passengers standing near me what their names were. I happen to hear her ask about, “Jurrall. Jurrell.” That didn’t ring a bell for a moment or two. When she started walking toward the other side of the room, I realized that she wasn’t using my last name. She was attempting to pronounce “Jerrold.” I chased her down and called Barb over. She handed us our cards and we started toward the door. For the benefit of those of you who have never had REAL priority embarkation, let me just contrast the above experience with our last NCL Suite embarkation. Immediately after clearing security, which was not backed up and no one was pushing past us to the front of the line, we were greeted by a customer service representative. There was a special handicapped boarding area separate from the Suite Passenger’s area. We showed the concierge our docs and she immediately guided us into the priority embarkation lounge. In this glass walled lounge overlooking the bow of the ship, we were invited to sit in large comfortable chairs, enjoy a set up of coffee, tea, juice, water, soft drinks, Danish, finger sandwiches, pretzels and other snacks or just stand at the window and enjoy looking at the ship. One by one, we were invited up to the agent to present our documents and get our pictures taken and our cruise cards issued. A few moments after that, THE CONCIERGE PERSONALLY ESCORTED US ON TO THE SHIP. As we walked onto the ship, she introduced herself, told us something about her job, asked if there was anything she could do to make our cruise better, and guarded us from the embarkation photographer (if we wanted a picture she put us at the front of the line!). Then as we entered the ship, she introduced us to a crew member who took our carryons and escorted us to our cabin. That gives you a real warm fuzzy right off the bat. Why couldn’t RCI do the same thing? As we stepped onto the Radiance, we were asked for our key card, which was swiped each and every time we went on or off the ship. In general, I was pretty happy with the security procedures on the ship. I think most of the lines have had time since 9-11 to get the program down pretty well. Finally, after so many months of waiting, planning and even changing ships, we were onboard. We entered on the Promenade deck and were guided into the ship at the entrance to the grand atrium. I could feel that a new adventure was about to begin. The Cabin Barb wanted to take a look at the cabin first, so we headed past the Centrum, briefly gazing upward into the 8 story cavity. The ship in this area is very dramatic, but didn’t seem very open compared to the Dawn’s atrium area that wasn’t nearly as tall. It was exactly what we expected, though, since we had seen it in many pictures on the net. We headed over to the elevators which on this ship always seemed to work well. Once on deck 10, we headed starboard and started to walk down the “long, long, hallway.” I didn’t count the steps, but I have heard that it was over 100 each way! We reached the door to our room, which was open. It was now around 1:30 PM and our stateroom attendant was still cleaning our room. There was a small hallway with a bronze sculpture where the hallway bends toward the foyer/bar area. Making the turn towards the aft, the bathroom door was on your left and the bar, which is counter height, was up against the wall. Underneath were a refrigerator and more drawer space. The area in the hall, foyer, past the bathroom door and leading up to the living area and the entire bath including its walls were covered in marble tile. Past that was the carpeted living room with two bucket chairs, one large armchair, and a full sized sleeper sofa between two end tables. I noticed the subwoofer for the surround sound was underneath one of them. Looking to our left we saw a queen size bed. The bed was sort of at an angle to the rest of the room because the shape of this room bends as it makes the corner of the starboard aft of the ship. The beds, as usual, were two small twins put together and had a curvature at the foot of them. I can see how this would be nice in a smaller cabin for getting around although it wasn’t really necessary here. The two beds had a crack that would separate from time to time. (Why couldn’t RCI use the foam “T” that Princess and NCL and other lines use?). In the corner next to the bed were a large dressing area and vanity, and two large full length mirrored closets with the safe. The bath had a large bath tub, but no separate shower. There was a double sink and a commode, but no bidet. Bummer! Ha! Overall, it was a pretty nice room and despite the lack of a rear staircase, we knew we would be pretty comfortable there. And did I mention that the balcony was BIG! Michael, our room steward introduced himself and said he would be finished soon. He quickly finished and took a moment to show us a few features of the room. He tried to explain the use of the large rechargeable remote for the surround sound DVD, TV, VCR system. I planned to plug my laptop in as a juke box and I saw that it would work fine. We dropped our bags and headed out to the balcony for a quick look outside. Nice size. But too much furniture. We’d work something out on that later. It was about 10 feet deep at the inboard side and tapered down to a sliver at starboard. We still had plenty of room for five pieces of furniture. For our party, we stowed the loungers in the sliver. This gave us plenty of space for people to watch Grand Cayman fade away into the horizon under a huge bright full moon. It was tough to arrange an aft balcony, BGs favorite island as a backdrop and a full moon to all fall on our anniversary. Getting the Captain to rearrange his itinerary was tough, but getting a clear night and that full moon to come up just as the party began was tough! I told you I would move the heavens and earth for you, didn’t I, honey! I would find a number of little problems with the cabin that were a minor irritation, but not a reason for any concern. The toilet sometimes didn’t have enough vacuum pressure, the cupboard door rattled, the bar top was gouged and the veneer separating. But there was one thing that happened that I didn’t think was minor at the time. The second day after Key West, we came back to the ship, and my wife wanted to run a bath and relax in her luxury suite bathtub. We had been showering, washing drinking and brushing our teeth in this water since the day before. I noticed the water had a little tinge of brown to it, but I didn’t think twice about it. I was out in the living room plugging in the jukebox. I heard a screech from the bathroom that sounded vaguely like my name and “COME IN HERE!” What I saw can only be described as some sort of spa treatment gone haywire. The bath water was as brown as Mississippi mud. Barb called housekeeping and firmly asked them to send someone up. I took a photo of the tub so no one would think I was making any of this up. About 20 minutes later, I had to call again. They said that the plumber was on the way. He came in, drained the water and ran the water for about five minutes. The water began to clear. I suddenly wondered if my teeth would turn brown or what I had washed my hands in. The plumber, in broken English, announced that they had changed a valve and it was just rust that needed to come loose. I was not happy. I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, they could have checked the water in the effected rooms after making that change. Michael came in and cleaned the tub because there was now a brown ring around it where the water level had been. EIEEEICH! The more I thought about it, the more upset I got, so I decided not to think about it any more. Instead I just figured I would include it my review. HA! I love the internet! We headed out to explore the ship. On the way down the hall, we saw Sponge Bob and Sandy who were coming out of the “LaSalle” Owner’s Suite. I asked them if they would mind showing it to us. They invited us in. Nice. It had a couple of nice amenities we didn’t have. It had a small dining table with two chairs, and a large puffy chair in an alcove next to the bed. I overlooked the ocean and was directly on the outside of the ship. There was no door or wall separating the bedroom and the living room and dining area, but the very large plasma screen TV kind of gives it a sense of separation. The TV swiveled so it could be watched in any area of the suite. The bathroom had a separate shower and a bidet that ours didn’t have. One of the reasons I didn’t want the A was the small balcony. It was OK, but it was covered from the sun and less than half the size of our aft cabin. Come to find out these folks had a standard outside balcony and got it for the same upgrade price that it was offered to me. Another mystery that didn’t sit too well with me. But after our tour, we forgot about that because we wanted to check out the ship. (Later on we found out that Jane and Tom got the same deal. I was happy for them. At least we would have someone to hang out in the concierge lounge with!). The ship is a few years old now, but seemed to be in pretty good shape. The carpet is getting a little wear on it, but the ship is generally very clean and very well cared for. Before we embarked, I noticed the outside of the ship had a lot of black marks on it. When I looked closely at it later on in the week, it looked like it needed a coat of paint pretty much all the way up to deck 6. I’m guessing the ship had just come from a long repositioning cruise which included the Panama Canal. Now that it was based in Miami maybe it might have more attention spent on it. The Colony Club was almost like three rooms in one. One had the self leveling pool tables, one a nice bar that overlooked the wake, and the other a good sized dance floor and various comfortable tables and booths. This is where karaoke was held. I showed up for the tail end of one session but never had a chance to display my amazing vocal range which, depending on my level of inebriation, may include up to four notes. The Schooner lounge was nice with a large bar and a piano. At the top of the ship was the StarQuest Disco, up in the Viking crown. They held the wild and crazy toga party there and were always rocking up there till the wee hours. And the rotating bar was pretty neat. There were two main pools and a kid’s pool. Our favorite was the Safari/Jungle themed Solarium Pool with the retractable roof. It was adults only and had a nice hot tub, too. Much quieter and more relaxing. The main pool was kinda nice, but wasn’t real big. And as usual, forget finding a chaise on sea days near the pool. Why not get up early and put your towel and paperback on some prime location? Everybody else does! I’m not singling RCI out on this. It’s always bad on any mass market cruise. But no problem, we had our nice sunny balcony and didn’t stay there for the pool games. That noisy environment isn’t my favorite, anyway. Dining Choices- The number of choices for food was actually more varied than ‘d expected. Not like NCL, but varied enough. There was the Windjammer buffet, the Sea View Café, The Cascades dining room, and alternatives Chops and Portofino. For lunch, Sea View was the hands down winner, for breakfast we chose the dining room on some days and the Windjammer on others. Deck Areas- There was a promenade deck, but as is the norm these days, there are few places to sit and watch the ocean there because it is used as a life boat staging area. And there is no jogging track per se. The upper pool deck was supposed to provide this, but you had to dodge all the strolling pool users and hurdle the occasional misplaced chaise to get a lap in. I only saw a couple of people attempting this. The promenade deck didn’t go all around the ship, and structures jutted out of the walls making for narrow areas to pass people coming the other way, so that just wasn’t an option. Aesthetics- The ship had some interesting art work in the stairwells, the atrium and even the hallways. It was a little bolder than the art in the Celebrity Galaxy, but not as garish as some of the “art” I’d seen on a Carnival ship. All in all the ship wasn’t what I expected in terms of color schemes. It was a lot more muted than I would have expected. The Grandeur had the rich greens, blues and light to medium toned wood. That’s sort of what I expected on the Radiance. The Radiance had a lot more chrome, lighter wood and muted golds, grays blues and browns. Living with “the color lady” has made me more aware of how colors can set in an environment. Sometimes I wondered what the designers were trying to accomplish with the color scheme. The ship tried to keep a “high tech” feel with all the chrome and glass but at the same time tried to be a little more tasteful and conservative than their archrival CCL. My impression was it was sort of like “The Jetsons Meet the QE2.” Oh well, like I said YMMV. Entertainment – I was so unimpressed by the “Welcome Show” I avoided the ship’s shows all week. Instead of a full fledged welcome show, where you get to meet the various departments, learn something about what is going on that week and maybe get a real show from real live people, the first half an hour was a series of videos shown on large overhead screens. I wanted to get up and walk out, but my wife wanted to wait. The showband only played before the show started and for a short spurt while a few members of the dance troop did an uninspired number. Then the comedian came on and did some average at best shtick. The worst “Welcoming Show” I‘ve ever seen. Here are my opinions of the musical entertainment on the ship: Lounge Band- Slightly above garage band quality. Atrium Trio – Absolutely awful. I stood above on one of the landings and couldn’t believe there were people actually dancing to them. Phew! The Diamonds – An old 60s group that really rocked the house. If they are there, don’t miss them. Guitarist in the Atrium – Pretty enjoyable. Not ready for Carnegie Hall, but he was good mood music for an afternoon or evening cocktail. Piano Bar – Good. Tried having some fun with an audience that was generally pretty dead. And he was a good sport when Brad accompanied him on his version of “Piano Man.” CD and Staff - Angie Glaser was our CD. Seemed more like a Soccer Mom with a makeover than a cruise ship CD. I don’t mean that in a bad way. She was actually very personable, but she didn’t generate a lot of enthusiasm and seemed like she could use a week or two away from the strain of trying to be “UP” all the time. Her staff was pretty energetic and seemed to be having some fun. The toga party was pretty entertaining and they kept the Quest game frolicking along. The guy that did the horse races had some fun with everybody and was more like the CD I expected. Again, no flames please. YMMV. Food – the FEW dishes we liked: Lamb Chops (Sorry John, I thought mine were good!) Lobster- How bad can you screw this up? Although for some reason, they heavily laced the drawn butter with chunks of garlic. On Lobster? Good lobster with drawn butter doesn’t need heavy garlic to detract from the natural flavor. Sweet and Sour Mahi Mahi That Puffy Soufflé Thingy With the Sauce in the Middle- Sorry, I can’t remember the name, but I think it was just a Chocolate Soufflé. Hot Chocolate Cake Banana Cream Pie I won’t give you a list of the foods I didn’t like. I’ll just say that the only decent beef we had all week was the prime rib that wasn’t. Prime, that is. Overall, I thought the food was what I would describe as “pedestrian.” What I had feared would happen, seems to have, well, happened. RCI has diluted the experience in the dining room in an attempt to generate more onboard revenue through alternative dining. The service in the dining room wasn’t bad, but it didn’t measure up to our last RCI experience. And the food fell short in nearly every area. Our List of “Favorites” – Restaurant- Sea View Café (For what it was, it was the best on the ship!) Martini Bar- N/A Quiet Spot- Our Aft Balcony Noisy Spot – Colony Club during Quest Excursion- Native Tour of Grand Cayman (Thanks Cuzin R!) Place to Shake a Tail Feather- Starquest Lounge (Viking Crown) Hot Tub – Solarium Pool Outdoor Bar – Sky Bar Best Place for a Beer- Schooner Bar Best Piano Bar – Schooner Bar Place to Meet for Cocktails and Hors de’ oeuvres – Concierge Lounge Cocktail Waiter(ess)- Barb serving dark rum and OJ on our balcony during sea day!!! Other topics……… Wine Service- There are no wine stewards on the Radiance. Wine at dinner is handled by your waiter. We got the wine and dine deal which is a real money saver. Seven bottles for $110 plus 15% gratuity. Almost half the off the wine list price! There were some decent mid range wines. Woodbridge, Robert Mondavi, Korbel. I don’t pretend to be a wine connoisseur, so this was fine for me. I kind of missed the Chateau St. Michel and the St. Francis Cabernets I would have normally splurged on, but the price somehow made these good, but not excellent wines taste so much better!!! The wine we ordered was served at the right temperature, with the right glass and was opened properly. Bar Staff- In case you are worried about pushy bar staff, don’t be. They seemed to be pretty available, but didn’t really get in our face. They wandered the deck with souvenir glasses and beer, but didn’t seem obtrusive. See the tips above about ordering a drink. The drink prices seemed a little higher on RCI than on some other ships we’ve been on. However, since we could buy liquor and take it back to our room, we found we didn’t spend as much on bar drinks. If it weren’t for the shooters in the dining room, we may not have spent $200! And we spent our first sea day lounging on our own balcony with Barb serving me rum and OJ. Instead of spending a sea day parked near the pool deck with a waiter keeping an eye on my drink, I spent it on my balcony drinking our own liquor. Don’t get me started about the Martini Glasses. Disembarkation- Like Embarkation, this was another mess. I swore after our last Princess Cruise disembarkation disaster, we would never do anything but a Freestyle cruise - if for no other reason than the way NCL gets you off the ship. I must confess that I totally ignored the paperwork asking about our flight arrangements. I sort of assumed that we would get the last color to be called. After all our flight wasn’t until 2:20 pm, so we didn’t care. Instead, we got ORANGE ONE, which was the SECOND TO BE CALLED. We were at breakfast in the dining room with Tom and Jane and some lucky Brits who were staying on the ship for the eastern route when they called our color. We ignored their pleas to leave the ship. What were they gonna do? Kick us off the ship!?!?!?!? We had even left our carry off bags up in our room. When we finished, we headed back up to our room to find the door wide open (it was like a déjà vu for our arrival). Michael our room steward seemed a little less friendly and a little more perturbed than when we arrived. I thanked him again, grabbed our bags and on the way out, I dropped an extra $10 on the coffee table. He really was pretty good and deserved a little extra just for cleaning up after our Gala Sailaway Party. Anyway, when we get downstairs and finally figure out where to get off the ship, stepping past all the passengers sitting on the stairs, in the halls and in the centrum, we walk off the ship, down the gangway and to the terminal. When we reach the baggage area, it’s a free for all! What looked like 500 people all wandering around looking for their bags. We didn’t see any Orange tags anywhere. The line was about a mile long, so Barb went to stand in line while I went to hunt our bags down. I found an NCL rep and asked where the Orange tags were. She pointed all the way down near the front of the customs lines. There, all by there little lonesomes, were the three bags we had put outside our room the night before. I went back and got Barb. I noticed there was a line with only a few people in it they all had a porter. A porter was heading back to find another customer, I snagged him and he grabbed my bags. We were out the door about a minute later. I looked back and saw the chaos and wondered who in their right mind would stand in line for 20 or thirty minutes to save 5 bucks. Oh, well. The porter lead us out to a waiting cab. We were off and running to the airport. We were about three hours early for our flight, so we chatted with some of the cruisies coming off ours and other ships. We ended up getting bumped not once, but twice off our flight. We got four round trip tickets and then USAirways flew us to DC first class. That was nice, but now Barb wants to fly first class ALL THE TIME! Ports- Here is what we did: Key West - Got off the boat and ran into Cuzin Robin and SO Frank (Radio). Walked over to the marina and had the COB (Cracking of the Beer) Ceremony at a little funky outdoor Key West bar. Walked around and looked at some local houses, past the cemetery, down Duvall Street, had a couple of brewskies along the way until we landed at Sloppy Joes. All along the way we were running into lots of FOMT. We had a beer or two with Jane and Tom, then Brad and Denise. Robin and Frank wanted to go to Pepe’s for lunch, so on the way down there, we ran into John and Cynthia and we all headed down there. Nice little out of the way place with good food. Cozumel –Jane, Tom, Steve and Carolyn wanted to get together, so we all met up and did a little shopping on the pier. We then caught a cab to Chankanaab and spent the day sunning, snorkeling, drinking, eating, and snoozing. The snorkeling there was excellent. Better than I’ve ever seen it. Lot’s of fish and close to shore, too! Then we headed into town for some shopping. Well. Not exactly. Steve and Carolyn went off on their own to see the sights. We shopped for a little while, but the boys couldn’t hold out any longer. So Tom and I found one of my favorite spots in a restaurant overlooking the square to park our selves and drink. Barb bought a set of three hand painted Mexican earthenware plates and some trinkets for the girls. Then we all met up at Carlos and Charlie’s for the “Freakiest Dance Contest and Margarita Festival.” Robin and Frank met us the six of us there. We smoked contraband cigars and drank the rest of the afternoon shaking our booties. The Freakiest Dance contest was a dead heat between Frank and Robin and Tom and Jane. Honestly, things were going along pretty well until Tom and Steve decided to moon the place. I was there to record this. Whew, man, those pix are NASTY! I’ll be including them in our webshots.com pix. Geez, guys! Just goes to show you what a few shots of tequila will do to otherwise rational people! Costa Maya- Costa Maya isn’t a town. It is more of an area of the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula. But the cruise lines want you to thing there is an actual town there. There isn’t. It’s a “Made for TV” port that isn’t anything more than a money machine for the cruiselines and the locals. We decided we would not spend much time at the “port,” but rather try to visit a local school and do something nice. After taking a pile of school supplies to the kids in Mahahual, our plan was to spend a couple hours lounging on the beach and drinking margaritas, then head back to the ship early for a nap or to explore the ship. It didn’t work out quite the way we planned. I told everyone to meet at the end of the gang plank at 8:30 with their stuff. Robin and Frank had done a great job shopping for the supplies in FL so we didn’t have to lug them on the plane. Others brought some cool stuff like soccer balls, toys and pencils sets. Robin and Frank had packed their stuff in two boxes, one of which was pretty good sized. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but someone said, “Why don’t you just get a trolley and wheel them down to the gangway?” Hey, that sounded like a good idea to me! So naturally, I called upon the one person who I would expect could be of the most assistance in any matter of my personal convenience……. OUR CONCIERGE!!! WRONG!!!!! This was a grave error. I told our man “Willie” that I had a couple of boxes of school supplies for the local school and that I needed a trolley to help me carry them. He sounded confused, so I told him again. He said he would call me back. About ten minutes later, he calls back and says that carrying anything off the ship in a box was not possible. I WOULD HAVE TO REPORT TO THE MEXICAN AUTHORITIES TO EXPLAIN MYSELF. THAT I WAS TO REPORT TO DECK 4 JUST OUTSIDE THE DINING ROOM TO THE PORT AGENT. I hung up the phone and said, outloud “YOU F___ING RAT!” I had no choice but to “report” now. I get there and there are several Mexicans all speaking Spanish sitting around the table. The Port Agent was standing nearby talking on his radio or cell phone when I walked in. I stood patiently smiling and trying to be invisible until he finished. He then began to explain to me how there were certain “regulations” that I was violating by carrying boxes of any kind on shore, that certain “papers” would have to be filled out and the boxes would have to undergo careful “inspection” by him and his compadres. “Riiiiight,” I thought. I explained to them that all we wanted to do was to share some school supplies with the children in the local school. That we would be happy to let them inspect the things we brought. I stood silently while they discussed my fate. I didn’t let on that I could understand enough Spanish to get the gist of what they were saying. They started out real tough, saying that we were breaking the law and that they would have to arrest us if we tried to step foot on the shore with unregulated material. Then slowly but surely, they realized it would be bad publicity, if not BAD MOJO, if they were to arrest American citizens trying to do charitable work off the ship. He chatted with the “Doctor” presumably an MD, who was part of the Port Agent’s Inspection Team. They came up with a plan. They said that their main concern was health regulations. They asked me if there were any drugs or medications in the boxes. I told them there were some Band-Aids, children’s Tylenol, Neosporin and some cough medicine. The doctor spoke no English. But the Port Agent said the Doctor would have to meet us 10:30 at the entrance to the “Made for the Cruiselines” port area under the Mexican flag. He would have to “inspect” the goods for unhealthy material and any health code violations. HA! “Nothing $50 bucks won’t fix,” I thought, but didn’t dare utter. This was screwing up our original plan. Instead of delivering the supplies early, and partying later, we would have to meet the “Doctor” at 10:30 and then go to the school midday. That would mean that we would not get back to the ship until later than planned. Oh, well. Not to worry. We’d go over to the beach to the right of the pier for a couple hours and then meet the doctor. We took a swim, had the COB and around 10:20 we headed back to the ship to grab the boxes and bags of supplies. We jumped on the tram that shuttles pax to and from the ends of the pier. Brad went along with us, but had forgotten his pass to enter the ship. When we got to security, I put my camera in a tray so as not to set off the alarm. When I get to the end of the conveyor, I am surprised to find that the boxes have been brought down from our room and are sitting under the table in the security area. And they’ve been opened. Hmmmm. I am so shocked that I entirely forget my camera in the tray. I had forgotten to bring enough cash, so I ran up to my room to get more. By the time I got back, Barb and Brad had shuffled the boxes and bags onto the tram. I jumped on just as the tram was heading back to the “port” and off we went. When we arrived, the Doctor wasn't there. But Denise and others were waiting there to share some more bad news. When Denise asked the bartender at the little beach outside the compound why their kids weren't in school, she had told her that it was a holiday. Someone suggested that we give the supplies to this lady and they could take them to school the next day. I didn't like that idea and hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Somewhere around $500 worth of stuff just left with the bartender. That didn’t sound like a good plan. Anyway, when we got to the beach, I spoke with the bartender’s wife, in Spanish, and determined that her children didn't go to the school in Mahahual. And that the school in Mahahual was open that day. It was at this point that I realized I didn't have my camera. I realized I had left it at security. Since Denise was right there and Brad was off throwing the football, I told Denise, that Barb and I were going to get my camera. We would meet them at the taxi stand and go to the school. Barb and I rushed back to the boat and got the camera. We saw Rick and Deb who had already given up on the whole school idea. They were going snorkeling. We told them we were meeting at the taxi stand to go if they still wanted to go. They declined so we headed back to meet the group. When we got to the taxi stand, we saw none of the group. So we walked briskly back over to the beach outside the compound. Still no group and no supplies. I wasn’t really sure why, but I could only assume that they went ahead without us. We went back to the taxi stand and it took us a while to get a taxi to town. (While we were standing in line, the “Doctor” shows up and wants to know where the boxes were. It’s now after 12 noon. I guess time isn’t the same in Mexico. I told him that the boxes went to the school 20 or 30 minutes ago. If he wanted to see them he would have to go there. He had a translator with him. He smiled, and in probably the only English words he knows, he said, “Is OK,” and walked away). We arrived in the little fishing village of Mahahual to find the gang getting out of a van in the middle of town. We asked our driver to pull up in front of them. They had already been to the school. At this point, I wasn't even going to go to the school. But Barb talked me into it. Tom and Brad talked the driver into taking us down there for free, but since it turned out he had overcharged the group for the ride to town, this didn't seem all that generous. I showed up at the school, empty handed, and had to stand and explain, in Spanish I only use once or twice a year, why the heck I was there. Once I explained that I had forgotten my camera and missed the rest of the group when we went back to get it, he welcomed us warmly and brought us in to meet the students. My plan originally was to divide the loot into the things that the older kids could use and the things the little tykes could use - before we met the kids. Since the group didn’t wait for me, they had no way of knowing this. There was something else that they would have known if they had waited -that there were actually three classrooms and not two. There was another classroom with little tiny kids just around the corner from those two classrooms. Sort of a Mexican kindergarten. Since I had nothing to give these kids, I didn't go there. Maybe next time we go we can concentrate on getting some nice things back to those kids. We visited for a few moments, heard them sing a song and chatted for a moment or two. The little girl that others who have been to the school in past weeks said spoke English never stepped forward and no one spoke to me in English. Maybe my Spanish is better than I thought! Barb had to keep her sunglasses on to hide the tears when the children sang. I get a great deal of satisfaction from doing these little projects. It normally doesn’t take that much time out of our pillaging and drunken depravity. On the way back to town, I turned to Barb and said that at least our goal of getting the supplies into the hands of the kids was accomplished. I didn't make a big thing out being left behind, because I didn't want to make a good thing into a bad one. I believe we did some good there. I'll chalk this up to experience and the next time we go to Mahuhual, we'll have the program down pretty smooth. Grand Cayman – Cuzin Robin lived in GC for 7 years about 15 years ago. She and her first husband built two houses there and her daughter was born there. So this was a walk down memory lane for her. We tagged along and got the native’s tour of the island. Most tourist, myself included, immediately head west as soon as they get off the ship. This time we headed east. Our first stop – Stingray Beer Brewery for the COB with native beers. We were able to taste a few different styles of beer and decided, since it was breakfast, we would stick with the lighter beer. We had hired a driver to take us to wherever we wanted to go. He was happy to oblige since we were paying him $40 PER HOUR!!! Four hours cost us $160! YoUcH!!! We headed all the way around the east side of the island and saw where semi – normal people lived. There was some development on that side of the island, but it was more spread out. The furthest point of our journey was Rum Point. This is a little finger of land at the northeastern tip of the great bay that some of you may have gone to see the stingrays. There is a beautiful resort run by Hyatt there with bar service on the beach, gorgeous white sand, lots of snorkeling reefs and swaying palm trees. We found the atmosphere there a lot more relaxed than on 7 mile beach. We stayed there on the beach chairs and had a Mango Colada and took a swim. No one asked us if we were cruise passengers. No one tried to charge us to use the beach. There was no charge for the use of a chaise lounger. It was nice and we wished we could have stayed longer. But at $40 an hour, we couldn’t afford to stay long! We headed back to Georgetown, had a lunch in a local restaurant. I had my first drink of Soursop. Don’t ask me what it is, but I saw it on the menu and always like to try something new. A local was at the next table and overheard me asking about it. He said it was good, but couldn’t really tell me what it was either. I gave it a shot. Hey, ya gotta get outta your usual routine when you’re on vacation, don’t ya! Well, it wasn’t all that great, but it wasn’t awful. It just tasted sorta like a mix of lemonade and coconut milk. I just happened to have a mini of Smirnoff’s. I threw that in there when the waiter wasn’t watching. It started tasting reeeeally good after that. The two couples split up after that because we wanted to get back and get ready for our Anniversary Sailaway Gala. Besides, I needed a nap! A Few Final Thoughts – (I’m sure you’re saying, “Whew, man, I thought he’d never finish!) The last time I wrote a review, I used a lot of ink talking about how to deal with the Concierge. I should have said, a Concierge on NCL. We paid a premium over an E, D or C cabin to get into the class of cabin that included suite privileges and concierge service. This, in my opinion, was a waste of money. It should be exceedingly obvious to everyone why all but one of the A Category Owner’s Suites and the Royal Suite was not booked before sailing. Outside of a few free drinks in a separate lounge……. THE ONLY THING YOU GET WITH A SUITE IS A BIGGER ROOM!!!! If RCI wants to sell suites, they will need to completely revamp their concept of premium cabin service. This ship is filled with amenities and fun things to do. But the same services, food, activities, and areas are available to everyone on the ship at any time. Except for a 15 by 20 room with 16 chairs in it and a few free drinks and snacks. I had what would be considered a Penthouse Suite on any NCL, Carnival or Princess ship. Each one of those could be considered a “Contemporary” Cruise Line (read Mass Market). With those lines there would have been any one of a number of special privileges, amenities, gifts, services, drinks, etc., etc. They would have paid a LOT more attention to passengers in th

