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Laura Bryant

Age: 38

Occupation:Advertising Exec

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Radiance of the Seas

Sailing Date: September 30, 2002

Itinerary: 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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