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Sep 12, 2003

Alaska

I live in New York City. It cost less to fly to Europe than to Vancouver for the Alaska cruise. So I have been travel extensively to Europe and the Far East. I have stayed at a wide range of hotels and B&B, tasted regional foods offered by countries I visited. I did a lot of research on the internet for Alaska travel. Cruise is the best way to see Alaska. Radiance of the Seas Vancouver round trip was the only itinerary fit my vacation

schedule. I wanted to take a southbound cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver, but there wasn't one on the days that I wanted. So I booked the Radiance 7 night Hubbard Glacier cruise. It was my first cruise and I have motion sickness. So I was a little worry but I was prepared with motion sickness pill. I had to take them twice on rough seas. I didn't feel the ship moving anymore after a few days into the cruise. I was used to independent land travel where I can come & go as please. But on a cruise, I had no choice but to stay on board while the ship was at sea or had to be back on the boat on time for sailing to the next port. We flew from NY to Vancouver. That was a 3 hours time difference. My body wasn't used to it. During the 2nd day of the cruise, we arrived in Alaska so we had to turn the clock beind for 1 more hour. For me, that was 4 hours difference. I was very sleep by 10 every night. I even missed the midnight chocolate buffet because I couldn’t stay up pass 10. It took me a few days to get used to the time difference and the motion of the ship. By the time I got used it, it was at the end of the cruise. Most of the passengers were from the West Coast so they didn't have jetlag and enjoyed all sorts of night entertainment. You can read about the ship from many reviews. It's really a beautiful ship with attention to details. It's contemporary decorated with country club feeling. The pools were usually empty because of the cold weather on the trip. Rock wall climbing was open when the sea wasn't too rough or not too windy. The library has open shelves that you sign out books on your own. It's an honor system that you bring the book back to the library when it's finised. Our room was category D on deck 9 with balcony. It was a great way to cruise Alaska in a balcony room. Our luggage had been delivered to our room when we got there (we had to wait for 2 hours at the pier to clear U.S. custom). Our room was good size for 3 adults. The sofa pulled out as a 3rd bed. The sofa bed was very comfortable. The decoration in the room was nicely done. There were really nice wood hangers in the closet. There were plenty of lights and mirrors in the room. There was a full size hair dryer. The bathroom was very small. It had a shower but no tub. There were plenty storage space in the mirror vanity and below the sink, very nicely designed. The 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner was in a bottle fixed on the shower wall. There were soaps for the sink & the shower. The bathroom was small but very efficient use of space and provided plenty of storage. Our stateroom attendant introduced himself right away. We always saw him whenever we leave the room. Somehow he knew we were out. We went to breakfast one day, our room was made up when we returned after breakfast. Our cruise was full and we felt it, too. At the breakfast & lunch buffet, the Windjammer room was always full. You had to wait for a table. There were crew members to remind people to leave when they were done so others could sit down & eat. The main dinning room was open for all 3 meals with far less people. It was on the 4th floor and didn't have a nice view as the Windjammer which was on deck 11 with floor to ceiling glass windows. Food service was personal and great. We had lobster on the 2nd formal night. The waiter pulled the lobster tail out from the shell for you so we didn't need to messy up our nice formal wear. Oh, you can order more than one lobster tail if you want. We had shrimp one night, the waiter also de-shell the shrimp for us. The main dinning room was beautiful and the service was excellent. The food came a few minutes after you ordered. There was no long wait like in a restaurant. The dinner was very salty on our first night. We told the waiter and he told note of it. The dinners were much better after the 1st night. Because the chiefs cooked for over 1000 passengers in a dinner setting, the food was good, but not spectacular. We had much better food during our travels to Europe. I know I should not compare the food but I can't help it since I paid a lot of money for this cruise. I expected to have tasty food at dinner in the main dinning room. On the other hand, the buffet was great. The salads and fruits were very fresh. The breakfast tato tarts were crispy. Shopping on board was a difference experience. There a few shops line up on deck 5. The stores were open when we were at sea, and close when we were at port. They put out different merchandise every day so you want to go to see what they have every day . Overall, Radiance of the Seas is a well lay out, beautifully decorated ship. It's a huge floating resort that takes you from port to port. I would recommend this ship for any cruise itineraries. I like to have the local touch and feel the local style when I travel. I prefer hotels with characters and charms, the feeling of getting away. In cruising, you stay at the same American luxury room, eat with the same people, see the same people for the entire trip. The port of call's local flavor was gone when we got back on the ship so cruise is not for me. Cruise is for people like to be pampered, like to have the high standard facilities and don’t mind spending a long time in an enclosed area.

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Sep 12, 2003

Alaska

It was my 1st cruise. There are lots of review on Radiance and Alaska cruise. They're great and I'll only write a few findings. It was the 2nd to the last cruise of the season to Alaska. Shopping in Juneau and Skagway were great. Most of the shops have 50% off. Ketchikan didn't have sale & it was the worst port since it was very commercialize & too much like a busy city rather an a small Alaskan town. Ports: Juneau was the first

port of call. We were 5 hours late leaving Vancouver. But the caption ensured us we wouldn't be late for Juneau. Sure enough, we sail very fast & arrived at Juneau on time. You definitely feel the movement of the ship. It was very windy so the ship was tilted. Cruise ships take their turn to dock on each port. It was our turn to anchor away from the dock & take the tender boat from the cruise ship to the dock in Juneau. People brought the tours package from the cruise ship got priority to leave. All others have to wait for your turns. So you need to have patient. There are several companies have stand on the dock so you have plenty of choices for land tours. We joined the tour after we got to the dock to Mendenhall Glacier and around the city. It was very informative. There are shops across from the dock so you'll have plenty to choose from. If you drink bottle water, it cost $4 for a litter of Evian on the ship. You should buy them in Juneau. We went to the shirt company store and they them for $1.50 for a litter, pure Alaska Spring water. We brought 5 bottles to hold us to the next port. Skagway was the 2nd port. It's my favorite. The famous attraction is the White Pass Rail. You can book it on the ship or you can save $15 by buying the ticket at the rail office off the dock. You can book it online at the White Pass Rail website, too. But I don't recommend it since you won't know the weather and the time you dock. So it's better of wait until you get to the port. That's true for all ports. We didn't book any tours until we get to the port so that we can see what options we have & what mood we're in for the activities. If you do want to ride the White Pass rail, it sells very fast so you need to go to the office to buy the ticket after you get up. The ship dock at Skagway so it was easy to walk off the ship into town (a 10 minutes walk) to buy the ticket. Then came back to the ship to have breakfast. We had a balcony room so we can see the rail station from the ship. There are only 850 residents in Skagway. Cruise passengers pour from 4 ships and cover the tin town by thousands. Skagway is still pretty even with all the touristy shops. Ketchikan was the last port. It was rainy & windy. We didn't feel like doing anything. Good that we didn't book any tour ahead of time. The Totem Heritage Center and Salmon & Eagle Center are only 20 minutes walk from the dock. It was nice to see the native works there. Creek Street is pretty where you can see Salmon. We didn't stay in town for long. We went back to the ship, so as many others. The ship dock is right in town so you're only 20 ft. away from the shops. Foods: Food on the ship is good, but not great. Formal dinners have better food than nights. The Italian dinner is server with rice rather than pasta, which was kind of odd. It's not on the menu but you can order Alaska Salmon every night if you want. Room: Our room is on deck 9 port side toward the center with balcony. It was worth it to have a balcony. I can't imagine staying at a inside room. The room was good size with a tiny bathroom. There is a shower stall, no tub. Room and the ship have every nice wood detail decorations. I was very impressed. With the balcony, you can stay outside to see the glacier & the port. When you get cold, you can go back to the room. Ship movement: I definitely feel the ship rocking when we sail at high speed or it was windy. We hit a storm with 25 ft. wave. It was rocking left & right. The amazing thing was that we had the Gala Midnight Buffet at the same time. The ice sculptures stood still while we went through the storm. Any that one stormy night, we didn't feel anything anymore even we had rough sea. If you have motion sickness, take the pill and still go on the cruise. Don't worry about it. Vancouver: Our cruise sail round trip out of Vancouver. We flew from Boston to Vancouver, waited for an hour to clear Canada custom at the Vancouver airport along with thousands of passengers. Then an hour later, we had to wait at the cruise terminal for 2 hours to clear the American custom before boarding the ship. We didn't go anywhere but had to go through custom twice. I wouldn't do that again. I recommend you to fly to Anchorage from any U.S. city. Take the south bound cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver or Seattle to avoid the long custom line. Vancouver is a beautiful city. If you have time, you should spend 2-3 days before or after the cruise. Take a day tip to Victoria. It is really a pretty garden city. We stayed at Vancouver for 3 days. Take a day trip to Victoria by the Pacific Coach bus. It was $59/person for the bus & the ferry. It was a 3 1/2 ride each way from Vancouver to Victoria. So you need to leave Vancouver early. You can see the bus schedule on the Pacific Coach bus website. If you don't mind spending, you can take a tour from Vancouver to Victoria, it cost about $100. Cruise is not for everyone. The average age on my cruise is about 45. There are a lot of retired people on the ship. There are some younger passengers as well. It's very relaxing & slow pace. I felt tight up after 1 day at sea. I couldn't wait to get on land in Juneau even there were a lot to do on the ship. So if you are go-go person, this cruise is not for you. To pass time at sea, I climb the rock wall (never claim it before). It was fun and tiring. You can have another big meal after the climb. Overall, it was a good trip. We saw glaciers, killer whales, salmons. Wish we had more time on each port.

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Aug 7, 2003

Alaska, inside passage

This was our first cruise of any kind and we didn’t really know what to expect. The entire trip was fantastic from start to finish! Speaking of that from the time we arrived on the pier to the time we stepped into our stateroom it was approximately a half an hour. Since I was in a wheelchair the Royal Caribbean staff went out of their way to lend us assistance (it was even faster disembarking). Since we drove to Vancouver we left our

car with a local Co. for a modest fee, and that worked very well also. Getting on and off turned out to be a breeze! We had a balcony stateroom (1024 ) on the top deck, forward on the Port side and we were very happy with it. The shower accommodated a shower stool and I had no trouble using it, there was plenty of room for the two of us and it had more than adequate storage. A nice touch was our names on the in-room television service. Try to avoid balcony rooms on the 7th deck over the lifeboats as your view will be restricted. Something to be aware of is the fact that if you have a room up forward all the food is aft. Also there are no elevators or stairs in the aft section; just midships and up front. We did not see this as a problem as we enjoyed wandering around the ship. We ate all our meals but one dinner in the Windjammer as we preferred the buffet style of dining (plus we didn’t care for the menu in the main dining room). We thought the quality, quantity and selection was great, especially for breakfast. The one meal we did have in the main dining room (Sunday, the first formal night) was very good and I was surprised with a birthday cake from the staff. We had reserved a table for four and we not only received that but it was also a window table. We didn’t have the opportunity to try room service, but the dinner menus were the same as the main dining room. The Windjammer is very comfortable as there is an abundance of window seats and you can dine indoor, outdoors or in between. We never had a problem getting the seat we wanted. The staff was extremely helpful, there was not one time they didn’t offer to get my food for me (as I was on crutches or in a wheelchair). We were quite impressed by their generosity and friendliness. There are plenty of reviews on the ports we visited (Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan) but we would like to add a couple of things. Keep in mind that in most ports there are at least three ships at any one time. For example, in Skagway (a town that is 5 blocks wide and a mile deep) there were 4 ships…this deposited approx. 8000 people into town at one time. The best shopping was in Ketchikan; be sure to pick up the cruise discount coupon packets at the pier in Vancouver…you can save quite a bit of money. The only shore excursion we took were the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau (great if the weather is good) and the White Pass Yukon Railway in Skagway (very interesting, plus the train picks you up right at the pier). Eve though the ship provided activities pretty much nonstop we felt there was plenty of time to jus relax and do nothing. We spent the majority of our time on our balcony, and we were rewarded on our last day as a pod of Orcas swam by just below us. We would definitely take another Alaskan cruise. We were once told that the trouble with cruising is that once you do it…you’ll want to do it again. How true!

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May 16, 2003

Pacific Coastal - San Diego to Vancouver

Some background for perspective on what is to follow: my Wife and I are first-time cruisers, in our early 50’s. We are not "world travelers" by any stretch of the imagination, but have traveled quite a bit in North America. We have stayed in everything from Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inns to 5-star hotels and resorts, and have been comfortable in all. Likewise, our food tastes run from fast-food to Morton’s and the

like. This was a transition cruise for the Radiance on its way to Alaska for the summer. It began in San Diego and ended in Vancouver, with stops in Catalina … San Francisco … Astoria, OR … and Victoria, BC, with 2 "sea days" along the way. EMBARKATION We flew to San Diego late Friday night and stayed at Holiday Inn on the Bay. I chose this hotel after noticing its proximity to the ship terminal across the street on previous trips to San Diego. The room was very comfortable for our brief stay, the staff very accommodating to cruisers (offering a late check-out), and it was a good choice. My original plan was to roll our luggage across the street & to the pier by ourselves, which seemed like a good idea until the reality of the logistics of hauling 4 pieces of checked baggage & 2 carry-ons hit home. (It started to look a LITTLE FARTHER with the bags than when walking WITHOUT the bags …)I opted instead to have a Holiday Inn bellman drive us across the street and to the curbside check-in, tipped both the driver and the porter at the pier generously, I was done with the bags & the hassle, and considered it money well spent. I have no previous experience to compare it to, but embarkation seemed to go quickly … maybe 30-45 mins tops from being dropped off to getting on the ship. We had passports, had filled out embarkation forms online, the line moved quickly & we had nice people in front of us to talk to. Check-in people seemed to be very efficient. We were aboard by 12:30 or 1:00. Once on, we found our room, dropped off our carry-ons, and then walked the ship — literally. We started on the top deck and worked our way down, checking out where everything was. It took us about 2 hours, but it was a good move for a couple of reasons: it gave us first-hand knowledge of where everything was and how to get there, and that helped us the rest of the cruise; and it burned off some of our "excitement energy". By the time we were finished with our self-tour, we returned to the room — and all of our luggage was there. (We were off to a good start) ROOM Our room was a Category D on Deck 9, port side, about 9 rooms back from the elevators & stairway. I really liked the location, because we seemed close to everything, up or down. Also, even though we had lifeboats below us, they were several decks below us and never obstructed our view from the balcony. We were always looking out to water. We were very happy with the room — size, how it was decorated, its features. The lights above the bed have a nice nightlight feature and swivel around for reading (which we didn’t figure out right away.) The bed wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever had, but it was fine & we never had any trouble sleeping. The balcony has a sliding door (that we left open almost every night for fresh air and the sound of the waves.) We had people occupying the rooms on both sides of us, but rarely heard any noise. The closets had plenty of room & plenty of hangers (we brought extra hangers, but didn’t need them.) There are a lot of nooks and crannies for storage space, places where mirrors swing out to provide extra spaces. I thought the whole thing was very laid out and very functional. I’ve read where people say you don’t spend any time in your room, but we did. It was very comfortable for taking an afternoon rest or laying around to read. And I am definitely a balcony-believer after my first cruise. I spent a lot of time on the balcony — early in the morning, coming in to ports, waking up in the middle of the night and just staring out at the water. I loved the light and fresh air. Any future cruise will have to include a balcony. My Wife liked the vanity area very much, and the lighting. The bathroom is small, but very functional. Lots of light, lots of mirrors, lots of storage areas. The shower is tiny, but also very functional. (It took me a while to figure out the shower head and how it could be adjusted up and down and sideways.) I just liked the way they packed a lot of nice little handy, space-saving features into a very small space. Rolando was our room steward and, and, while we didn’t have a lot of requests, he was great. We’d pop out for a little while, and the room would be magically be made up when we returned. Rolando’s specialty seemed to be creative ways to arrange the pillows on the bed — a different way each night. Then, the last two nights, he came up with a couple of the much talked-about towel animals (one was a stingray, and the other was either a rabbit, or a dog with very long ears.) Several times I’d be fumbling in the hall for my SeaPass to get in the room, and Rolando would magically appear out of nowhere and open the door for me. Another time, I locked myself out in the hall putting the room service tray out (happy to report I was clothed at the time …) and there he was again, as if I’d telepathically summoned him, to let me back in my room without a word said (other than my profuse "Thank You"s.) Rolando was always pleasant, always remembered our names, and he was a big part of making our trip such a pleasant experience. FOOD The food was plentiful and we thought it was good. We ate most of our breakfasts in Windjammer, and liked the variety there. I also liked the variety of places to sit there … inside, outside, half-outside, inside around the corner by the window. We only had dinner twice in the Dining Room, our second day and our final night, mainly because of wanting to watch us leave port the first night (we had early seating), going to each specialty restaurant once, and deciding to eat later (in Windjammer or Seaview) the other nights. Our table mates in the dining room were all very nice people that we’d see elsewhere on board or in port, and our waiters (Michael Morgan and Jerry) were outstanding the two nights we ate in the dining room. We ate breakfast one in the dining room, the day of debarkation, and it was very good. We tried both of the specialty restaurants — Chops and Portofino’s — and thought they were both outstanding. Lots of food (almost too much food …), great desserts, terrific service. The wait staff was standing by to respond to the slightest look or indication you needed something, and then they were right there. I tipped extra both nights just because I thought the service was worth extra. They were both very classy dining experiences. We went to Seaview Café several times for odd-hour meals and the sandwiches (and cold beer) were always very good and the staff very friendly and efficient. I only ordered room service twice, for early morning coffee on the balcony, and both times it arrived at the designated time (I ordered the night before both times) both mornings. If you’re an early-riser, like for mornings arriving in port, there’s self-serve coffee outside the Windjammer (starboard side, aft.) Also, Latitudes has specialty coffees (which I tried d once). BARS/LOUNGES Plenty of bars, comfortable surroundings, we didn’t get to all of them. I did stop in the sports bar in front of the casino one night … and was entertained by the cards tricks and brain-teasers of the bartender in the Solarium (too much thinking for me, my brain was on vacation, too.) The last night we spent some time in the Colony Club at the aft of the ship, a nice, quiet cozy spot and drank some of the best strawberry margaritas I’ve ever had. Almost wish we would have discovered that place earlier in the trip (or, maybe just as well we didn’t.) ENTERTAINMENT We went to the two stage production shows, and my Wife went to the Farewell Show the last night (and she was quite impressed with Captain Ringborn’s singing.) I though the shows were fine, very energetic dancing & singing. They were a nice diversion. I was more fascinated with the logistics and special effects on such a small stage, and the ability of the small number of dancers to perform so well while the ship was pitching around some. We only used the fitness center once, but it’s a great facility … my wife had two massages at the Spa, I had one, and we both took a couple’s massage class. (The massages are not inexpensive, but they were great, and a nice way to pamper yourself) The Solarium was very nice, but I was never in there except to use the hot tub once (and a drink at the bar with the great bartender). We didn’t hit the casino — just one of those places we didn’t get to this trip. PHOTOS There are ship photographers offering to take your picture inside the ship, and outside the ship at the ports, and we had our picture taken a lot. There’s no obligation to buy, but we never have our picture taken professionally, and we did get a few we liked. PORTS OF CALL CATALINA Our first time to this island, and the only port we used tenders. It was a beautiful day, and we took one of the two excursions we bought at this port, an inexpensive hour-long van tour that took us high above Avalon (and gave us a great looking-down view of Radiance) SAN FRANCISCO Another great weather day. We arrived at sun-up, passing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. We had an excursion here, a bus tour to Sausalito and Muir Woods, that had us back to the pier by Noon. We docked just a few blocks away from Fisherman’s Wharf, and walked there and to Ghiardelli Square. It was a sunny, warm day and we didn’t leave until Midnight that night, passed again underneath the Golden Gate Bridge with clear skies, no fog or rain whatsoever. A great day. ASTORIA Astoria was a substitute on the original itinerary for Seattle. I’m sure some people, especially from other parts of the country were disappointed with the change but, since we’ve been to Seattle numerous times and its in close proximity to where we live, it made no difference to us. Astoria was a very pleasant surprise to me, a coastal town where the people seemed genuinely happy to have us there. As we got off the ship, they had a craft market set up with 15-20 vendors under tents … local artists with painting, jewelry, other stuff all made and sold by people in the Northwest. The Maritime Museum in town is well worth seeing, very modern with multi-media displays, and provides some interesting information on the training of the Coast Guard rescue crews that’s done off the coast of Oregon. One highlights of the trip for me was when we were leaving the dock that afternoon, a lot of the people from town came out to see the ship, and 12 members of the local high school band set up next to the ship and played songs as we got ready to head off. I thought it was equally nice how the ship passengers on deck applauded after each song and really seemed to appreciate (like me) their efforts and hospitality. Little things that make for nice memories. Incidentally, we took a shuttle bus into town from the pier, but walked back … not a short walk, but not difficult and with the good weather (just a little rain) and good exercise. VICTORIA Nice city, the ship pier is about a 25 minute walk to the Inner Harbour (where downtown is.) We had done Butchart Gardens on a previous visit here so opted just to stroll around downtown. A very relaxed place with friendly people. (There’s a great street vendor on — Street, one of the main drags, who has great hot dogs and hot pretzels.) ODDS ‘N ENDS CROWDS Prefacing this with someone telling me this cruise was only about 2/3 full, I never felt like the ship was crowded. About the only time I saw crowds were in & out of the Aurora Theater and through the adjoining shops, and prior to being seated at dinner. I found lots of open places out on the decks where it seemed like you were all alone … and in the Windjammer … and in the lounges. Again, maybe it was the ship not being at capacity, since I have nothing previous to compare it to. WT GAIN We’re not very physically fit people (major understatement …) and we didn’t scrimp on any meals, but we really didn’t gain any weight on this trip. We did a lot of walking (on board, in ports) and used the stairways a lot. I really liked the stairways inside as an option to the beautiful elevators. They’re wide and a good alternative to waiting for the elevators. PILOT BOATS Cheap thrills here, but I was fascinated by watching the Pilot Boats that came to pick up the Channel pilots when we were leaving ports. They have to kind of snatch them off the ship while its well underway (there’s a good video on this procedure at the maritime Museum in Astoria ), and it was interesting to watch the choreography and timing it took to do it. It also gives you an idea of how fast the Radiance is going when it seems like it’s barely moving. We got a great view of this process while at a window seat at Chops one night, cruising out of Astoria, where the pilot boat captain was really being challenged by the waves and had to make several passes to pluck the Pilot off our ship BRIGHT & LIGHT I like sunlight, and everywhere on this ship it was bright & light. Even when you were in the Shops, there were windows to the outside and you could see the ocean. I looked at other ships in port, and I could be wrong, but most of them didn’t seem to have the exterior windows the Radiance has. I certainly never felt cooped up. STAFF / TIPPING The staff seemed genuinely friendly and nice, everyone from maintenance workers to people cleaning in the early morning hours to the service staff. I never got the impression that anyone was looking for an extra tip (although their service & actions prompted me to do so on several occasions.) Everyone seemed to enjoy what they were doing and being nice to the passengers. CLEANLINESS This ship was kept clean, really clean. They were always cleaning inside, day and night. THE MOTION THING My Wife is very prone to motion sickness, in airplanes and vehicles. No one thing works for everyone, but the wrist SeaBands have been a godsend to her in all our travels. (They sound like hocus pocus, but they work). On this trip, she wore them 24 hours a day, and never had any problems except for one uneasy time when she was inside at the Spa. I don’t think we had anything that would be considered heavy seas on this trip, but there were a few stretches where the ship was rocking, and she had no problems. PORT SECURITY Hats off to the Coast Guard. In all the U.S. ports, they escorted the ship in & out, (sometimes with two boats) and while we were docked they had patrol boats cruising the perimeter, keeping an eye on us. If any pleasure boats got a little too close to get a better view of the ship, the Coast Guard patrol intercepted them to tell make them keep their distance. In noticed things were a little different when we got to Victoria but, hey, that’s their country and they have their own rules & problems and can do things the way they want. But while we were at the US ports, it looked like we were being watched pretty well. DEBARKATION The Radiance docked at Ballantyne Pier in Vancouver, the "other" pier. The debarkation process was as expected, somewhat slow but not as bad as I had anticipated. (Possibly because the ship wasn’t at capacity). Staying overnight in Vancouver, we were in one of the last groups off and were assigned to wait in the Aurora Theater. Once off the ship, the baggage search was pretty quick since we were one of the last ones off, and the Canadian customs check went quickly. The biggest slowdown was for people like us waiting to get cabs … there were two other cruise ships in town (at Canada Place), so the cabs were in demand. We stayed overnight at Delta-Pinnacle, very nice room with a great view of the harbor, Lion’s Gate Bridge, and Stanley Park. It’s on par with The Pan Pacific and Waterfront Fairmont. If I had to do it over again, I’d go somewhere less expensive (there was a Renaissance right across the street that looked like a good bet) and maybe go through Priceline, but the Pinnacle is a great hotel, and a great way to end the trip. I got a great view & photos later Saturday of three cruise ships leaving Vancouver (including the Radiance) from the room window, and watched 2 more arrive Sunday morning, so that was pretty much worth the cost right there. Downtown to the airport is about a 25 minute cab ride. It helps to have your Customs form filled out ahead of time, and be aware that there is an airport "exit fee" that you have to pay as you leave. (I’ve seen people shocked at this fee, but it’s nothing new. I think it’s $7 per person now, and several years ago it was $10. It might be handy to save some of your Canadian $$$ for that and for the shops & fast food places on the way to the gates. This trip was much researched, planned-for, and anticipated, and it lived up to all expectations. I expected to enjoy it, and both of us did. I can see how people get hooked on this. My next cruise would have to be pretty good to match this one — but I’m sure willing to try it again and I’d definitely look at the Radiance or one of its sister ships. MKelly

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Apr 11, 2003

Southern Caribbean

THE SHIP Overall Review I am use to staying in nice hotels so when others speak about the beauty of the ship I was expecting more, but it won’t disappoint you no matter what your expectations are from reading the various posts. The rooms, for a ship, are spacious. And by Friday you will finally find most of the bars, restaurants and entertainment spots. Service was personalized enough for me. Some had posted it wasn’t personalize,

but anymore and I would have found them annoying. WHAT TO WEAR and PACK This was my big question. It had been years since my last cruise. First I over packed and second RCI lost one of our bags at the back end of the trip. I just returned today and still hopeful it will be returned. Put big ugly red ribbons on your bags so they can be identified easily by you and by someone else picking your bag up by mistake. The formal nights are very formal. More men wear tuxes than not and on the casual dressy night some were in suits, but many dressed the “Don Johnson” look. There wasn’t a single night the women were not dressed to kill. The photo sessions encourages you to dress very nice. Where else can you buy a quality picture for only $20? But how many swimsuits and shorts should I bring? I say bring a swimsuit for each day because that is all you are in. Every excursion (just about) requires a swimsuit. We actually put shorts on twice so I only needed two pair of shorts the entire trip. WORKOUT FACILITY This was the most disappointing to me. We chose this ship because their ads say they have spinning. They have cycle classes and the bikes are Pulse Bikes. Pretty bad for those of us use to Johnny G or Schwinn bikes. The instructors are OK, but not up to date trained. I didn’t bother going to the other classes because I am an instructor and if I’m going to pay for a class and tip them, I expect them to be up to date, just like I have to be back home. . Cycle music was pretty good but they played the same CD twice. You’d think RCI would get them 5 different CD’s for each day. It isn’t that hard! For workout equipment it is well equipped. I’m tough to please so if you are not a fitness enthusiast you will find the classes perfectly acceptable. The spa has a deal for $50 a week (or $15 a day) to use this wonderfully specialized room with heated tile seats. We never had time, but was a great idea. The Spa They have it all. Pricy compared to what I can get here in Philly and I treat myself back home so I didn’t use their services. If you are newly married or dating check out the couple do it yourself massage package. PORTS OF CALL WOW, what lovely places we visited. Here are our recommendations: We came in a day early and stayed in San Juan and the Wyndham Condata.. It was pricy, but I think everything is in this city. I’d recommend going in a day early. We walked around Old San Juan, had a lovely dinner (all meals are expensive. $90 for two with no alcohol), and the following morning before we hit the ship we went to the Fort. Later we were told we should have tried Café Puerto Rico for authentic food at a more reasonable price. St. Thomas – Go shopping. I bought the most beautiful bracelet (14 K gold, solid, diamond cut) for $11.50 an ounce! I priced several jewelers and when they knew I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to pay they bargained. At home a good quality bracelet goes for around $18-$20 an ounce and then you pay tax. We bought other jewelry. We were so tired we went to the ship and fell asleep in the sun, but if you got more energy head to the beach. Know your prices back home and they will bargain. Antigua was Monday. We went on a snorkel excursion early and glad we did because we didn’t find anything to see in town and the cab drivers make you nuts. It is dirty and pretty seedy. I’d snorkel in the AM and then grab a cab to any of the beaches. Leave your shopping for another port. But if you forgot anything like toothpaste this is the port to pick it up because we found everything pretty inexpensive due to the value of the dollar. St. Maarten was pure heaven. I could have stayed there for a week and felt like I died and went to heaven. We went on the America’s Cup excursion – a must do for all active and non active. You can sit and enjoy or actually do the work. We’d do this one every time it is so much fun. We hit the ship for a quick lunch and headed back out and grabbed a cab for $5 each and headed to Orient Beach. We rented two beach chairs and an umbrella for $15 sipped on Carib beer for $2 each and enjoyed the most beautiful sand and water we have ever seen. We asked Elvis, yes Elvis, to come get us at 3:30 for a ride back. He was there to pick us up and we had time to walk around before we headed to the ship. Everyone who shopped said the bargains were far superior here than St Thomas! You need at least two days on this Island. The people are so nice and no one is pushy. St. Lucia was pretty. The waters were not nearly as blue as in St. Maarten. We made a grave error by going on the 7 hour Land and Sea to Soufriere. So many recommended it, but we found it hot, boring, and simply too long. Others took the North Coast and Beach Tour and thought it was great. One couple took the Island Splendour and enjoyed it because their tour guide was very informative. In our tour, part was on a boat and we got to snorkel which was nice. I bought these great necklaces for $5 each. They started at $8 and came down to $5. They say they are made from the lava rock. I’m not sure that is true, but they are beautiful. Great idea for the gifts you need to bring home. Better yet, they look expensive. Barbados – This was the most wonderful snorkeling we’ve ever seen. I thought I was in Disney or at an IMAX theater because it was that beautiful A snorkel trip is essential on this Island. We started our day with a cab ride into town for $1 each and walked around. This is not a poor Island and no bargains to be found. Frankly I don’t think you can get it cheaper there than here. Plus, our dollar is worth twice as much so you would think you could get a deal or two, but that isn’t the case. Don’t save your shopping for this Island – go enjoy the water here! Dinner Time We were so lucky to have great couples at our table. We are from the Philadelphia area and one couple was from Leeds, England. The other couple was from St Croix.. It was so wonderful learning more about English customs, and learning why someone from St.Croix would feel the need to go on a cruise when they are from a beautiful Island. We couldn’t have lucked out with a better table. We ranged in age from late 30’s to mid 50’s. We never did the same excursions so it made dinner conversation more interesting. We loved Teo, our waiter. FOOD Unlike others who say the food was OK, I thought for a ship of 2,100 passengers they did a pretty good job. Breakfast and lunch didn’t impress me, but dinners were good. We heard Monday was a non impressive night so we went to Chops and had a wonderful meal. My filet was delicious and my husband had the strip. He wouldn’t recommend it, but the lamb chops and the Veal Chop we heard were outstanding. On Friday we should have gone to Portofino’s but we enjoyed our table mates so much we didn’t go. Friday’s dinner was average. But don’t listen to the others who say the food is very average. I agree breakfast and lunch is average, but maybe we ordered the right items at dinner because we were not disappointed. Entertainment Fair to poor, but don’t let that keep you from the ship because there is so much to do who cares. My Pet Peeve It was parents who let their kids run wild in the pool and didn’t care how it impacted the guests. . There is a child’s pool intended for children to have fun, run, and splash their hearts out. . However, so many parents didn’t want to sit at the kids pool with their children, therefore if you wanted to simply chill by the pool the kids made it nearly impossible. Parents didn’t care if their kids were wild. And then there was the inability to get ice without your room attendant, but we worked that one out. If you want ice in your room tip them early and ask them to have it there for you. Check in and out I read all these horror stories and it isn’t all that bad. Sure the lines are long, but they lost a piece of our luggage and I’m still not complaining. Just remember they had 2100 of us to get off the ship by 10AM. I personally thought they did a good job in both directions. RCI may not perfect, but 2100 people is a lot of people. Questioning to buy the Insurance or not? If we had not paid $99 per person we would have no coverage for our lost bag except under our homeowners. Plus, you get other protection. When I took this out I was more concerned about the war, but she did tell me, it also covers your luggage. It was a sign and I didn’t realize it at the time. Buy the insurance! Lord only knows what RCI will make us do if they don’t find our bag, but I’ll do another post if it isn’t smooth. (and on every web page that talks about cruises). How much will it cost us on the ship? Cost cutting ideas- They say you can’t take alcohol on the ship. I took a bottle of scotch and I bought these small bottles of scotch for show times (Scotch and Water). My husband is a big soda drinker. He bought the card and we took more diet on the ship. At one port I bought a bottle of wine and brought it on the ship. They just charged me $8 corkage fee. Instead of paying $40 for a bottle I ended up with $15 for my total cost. On excursions they want to sell you water for $3.50. I got suckered into that one day to find on each excursion they give you water, juice, beer, soda, and rum punch. I carried that $3.50 bottle home with me. When it comes to pictures, wait until the last night and then pick the best. Otherwise, you might buy early and then find yourself buying more because they do get better as the week progresses. They keep them out all week. Excursions, Alcohol, ect – that added another $950 to our tab when we checked out. We didn’t drink much and I bought a few bottles of alcohol on the ship, but it is so cheap that was a small part of the $950. Excursions start to add up, pictures are $20 each and you’ll want a couple at least, they have “real coffee” in a coffee shop which my husband hit daily. Money we spent off the ship and gambling- We took $800 cash and came home with less than $100. I suppose my husband played and lost with about $300, but that was cheap entertainment for a week. Between tips for porters, cabs, umbrella’s, odd gifts this ate up most of my $400. We took $100 in singles and came home with only a few remaining. My husband watched some real gamblers and he never saw any of them win. Jewelry – don’t forget what you might spend on jewelry, booze, cig’s and such. This can be a credit card purchase. Tipping- We did the pre tip package and glad we did. They put a voucher in your room on Friday so you have something to give them. Everyone at our table wished they had paid up front. I recommend it because it is one thing done and out of the way. One Final Note When you buy your excursions look in the envelope. We bought them as soon as we hit the ship because I didn’t want to get blocked out. It wasn’t until we went on our first excursion that we realized they gave us two tickets for the first day excursion and then only sold me one for the rest of the week for each excursion. It was a human error on their part, but they tried to tell me I couldn’t buy another one for The America’s Cup. They eventually did. They tried to be nice, but this was their error. Mine in not checking as he handed me the tickets, but when he gave me day one with two tickets you assumed the other days had two tickets. It all worked out, but check. Again, they are trying to please 2100 passengers.

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Mar 8, 2003

Southern Caribbean

This was our second cruise after a cruise on Carnival Destiny last March. Before I begin - I want to let you know my wife and I are just plain folks from East Texas which will explain our review. First - we made the mistake of going thru cruise.com - I originally booked for three people and a week before we left I had to add a daughter who came back home. They took me for a ride - or for a fist full of money - so that did not make me

happy.In addition, we did not receive her papers until the day before we left - had to call twice to get them delivered to us. Live and Learn. Now the cruise - the air and connections were good - transfers and checkin was great - ship was beautiful. We were all four in the same cabin on the 10th deck - beautiful room with lots of room and a balcony. We never had our steward introduce himself to us so we were never sure who he was - but he did a great job taking care of the room - must have had a TV monitor to know when we were out (just kidding). Room service was great -it took us 5 days and a note to customer desk to find out where we could get ice tea and water when the buffets were closed. Answer - room service and they were great to bring ice tea and water and lemonade. Food - my biggest complaint with the ship. On our Destiny cruise - we got the best food in the formal seating. On the Radiance - one must pay $20/person/meal to get the best food. The food in the regular formal seating area was not that good. We had the late seating (8:30) and the first two nights it took them over two hours to serve us - much too long and to spaced out on the items. Two couples at our table plus our family did not eat the next couple of nights because of the quality of the food and the service - one couple complained to the head waiter - we were called the next night and asked if we were coming personally by the head waiter - but again, the food was not what we expected. The other two couples ate at the two special restaurants were you pay $20 per person extra and said that the food was great! But after paying for a cruise - why should you pay extra for the "best food"? The open buffets were fantastic and that is were we enjoyed the best food - the Windjammer - morning, noon, or night. Also, the seaview cafe had the best fast food and deserts - so plan for a hamburger and onion rings at least one snack. The pool layouts and ship decor was excellent (we do not drink) but they had plenty of bars. We left San Juan to St. Thomas -the ship NEVER arrived early in port as we experienced on the Carnival Destiny - a real problem in that some days we were late getting off the ship. At St. Thomas we did our own thing - went to St. John's and snorkeled at Trunk bay - took the water taxi from downtown - $7/person for a 45 minute boat ride around the island to St. John - then took the short ferry and taxi back to the ship - a great day of water and seeing the islands.Next - to Antigua - again - we arrived on time - not early - and rented a taxi for the day - had a great view of the island - and a couple hours of snorkeling on the beach. Cost - $100 for the four of us ( probably could have found someone cheaper if tried hard) but so nice to have our own taxi - much, much cheaper than the boat tours. Next day to St. Martin - the problem day - there were 7 cruise ships in port and we did not get to anchor at the dock - we were ferried to land on the lifeboats - and did not get off the ship until 9:30 and so we missed our planned tour I made over the internet - others on the boat missed their dive boats, etc. A lot of unhappy people!!!!!. Anyway, my son and I caught a taxi to Dawn Beach for the day to snorkel and sun - BEAUTIFUL BEACH and no nudity - great for family. Good snorkeling right off the beach. My wife and daughter took a tour of the island offered by the cruise line - they enjoyed it. Next day - to St. Lucia - my son and I went on a full day snorkel/beach with the cruise line to ANESet -something - where there is a marine reserve - what a great day - beautiful black sand beach - clear water - great lunch - went by boat for 50 minute ride along the coast to get there - then the day on the beach. Saw octopus, moray eel - and lots of fish right off the beach. Suggest this trip. (by the way - it is $98/person - but a cab to get there is $100 each way on a lousy road for a 11/2 hour cab trip. Finally - last day to Barbados - took a kayak and turtle encounter off the cruise ship - good trip - enjoyed very much. This cruise I had a had time getting the internet tours set up that I did on the last cruise. This was bad in that Royal Caribbean charges anywhere from $7-10/person more for shore trips than does Carnival. Really adds up on a cruise. We arrived back at San Juan and the offload process was quick and the usual early hours. Was a long trip back to Dallas with many hours waiting - but everything went smoothly.Oh - luggage - at the San Juan airport - Royal Caribbean claims your luggage - the problem was that the airline tore off the cruise tag off my daughter's bag and so they did not get her bag - we went to the purser - they did a great job to get it to us by the next day on the next island - great job. Finally - would we cruise this ship again - no - because of the meal situation - it is like "class separation" if you are not willing to pay the extra money. We paid for the all inclusive "ship" and we felt we did not have access to the entire ship.Again - we are meat and potato type of people - who enjoy the beautiful water and service on the cruise - the ship was clean, and beautiful - the buffets great - being ferried in at St. Martin was a real pain - and cost us our anticipated best trip of the week to snorkel and sail. So I close still a real fan of cruises - I only wish I had discovered them earlier in our lives - but we plan to make up for it in the coming years. Take a cruise - any ship - any cruise line - what a great way to travel.

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Mar 30, 2002

7-day Southern Caribbean

TrvlJrnlst@aol.com As a former school teacher, my first cruise, and many subsequent cruises, have been taken during spring break. I was traveling with some close friends, who are still tied to the school calendar; so, I once again embarked on a spring break odyssey. Their lovely family of 4 and I have cruised together before, and each time the trips were wonderful. In the past, my daughter has always joined us, but her

college schedule did not coincide with the public school, so I was traveling solo. I was, however, going to be sharing a cabin with a single friend from Michigan, who was to join us on board. This was my first experience departing from San Juan; so let me begin there. Arrival/Embarkation: We left Cleveland the morning of our cruise at approximately 7:00 am on a Northwest flight with connections through Detroit. The flight was uneventful, and arrived on time in San Juan at 2:30 pm. I was very impressed with the airport meet and greet service. We were met promptly by an RCI agent at the gate, taken directly to a transportation bus, and whisked off to the port. We did not need to claim our luggage and was assured it would be delivered to our cabin. This would not normally have been of any concern to me, but be advised that if your air has been purchased through the cruise company in bulk, you will probably be in the group that is pre-selected for a security check. If that is the case, you must keep your checked luggage, unlocked. I was not concerned about theft, but, as the zipper on my luggage has a habit of coming loose, I had visions of my clothing strewn across airports, and the streets of San Juan. I am pleased to say, that was not the case, and my luggage arrived, intact, about 9:00 pm. The bus ride from the San Juan airport to the pier proved to be a rather pleasant bonus. Our escort provided us with a running commentary of the sights we saw along our way. The bus even took a short detour to give us a glimpse of some of the San Juan highlights. The tour we were provided would have been a $40 city highlights tour offered as an excursion through the cruise line. We were even offered shopping and sightseeing tips we could do on our own after checking in. Once at the port, we went through a security checkpoint, and stood in line approximately 30 minutes to check-in, get our security photo ID taken, and step on board. Sandwiches and beverages were offered at the terminal, just in case we might starve before our first meal on board. Nancy with the Radiance in the Background First Impressions: WOW!! What a beautiful ship. I have sailed RCI’s mega ships, the Voyager and the Explorer, as well as ships in the Vision Class, but nothing prepared me for the elegance of this vessel. It truly is a unique blend of the best of RCI’s Eagle and Vision class, with a hint of Celebrity’s newer ships thrown in for good measure. It is truly a work of art. And speaking of art, this ship is full of interesting and memorable pieces of modern art and 20th century design classics. There is even a full color brochure in your cabin detailing the artwork on board. From the free form suspended sculpture that is the centerpiece of the Centrum; to the 2-deck mural in the Cascades dining room, this is a ship that tantalizes the senses. The rich mahogany and choice of furniture used throughout the public rooms give the ship an intimate, old world appeal. It almost feels like you are in a very prestigious country club, and not on a cruise ship. The Cabin: I occupied cabin 7530, a forward balcony cabin on deck seven. If planning to book a balcony cabin, I would strongly recommend requesting one of the first 16 forward cabins on deck seven. These balconies are at least 5 feet deeper than any others in this category. They do, however, offer less privacy, as the partition between cabins does not extend over the extra depth. The navy and rust color scheme, coupled with the dark wood paneling and recessed doors is very appealing. There is ample drawer and closet space to meet the needs of most guests. All 4 members of the family I was traveling with shared a cabin, and though a little tight, the cabin provided sufficient space. The sofa converted to a bed, and an upper bunk, recessed in the ceiling, was lowered at night. If you are sharing a cabin with more than one other person, I would suggest bringing a hanging shoe bag – It is great for housing all those incidentals that take up valuable counter space (i.e. suntan lotion, hairspray, brushes, etc.), as well as avoiding clutter. A refrigerator took up some of the shelving space. Although stocked, I am pleased that RCI now leaves one refrigerator shelf empty for guests to use. The cabins have excellent sound insulation. High marks are also given to RCI for their interactive television system. RCTV provides numerous movie channels, as well as cartoon, music, sports, and news channels. Closed circuit TV also provided a view from the bridge, and televised shipboard activities. Booking of shore excursions, and onboard credit activity can be accessed directly from the TV. The bathroom is small, with limited counter space, but acceptable. The shower is small, too, but its curved design is great for keeping the shower curtain in place. The shower pressure is not great, but the controls are well designed. The shower also has a retractable clothesline. If I did not know better, I would think RCI read everything I ever wrote about their ships. My complaints and suggestions for cabin improvements have all been addressed. First the lighting: Adjustable reading lights have been added above all beds. Soft, side lighting rather than overhead lighting is used around the mirrors (A feature which enhances everyone’s appearance). The hair dryer provided utilizes its own special outlet, keeping the other 2 electrical outlets free for other use. A privacy curtain that separates the sitting area from the beds is full size and can actually be drawn across the entire width of the cabin. There is a retractable desktop configured into the shelving/drawer space of the dresser, which is great for laptops or writing. Now, RCI, if your listening, all that needs to done is improve the very limited room service menu, and put a light on the balcony, and I would have nothing to complain about. Public Rooms: The Centrum, or main lobby begins on Deck 4 and rises to deck 12 at the Crown and Anchor Society. A porthole table is in the center of the Crown and Anchor Society that provides an awesome view all the way down to deck 4. There is a very nice lobby bar and guest relations is also located in the Centrum on deck 4. The sculpture that is suspended in the Centrum area is illuminated with smart lights that keep this area light and airy. Although quite lovely, it is a relatively small lobby area. Deck 5 and 6 are the main thoroughfares that run from stem to stern. Royal Caribbean Online is located on both sides of the Centrum on deck 5, where numerous computers and a printer are available to use for $.50 a minute. Moving forward, a winding marble shopping street beckons you to browse in the numerous shops providing the requisite logo wear, and duty free shopping. Continuing forward your stroll will take you through the photo shop and a rather pleasant art gallery. One exceptionally nice feature, in an area directly adjacent to the photo shop, is Books, Books & Coffee. This coffee shop/bookstore offers Seattle’s Best, some delectable sweets, books for browsing, and even 2 more computer terminals if you wish to surf the net while sipping on a latte. This is a great little hideaway. Deck 5 ends at the main floor of the 2 story Aurora Theatre. Although the sight lines, and acoustics are excellent in this theatre, I was not overly impressed with the decor. It is perhaps easiest to continue our tour of the public rooms, by venturing to deck 6 via the stairs in the Aurora Theatre. As we venture aft, directly outside the Aurora Theatre is a small movie theatre that has seating for about 100 people. Movies were shown here daily. A small video arcade is located within the Scoreboard Bar, an excellent sports bar. There are numerous large screen TV’s, and this was an exceptionally popular spot the night of the NCAA Championship game. Walking aft from the Scoreboard Bar will require a stroll through the casino. Here you will find all of the required games of chance, as well as many slots, including the seemingly popular “nickel slots”. Once through the casino, the Champagne Bar in the Centrum proves quite appealing, and its wall of windows provides a fantastic view. We are now approaching perhaps my favorite public area on the ship. As you walk through a replica of the wooden frame of a ship’s hull, you enter the Schooner Bar. No RCI ship would be complete without a Schooner Bar, and the Radiance is no exception. This is perhaps the largest and most beautiful of the fleet, however. The leather sofas and chairs are arranged invitingly in conversational groupings. Appetizers and happy hour drinks are served daily, while a very good classical guitarist and pianist take turns entertaining you. There is even a large screen TV tugged into a corner for those avid sports or news addicts. Access to the two specialty restaurants, Chops Grill Steakhouse, and Portofino is though the Schooner Bar. Leaving the Schooner Bar you move into the Colony Club. The Colony Club is like no other show lounge afloat. Rather than the typical large room with dance floor, the Colony Club is divided into a number of smaller sections (It is this area that gives the ship a “country club” feel). First is the Bombay Billiard Club. The parquet flooring, large, deep, rich wood entertainment centers, hiding large screen TV’s, book cases, and 2 self-leveling billiards tables all combine to make this area quite appealing. The Jakarta Lounge (a corner bar) and the Calcutta Card Club are also sections within the Colony Club. Inlaid chess and backgammon tables beckon you, as do the floor to ceiling windows, and sunken bar of Singapore Sling’s. In the midst of all this, is a nice size dance floor and stage. The entire effect is fantastic!! Bingo sessions, a 50’s sock-hop, and the Captains Party are just some of the activities that take place here. The main pool and solarium are on deck 11. Let me tell you about the solarium first. As impressed as I was with the Colony Club, the solarium is equally impressive. When I first entered this space, I thought it was a little overdone, but upon further investigation, I reevaluated my initial reaction. The African safari-themed solarium is an example of the details that separate this ship from any other. Stone sculpture elephants line the pool. The pool and Jacuzzi are both set at a perfect temperature. Jungle foliage surrounds you as you lounge in teak chairs with African print cushions. The piped in sounds of crickets and birds provide an added sensory experience. The retractable roof, a bar, and snack counter embellish this space. This is a room that must be experienced to truly appreciate. Perhaps, the nicest feature was the extended pool hours. The solarium was open until midnight, for adults only – YEAH! In comparison, the main pool is a disappointment. The open deck area around the pool, as well as the pool itself, are exceptionally small for a ship this size. There was, however, a lift chair to accommodate the physically challenged so that they could enjoy the pool. In my cruising experience, this was a first. Unfortunately, it was often misused by the multitudes of children on board over spring break, and became a safety hazard. Perhaps some form of locking device could be installed to avoid this. There were 2 canopied whirlpools in the main pool area, which I used only twice during the cruise, as they were always overcrowded. The health center, shipshape spa, and hair salon were located forward of the solarium. The relaxation room on this ship was exceptionally appealing and just a few minutes in this respite was enough to totally rejuvenate your spirit. If you take the stairs inside the spa you will be on deck 12 and at the fitness center. State of the art machines were plentiful, as were free weights, and a rather large floor space for exercise. Although this was a very nice workout area, many of the exercise activities incurred a fee. Yoga, cardio kickboxing, and pilates all had $10 fees attached. The jogging track is located on deck 12, as is the teen center, and children’s facilities. The teen disco is very small, but the teenagers I was traveling with did not seem to mind. This area was used as a meeting place, then, they would be off in little packs to roam the ship. A children’s pool, with water slide, was quite popular with the many children on-board. Unfortunately, the water slide had very limited hours of operation. A basketball court (1/2 court), and golf simulator round out the sport’s area. The one glaring design flaw on the Radiance is the basketball court. Water from the children’s pool often spilled onto the court, making for treacherous play. Also, the basketball court is located directly above the Windjammer Cafe. The noise from bouncing balls created a major distraction from the ambiance of casual dining in the evening, and therefore the sports court was closed every evening during dining hours. Apparently, attempts are being made to correct this flaw on the Brilliance. Deck 13 is the location of RCI’s signature Viking Crown Lounge, which doubles as the Starquest Disco in the evening. A smaller lounge, the Hollywood Odyssey, was the venue for karaoke each evening. I liked the Hollywood Odyssey, but was very disappointed in the Starquest Disco. Other than the one evening that the cruise staff hosted a 70’s party, this area was relatively dormant. For all the attention to detail I found throughout the ship, this lounge lacked any panache. It was a rather bland space, and the DJ did nothing to liven things up – one of the few disappointments of this ship. Rounding out deck 13 is the rock-climbing wall, and a very popular, miniature golf course. Dining/Food: I purposely did not share a description of the various dining spaces in the public rooms portion of my review, as the design of these areas is part of what makes the dining experience onboard so pleasurable. First, is the impressive 2 level Cascades Dining Room: The focal point of the dining room is a spiral staircase, with a waterfall as its backdrop. On the opposite end of the dining room is a beautiful mural that exudes “old world” charm. Columns, which are actually created from delicate fabric, span the 2 decks and complement the decor. RCI offers open seating in the main dining room for breakfast and lunch, and has the traditional 2 dinner seatings (main at 6:00 pm/late at 8:30 pm). Our group of 6 selected late seating, and assigned to a large table for 10. The arrangement turned out to be perfect. The family I was traveling with had 2 teenagers (Brad, 16, and Brittany 15), and a wonderful family from Toronto (also with 2 teenagers) joined our table. Each night the teenagers managed to keep us entertained with their lively and diverse conversation. The menu on RCI tends to be similar throughout the fleet, but the choices each night were sufficiently varied as to please all of our tastes. The lobster was exceptionally moist and tender, as were the short ribs. The filet mignon, on the other hand, was very disappointing. Based on a consensus of our table, overall, I would recommend the seafood, and pasta dishes. Our waiter, Daniel, was a real cutie! He was able to accommodate all of our requests, no matter how unusual (believe me when you have teenagers at a table, their demands can be pretty stringent), and did it all with a sense of humor, and a charismatic smile. He really earned his pay, as his assistant was an inexperienced young lady from Lithuania. Although she tried very hard to please, I felt sorry for her, as it was obvious that the long hours, a language barrier, and homesickness were all affecting her performance. Kent Ringborn, our very personable Captain, came by the tables one evening and chatted with the guests. This was a nice touch seldom seen on ships of this size. The Windjammer Cafe is another highlight of the Radiance, and an example of the attention to detail, that I found to be so pervasive on this ship. As you sit in very comfortable, leather chairs, in tables of 4 to 8, there is an array of marine and nautical memorabilia to catch your eye. Numerous small serving areas divide the room, each offering a different choice of cuisine. Not only did this arrangement alleviate congestion and lines, but I found it created a more intimate ambiance. Aft of the main buffet area is a somewhat hidden, marvelous glass walled semi-open area. Here one could sit on rattan sofas, arranged in conversational groupings. Continuing aft through this area was a canopied outdoor section, which became my favorite spot for enjoying a danish, or fruit, and coffee, after my morning workout. The Windjammer was open for breakfast from 6:30 am – 11:00 am, began serving lunch at 11:00, and snacks from 3:00-5:00. It was closed from 5:00 – 6:00 to prepare the room for casual dining. The Windjammer offered some of the best buffet food I have experienced on a cruise. Eggs were cooked to order, food was hot, and the choices were plentiful. The burgers and pizza were mediocre, but the rest of the selections made up for this weakness. The Solarium Cafe offered pizza and sandwiches from 11am – 7 pm daily, and the Seaview Cafe on deck 12 was THE place to get a great burger. The Seaview Cafe takes the place of the Johnny Rockets found on the Eagle Class ships, and was an excellent replacement. Soup, salads, appetizers, and sandwiches were served in an outdoor terrace setting from 4:00 pm – 2:00 am, on days in port. On sea days it opens at noon. Not only were the burgers great, but the milkshakes (they do cost extra) were outstanding! Rounding out the dining options, the Radiance has 2 specialty dining choices: Chops Grille Steakhouse, and Portofino for Italian fare. There is a $20 dining fee per person for these restaurants. One night, Portofino was the site of a “Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre” for an additional fee. No one in our group chose to try these venues, so I cannot attest to the quality. In speaking with someone at the pool, however, I was told that the steakhouse was excellent, and worth the extra money. At some point in my travels, I will have to return to each of the ships I have sailed, just to try the alternative dining choices. Entertainment: There are a variety of lounges and bars on the Radiance, and I have already shared that my favorites were the Colony Club and the Schooner Bar. The Pool Bar and Sky Bar, on the pool decks, provided me with ample daytime libation, but “Focus”, the poolside calypso band, did not impress me. They would have been wise to stick to instrumentals, and not attempt any vocals. Vicky and the Holding Company mainly performed in the Colony Club, and were quite enjoyable. The Brian Buchanan Trio that entertained in the Centrum Lobby appealed to many, and was great for providing soft, mellow, after dinner music. Two production shows were presented during our cruise, and they were good, but not great! The lead vocals were very talented, but the shows seemed to lack continuity. Of the 2 shows, I preferred “Rockin in Paradise” to “Welcome to My World”. RCI has gone to an evening schedule that rotates the time of major entertainment in the evening, and I am not sure that it is being well received. On alternating evenings, shows for late seating dining are scheduled before dinner. I, along with many of those dining during second seating, found this to be inconvenient. Having chosen late seating so that we could leisurely prepare for dinner, perhaps enjoying pre-dinner cocktails, found ourselves rushed in order to make the show. A major highlight of the entertainment on board was the cruise director, Gordon Whatman. He was EXCELLENT! He had a wonderful sense of humor, but never took himself too seriously. He was low-key, and seemed to truly enjoy his job! On the morning of debarkation, when RCI requests you vacate your room by 8:00 am, Gordon entertained us in the Aurora Theatre. He used a talk show format and had passengers come up on stage with him and ask questions. Not only did I learn a lot about the ship, and the crew, but made waiting for my flight to be called to disembark an almost pleasant experience. As for the “Headline” entertainment, I think RCI is sending me a message. The first of our celebrity guests was none other than Bobby Arvon. Who is he you ask? Well, his claim to fame is being the voice of “Happy Days”. What makes this amusing is that I just returned from a Hawaii cruise aboard the Vision of the Seas, and mentioned that RCI must be getting low on name entertainment, since Bobby Arvon was our headliner. The Coasters also performed, and although not the original group, they were entertaining. Actually Captain Kent Ringborn was also very entertaining as he sang, both at the Welcome Aboard Party, and the Crown and Anchor Society Party for repeat passengers. The Cruise Day One – Depart San Juan: As we were not departing until 10:30 pm, there was plenty of time to explore the ship, and still take a stroll through Old San Juan. Open seating for dinner on our first night made for a relaxed and casual beginning of a wonderful trip. After dinner we attended the Welcome Aboard Show, followed by our mandatory lifeboat drill at 10:00 pm. We were scheduled to assemble in the Aurora Theatre, which made the whole process much more pleasant. After this brief requirement, our group headed up to the pool deck to join the Bon Voyage Sail Away Celebration. Drinks, music, and dancing were enjoyed by all, and then it was off to bed, as we would be arriving in St. Thomas early the next morning. Day Two – St Thomas: We arrived in St. Thomas on Easter Sunday. Most of the shops in downtown Charlotte Amalie close at 1:00 pm on Sundays. At first, an itinerary that has you arriving in the duty free shopping capital of the Caribbean on a day when stores close early may seem questionable. However, once docked you realize that this is a GOOD thing! Although the stores close early, there were only 2 other ships in port. Shopping and getting around town is much more pleasant than when there are as many as 15 ships in port mid-week. This was a very port intensive cruise, and having visited St. Thomas on numerous occasions, I was planning to spend most of the day onboard. Of course, with the cruise ships docking directly next to Havensight Mall, the temptation was too great – I couldn’t resist taking a short break from sun bathing to purchase some tanzanite jewelry and restock my perfume supply! St. Thomas also has some wonderful beaches. Having spent so much time in St. Thomas, I would suggest you go to Sapphire Beach, via taxi, rather than Magens Bay, or take the ferry to St. John. This was the first of 2 formal nights. We attended the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Reception in the Colony Club before dinner. There were three noticeable changes to this scaled down event. First, there was only one reception scheduled between the 2 dinner seatings, rather than 2 separate receptions. No hors d’oeuvres were served, and choice of cocktails was limited to champagne, whiskey sours, Bacardi cocktails, or punch. After the reception, we went to dinner, and met our enjoyable tablemates for the first time. Having already mentioned the celebrity show featured Bobby Arvon, the adults opted to return to our cabins to enjoy after dinner drinks on our balconies, before heading to the Starquest Disco for the 70’s flashback dance party. The dance party was a hoot! Everyone had great fun, and returned to our cabins exhausted. Day 3 – Antigua: Easter Monday is a major holiday in Antigua, so much of the town was closed. Many of the locals were enjoying one of the 365 beaches on this island with family and friends. My friend, Suzi, and I managed to snag a cab and headed for Dickinson Bay. Cabs have preset fares and a trip to Dickinson or Millers Beach costs $10. The cost to Jolly Beach, another excellent beach choice, would cost about $25. We made arrangements for Curly, our cab driver, to pick us up in 3 hours. Sandals Resort is located at Dickinson Bay, and the beach is quite nice. Taking a walk on the beach proved to be an interesting adventure. On the opposite end of the beach from Sandals, is a small cove that took a direct hit from a hurricane. The beach homes are completely gutted, and just the shells remain standing. We discovered that many of the locals have claimed these spots and converted them into open-air beach retreats, complete with tents, tables, and open barbeque pits. Curly arrived early, and since we had time to explore the island before returning to the ship, he took us to Blue Waters, a beautiful 5-star resort, that truly was a luxurious, tropical island paradise. After a full day of sun and sand, a power nap and a long shower rejuvenated me for a fun-filled evening. We attended the pre-dinner production show of “Rockin in Paradise” at 7:15, and then proceeded to dinner in the Cascades Dining Room. After dinner we headed for the Scoreboard Bar to watch a little of the NCAA Championship game, obviously not an original idea, as the place was packed. Since we couldn’t find a seat, we traveled on to the Colony Club to check out the Radiance Quest Game. Audience participation games are not usually my thing, but this game proved to be quite hilarious. There is something to be said about losing one’s inhibitions at sea. I am sure that there is no other place I would witness otherwise refined gentlemen wearing bras, lipstick, and purses, while “strutting their stuff”, in order to win a key chain. Following this unique event, we got down to some serious rock n’ roll, from the twist to hand jive. We worked off many of the calories we had consumed at dinner, and once again returned to the cabin, exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep. Day Four – St. Maarten: We arrived in Philipsburg at 8:00 am. I was traveling with a true “shopaholic”, so since the stores were closed in Antigua, our goal was to make up for lost time, and hit the stores running. I must say, my friend, Suzi, did a great job of leaving the St. Maarten economy in good shape for a long time. Just a word of caution, the $1200 duty free limit is for purchases made in St. Thomas. Expect to pay duty if you exceed that limit in other ports. By the same token, I have found the best prices on liquor and cigarettes can be found in St. Maarten. On this trip, cigarettes were $9 a carton, and a liter of Bacardi Limon was only $7.95. Don’t forget to try some of the guava berry liqueur, exclusive to this island. After some serious power shopping we returned to the ship, grabbed a bite to eat, and the entire entourage headed for Orient Beach. This is another port in which taxi fares are pre-set. A cab to Orient Beach should cost you $3 per person. We once again negotiated with our very personable driver, Frances, and made arrangements for him to return us to the ship at a specified time. Even though “clothing optional” Orient Beach can be very crowded, it is still one of my favorites. The beach has a carnival like atmosphere that is very easy to get caught up in. There are a myriad of eating, and drinking options, as well as all the requisite rental equipment. On this trip, one of the teenagers, Brittany, really wanted to parasail, but was reluctant to do it alone. Always up for a new adventure, I offered to accompany her. It was a marvelous experience, and one I can highly recommend! The ride was smooth, and breathtaking. The most difficult aspect of the whole experience was getting on and off the jet ski that delivered you to the parasailing boat. Unfortunately, some of the best of St. Maarten is reserved for the evening. After days filled with shopping and beaches, cruise passengers rarely see how casinos, nightclubs, and romantic sunsets transform St. Maarten. Once again we needed to be back onboard by 5:30, as the ship set sail at 6:00 pm. We had a lively conversation at dinner sharing the day’s adventures, particularly our impressions of Orient Beach. If you enjoy gardening and butterflies, the “Butterfly Farm & Marigot” ship excursion was given high marks by one person at our table. This evening, after dinner, the group split up, and all found different venues for entertainment. Some of our group spent some time in the casino, while others went to listen to the vocalist Donna Huntley, and the comedian Phil Tag which we deemed as satisfactory, but not outstanding. The late nights, and full days of sun were catching up with me, so after a nightcap, I retired early to enjoy a restful nights sleep. Day 5 – St. Lucia: We did not arrive in Castries, St. Lucia until about 10:00 am. This was the day we had reserved for some serious sightseeing. We did have, however, a very specific itinerary in mind, so once again, we chose to make our own arrangements, rather than take an excursion through RCI. Once we hit land, we negotiated with a gentleman to utilize his escorted van services for $25 per person. At first, we were not sure we had made a wise choice. Castries, is a gated port, and the van we had arranged to escort us was on the outside of the gated and guarded area. As we walked to the van, safety and legality were thoughts running through our minds. We were to discover, however, that the van was VERY safe, our driver was outstanding, and we were doing nothing illegal. (Apparently there is a surcharge of 10% that all cabs are required to pay, if they are inside the gates). St. Lucia is not only a beautiful island, but was perhaps the highlight of my island hopping on this trip. Our journey began with a trip through the lush, mountainous island to Soufriere, the location of the drive-in volcano, and sulphur springs. On our way we stopped at a banana plantation, the Governor’s mansion, the university, and numerous lookout points to view the magnificent Pitons. A visit to the volcano is most definitely worth the time. It is a fascinating, and informative journey. Our driver was exceptionally knowledgeable, and provided a very colorful history of the island. Once we left the volcano, we headed for the beach at Anse Chastenet. Getting to Anse Chastenet is an adventure in itself. The only way in or out of this beachfront paradise is a 3 mile long, winding, one lane, dirt road. There are points along the way, that if 2 vehicles meet, one of them must back up to allow the other to pass. As you traverse this road, and look down at the sheer drop offs that one hovers next to, this can be a daunting trip. But, I must tell you; the reward is worth the effort. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful black sand beach I have seen, and would have to rank as one of my top 10 beaches in the world. The water is crystal clear, and the view is magnificent. Although there are, restrooms, showers, and a beachfront restaurant and bar, this is a quiet, secluded beach. It can best be described as a secret bit of heaven on earth. Needless to say, our guide had to drag us from this spot, in order to return to the ship on time. We were back on board in just enough time to shower, dress for a casual Caribbean night, and get to the Coasters pre-dinner show at 7:15 for second seating guests. After dinner drinks, lounging in the Solarium, and then poolside for a Caribbean party and midnight buffet was the order of the evening. Actually, the poolside buffet was moved indoors to the Windjammer as we had some brief early evening showers, so the presentation was not quite as impressive as it could have been. It was, however, a pleasant night under the stars. Day 6 – Barbados: We awoke to another glorious day. The sun was shining brightly, as it had on every morning of our trip, and we were ready to visit our final port. The morning began with my usual mile walk around the jogging track, followed by breakfast alfresco. We had booked an afternoon trip aboard the Jolly Roger Pirate Cruise, which was the only ship excursion we chose to take on this cruise. The morning was spent shopping at the portside mall for some last minute souvenirs and lounging poolside. We chose not to go into town, but those who did seemed to have mixed reactions. The Jolly Roger was docked within walking distance of the ship, but a shuttle service was also available to escort us to the boat. The party began the minute you stepped aboard. Music was blaring and drinks were flowing. Rum punch, soda, as well as beer and other cocktails were included in the package. It was apparent that the goal of the crew was to make sure everyone was dancing and drinking as we set sail for a beach party. Once we arrived at our beach location, we could choose to take a tender ashore for a 45-minute stay, or stay onboard and swim off the ship, and use the rope swing. On the return, we were entertained by such frivolity as a pirate wedding, and MORE drinking and dancing. We had great fun, but this is not a trip for everyone. It can best be described as a floating “Carlos ‘n Charlies”. If you are not a partier, this is definitely not an excursion that would interest you. For those of you who are, it lives up to its reputation. After our wild afternoon, it was unfortunate that this evening was the second formal night of the cruise. Somehow, we all managed to pull it off, however, and managed to look sharp for formal portraits. This was lobster night at dinner, and as already mentioned, it was excellent. We had planned to check out karaoke at the Hollywood Odyssey, but the second production show, “Welcome to My World” was scheduled at the same time. So, I went to karaoke for a bit (no, I did not perform), then caught the tail end of the revue. The costuming was good, but the choreography was boring and repetitive. Of the two production shows, I preferred the first. The comedian, Phil Tag, from Tuesday’s show, performed a late night adult comedy show at 12:15 am. As this was a very long day, I once again collapsed into bed, and fell asleep instantly. Day 7 – At Sea: I was looking forward to our one day at sea with great anticipation, as one of the things I love most about cruising is the enjoyment of leisure days at sea. I awoke very early, and had completed my exercise regimen by 8:00 am. Apparently, it is a good thing I did, because deck chairs were at a premium by 8:30. I was able to lay claim to 2 chairs on the upper deck above the pool, where my friend and I spent the better part of our day. Captain Kent Ringborn provided us an added treat on this wonderful day at sea. At about 9:30 am, as we sailed passed Montserrat on our journey back to San Juan, he maneuvered the Radiance as close to the shoreline as possible. He then proceeded to take a very slow cruise around the island. The destruction caused by the recent volcanic eruption was devastating. Although some residents are returning to the island, and a slow process of rebuilding is underway, the eerie view of a ghost town created by the fury of Mother Nature is embedded in my memory. Needing to take a short respite from the sun, around 11:00 am we made a futile effort to try our luck at Jackpot Bingo. Having no success, we returned to the pool deck to continue the baking process. As we sipped our “coco locos” poolside, horse racing, the belly flop contest, and an ice carving demonstration entertained us. Life is good! The only downside to this entire day was the overcrowding in the main pool area. There were approximately 560 children under the age of 18 on this cruise. On this day, about 200 of those children had taken over the main pool. As a former teacher, I really enjoy children, so in and of itself this was not a problem. It just brought to light how small the main pool and surrounding area actually was. The fact that there is no lounging space at the children’s pool, only exacerbated the problem. About 3:00 pm I called it quits, and headed for my cabin to pack and prepare for the evening. As I enjoy spending my last night doing something other than packing to go home, I have found a short cut to alleviate the stress, and resolved to get that unpleasant task over and done with before dinner. Once again, the show was a pre-dinner event at 7:15. The main attraction of the Farwell Show was a magician. I am NOT a fan of magic, and would have preferred not to attend this event, but everyone in my group coerced me into attendance. My opinion was not altered by this performance. Our casual dinner the last night was bittersweet as we said goodbye to our new friends from Toronto. After dinner, the reality that our cruise was almost over, and the real world was closing in came to fruition when it was discovered that my traveling companions had lost the keys to the car we had parked at the airport in Cleveland. A frantic search of all the packed luggage, their cabin, and remaining contents proved fruitless. Coupled with the fact, that my roommate did not have her airline tickets, our last night proved to be a bit harried. As we devised alternative plans, and continued to search in vain, a damper befell the last night festivities. Although this is not the way we had planned to end our trip, we all agreed that overall the cruise was another resounding success and eagerly looked forward to our next cruise adventure. Debarkation: For a ship of this size, the process was relatively seamless. As previously mentioned, the wait for our group to be called to disembark was made much more pleasant by the cruise director’s entertainment in the theater. It was certainly better than being forced to sit in public areas with your luggage, and nothing to do. Once off the ship, porters were plentiful, and very helpful at moving us quickly through customs and the terminal. Luggage was placed in separate trucks according to airlines, and we were quickly transported by bus to the airport. The Delta terminal at the airport was a nightmare. Apparently there were only a few agents trying to accommodate a very large number of passengers at one time. After waiting in line for over an hour, we finally approached the ticket counter only to be rewarded for our wait. The “cruise gods” must have known I still needed a bit more pampering before I returned to reality, as our entire group was bumped to first class, for both segments of our trip home. What a nice way to end an already exceptional vacation. Overall Impressions: Once again WOW is the best word that comes to mind! I truly loved the Eagle Class ships of the RCI fleet, but they did not provide the same elegance I felt onboard the Radiance. She is a real beauty! It is obvious that much thought went into planning this ship, as she is well designed for her planned Alaska itinerary. There are many enclosed spaces that will provide protection from the elements, while still enjoying the awesome beauty of the surroundings. From the Solarium, to the enclosed “Windjammer Alfresco”, attention to detail and year round usability are evident. Other than the children’s pool and sports court flaw I have already mentioned, the only other negative that needs a mention is the lack of beverage stations at the pool area. One needed to go inside the Windjammer during the day to get ice water, or iced tea. As this was the only location for such libations, frequently, guests clad in bathing suits were subjected to walking through the Windjammer. A beverage station outside would have alleviated this problem. Even with this minor complaint, I would be hard pressed to imagine how RCI could improve upon their product. Well-done RCI!

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Mar 9, 2002

San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados

This was our first time cruising and, unlike my husband, I was very nervous, mostly about getting sea sick. This did not happen at all. Don't get me wrong.....you definitely knew when you were moving, especially in the Aurora Theater, which was on the 3rd and 4th deck of the ship. When you got up after a show and tried to climb the stairs, it was as if you were drunk! But, after a couple days of getting used to the movement of the ship, I completely

forgot all about it. This ship is most beautiful and huge. It never seemed crowded except immigration lines and the day at Sea around the pool. Just plan on getting up early and getting a lounge chair by the pool before it gets crowded. You can sleep there, besides, you'll get plenty of sleep when you dead so don't worry about it. We worked out every morning in the gym...thank goodness, because of that we only gained 3 1/2 pounds. The food is good, not superb but good and the service is incomparable. The islands were beautiful. Didn't get off the boat in Antigua because the port they brought you in looked dumpy. At dinner that evening, the other couples we dined with shared their experiences in Antigua and no one had a decent thing to say so I'm glad we decided to relax that day at the pool instead. Barbados was our favorite, most beautiful island, where we rented a jet ski and snorkeled. The waters there are gorgeous. The locals on the islands weren't too bad, some islands they were more in your face than others, but hey, they are just trying to make a living too. Gordon, the cruise director, is the cutest, most funny and adorable man you could ever meet. He made this cruise so enjoyable. We just booked another cruise on Adventure of The Seas in February 2003 and if this cruise is half as great as our first one, we won't be a bit disappointed. Happy Cruising!

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Sep 7, 2001

Alaska

Our cruise on the Radiance was very memorable for many reasons. One being our Captain. Captain Kent Ringborn not only does he drive & navigate that vessel very well but he is very pleasant to talk to and is also a Captain that sings for his passengers and does it well. Another person our cruise director Gordon Wattman He was a very funny and caring person and sings great as well, I would cruise on any ship that Gordon is directing. The Cascades

dining room has both excellent food and service, & looks very elegant. The Windjammer dining area for casual dining has great food also, but is almost the same stuff day after day but again it is good stuff. The deserts very good. May I mention about our Cabin Attendant John, as soon as you leave your cabin for 5 minutes and came back it would be extra clean, and if you needed extra towels or anything the cabin attendant would be there within minutes. One very nice fella that made our 7 days very good, our assistant waiter from Indonesia Jumai (Jumai was his name) would always ask if we needed anything all the time and was very pleasant to talk with also. We hope to see him again but for now we will be penpals. overall great food excellent service and very friendly and personal. Thank you again Radiance of the sea's crew we'll see you all very soon wishing you all many safe journeys to come.

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Jun 15, 2001

Alaska

Having been on Rhapsody (Alaska) and it's sister ship for a 2-week Panama Canal cruise, I was looking forward to Radiance. Overall, I was not disappointed. The placement of the elevators was a pleasant change, affording sea views in many instances. The dining room was beautiful and more elegant than on the other ships, and the service was superb. The alternative dining options, Chopps Grill and Portofino, were excellent! The negatives we noticed were:

noise (we could hear conversation in the cabins on either side of ours); we could hear people walking above our cabin and pulling deck chairs from one spot to another; the corridors were not wide enough to accommodate a utility cart and a wheelchair at the same time; when someone leaned up against the wall in the cabin next door, our wall moved. All this said, we still had a great cruise and wouldn't hesitate to sail Radiance again. Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly and in a timely way. We noticed the balconies appeared smaller than we had had on other cruises, and did not afford the privacy that we had become accustomed to. Overall, we still prefer the smaller ships. But the standard of customer service is outstanding, and we will continue to look to Royal Caribbean and its sister company, Celebrity, for our future cruising experiences.

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May 13, 2001

May 14th, 2001

Embarkation: We arrived at the pier, which is located near Pikes Place Market in downtown Seattle at about 11:15am. There was no line to check in although those that already checked in were beginning to build up. Check-in was painless, with the usual credit card imprint and presentation of the cruise cards. It always helps to have your forms filled out and ready. Too bad the majority of passengers don't seem to feel the same way. An

announcement was made that boarding would begin at 12 noon, and so it did. By this time the line to check-in was winding through several barrier straps and those who already checked in had increased ten fold. At 12 noon they began boarding although in no organized fashion. Everyone piled into a wide hallway that led to the A-pass security registration system and the metal detectors. It was basically a cattle call and my partner and I both felt as if we were waiting in line for a popular ride at Disneyland! Your picture is taken for security purposes and embedded with your cruise card. Then the metal detectors and the obligatory welcome aboard photo, and finally onboard the ship. You are welcomed by a single person then on your own to find your cabin. You enter directly into the Centrum Lobby which is quite impressive. The Cabin: Deck 10 aft, number 1586, Category C (mini-suite). I had the same type cabin onboard VOYAGER, and for some reason it seemed larger on VOYAGER although the square footage listed states otherwise. RCI lists the cabin as 293 sq. ft. with a 41 sq. ft. balcony. The layout is exactly the same as on VOYAGER, with a walk in closet as you enter on one side, and the bathroom complete with tub on the other. The decor is darker and richer than other RCI ships, more suited to Celebrity than the usual RCI pastel decor. Amenities include a terrific safe, hair dryer, mini-bar (only partially full), and remote control TV. RCTV as they call it is excellent. The TV is completely interactive and you may order room service, purchase movies, make dinner reservations, purchase shore excursions and listen to music all through a touch of your remote control. RCI also provides nice bath amenities which were replenished daily. Flowers and a snack pack were waiting for us which was a nice touch from our agent. Our cabin stewardess introduced herself early on, and provided excellent service throughout the cruise. The balcony was fairly large, and contained two chairs and a table of a high quality (not resin plastic). Privacy was quite good and the only time you could see other people was if you were leaning over the rail. Avoid cabins on Deck Seven midship if possible. These cabins (like most balcony cabins) are recessed from the outer hull of the ship, but since they are the first deck of balcony cabins they are above an awning which hangs above the lifeboats. This overhang restricts your view looking down to the water, and you may only look straight out. As you progress to higher decks, this problem is alleviated. Sound proofing was excellent, and we never heard our neighbors or noise from the hall. A doorbell was a nice touch! The Much has already been written about RADIANCE, so I will not get into too much detail. Suffice it to say, RADIANCE is a stunning ship. Areas that stand out are the African themed Solarium, the Centrum Lobby, Aurora Theater, and the Colony Club. These areas really left a lasting impression as some of the most beautiful areas afloat. Unfortunately there are some serious design flaws that hopefully will be addressed on future RADIANCE class ships. The most obvious is a lack of a third (aft) staircase and elevator bank. The entire ship only has 9 elevators for 2100 or greater passengers. For this reason, stairs and elevators were ALWAYS crowded and necessitated longs waits. For myself and partner, it's really not a big deal as taking the stairs is not a problem. For those who are elderly or incapacitated in some manner, the lack of elevators is a real problem. It's interesting to note that on MILLENNIUM, which is built on the same hull platform as RADIANCE, has basically the same layout, but carries less passengers, there are 12 elevators and three stair towers. Similarly sized vessels such as CARNIVAL SPIRIT have as many as 15 elevators and again three stair towers. It amazes me that RCI would build a new vessel with such a serious lack of passenger mobility. Although VOYAGER OF THE SEAS only had two stair towers, there were actually four as they were separated on each side of the ship, and 18 elevators in all. While RADIANCE many times felt crowded, VOYAGER never did. The other design flow problem is just aft of the Aurora Theater. On the lower level of the theater, everyone must squeeze through a small hallway which enters the art gallery and photo shop. There is another hall which enters Books, Books, and Coffee, but this shop closes at 8pm and the doors are locked. Therefore, everyone on the lower level of the theater has only one exit unless you decide to walk outside, which is not always possible due to the weather. Another area which seemed crowded was the Windjammer Cafe. The cafe itself is beautiful and very well laid out, so I think the problem stems from colder weather and the inability to use the outdoor seating areas. Once the ship is in the Caribbean, I'm sure this problem will be alleviated. I loved the Solarium and Shipshape Spa area, and made good use of them every day. Women's and men's steam room and saunas are free of charge, and beautifully laid out and decorated as is the entire spa area. There is also a Thermal Suite which is quite beautiful with saunas facing the ocean with huge windows. There is a charge to use this area, and I believe a flat rate provides admission for the entire cruise. The spa area is run by Steiner's, as is the case on many ships. On RADIANCE, they are adopting a new philosophy where as you enjoy the entire "spa experience" rather then be rushed in and out. Food and Service: I have nothing but great things to say about both the food and service. The menus have greatly improved since my cruise on VOYAGER. We had second seating on the upper level of the Cascades Dining Room. Our table was directly next to floor to ceiling windows which provided incredible views. Service was timely and professional and all food arrived at the correct temperature. These are the basics which RADIANCE more than surpassed. We also enjoyed room service which always arrived quickly and was well presented. Food in the Windjammer was pretty typical, but was also well presented. One evening we enjoyed dinner in Chops Grill. At $20 bucks per person (+ tip), I expected this to be excellent, and it was. I only paid $5 per person at Portofino's on VOYAGER last year, so RCI has certainly increased this charge. I do recommend it, even at the $20 charge, as it truly was a special evening. Entertainment: The shows onboard RADIANCE are two of the best I've seen on a ship. "Welcome To Our World" is the first show, and is more in line with what you might see in Vegas. The second show, "Rockin' In Paradise" was truly excellent, and included some stunts and pyro-technics I have never seen onboard a ship. The theater itself is beautiful and well laid out. I don't think there a bad seat in the house. The dancers and singers were a very talented group, and the leads truly had the strong vocals needed to support these production shows. We also enjoyed the juggler, Jason Garfield who was not only talented, but quite funny as well. Parker Cristan was the Cruise Director, and our cruise was his first onboard RADIANCE. I think he did a great job considering this was his first time on the ship. He was very chatty and could always be seen walking around the ship. The rest of the cruise staff were also very visible and a pleasure to speak with. The Captain, Kent Ringborn is probably the most personable I've ever met. He even sang during his welcome aboard party and I must say his voice is excellent. Staff and Crew: Everyone we encountered was eager, polite and offered a smile. The crew and staff were truly wonderful and seemed sincere to ensure a great cruising experience. Hello's were offered when ever passing a crew member in the hallway, bartenders and wait staff were always available, and our cabin stewardess, dining room waitress and busboy were a pleasure to be served by. The Maitre d' was also extremely helpful, switching us to an excellent table for two directly by the window with no hassle what so ever. The staff and crew seem to be treated rather well on RADIANCE. Each crew cabin is two to a room with private bathroom, refrigerator, VCR and TV. In addition, every crew cabin has an IBM monitor which is linked to the Internet and ship's Intranet. I think this is a first for any cruise ship. Fellow passengers: Mostly from the Pacific Northwest, there was a good mix of all ages. No one group really stood out. There were very few children onboard, or at least they were not noticeable. The crowd did tend to stay up late, which surprised me as the disco was crowded on several occasions (with staff as well). Ports and weather: Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. The ports were beautiful and it was wonderful returning to Vancouver. Several years ago I used to spend quite a bit of time in Vancouver, and this beautiful city remains one of my favorite in the world. I spent the day having lunch with an old friend and partaking in lot's of shopping. It was nice to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, and Vancouver offers excellent shopping especially on Robson Street (a short walk from Canada Place pier). We did not do much in Victoria and the final day was at sea. The sea day was spent cruising at very slow speeds (10 knots or less) around Vancouver Island and up a little way into the inside passage. In fact, we rarely sailed over 10-14 knots which was a little disappointing. I like to "feel" like I'm going somewhere. The weather was mostly overcast and in the 50-60 degree range, fairly typical for this area of the world. There was some drizzle but no downpours which was a plus. RADIANCE sailed with absolutely no vibration what so ever. When I say none, I mean none! The only movement was the occasional turn to port or starboard. In addition, there is no visible emission from the smokestack due to the highly efficient and quiet Gas Turbines. RADIANCE is probably the most environmentally friendly ship afloat, which is perfect for the ecologically delicate Alaska region. I must admit, I really missed the roar of the engines, the slight vibration, and slow rocking that helps me appreciate I am in fact, on a ship! Disembarkation: Quick and easy, by colored coded tags. We stayed in our suite until our color was called. This is also a great time to explore other cabins as many of the doors were open. We were off the ship by 9am and at the airport by 9:45am. We took a towncar which was a $35 flat fee to the airport. A very comfortable way to end the cruise. Conclusion: All in all a great cruise. At the end of the day I prefer VOYAGER to RADIANCE, basically due to the flow and design flaws of RADIANCE and the feeling of crowds at certain times. As I stated earlier, this problem may resolve itself when the ship is in warmer weather such as the Caribbean. RADIANCE is an incredible vessel with a wonderful staff, and I'm certain she will be a success wherever she sails. I would like to try her out on a longer cruise, and in warmer weather to really take advantage of all the great things this ship has to offer. To all her future passengers, you are in for a real treat! Ernest Roller eroller@peoplepc.com

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

We loved this ship. Every inch of it was well laid out, well thought out and beautifully decorated. The festive touches for the holidays (which included many lovely and unique Christmas trees) added and complimented the look. Overall, everything was very pretty except for the pool area. Can’t figure out who fell down on the job, but it was just plain odd. We have been on two Celebrity ships and one Carnival and this ship was hands down

the nicest. We loved the solarium pool area (no kids under 16). The aft deck behind the Wayfarer Café was great for all our lunches and breakfasts. Contrary to some reviews, our room steward was great and our ice didn’t melt. We arrived from Orlando, took a taxi to the ship and bought a couple of bottles of rum at the duty free shop in the terminal before boarding the ship. Upon boarding, they were both taken out of the backpack and held for the duration of the cruise. This was a bit of a shock to us, since we have never had this happen before. Don’t know if the hardnosed approach was strictly an employee in bad humor or a change of policy. We were not informed by the store selling the liquor of any such policy. In fact, we had taken a Celebrity cruise earlier last year from the same terminal and had no problem. This was not a good omen to start off with, because we enjoy having a cocktail on our balcony before dinner. The ship, however, was delightful. We had a balcony cabin 8084. The location was near the Centrum elevators and central stairs, which proved very handy. We never got lost. The storage didn’t seem adequate at first, but then I discovered shelves behind the mirrors. I tend to over pack, so if our clothes fit, yours will too. I also found that “cruise wear” is rather a thing of the past and most people dress down not only on the ship, but for shore excursions as well. I ended up wearing more shorts and cotton tees than Capri’s and silk tanks. We did visit the gym several times and found it very quiet with lots of equipment. Unlike Celebrity, the first night’s seating was at your regular table. We had the late seating, which started out at 8:30PM and then was moved to 8:45PM. We all liked the later seating, but would have liked it moved back to the 8:30 time. The dining room was very pretty, but a bit crowded. They used a lot of large oval tables (perhaps to get more seating in a smaller space) but they are difficult for conversation. Ours was an oblong table for 10 by the window. We had 8 the first night and every night thereafter. The missing guests never appeared and halfway through the cruise, we asked that the leaf be taken out so that we could converse easier. The next night it was done. Our tablemates were absolutely delightful and we all looked forward to dinner each night to catch up on the adventures of the day. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very good. We ordered salmon as an alternative dinner several times and it was perfectly cooked as instructed. (Celebrity could not get this right with two tries). Several times I asked for a main dish to be made into an appetizer and it was no problem. I agree that some of the menus choices did not go together, there was always something we could order that was interesting. I would say the food was generally better than Celebrity. Surprisingly, Carnival’s food isn’t bad, but they rushed us through every meal on that cruise. On Radiance, we were always the last ones out of the dining room, which it a testament to our enjoyment of our companions and the meal. We purchased a “discount drink card” on board. This card entitled you to 12 drinks at a reduced rate of about $3.10 per drink (plus tax & grat of course). It was good for house wine and bar drinks, or drinks that would normally cost up to $4.50 each. Worth investigating. We find the ship’s shows are usually pretty bad, but we usually go to see the comedians. This ship had two and they both were quite funny. The first night was Andres Fernandez and the second show featured Keith Monteith. Stay up – they are good. I read a negative comment about the captain’s party on one review of the Radiance, and I have to say that although that has been our experience in cruises past – it was not on the Radiance. On one of the Celebrity ships, the party was held in the Theater – where it was impossible to get a drink or hors d’oeuvres. The Captains party on the Radiance was held in the Colony Club. It was one of the nicest lounges I have encountered. There were stewards with trays of champagne as you entered and more circulating with additional glasses inside. The hors d’oeuvres were displayed at the entrance. They were very good and very ample. They had a nice combo playing. Of course if you don’t like champagne that might be a problem. In my opinion, it couldn’t have been done better. We didn’t avail ourselves of any of the packaged tours offered by the ship. Several of our tablemates did with poor result. In fact, two of the couples had such bad experiences that they both complained to the tours desk and did receive rebates. If your tour isn’t what it was billed to be, complain. The ship subs these things out and they really won’t know it isn’t up to par if you don’t tell them. Our favorite departure from the ship this time was Orient Beach in St. Maarten. The beach is beautiful, lots of very comfy beach chairs and umbrellas available and lots to do. We decided to go parasailing, which was really fun. Cost about $3.00pp for a cab full of people to the beach and $80.00 for two to do the sailing. Well worth it. We also enjoyed the Boatyard beach in Barbados. It is probably not the prettiest beach on the island, but it is close by the ship and the pure soft white sand and swimming were great. Our friends contracted with a guy (right off this beach) to take them snorkeling. Although they were dubious at first, they decided to try it. For only a few dollars he took them to a fabulous spot with zillions of fish and provided the equipment. They said it was the best snorkeling they had ever done. I believe he was affiliated with Roger’s Scuba (but don’t quote me). Everyone looks for something different in a cruise vacation. My husband and I quite like each other and are not looking for wild partying and loud music. We enjoyed very much our dinner companions and people we met here and there on the ship and on land. We can’t much attest to the cruise director and the antics he wove, but he was very personable as an MC and when we saw him out and about the ship. There were seating areas all around the ship where you could just talk or listen to the music from the main lobby. For us it was a very good fit. We were pleased with - the Beautiful décor; a very pleasant crew; soundproofed halls; good food and excellent captain’s party Needs Improvement – Air conditioning in interior areas too cold; photography service terrible; bringing liquor aboard policy needs to be rethought; late seating could be moved up a little. Tour packages need to be checked by RC from time to time. Some of them were really not at all what was expected.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

First of all, let me say that this is not a mega review of our cruise, since I would be duplicating what Nancy Norris already wrote in her wonderful review, which I found very helpful before we took our trip. You can read Nancy’s review by going to: http://www.cruisereviews.com/rci/Radiance11.htm Since our last cruise was on the Carnival Victory in April 2002, I’ll compare the two on several occasions during my review. Turns out the

couple sitting next to us in the dining room were on the Victory 3 weeks before us, so it was a natural comparison for all of us to make. We flew out of Dulles airport on Saturday morning, leaving 9 inches of snow on the ground along with a temperature of 9 degrees. Needless to say, when we arrived in San Juan at 2:30 in the afternoon and it was 85 degrees with high humidity, we were just a bit overdressed. The taxi ride from the airport to the pier was $17 for the two of us ($16 for the taxi and $1 for the airport fee). This cost is pre-determined and the system is handled very well. When we got to the entrance of the pier, they asked to see our tickets. We explained we were travel agents and needed to pick up our tickets, so they just waved us through. At the next stop, same question, same response. They gave us some paperwork to fill out but did not direct us where to go. (When we checked in for Carnival, they directed us to an area where they gave us our tickets and this system worked much better. We also knew our cabin assignment weeks in advance.) The next stop was to check-in the baggage. Since we did not have tickets, we also did not know our cabin number. However, they did have a copy of the passenger manifest and found our cabin number so we could complete the luggage tags. (Not a very well-organized system.) We asked where we should go to get our tickets and no one seemed to know. I walked up to the nearest counter where Crown & Anchor passengers were checking in and interrupted the ticket agent to inquire. She told us that we just needed to get in the regular line. The line was not very long and only took us about 20 minutes to get to the front. Luckily, there was a guy in a Bacardi Rum booth giving out free samples. (I recommend the 8 year old stuff straight up!) When we came to the front of the line, the lady pointed us to one of the ticket agents whose line only had three groups in front of us (two couples and a foursome). (They don’t wait to point you to the next available agent, like they do at Carnival or for airline tickets.) Our line moved relatively quickly until the 4 people in front of us got there. The agent could not find them on the manifest even though they had tickets in hand. Making a long story short, we stood there for over half an hour waiting for 2 agents and the supervisor to figure out what to do. By this time, people who were way behind us in the long line had already been waited on and were on the ship. Needless to say, I was getting very irritated. My wife kept going over and getting free samples of Bacardi to keep me from loosing it – after all, we were on vacation and this was suppose to be relaxing! After they finally took these people to someplace else to get things sorted out, it was our turn. It took all of 5 minutes to check us in. I got the attention of the supervisor and motioned her over. I told her it was very poor customer service to make people wait for over 40 minutes while they handled the problem. I suggested they should have taken them aside to handle it and let the ticket agent continue to wait on other passengers. She could have cared less! Her attitude was very poor and her customer service skills were equally as poor. (I later found out on a couple of occasions that this seems to be more of an attitude with the people of San Juan than of any particular company. We found them to be impolite and not willing to readily offer assistance, which is exactly the opposite of everyone else in the Caribbean.) However, this was only one of a very few number of complaints I had about the whole trip. We got on the ship, checked into our room, and then immediately checked off the ship to do some shopping. One thing we found was that the liquor store in the terminal sells duty-free and tax-free liquor, which turned out to be the cheapest on our trip. We were also told we could take sodas, beer, and one bottle of wine or champagne back to our cabin. Since sodas and beer are relatively expensive on board, we bought two six packs of soda and two six packs of beer to enjoy in our cabin. This was a nice touch. However, the little beverage bar in the cabins is NOT a refrigerator, so we always had to keep things on ice. One thing I’ll say about liquor, if you bring it on board, they will confiscate it until the last day of your trip. However, it you put a bottle it in a backpack, they will usually not make a big deal about taking it to your room. The ship is very beautiful and well-maintained. The only area I see for improvement is the need for a couple of ice machines and laundry rooms on each deck. We had these plus soda machines on the Victory and it made it much nicer. In fact, on the Victory, the laundry rooms had irons so we could touch up the wrinkles in our dress clothes. On the Radiance, we had to constantly call room service or our cabin attendant to get ice. And speaking of ice, they must not freeze it hard because everyone commented on how fast the ice melted, especially in drinks. We had a standard balcony cabin that was smaller than our standard balcony cabin on the Victory, but still very nice. Our cabin attendant was very good and made sure we were treated well. We ordered coffee every morning and room service was very good. (One thing I learned a long time ago, if you pre-tip your cabin attendant the recommended amount on the first day of the cruise and let them know this is a down-payment for their services, you will get much better treatment.) Several people have posted comments about the poor service on the Radiance. We can confirm this was not the case on our trip. The service we received on the ship was great in all aspects of our cruise. The one thing that struck us was when we said, “Thank you,” to a crew member, they always responded with, “My pleasure.” The service was very good! If fact, because of the comments, we were paying special attention to the service and we can honestly say that except for one night at dinner when our waiter was not feeling well, we did not have even one time where we could have considered it less than good. Before we left on our trip, we contacted Sandals Resorts and got some day-passes to the Sandals in Antigua and in St. Lucia. This was not only a way to check out the resorts for future reference, but it allowed us to drink, eat, and play for the day. The Sandals in Antigua was okay, but not one I would recommend. The Sandals Grand St. Lucian in St. Lucia was wonderful and gets a 5-star rating from me! We had a wonderful day there. I won’t go into all of our experiences at the different ports except to say that we did not buy one shore excursion from the cruise line. It was a wise choice. On St. Thomas, we listened to people who told us to by-pass the shopping area by the pier and go downtown instead. This was very good advice. Taxi cost $3 per person each way. We met a guy name Roy downtown who had an open-sided taxi and after talking to him for a while, we agreed to go on his tour after lunch. We shopped for a couple of hours and found a good deal on a gold neckchain. We met up with Roy again and he took us back to the ship at no cost – as it was part of his tour. We had lunch on the ship and got our snorkeling gear together. We then met him outside along with 6 other couples. He took us on a very nice tour of the island from 1:15pm to 4:45pm for a cost of $20 per person; much better than any shore excursion. As a part of the tour, we also spent 2 hours at Coki beach snorkeling. It was beautiful! There were two separate beaches and both were great! We had wanted to go to Magen’s Bay, but it had rained earlier and the water was not as clear. After snorkeling, we went to a little bar and had the best Island Girls. (These are drinks!) They’re made with lots of rum, bananas, mango, and strawberries mixed in a blender. We finished our tour with several stops for pictures of beautiful scenery, including Magen’s Bay and atop the hill overlooking the town and our ship. We made friends with another couple at our dinner table on the ship and hit it off right away. So, we hung out together and decided to do our own thing instead of taking any of the shore excursions. We rented a car in St. Maarten for $45 and another one in Barbados for $85. I highly recommend doing this, especially if you have a party of four. We had a fantastic time and were always the last ones on board the ship every day. Listening to others on the ship talk about their shore excursions, we definitely did more and saw more for less money than they did. On the French side of the island, we stopped in a village called Merigot. They have an outdoor flea market that was wonderful. We bought a lace tablecloth for $25 and a great cotton Caribbean shirt for $15. We later saw the same tablecloth in a store for $85 and the shirt for $25! We then drove over to Orient Beach where we enjoyed hamburgers and fries for $9 each at the Bikini Beach Restaurant while watching the myriad of bathing attire (and lack thereof) on the beach. After lunch, we walked down past the jetty to the nude beach where we went skinny dipping. Aw yes, when in France…… In Barbados, we rented a car that resembled a dune buggy. It was a hoot driving on the wrong side of the road – something I had always wanted to try. Right after we left the pier, we found the Mount Gay Rum distillery. Of course we had to stop, take the tour, and partake in the free sampling. Later down the road, we found the Malibu Rum distillery and again we had to sample their goods. There are lots of pristine beaches on the west side of the island and they are beautiful; great for swimming and snorkeling. This is the Caribbean Sea side of the island, with the Atlantic Ocean being on the other side. We drove cross country to see Atlantic side and found a great restaurant high on a cliff overlooking the ocean where surfers kept us entertained trying to ride some large waves. When we got back to the city, we got lost. They don’t label their roads with numbers and the maps don’t have names, so it was always fun trying to figure out exactly where we were – but it just led to our adventure. We asked a guy how to get back to the ship and his response was, “Follow me, I’ll take you there.” Fifteen minutes later and many turns, we got to the ship. His display of friendship was indicative of the island. They are truly a very friendly people. Back on the ship, the food was very good in the Cascades dining room. The food in the Windjammer Café was good with lots of selection, but they pre-cook their hamburgers. Food in the Sky View Café was good and they freshly cook their hamburgers. (We all agreed the little restaurant in the back of the Lido deck on the Victory was much better in this regard as they freshly cooked hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and great minute steaks.) We splurged and the four of us went to Portofino’s one night and Chops Steakhouse another. Both are outstanding!! Service was impeccable and the food was magnificent. They are well worth the extra $20 per person. (This is not a charge for the food but for the gratuity.) Both have my highest 5-star recommendation! Since it was our 30th anniversary, I ordered the Grand Romance Package for our trip. When we arrived in our room, the flowers were already in the cabin along with our bathrobes, a bottle of champagne and hors devours. However, the ice had already melted in the bucket and the champagne was not cold, so we had to order more ice and then had to wait till later to open the bottle. Also, they were suppose to have hors devours to us before dinner and chocolate covered strawberries after dinner. On the two nights we had these, they were both delivered at the same time. As a part of the package, we also got an 8x10 portrait in a silver frame, which turned out beautiful. We had the full breakfast delivered on our last full day so we could sit on the balcony while the captain steered the ship to within ½ mile of Montserrat. It was amazing to see the devastation on the island from the volcano. Anyway, the Grand Romance Package was a nice touch and added to our enjoyment of the trip. One thing we really liked about the Radiance compared to the Victory is in the number of announcements. On the Victory, it seemed we were always being bombarded with announcements – very annoying. (This is one of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients about Carnival.) However, on the Radiance they kept the announcements down to a minimum and this was much nicer. The only bad thing was that they had to always announce everything in four languages (English, Spanish, French, and German) since this was definitely an international group of passengers. Another thing we liked about the Radiance was that we never felt crowded. Even though the trip was sold out, we never had the feeling of too many people and too little space. Debarkation is always a pain, but it went relatively smoothly. The couple we met had rented a car in San Juan as they were spending the night, so we had a van waiting to take us to the car rental office. When the van got there, the driver waited as we loaded our own luggage (it’s the Puerto Rico attitude again). Then when we got to the rental car office, we had to unload the luggage ourselves as well. After reloading all that luggage in the car, we went to their hotel to drop off some of the stuff and got to see the Hilton Carib. This is a very nice hotel right on the beach. Later, we stopped at the Hotel Intercontinental and found this to be even nicer than the Hilton. I would recommend these two to clients who would like to spend a night or two in San Juan. We also went by the Embassy Suites near the airport and this was also very nice. We had just enough time to drive over to the Bacardi distillery and take the tour. After the obligatory sampling of their products, we drove to the airport for our flight back to chilly Virginia. All in all, it was a great trip. Except for the hassle with check-in, we really have no complaints. The only suggestion we would make to Royal Caribbean is to add the ice machines. The addition of soda machines and laundry facilities would be nice, but are not as important. We would recommend this ship and itinerary, but this is definitely a ‘port intensive’ cruise since we visited 6 ports in 7 days and only had one day at sea. If you’re looking for a lot to see and do, this is the cruise to take. If you’re looking to lay back and relax, I would suggest a cruise with more days at sea. Please contact me if you would like more detailed information.

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Nov 30, -0001

Cruise to Nowhere

These were our 15th and 16th cruises (back-to-back) in the past four years and our 6th & 7th on RCI. We booked these cruises so that we could be among the first to experience the much touted new ship the Radiance of the Seas which is the first of a new class of ships that RCI is introducing. The new Radiance class ships will be in size between the megaships (Vision class) and gigaships (Voyager class). Unlike the most recent gigaships, the

Voyager and the Explorer, this one is Panamax (can pass through the Panama Canal). She is indeed a beautiful ship. Needless to say, we had another interesting cruise. Again the weather was perfect, the Caribbean Sea was calm, the moon was full and the stars were bright: the right ingredients for relaxation. First Impressions The Radiance of the Seas at 90,090 tons and 962 feet long, can accommodate 2,100 passengers and 900 crew members. She has the beautiful sea green tinted windows on the upper exterior, typical of the RCCL ships, which distinguishes them from all other lines. Approximately 50% of her exterior is glass walled including four glass elevators facing the sea and two more facing the Centrum. Her sleek silhouette recalls the smaller RCCL ships, yet simultaneously she incorporates several amenities of the larger Voyager class while avoiding the boxier shape. She looks more like a gigantic yacht. The Radiance is truly a lovely ship with nautical motifs and tasteful comfortable appointments. Inaugurated on April 7, 2001, (one day after we left her) she left for repositioning to Seattle, via the Panama Canal, and will cruise to Canada, Alaska and Hawaii before returning this fall to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to cruise to the Southern Caribbean Islands. She has many exciting cruises ahead and we wish her Godspeed! Embarkation This was the first time that we arrived in Port Everglades and couldn't locate our ship. Due to a late departure of the Millennium from Pier 18, the Radiance was kept out of port until well after 1:00 pm, as matter of fact she docked at the pier a little before 2:00 pm. We had this straight from Captain Ringborn himself; even with this unexpected delay, the Radiance missed its scheduled 2:00 pm boarding time by only 15 minutes. We arrived in port at 12:45 pm, were processed and went by elevator to the upper waiting room from where we could see the ship approaching Pier 18. This was the first boarding of this ship in Ft. Lauderdale, with mostly new personnel, so there was some chaos. Some passengers were upset, but most of them understood the problem and knew that boarding time had been set at 2:00 pm, thus they were not perturbed by this small inconvenience. Life can be wonderful with a bit of patience. Unfortunately we heard some strident loud voices, when in actuality boarding was only slightly delayed and the reason was given over and over to people who didn't care to listen. It's for sure that these people never heard the statement: " I travel a lot; I hate to have my life disrupted by routine." The unexpected can be refreshing. Our boarding cards were not at the counters on the pier, but we received a temporary boarding pass and were told to pick up the cards at Guest Relations on Deck 4, which we did. We were disappointed for not receiving wheel chair assistance during embarkation or debarkation. Vincent lately has been having mobility problems and has extensively used his wheel chair, thus we had asked for assistance, but to no avail. On our recent cruises, on the Celebrity Millennium and Costa Atlantica, we were escorted to our cabins by crew members, but on this ship we had to search for the cabin ourselves, without a ship's map or deck plan which had not yet been printed, thus not available for passengers. Upon entering on Deck 4, the Centrum was alive with piano music and we took the glass elevator to Deck 9 and in a few minutes we were in our cabin. Our luggage arrived while we were at dinner (main seating). On a new ship, it takes time to put into place all of the services which we take for granted (i.e. Do Not Disturb/Make Up Cabin signs, water carafes in cabins, etc., which were not yet available on this ship). The Ship In 1998, for the initial planning of the Radiance of the Seas, Captain Kent Ringborn became the site manager for RCI at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where he remained for the entire building project of this ship. It can be a source of comfort for cruisers to know that this Captain has an intimate knowledge of his ship. He literally came on board before she was afloat! (More later about the amazing Captain Ringborn) The nine deck high Centrum is refreshingly different; it has two tall waterfalls and each deck has semi-circular balconies from which guests can look down over the entire Centrum. Up high is a suspended sculpture of delicate spoked half wheel arches which create interesting light patterns on the walls. There is a spectacular bar flanked by huge crystal urns filled with yellow lemons and white calla lilies, a green glass stairway between decks 4 and 5 and tropical plants everywhere. The large dance floor has a nautical compass-like design in colored marble. People were dancing in the Centrum every evening. On deck 6, toward the aft, is located the traditional Schooner Bar, augmented by a long foyer with small refurbished antique cannons and ship's ropes; when walking through this area, the air is pungent with the smell of old ships. On the left is a full length portrait of Jenny Lind, the famous soprano of the 1850's, known as the "Swedish Nightingale" and appropriately placed on the next wall is a painting of the ship "Nightingale" in a storm. We hope the passengers recognize the intended pairing. In this bar are also the foyers and entrances for Portofino and Chops Grille, the upscale "reservation only" restaurants. Further on toward the rear is the Colony Club, styled after an English Men's Club, which consists of four separate areas: The Bombay Billiard Club, the Jakarta Lounge, the Singapore Sling's and the Calcutta Card Club. In the Billiard Club there are the first two self-leveling billiard tables at sea; it's amazing how they compensate for the ship's motion through the use of gyroscope technology, yet the balls remain absolutely stable. Captain Ringborn related to us that on the transatlantic voyage, the engineer, who oversaw installation of these tables, was found sleeping blissfully on one table during a rather nasty storm at sea: clever fellow to avoid rolling, pitching, and motion sickness. This made us wonder if there would be gyroscopic beds, cabins or decks some day, eliminating the needs for motion sickness medicine. Beyond the billiard room is the center of the Colony Club. It has tiered seating and a sunken dance floor. It was here where Captain Ringborn sang to the passengers "Welcome to Our World;" quite a pleasant surprise and he was in fine voice: a cultivated baritone. A modern day Renaissance man! The captain's welcome aboard cocktail was held here as were the daily bingo games. The Cascades Dining Room, Decks 4 & 5 is elegant with its two deck sweeping semi-circular staircase flanked by two dark blue waterfalls (for those planning an onboard wedding this would make a dramatic backdrop). On the ceiling there is a simple huge oval glass light and ten round glass lights circling the lower tier. There are ten two deck high columns covered with white sheer fabric and twenty wooden columns downstairs; the chairs are blue/green with arms -- very comfortable. But the most fascinating sight in this room is the back wall mosaic: Three mermaids and a dolphin cavorting on a copper and gold sea, while the gods of the wind blow down on them from clouds above. Tres belle! We found the nicest public place for relaxing to be the African themed Solarium Deck 11; three bigger than life elephants, with a bridge in front of them, form a wall overlooking the pool. There is a bronze lion cub reposing on the edge of the pool and monkeys high up in the tropical plants and a bald eagle and a background audio tape of jungle sounds. Very relaxing. They should remove the English ivy plants, since they are not tropical and mostly dying anyway. There is a medium sized jacuzzi, two thatched roofed cabanas for rinsing off and more than enough wooden chaises. On Deck 13 is the Starquest Disco and it's a RADIANT room with sparkling crystals imbedded in the windows and walls in galaxy designs: A must see! Right next door is the Hollywood Odyssey featuring a life-size bronze of Marilyn Monroe with billowing skirts from the movie the "Seven Year Itch." This ship has many delights for the eye, some of which are quite remarkable and every stairwell has huge colored glass murals. There are many more public places that we have not yet mentioned, but the three deck high Aurora theatre is a must see. We believe that there are no bad seats or obstructed views in this theatre. Other interesting places are the Champagne Bar on deck 6, the Sports Court/Country Club, with the rock-climbing wall and miniature golf course on deck 12, a very spacious Ship Shape Spa, the Seaview Cafe and the Adventure Beach with water slide and splash pool for kids. We are certain to have missed some interesting locations on board, but our cruise on this ship lasted only five days. We must plan a longer cruise to get the information needed to write a thorough review, but for now this must do. Vincent recommends Books, Books & Coffee on deck 5, adjacent to the shops. There were not too many books for sale, but we bought some exquisite liquor filled chocolates (reasonably priced). However, the most favored spot here is Seattle's Best which brews the best specialty coffees at sea, such as Espresso, Cappuccino, Caffe`- Latte and Granita, and these beverages were all free of charge, including some great cookies. The Cabin Our Deck 9 Deluxe Oceanview cabin #9592 with balcony was a nice size. When entering on the right there is a bathroom with circular shower with curtain (we missed the Plexiglas door), a single sink with triple mirror and a single medicine cabinet (beware of the sharp corner on the cabinet door). There is blue decorative tile with a lifesaver motif centered with white daisies, nice touch. Then there was a double blue/gold velour sofa and what was listed as a queen sized bed was really a king sized one with an extra firm mattress. Entering on the left there is a triple wardrobe, a vanity/desk with a triple mirror and after that a three-tiered cabinet with a safe in the top section, in the middle an interactive TV (nice for checking on your onboard account, but not yet functional) and on the bottom a well stocked mini-bar refrigerator. A wall to wall drape separated the sitting area from the bedroom and another drape covered the far glass wall with the sliding door to the small balcony. The cabin was pleasantly decorated in blue, gold, and burnt orange with lots of natural maple wood. The stewardess, Neneng, was new and needed prompting, but was willing and pleasant. Since our veranda was a bit larger than others of similar cabins (the shape of our veranda was trapezoid, not rectangular, due to our cabin's position near the ship's center where it bulges out), we asked Neneng for a chaise to be placed on the veranda with the two chairs and tiny table already there. She took a while but did bring one. Note on shipboard etiquette: Do not flick cigarette butts off your balcony -- they will land on our balcony if your cabin is above or forward of ours. The Food The Welcome Aboard Buffet was very good as with all of the Windjammer offerings. The new set up with several islands is a bit confusing with a chaotic traffic pattern on the first day, but the signs above the fare are helpful and it did get better in future days. There was staff ready to carry trays to the tables, which was necessary due to the wheel chair. The desserts were excellent: fantastic fruit tarts, eclairs, cookies (Mary was hooked on the oatmeal and chocolate chip ones). We had breakfast (full American) in our cabin the first two days, but then room service was inexplicably terminated for the rest of the cruise, from then on we ate breakfast at the Windjammer. However, the last morning we had breakfast in the dining room and it was almost deserted. Perhaps too many rumors of two hour breakfasts scared people away. We usually ignore rumors and see for ourselves. We had excellent service and a delicious meal. On our way out, we encountered Mehmet Soyler, Wait Staff Trainer, whom we had previously met on both the Voyager and the Explorer. He had been an excellent waiter to us on the Voyager and he appreciated our writing him up in our review. We are sure he will be successful in training the new crew to bring "snappy" service to this ship, a badly needed improvement! There was some improvement in service in just the five days we were on the Radiance, but we expect to see better reviews as time goes by. The main dining room food was fair to good. The best dishes were shrimp cocktail, Peking duck and the desserts (chocolate soufflé, tiramisu`, ice cream but no swans!). The lack of wine stewards was soon evident when Vincent's wine was misplaced. Service was slow but pleasant, we guess they need to find their "sea legs"! The ship has two alternative dining options: The Portofino, an upscale Euro-Italian restaurant, and the Chops Grille, both requiring reservation and a $20 fee. We checked out the menu at the Portofino and found it the same as the one on the Explorer. We also found out that there has been no changes in the chef involved in the creation and formulation of the Portofino's menu. Thus we decided not to try this restaurant again, since our last experience on the Explorer was not satisfactory. In our review of the inaugural cruise of the Explorer we suggested that for creating a menu with the true taste (gusto) of Italian cuisine, RCI has to hire a chef who truly knows what Italian food should taste and use the right ingredients to achieve the expected flavors, which is not currently happening at the Portofino. We did dine at Chops Grille with the Captain, and the Environmental Officer Debbie Nylund (this was a treat for Vincent since he is a retired Professor of Environmental Health) and Debbie's friend, a lady passenger from Chicago. The Captain is a wonderfully warm gentleman, who has spent most of his life at sea after graduating from the Swedish Merchant Maritime Academy. His love of the sea and ships is much in evidence. We had a wonderful meal consisting of grilled veal, cooked to perfection, broiled portobellos with roasted peppers, New England clam chowder (as a native Bostonian, Mary gave it an A+) and desserts were Mississippi Mud Pie, Tiramisu` and ice cream. Don't miss it, allow approximately two hours, if you make reservations for 6:30 pm, you'll just make the 9:00 pm show as we did. Service was casual and we had an excellent time with delightful company. To be sure that there are available tables, make your reservation during the first few hours aboard the ship. Entertainment Cruise Director Gordon Whatman (England) was highly visible, ebullient and has set the goal of making the Radiance the friendliest ship afloat. We feel he is succeeding. A university educated mechanical engineer, he also has a finely tuned voice (opera background). We have it on good report from reliable sources ( Mary's sister Elizabeth and her husband Vito who raved about his performance) and other cruisers who said that he wowed the audience. The welcome aboard show "Rockin in Paradise" had great dancers, but the singing (the microphone check failed to tone down a too loud sound) and the costumes were not the greatest. The second night there were two brothers from Argentina (Mario & David) who did a hilarious routine on the "trip to nowhere" and on the strange habits of elderly Italian gentlemen hitching up their trousers. They ended up with a breathtaking performance of twirling "boles" and were warmly applauded. They perform on Telemundo (Spanish) TV, Miami. The final show was "Welcome to Our World," an around the world tour with wonderful costumes: Chinese, French, African and Spanish segments with excellent visual effects! Great dancing, but the singing was loud and dissonant. The Casino is the usual smoky, busy place. The final night it was crowded with so many gamblers trying to recoup their losses, that we gave up and sought the peace and quiet of our veranda. But on this "Cruise to Nowhere" it was open every day and cruisers were truly enjoying it. We had our time in it, when it was less crowded, and made our usual donation to the slot machines and the poker table. The Centrum frequently had a wonderful group "Upscale" with a female vocalist so terrific that she attracted people on all nine decks of balconies. Sorry we can't attach a name to her, we asked at guest relations and everyone was so new that they couldn't identify her. There was an abundance of activities to suit all: art auctions, Ship Shape exercise programs, bingo, line dancing, contests, horse racing, etc., etc., and a fine library. If a passenger was bored it was not Gordon's fault. Service Since many new ships are scheduled to come on line in the near future, a new experiment took place on the Radiance: More than 60% of the staff is new, not just to the ship, but also to the service industry. RCI has initiated a new system aboard this ship. There are no longer officers in charge of the service crew, such as a Chief Purser or Hotel Manager, who are in the chain of command of the ship, but in their places there are civilian administrators: a comptroller and a general manager, who oversee the hotel activities on board. We did write to Helmut Leikauf, General Manager, requesting an appointment; however, we did not have the chance to meet with him. He set up two appointments, which he had to cancel due to emergencies. Basically since our questions went unanswered, we approached this cruise like an ethnography and tried to make sense out of some of the incidents we encountered: we ended up attributing problems to "unschooled help." Some passengers complain loudly and rudely. We prefer to ask politely for whatever we need and we are always served pleasantly. We were onboard for a restful cruise and we had one. Debarkation We had priority white tags, and were on land by 8:15 am. However, unlike Costa and Celebrity Lines, there was no one to help with the wheel chair upon debarking. We had a hair-raising experience when on a long steep ramp the chair picked up speed and was difficult to hold back. We did the fifty yard dash in record time for us! In retrospect we should have insisted on some assistance to debark. After this close call, next time we will. Conclusion This was one of our worst cruises as far as service, but we still loved it. The service was the poorest, especially to those who consider RCI among the lines with the best service at sea. Not that it matters much, but this was our first cruise without having chocolates on the pillows at night. We suggest that RCI train the staff prior to offering cruises to paying passengers; otherwise, the line's reputation becomes tainted, especially with new customers. When novice cabin stewards or waiters are utilized on board they should be closely supervised by experienced staff. In our opinion this experiment has failed and we want to post this review on the internet hoping that RCI will become aware of the mistakes and try to prevent repeating them. We are addicted to cruising and plan to remain so for many years. Are we going to cruise again with the Radiance of the Seas and with other RCI ships? Of course we will! One positive note on the training of the new crew of this ship was passed to us by Debbie Nylund, the Environmental Officer. She assured us that her priority has been training the crew on safety in emergency situations. This was done prior to other training activities, including service. Safety to us is the most important aspect on a ship or in any other place indeed. And we hope that the lessons on safety are not forgotten while the crew is trained to perform excellent service. Happy Cruising!

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Nov 30, -0001

Canada

Monday 01 October came and we headed into Seattle. We took a quick drive down to the pier and then did lots of circling to try and find parking. Ended up parking in right across from Pier 66 (where Radiance was docked) and found out they had a special section just for folks going on the cruise. They even checked our baggage for us and took care of getting it onboard the ship. A quick walk across the Sky Bridge and then we got in the

“Already checked baggage line” (as opposed to the much longer “We need to check our baggage line”). A quick trip through the check in and we were on board the ship by 1 pm. And then Dan fell in love. We quickly located our cabin on Deck 7, dropped off our carry on baggage and then took off to explore the ship. Dan wanted to see ‘everything’ on the ship and so we did. While trying to decide what to do about dinner, we ran into a lovely young lady from South Africa who was giving out $5 dollars off coupons for Chops that evening. So we made reservations to eat there. By this time, Dan was ready to go back to the cabin so he could grab our digital camera and start taking pictures of the ship. (He ended up taking some 200 shots during our 4 days and most of them were taken onboard). Being that both of us are techno heads, we went off in search of where to sign up for the in cabin Internet access. Back to our cabin by 5 pm so we could watch the ship disembark from the pier. It was amazing to us just how quiet this ship was during this. Our cabin was located at the stern and we hardly ever heard anything. Vancouver was disappointing. Our helicopter tour was canceled due to the heavy fog. But Dan had a wonderful time just sitting on our deck and watching the other ships in the harbor. We also agreed that Vancouver was only a 4 hour drive for us so we really weren’t that excited to see the sights. Returning to our cabin that evening, we were delighted to find that our Room Steward had folded some towels to look like a rabbit (using a pair of our sunglasses as eyes) in addition to folding down our bed and leaving us chocolates. Victoria was amazing. We took a 4 hour bus tour that included a stop at the Castle, tour of downtown and some of the neighborhoods, and Tea at the Empress. Victoria is a very lovely city and Dan wants to go back again. This evening, our steward folded the towels and hung them from a clothes hanger to look like a Monkey! Our day at Sea was a blast. There was so much going on throughout the ship.. but while walking about, it never felt crowded at all. During this day, we decided that we both really enjoyed cruising and put down a deposit for a 3 day Canada cruise next May. As this cruise is 2 months before our July wedding, we’re calling it the “Oh my gosh, we’re getting married in two months and need to relax” cruise. We’re also already looking into the Radiance Panama Canal Cruise in November of 2002 as our Honeymoon.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

This was my first time sailing with RCCL and I would have to say that this was the worst cruise of the four that I have taken. In speaking with other passengers that I met on the ship, who have cruised before, they agreed with my assessment. We don't know if it was just a fluke cruise or the Radiance itself, but the food was terrible. The activities lame and two of the ports (Antigua and St. Lucia) were severely lacking in activities

outside of going to the beach. Although, St. Lucia itself is a beautiful island, there wasn't much offered in the way of tours, etc. It is a small island and you could see it all in about an hour. The tour guide kept repeating herself and I think we saw the same beach twice. On to the food, I had heard rave reviews about the Windjammer Cafe and was very disappointed. We found the food tasteless with each day's offering only slightly different from the last. The dining room was a little better, but the food was so over salted that our mouths were getting raw by the end of the cruise. This was our family reunion and we had individuals returning home with swollen joints, etc. from the salt overdose. There were virtually no activities planned during days in port outside of laying by the pool. This did not seem like a such a bad deal until we hit rain and had nothing to do but shop in the rain at the port stores. On the brighter side, the service and staff of the Radiance were wonderful. I had no problems whatsoever with the crew and staff. I might give another RCCL ship a chance, but doubtful I'll ever step aboard the Radiance again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

After just returning from a family reunion on board the beautiful Radiance of the Seas I felt almost an obligation to write of this wonderful ship and its staff so that other families might benefit from our experience. Our group consisted of several very experienced travelers with many cruise experiences and many children ranging in age from 21 to 4. It took about one day on board for the unanimous opinion to hold that this was by far

the finest cruise ship any had ever been on. The food was outstanding. OUr dinners in the Cascades dining room was as good as any you would find in the finest restaurants. The food in the Windjammer buffet was always good, always varied, always fresh and the deserts especially were always great. The staff in the Windjammer was always helpful and even though it was buffet service one did not have to wait long for a staff person to come by and fill up your ice tea or take your plate. Our waiter was phenomenal with service second to none. The amenities on board for the kids was exceptional. There was not one young person in our group (14 kids) who was ever bored or lacking for company. The entertainment on board was always fun, always professional and with the exception of the cruise director who was incredibly annoying, everything was outstanding. The ports were fine. St. Thomas is what you would expect; lots of jewelry stores! Antigua is a dump. St. Marten was beautiful, especially the French side and the beaches in Barbados were quite nice. For the most part, Caribbean islands are all fairly similar and if you have done them once there is not a lot of further appeal. Every detail in this boat is near perfect. The sports bar was a popular hang-out. The shops nice and the various bars beautiful. The only complaint is the typical free for all on sea days for deck chairs. For families especially, I cannot strongly enough recommend this boat. Book it soon and enjoy!

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Nov 30, -0001

South America

I'm addressing here a very important issue when cruising, luckily hardly covered in reviews... and that is when things go terribly wrong, in our family case, when a member of our party dies onboard. Here is when you truly see how great a cruise line and their crew and shore members are! Our mother lost her partner suddenly on their 2nd day of a 2-weeks cruise in South America. The compassion of Senior Doctor, Alberto Berrio; Santiago Scarone,

Guest Services Manager; Desiree Saoncela, Assistant Guest Services Manager ; Felipe Garcia de Paredes, Staff Captain and ship's Master, Trym Selvag made all the difference in the world in such tragic circumstances. Last but not least, Joseph Duenas, Care specialist of Royal Caribbean shoreside team has been an angel in keeping the family updated, helping with the necessary arrangements always in an efficient, classy & most compassionate way. Hope it never happens to you, but know you're in good hands when travelling with Royal Caribbean.

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Nov 30, -0001

Vancouver to Honolulu

One tendered ashore on a sparkling morning to the welcoming sight of a replica of the 19th Century brig, Carthaginian II. Nearby was the historic Pioneer Inn – constructed in 1901, it was Lahaina’s first hotel and is still in use today. The 14th Annual Lahaina Banyan Tree Ho’olaulea was being held beneath the branches of the enormous landmark tree. Christine never misses a shopping opportunity, and this arts and crafts festival did not

disappoint her. A sea glass necklace and ceramic Hawaiian flower bowls are lovely keepsakes. A reenactment of a royal procession awed the crowds and presented unique photo opportunities. Lunch found us at Kimo’s Restaurant; the shaded deck overlooked the harbor and gave an unspoiled view of the Radiance of the Seas. Richard sampled broiled opi – a sweet white fish; Christine opted for grilled ahi – yellow fin tuna – with a spicy Thai salad. Wo Hing Society Museum is a tribute to the Islands’ earliest immigrants. At the temple we met the museum’s curator, Basaba Paratacharya. She explained how Wo Hing was established in 1909 as an aid society to assist Chinese laborers on the Islands and to help maintain their ties to the homeland. There are fewer than 20 members today. In addition to the temple, the site includes noteworthy Chinese artifacts. At a separate restored cookhouse, one can envision meal preparation in enormous pots for sugar cane workers and their families and/or watch early Hawaiian documentary films by Thomas Edison. Imagine gently rippling Pacific waters kissing a white sand beach, an evening sky illuminated by a crescent moon framed between swaying palm trees and the Radiance of the Seas aglow at sea providing the fantasy backdrop for sharing a meal with friends at Pacific’O Restaurant. The varied and tempting menu enticed us. A coconut crusted crab and shrimp cake appetizer was settled on by one – but enjoyed by all. Salad picks ranged from Shogun Caesar to roasted Maui onion and herbed goat cheese with a smoked tomato dressing to upcountry greens with balsamic herb vinaigrette. When it came to entrées, four chose sesame crusted racks of New Zealand lamb with roasted macadamia nut sauce and Hawaiian chutney, and one had pan-roasted jumbo scallops and pork tournedos with oyster garlic butter sauce, pesto and Maui onion salsa. The accompanying 1997 Stag’s Leap Petit Syrah complemented all selections. We are still pinching ourselves in disbelief and delight over our picture perfect evening in Lahaina. Another day awaited us on the island of Maui. Whalers Village – a huge up-scale hotel and shopping complex located on the K’anapali coast – was our destination. A stroll along the beachfront was warm and inviting, and our brief rest stop afforded the chance to write a few postcards. We soon returned to Lahaina for lunch at Royal Seafood Chinese Restaurant, where our selections of ma po tofu (Szechuan-style braised bean curd) and crispy salt and pepper baked opi were quite good. However, our emergent tastes for Hawaiian seafood will be impossible to satisfy once we return home. Nawiliwili, Kaua’i At a third reunion, we joined some other previous cruisemates – who live on Kaua’i – for lunch at Duke’s Canoe Club at the Kaua’i Marriott Hotel in L'hu’e. Grilled fish tacos were chosen unanimously. The outdoor seating alongside a small sunny cove provided a comfortable setting for our get-together and a chance to learn first-hand about living in paradise. Later, exploration of the Marriott’s gardens and swimming pool convinced us this would be an ideal future vacation spot. JJ’s Broiler Restaurant beckoned on the way back to the pier. A frosty cool drink on the inviting umbrellaed deck was a nice way to end a relaxing day on this beautiful island. Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i Tendering into Kailua-Kona was like sailing into a postcard. The farmers’ market offered attractive selections of local produce and arts and crafts. Our souvenirs were augmented by a coral necklace and assorted flavors of marlin jerky, which sadly could not come home with us. A rocky and irregular coastline allowed only a few stretches of navigable beach, however, the nearby Hulihe’e Palace – built by King Kal’kaua in 1885 – and the lovely granite Moku’aikaua Church were interesting diversions. Historic Kona Inn was chosen for lunch because of its open-air dining in the heart of Kailua. Again, we were kept company by the sight of the Radiance of the Seas offshore. This property was build in 1928 and maintains the look of bygone days. The Casablanca fans were particularly noteworthy – operated from a single power supply, they were interconnected to the source by a succession of belts. From our papasan chairs, we had delicious grilled spearfish – Richard’s as a sandwich and on a Caesar salad for Christine. Honolulu, Oahu Requisite photos were snapped at the neighboring Aloha Tower. Moored here were the idle Patriot and Independence cruise ships. The recent bankruptcy of American Classic Voyages has been a huge economic loss to the Islands. We visited briefly a nearby arts and crafts festival before heading toward Chinatown. Not prepared for the dilapidation and filth that attacked the senses, we could not bring ourselves to window shop, investigate the food markets nor settle on a restaurant for lunch. We retreated hastily to Waikiki – a very congested, over-developed tourist haven. We were grateful for the refuge of House of Hong Restaurant and soothing plates of baby eggplant in garlic sauce and chili shrimp. The return to the ship on the gratis Hilo Hattie’s shuttle bus provided an insightful orientation to major resorts and landmarks. Disembarkation We are very tolerant travelers, but our patience was tested by the gracelessness of debarkation, which was exacerbated by the heat and stringent USDA and security checks. The 3-1/2 hours allowed for this process, left just 20 minutes at the gate prior to boarding the plane. Except for the one-half-inch of leg room on the fully booked connecting red-eye flight out of Los Angeles, the remainder of the journey was unremarkable. Conclusion This stress-free holiday aboard the astonishing Radiance of the Seas exceeded our expectations. We were delighted to bring together past cruise companions and thankful for precious time shared with them. The opportunity to meet so many others with a mutual love of the sea was also something which will long be cherished. Already contemplating our next cruise destination – wherever that may be – we hope it will be just as pleasant and relaxing. Aloha!

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Nov 30, -0001

Pacific Northwest (4 days)

I booked this cruise in May of 2001 in a category M guarantee. I was assigned cabin # 1005, a category M, on the top passenger deck. It was a good location, other than being almost all the way forward. It was 1 cabin from the bridge. I took this cruise with my mom who had never cruised before. This was my 3rd Royal Caribbean Cruise and 4th over all (the other being Celebrity Infinity in March 2001 to Hawaii). The Radiance and the Infinity

are built on the same hull design, but are quite different in the public areas. The Infinity is quite elegant with bizarre artwork. The Radiance has more of a “wow” factor, more color, and I found the art more tasteful and more pleasant. The Infinity, however, wins hands down for more pools and more hot tubs! The Radiance has only 1 hot tub in the Solarium and 2 outside, whereas Infinity has 2 and 4, respectively. If I were going to Alaska, I would take that into account. Now for the cruise itself! We arrived at the Port of Seattle a little after 11 am on Monday the 8th of October. We had dropped our Hertz rental car at their downtown location and they gave us a $5.00 credit to cab it to the pier. We rented the car at the airport on Saturday and spent 2 days visiting friends and relatives. No charge to drop downtown - good deal! We gave our big suitcases to a porter at the door and then proceeded to get in line. Security was definitely extra tight. I have never had to show my I.D. so many times to get on a ship! The lines were not too long and we checked in, got our super-charge blue cards activated, and we went to wait by the door. Good news! Only 1 card to carry! Your super-charge is also your room key. This was not the case on my previous RCI cruises. They made an announcement that we could board, but not to go to our rooms until 1 pm. Lunch would commence at Noon, so we had some to look around before eating. The ship is definitely stunning. We went up to deck 11 and viewed the Seattle skyline. It had been raining in the morning, but it was starting to clear up and blue sky was peeking through the clouds! At noon, we went to the Windjammer for the welcome aboard buffet. It was very good! I have only made it to 1 welcome aboard buffet before (on the Enchantment) and this was ten times better than that one was. They had carved roast beef, mashed potatoes & gravy, wrap sandwiches, pasta, salad, salmon, veal stew, fruit, etc. But the desserts were AMAZING! They had pastry tarts filled with cheesecake and fruit on top (peaches, kiwi, blackberries, raspberries, etc.) that were very good. They also had several other selections, including a very rich chocolate cake brownie. Royal Caribbean’s desserts are much better than Celebrity’s in my opinion. By the time we were finished eating it was 1 pm so we went to check out our cabin. It was much bigger than previous inside cabins I have had (Category M on the Rhapsody and Category K on the Enchantment). There was room for a loveseat and the table was nice and small so it didn’t get in the way. Our beds were pushed together, so we talked to our cabin steward about making them into twins. I guess he didn’t understand, because they were still together after dinner. So we just pushed them apart ourselves, and put the night stands in the middle. Our luggage arrived in the afternoon sometime and my mom and I took turns unpacking and we found enough space for all of our stuff. For sail-away, I had made plans to meet with Carol and Terry from B.C. and their friends Dan and Denise poolside. Carol and I had been e-mailing each other before the cruise, and she was nice to send me brochures of things to do in Victoria because she lives 30 minutes from there. My mom and I ordered a drink from the Solarium bar and off we went! It was a little chilly, but we managed to stay out there awhile. We all went up to deck 12 to get a better view. We went back to our cabin to freshen up for dinner and there was a note on the door that our table was changed to 407, a large table by the window. We went to the dining room and a waiter brought us to our table. We were the first to arrive so we took a window seat. The Cascades Dining Room is very nice, but not as stunning as the Infinity with her windows spanning both levels in the back. Our other dining companions were Leslie and Marshall from Dayton, TN; JP and Cindy from Vancouver, BC; and Mike and Kathy from Vancouver. Mike and Kathy only ate with us once as they ate in Chops the first night, dined with the Captain the second night, and in Portofino on the last night. Mike was the manager/director of the Port of Vancouver/Canada Place so he knew Captain Kent. Mike had toured the Radiance early in the season and said he told his wife they had to take a cruise on this ship! He was very impressed. Dinner that night was an Italian theme. I had Prosciutto and Melon, Strawberry Bisque Soup, Turkey Picatta, and Tiramisu and Pistachio ice cream for dessert. My mom had the Sirloin Steak. The wait staff sang for us that night. Our waitress was Branka from Slovakia. Our server was Illi (sp?) but I can’t recall where he was from. He was very quiet. Branka was an excellent waitress. She has previously worked on the Majesty and the Voyager. That evening after dinner was the welcome aboard show. There was only one show that night at 8 pm. There were plenty of seats. Gordon Whatman, the cruise director did a little introduction and sang with the orchestra. He is very good, probably the most memorable cruise director I have had and this was the shortest cruise I have taken. Then the entertainment was the juggling comedy of Chuck Gunter. It was entertaining. Later that evening I went to the Hollywood Odyssey to watch Karaoke (I don’t sing), and then I hung out in the Starquest Disco (a.k.a. the Viking Crown Lounge) but it was pretty dead that night. Day 2, Vancouver, BC The night before I placed an order for some room service breakfast to be delivered, to tied us over until we could get to the Windjammer for breakfast ;) We received 2 plates of fruit, 2 plates of pastries (about 6 on each plate!), coffee, juice, and a plate of bacon (I love their bacon!) We nibbled while we each got ready for our day. We put some pastries in some Ziplocs to bring ashore. After meeting my mom in the Windjammer, we left the ship to look for the bus stop. We planned to do the Horse drawn tours of Stanley Park http://www.stanleypark.com . They had a 9:20 am scheduled pick-up by Canada place. We boarded the free bus and the driver took us to Stanley Park. We then bought tickets for the tour and got on the “trolley”. It was quite nippy, but they provided blankets to sit on and place over your lap. The tour lasted 1 hour. We saw the sights and it was better than walking! After the tour, the shuttle bus was about to leave, so we hopped on and were taken to Downtown Vancouver. We got off at the Art Museum and we walked Robson St. and shopped all afternoon. The bargains were great with the strong US dollar. Before returning to the ship, I decided I wanted to do the “Lookout!” at the Harbour Centre Tower to get a good view of the ship http://vancouverlookout.com . It was about $6.00 US to go up there but it was worth it. My mom did not join me because the Space Needle was enough for her (we did that before the cruise and she is afraid of heights!) We returned to the ship and grabbed a bite in the Windjammer (nachos, hot dogs, sandwiches, fruit, salad, ice cream, cookies, etc. are served in the Windjammer from 3-5 pm) before we got ready for the Formal Night and the captain’s cocktail party. I got a call from Carol to meet in the Champagne Bar beforehand, but we didn’t get there in time. But we did manage to meet up with them in the Colony Club for the Cocktail Party. Captain Kent performed his infamous song and we were all impressed. At the cocktail party we met another couple Lois and Fred (who lived in Minnesota at one time). They have been married 50 years and they were quite a hoot, especially Lois! For dinner we enjoyed our filet mignon! It was the best one I have had on a cruise yet! We enjoyed watching the scenery as the ship left Vancouver at 6 pm. A police boat escorted us the whole way. The show that evening was “Welcome to Our World” by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. It was your typical cruise show, but well done. After the show, we went to watch karaoke and then I went to the 70’s party in the Disco. It was fun. We all learned the John Travolta Dance and then did the Love Train. I managed to get myself in the Cruise Review Video a couple of times! Day 3, Victoria, BC We did not make any definite plans for the day, waiting to see what the weather would be like. Well, it was raining. And it rained most of the day. We paid the $5.00 for shuttle service from the pier to DT Victoria. We walked around downtown and did a little shopping. Then we decided to buy tickets to go to the Butchart Gardens http://www.butchartgardens.com/index2.html , despite the weather. We bought the tickets right where we were dropped off in the morning. At Noon we boarded a Double Decker British-style bus ( http://www.grayline.ca/victoria/Butchart.shtml ) and were driven to the gardens, about 30 minutes away. Our driver was a retired Victoria police officer and he gave us a good narrated tour and made the obligatory corny jokes. We had about 2 hours to explore the Gardens. Even in the rain, they were gorgeous. We had just enough time to buy some souvenirs in the gift shop and something warm to drink, and we got back on the bus to head back to Victoria. We paid about $26 US to do this and the ship charged close to $50. Back in town, we walked to a few more shops, including Roger’s Chocolates, and made some last Canadian purchases. My mom and I both managed to spend all of our Canadian money that we brought with us so we didn’t have to change any back. The line for the shuttle back to the ship was growing quite long when a deluxe motor coach arrived to take us back to the pier at about 4 o’clock. We returned and had a small snack in the Windjammer again before dinner. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very hungry at dinner, but I managed some how! I had the Chicken Kiev with rice and vegetables. It was quite tasty. The food was, in general, very good. It was no worse than the food I had on the Infinity and I felt we had more choices on the Radiance. Also, Alaskan Salmon was offered each night as an alternative entrée, as was chicken or steak. The appetizers combined appetizers and soups (I recall these were under separate headings before) but that didn’t stop me from ordering 2. Maybe that was the intent, as the first time cruisers at our table only ordered one thing at first. Half way through the cruise they realized they could order as many as they wanted, and more than one entrée as well. The show that evening was the comedy of Greg Otto. He was funny at first, and then it got too long. He was doing magic tricks at the end, which were kind of boring. After the show we went to the Colony Club to take part in Radiance Quest. In all my cruises I have never seen this so I wanted to check it out. My mom and I teamed up with the couple sitting next to us and another solo woman. Needless to say, we had a blast! I won’t mention what I ended up doing to get us a point! ;) But I managed to get in the video once again! After Radiance Quest we trekked up to the Hollywood Odyssey to watch the karaoke again. It is quite entertaining at times, but the talent this evening was lacking! Day 4, At Sea Our day was bright and sunny, but was quite chilly in the morning as we sailed north. By afternoon, the winds died down and it was quite pleasant. My mom got in the outdoor hot tub when it was 44 degrees outside! I opted for the Solarium pool and swam around in there for a while. The hot tubs never managed to empty, so I opted for the shower instead, which was wonderfully warm! I lounged in the Solarium for a bit longer before returning to our cabin to get ready for lunch in Portofino. Lunch was a $10.00 cover charge and included a glass of champagne or a mimosa. This was probably the highlight of our cruise dining! It was definitely worth the $10 and dinner would be worth the $20. We were first served bread and butter. Then we received a plate of bruchetta with olive oil for dipping. Then I had an antipasto platter to die for! It was so delicious. Next was the soup. I had the minestrone (excellent); my mom had the cheese tortellini. Next, we each had the Caesar salad. Our pasta entrée was next: I had penne pasta with spinach and mushrooms in a light broth, sautéed with peanuts. It was very good. My mom had the lasagna, which was incredible! It was so big and just stuffed with sausage and cheese and sauce. Then, if you can believe it, we had our entrée: New York Strip for me, and my mom had an omelet with shrimp. We were too stuffed for much dessert, but we managed to eat a couple chocolate-dipped strawberries! There were many activities scheduled all afternoon. My mom and I attended the art auction to see what that was like. My cousin was hired this year as an art auctioneer for Park West (she’s been on a Carnival ship and the Wind Spirit in Europe), so we were curious. We didn’t buy anything but it was fun. Dinner this evening was everyone’s favorite- prime rib. I think everyone at our table ordered it and it was excellent! We thanked Branka for her excellent service all week and wished her well. Then she rolled us out of the Dining Room! The show this evening was called “Rockin’ In Paradise” with the RC Singers and Dancers. It was a fun show with a lot of familiar songs. After the show I ended up going back to the cabin to pack and then I went to bed early because I was getting a cold! I ordered some Herbal Tea from Room Service to help sooth my throat. It arrived promptly. Overall Impressions: All in all this was an enjoyable cruise, but way too short! This ship is amazing so I wish we were on it for longer than 4 days. I have not sailed on a Voyager class ship yet, but this one definitely impressed me. My mom loved it too and she has already booked another RCI cruise for this winter on the Enchantment. This time she’s “letting” Dad come along! If you have any questions, please e-mail me at nicstress@animail.net . You may view pictures from this cruise at: http://www.cruise-addicts.com/picturepost/index.php and look for “Radiance 10/8/01” in the list.

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Nov 30, -0001

4-Day Pacific NW

This was my 3rd RCCL cruise and the best overall. My mother and I booked 10 days before sailing as the prices were just too good to pass up. My husband kindly agreed to stay with our 3 young kids, and off we went. I have been looking forward to seeing this ship in person for over a year now (thank you to all those who submitted detailed reviews..it was almost like being there). Embarkation: We arrived at Pier 66 in Seattle at 11:15am.

Our bags were immediately taken and checked in and we were directed upstairs. By 11:30am we were checked in, had our Sea Passes and at 11:45, on board. After dropping bags in our room (Cat N Inside on Deck 3 - I was really hoping for an upgrade, but it wasn't to be..), we went to Deck 13 to explore. This ship is amazing. I know, everybody says that. But it's actually true. I don't usually pay much attention to artwork, but there were so many different paintings, sculptures, blown glass pieces and wood carvings, one couldn't help but be impressed. The best feature, though, must surely be the miles of windows. Almost everywhere we went, you can see the ocean and natural sunlight (well, everywhere but our room, but I'm okay with that...really). Since there are many reviews giving a deck by deck outline of the ship, I will forgo that; but here are some of the highlights for me: Deck 11: Windjammer Cafe: Rather than 2 long buffet lines, Radiance has many serving stations (rather like small kiosks). 2 stations each for salads, sandwiches/soup; hot entrees and carving stations; dessert and drinks. In addition, they had build your own hamburger bar; pizza station and a section for teppenyaki (in the mornings, these sections were for made to order omelets). I found this configuration much easier to navigate (no waiting behind someone trying to decide between peas or baby corn when all you want to do is jump to the carved roast beef). There was never a line; and if something happened to run out at one station, you could always find it at another. Once you have your food, you could choose to eat inside or at one of the outside tables "in the back". No, I'm not talking about the outside smoking section between the pool and the restaurant; I mean an additional section beyond the cafe at the very back of the ship. There is a partially enclosed area with wonderful padded wicker chairs and loveseats. Very comfortable for a leisurely morning breakfast. Further back are regular tables outside. I loved this feature. Solarium: The African themed solarium is gorgeous. And the cricket sounds are very relaxing. The pool is small though and there is only 1 hot tub (there are 2 outside, but it was too cold). Relaxation Room: Inside the spa (way inside; past all the massage rooms at the very front of the ship) is a special room with the MOST comfortable chairs at sea! It is the Relaxation room, with padded chaise lounge chairs, special mood music and special 'relaxation scented burning oil' (I know, normally scented oil would turn me off, but this was pleasant, but perfumy) I'm reluctant to share about this room because for the most part it seemed to go unused and that was good. But if you're looking for the best place to read and nap, this is your spot. This is NOT a place to come and chat with a friend or get to know your fellow passengers. Cinema: It's small, but very enjoyable. Schooner Bar: Not so much the bar, but the entry to the bar. The wooden frame of a boat hangs from the ceiling; beautiful sailing ship portraits hang on the walls and the suttle smell of gunpowder lingers in the air. Very unique. I wish the bar would either go smoke-free or have the entertainment be in a smoke-free bar. The piano player was very fun, but the smell (even in the non-smoking section - yes, smoke can't read) chased us away. Elevators: Yeah, I know; but 4 of them have outside sea views; 4 others have interior views of the centrium. Something about glass elevators in a ship just makes me smile. Portifinos: There are 2 additional-charge restaurants on board. A steakhouse, which we didn't try, and Portifinos, which we went to twice. Yes, twice. We thought it was that good. I've read many reviews where the passengers were indignant about having to pay extra for a special dinner. Let me say - get over yourselves. If you don't want to do pay extra, or think it's a waste of money - don't go. BUT if you want a really special meal with some of the best service you've EVER had; this is the place for you. Now, I tend to be pretty picky about food. My mother can be downright snobbish (sorry mom, but you know it's true). Both of us would rate Portifinos as one of the best meals we've ever had. It was so amazing, we made reservations to come back 2 nights later for my birthday. The antipasti was amazing. The rissoto with shrimp and pesto was heaven. The minetrone was very flavorful. We were torn between the lobster and the garlic prawns. We had read that lobster wasn't served on the 4-night cruises, so figured this was our only chance. But when we mentioned the prawns looked good too; she gave us both (perfectly cooked lobster tail with exquisite garlic prawns on the side). When it came to dessert, it was impossible to choose between the tiramisu (specially designed in a cup made of white and milk chocolate) or the white chocolate mouse. When we couldn't eat more than a few bites of dessert, Tanya had new ones sent to our rooms so we could enjoy them the next day. Those are the kind of things that make a cruise memorable. Production Shows: I have been somewhat disappointed with the production shows on our other cruises. I thought the singers were rather average (some have been even bad...too much style and not enough substance and the dancers were not particularly well choreographed). These shows were marvelous. They were upbeat; contemporary and never seemed to drag. The dancers were a joy to watch. For the most part, they were very well synchronized, and sometimes acrobatic. It was fun to watch and we left smiling. Room Steward: Kathryn made our trip. She was great fun and very responsive to our needs. I told her I loved towel animals - she made a special effort on that score every night. Mom needed extra pillows and blankets; they were on the bed every night and put away during the day. One the second day, Mom admired the robes some of the passengers had in the spa (a very snotty lady said only the passengers who have cruised many, many times could have the robes). Oh yea? I mentioned this to Kathryn and viola - mom got a brand new robe to use for the rest of the cruise. Again, I think it's these special touches that really make a cruise. Overall, it was a fantastic time. I'm plotting and planning a future cruise on the Radiance for Alaska (it just seems this ship would be perfect for Alaska). The dining room food was pretty good. We had lunch in the dining room once - it was so-so. The 2 dinners we had were pretty good (one night was fair; the 2nd night was really good). The Seaview Cafe was also very good. I highly recommend the chili.The bar entertainment was very enjoyable also. There were 4 or 5 couples who were beautiful dancers (people my age just never learned to dance cheek to cheek) Disembarkation in Seattle took quite some time (could have been the dockworkers strike), but honestly, the wait in the solarium was no hardship. I highly recommend this cruise to anyone looking for a relaxing, inexpensive cruise experience. This was my 3rd RCCL cruise and the best overall. My mother and I booked 10 days before sailing as the prices were just too good to pass up. My husband kindly agreed to stay with our 3 young kids, and off we went. I have been looking forward to seeing this ship in person for over a year now (thank you to all those who submitted detailed reviews.. it was almost like being there).

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Nov 30, -0001

San Juan – St. Thomas – Antigua – St. Martin – St. Lucia – Barbados – @

This was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean (RC) and it met or exceeded our expectations. The first section describes how the overall cruise met or exceeded our expectations. The second section describes our shore excursion experience. Part I: Expectations What exceeded our expectations... Layout, and beauty of the ship Technological conveniences (Smart-card, electronic sign up for excursions through the TV, e-mail capability...)

Quality of excursions (Sail/ Snorkel to Trunk Bay, St. Johns, and Snuba in Barbados) Enthusiasm and professionalism of the staff What met our expectations.... Quality of the food Cleanliness of the cabin and ship Quality of the entertainment Value of the vacation for the money Opportunities for Improvement... The additional security measures were well thought out and did not hinder the overall vacation experience. However, we had to present ourselves to immigration officials on the last day at 6:00 am to get our documents stamped. This meant getting up at 5:15 - Ughh!! This could have been a lot easier if completed in accordance with the baggage pick up in the terminal. Alcohol policy on the ship. You pay standard prices for all drinks (4-6$). There could be an all-inclusive option you purchase per person (say $75). However, we did plan ahead and pack 3 bottles of our favorite spirits for cabin consumption. I would highly recommend the same strategy. Part II: Shore Excursion Highlights St. Thomas: Shopped in the morning on Sunday (stores closed at 1:00 p.m.). Did the Sail and Snorkel tour of St. John's. Bit of a long trip to Trunk bay but well worth it. The beach area is pristine with palms, rocky out croppings and calm waters. You could snorkel right up to the beach and take a Zodiac back to the boat. Antigua: Took a taxi ride to the beach next to the Sandal’s Resort. Rented wave runners for an hour and just soaked in the sun. Bargain for the wave runners - we got 2 for 60$ for an hour. St. Martin: Rented a taxi to go to Marigot in the morning (raining and cloudy) to do some shopping. Sun came out at lunch so we taxied it to Orient Beach. Second time here. Great beach, awesome waves for body surfing, and not to mention the occasional bear-assets strolling by. Rented beach chairs and umbrella. Drinks at a reasonable price. St. Lucia: Missed out on the organized tours because we forgot to sign up the night before. Everything was sold out by morning. Secured a driver for the day (20$ each person) and got the Island tour (Pitons - Banana plantation-Volcano, etc) Much cheaper than the organized tour. Make sure you bring bottled water - got very humid and our van was without AC. On our next visit - we will skip this tour and try to do the catamaran tour. Barbados: Some of our party went to the beach. I decided to try the Snuba adventure. Best underwater experience I have ever had!! You are tethered to your oxygen tank (which floats on a raft) by an 18 foot air hose attached to a regulator. You also get the mask and fins. Dove down some 16 feet to a wreck and saw huge schools of fish, sea horses, puffer fish, snakes, etc. Great time. The only problem I had was with the pressure changes. My ears needed quite a bit of time to adjust during and after. Overall dive time was 32 minutes. Overall: A lot of Islands to hit in a week. Could have used an extra day at sea in the beginning to get your sea legs and better aquatinted with the ship.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

In St. Lucia we went on the Land/Sea Tour to Soufriere, a combination bus trip and catamaran sail. We have done this tour before and it was just as wonderful. We visited an active volcano, sulfur springs, waterfall and floral gardens. We were treated to a buffet lunch at a restored estate. We sailed and danced on the catamaran with a brief beach stop for swimming. In Barbados, our final stop, I took a scuba diving excursion to the

Marine Reserve at Folkstone for a two-tank dive on the reefs. Great dive but I lost my watch. Hellen shopped in town. We arrived in San Juan early Saturday morning and disembarked without any problems. We were treated to the use of the Platinum/Diamond Club Lounge (a small room set up with coffee, juice and pastries) to await our departure. It was here that we met a couple whom, like us, were back-to-back on the Adventure of the Seas. Because we were staying overnight in San Juan, we were among the last passengers to disembark the beautiful Radiance of the Seas, leaving behind fond memories of a wonderful week's cruise. - Summary - We enjoyed the Radiance. There was really nothing bad that we could say about her, except maybe the uncomfortable beds and the cocktail parties. The captain's cocktail party, along with the repeat passenger party, were eliminated for main seating guests. Those on the main seating had to attend the parties for the second seating guests, usually at 7:45 or 8:00. By combining the two, the room was overcrowded with limited seating and we were never offered a drink at any of the three parties we attended. After desert and coffee following dinner, we were not in the mood for cocktails. This whole affair was badly done. We would recommend this ship. Another Radiance class ship is due soon - the Brilliance of the Seas scheduled for debut July 15, 2002. Bon Voyage! Bob & Hellen Hersey Portsmouth, New Hampshire http://www.cybertours.com/~bobby/radiance_of_the_seas.htm bobby@cybertours.com - Rankings - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly The Good - ship décor, friendly staff, cleanliness, golf course and ports of call. The Bad - rubber hamburgers at the Windjammer, pool deck design, Aurora Theater ambience, crowded elevators and the absence of sorbe, caviar and pate. The Ugly - our lifeboat captain's demeanor, the beds, the blackout, 4x6 color photos at $9.95 and more rubber hamburgers. Overall Rating *** Seamanship and safety of the vessel: *** Sanitation **** Food Service In The Dining Room **** Food Quality In The Dining Room *** Food Service In The Cafe *** Food Quality In The Cafe *** Stateroom Amenities ** Stateroom Comfort *** Stateroom Attendant ** Room Service *** Production Entertainment ** Headliner Entertainment ** Show Band **** Pool Band **** Lounge Entertainers *** Cruise Director **** Cruise Staff *** Ports of Call **** Shore Excursions *** Meet and Greet - N/A Reservations ** - Rating Schedule - * Poor ** Fair *** Good **** Excellent ***** Outstanding - Ship Facts - 2100 Double occupancy cabins. 3360 Coast guard passengers limit. 105 Ft. Ship beam. 24 Knots Cruising speed. 88,000 Tons. 961 Ft. Ship Length. Built at Meyer Werft Papenburg, Germany Inaugurates on 10-March-2001 Registry : Liberia International Crew. 1079 dining capacity 2 dining rooms. 859 crew. 1050 total rooms. 237 interior rooms. 813 exterior rooms. Delivery: 15-February-2001

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Nov 30, -0001

Pacific Coastal

I really wanted to like the Radiance because it is so beautiful on the outside. We have never sailed R.C.C.L. before, and consider ourselves to be open-minded when it comes to choosing cruise lines. We booked this little mini-cruise only because we had seen the ship at Canada Place a few weeks prior, before an Ocean Princess sailing we were on at that time. In the past, we have mainly sailed H.A.L., Princess, and Celebrity. Check-in

went pretty well except that they had lost our computer records and we had to fill-out the forms for a second time and had to re-submit our boarding information. We had a suite on the 10th floor. Our cabin was large and the balcony was huge. Our room, however was most uncomfortable, and not particularly well laid-out compared to the Princess suite we had had a few weeks prior. The furniture in our room and the public areas was stiff, hard, and not at all pleasant to sit upon. We opted for the twin beds to be combined to make one larger bed. (The beds were really cots.) The cabin steward did so, but she could not give us a bed spread or comforter of that size. Thus, our bed was turned down at 9:30 each morning and stayed open with the sheets exposed all day. This did not seem appropriate in a suite where one might entertain guests before dinner. (I called housekeeping and they said they had no queen or king comforters for the bed available.) Our cabin had an electronically operated door that our cabin steward did not know how to operate. Each time she left the room the door would be locked in such a way that our card key would not open it. We had to chase down this poorly-trained stewardess and would then find out that she did not know how to over-ride the electronics on the door. She would then send for management, who would finally unlock the door after a thirty to forty-five minute wait in the hallway. This unique experience happened four times during the cruise. It was funny the first time, but became less humorous as the trip went on. The main dining room was very pretty but the food was average to poor in quality. We had asked for a large table and were seated at a table for three, two of us and a single gentleman. Service here was fairly good, but not excellent. The buffet court was actually pretty good for a cruise ship. There was lots of variety and the set-up was easily navigated. Seating, inside the food court area, was often at a premium and or non-existent. We decided to try one of the alternative dining rooms on the second night of the cruise. We made reservations at the steak and chop house, and I must admit it was excellent in food quality, ambiance, and service. The ship itself is a little too glitzy for my taste. I thought the fake sounds of birds, crickets, and frogs in the atrium was a bit over the top. The stucco elephants were not something that I found attractive on a cruise ship. I kept feeling like I was lost somewhere in Frontierland at the local Disney theme park. The ship is large and the cruise was short, so we didn't get to try many of the ship's attractions. We were really not tempted to give this ship a second try. Debarkation went fine. Canadian customs was a breeze. We both have never been glad to get off of a cruise ship before, but we were this time.

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